Chapter

What Would a Scientific Economics Look Like?

MICHAEL JOFFE

in Evidence, Inference and Enquiry

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264843
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754050 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264843.003.0016

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

What Would a Scientific Economics Look Like?

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This chapter compares biology with the practices of economics to determine the extent to which mainstream economic theory can be regarded as ‘scientific’. This survey of practice in the two disciplines shows that biological theory is derived from description and experimentation. In contrast, the ideal in mainstream economics is to derive theory from axioms. When economic theory is compared with the available evidence, a disjunction is found between the empirical findings and conventional theory. The disjunction is explained by a fundamental mismatch between the evidence and the basic theoretical categories and structure. The central issue is the relationship of evidence to theory: to put it simply, which should come first? The conclusion is that regularities that emerge from a comparative historical perspective, including use of econometric, statistical, and qualitative studies, could provide the type of evidence that could form a secure foundation for theorising in economics.

Keywords: biology; economic theory; axioms; evidence

Chapter.  12313 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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