Economics is as popular as ever as a science, yet people don't trust economists. Why?

Commentaries on economics and technology.
Jan. 24 2011 3:23 PM

Popular Semi-Science

Why people like economics but not economists.

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These were judgments made by economists who were familiar with our business leadership— their inspirations, beliefs, subterfuges, and rationalizations. Their views could never be submitted to a scholarly journal and evaluated the way a new medical procedure is. There is no established scientific procedure that could prove their validity.

Of course, economics is in many ways a science, and the work of our scholars and their computer models really does matter. But, as economist Edwin R.A. Seligman put it in 1889: "Economics is a social science, i.e., it is an ethical and therefore an historical science. … It is not a natural science, and therefore not an exact or purely abstract science."

To me, and no doubt to the other panelists, part of the process of pursuing the inexact aspects of economics is speaking honestly to the broader public, looking them in the eye, learning from them, reading the e-mail messages they send, and then searching one's soul to decide whether one's favored theory is really close to the truth.


This article comes from Project Syndicate.

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Robert Shiller, professor of economics at Yale University and chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC, is co-author, with George Akerlof, of Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism.