Re: CAMREC: Egalitarianism in a world of power-law distributions

From: the Campaign for Real Economics (
Date: Tue Dec 19 2000 - 18:04:05 GMT

  • Next message: the Campaign for Real Economics: "Re: CAMREC: Egalitarianism in a world of power-law distributions"

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    From: the Campaign for Real Economics <>
    Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 10:04:05 -0800 (PST)
    Subject: Re: CAMREC: Egalitarianism in a world of power-law     distributions

    --- the Campaign for Real Economics <>

    > Do think there are purely scientific economic
    > predictions?

    Difficult. It depends on how you define science and
    prediction obviously. If you reach aprediction on an
    economic issue just by employing a known, testable,
    "deterministic" (in the sense that the same input
    delivers the same output) method: Yes sure.
    Whether predictions can be made in a *purely*
    scientific manner is very debatable, I think. Good
    scientists seem to rely on intuition a lot esp. in
    making predictions, so they cannot meet the above
    criteria there. A case in point would be chemist
    Kekule's account of discovering the structure of
    organic C6-rings (in a dream). The counterexample
    would be mathematically derived prediction's from
    Einstein's relativity theories.
    The scientific element is then in the proof of the
    prediction, i.e. in a method, setup or sth else
    devised to test it (in math and logic a set of
    logically connected set of statements which make up a
    proof - where there is some discussion on what
    operations and connections are allowed).
    The problem with economics is of course in the rules,
    types of statements and methods that are allowed if
    you want be accepted (! - human nature having its
    toll) as a mainstream economist.
    Mainstream economics can be seen as a set of axioms
    and statements from which conclusions are derived. So
    far and up to this point mainstream economics is (or
    tries to be - nobody can be perfect) scientific. The
    big question is of course about the match with reality
    and relevance of results.
    You can compare the situation with geometry: based on
    different axioms mathmaticians can derive different
    geometric "worlds" that describe different situations.
    Economists can be seen as doing the same for economic
    worlds - so mainstream economists are deriving one
    type of world which is completely justified and
    scientific given their axioms and rules. Whether its
    relevant at all or under which conditions only is
    another question. (One would be: what if there is
    reflexitivity operating in social systems?).
    Economics (in general) could thus be envisioned as
    encompassing a number of different world descriptions
    (mainstream, evolutionary, marxist, etc.) and methods
    to get them (sociology, anthropology, psychology,
    human ethology, and mainstream economics (which would
    be called applied math better)). We would be in the
    same situation as other sciences then: An area of
    methods - partly borrowed from other fields to
    investigate these issues. The scientific element would
    be a) in the derivation of these world descriptions
    and b) in the determination which world matches which
    situation - and c) last but not least: how do we find
    out which situation is given at this moment?)
    Economics (mainstream version excluding other
    approaches as unscientific) would/can then be
    described as being an ideology in the sense that it
    allows only one method and one situation - this is not
    quite true and changing slowly but increasingly. Which
    - are partly scientific but economics as a proper
    science is certainly not yet mature. Child's play - or
    rather fighting.
    About mainstream economists' exclusion of other
    defining the others out of the field, or is it also
    non-math oriented/heterodox economists feeling
    inferior and putting themselves in a strong
    The real issue seems to be about relevance not about
    being "scientific".
    I could need some answer from practicing economists on
    this one!
    Part of the antagonism can probably be explained with
    the history of science in general - trend towards
    rationalization and accountability (very easy with
    formal math models), positivism as a countermovement
    against more or less wild statements claiming
    scientific authority, the debate between marginalists
    and the historic school, the relationship between
    economics and biology - there are some interesting
    structural similarities, resp parallel developments
    which never (?) were acknowledged openly (another
    field on which i could need comments).
    So there can be scientific predictions in economics as
    far as in any other science and as ar as predictions
    in general can be scientific. What we need to work on
    is determining their relevance.
    Do you agree?



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