ssrn-id839307 - IS ECONOMICS A SCIENCE A discussion of some...

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IS ECONOMICS A SCIENCE? A discussion of some methodological issues Víctor A. Beker * * University of Belgrano and University of Buenos Aires. Comments from Alfredo Canavese, Daniel Heyman and Eduardo Scarano are gratefully acknowledged as well as those from attendants to the II Symposium of Siame and to the XXXVI Annual Meeting of the Argentine Economic Association where earlier versions of this paper were presented.
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ABSTRACT The aim of this article is to review some central ideas on economic methodology. Many people doubt whether economics can be considered as science. This sort of doubts does not exist, for instance, with respect to physics or chemistry. The main conclusion is that economics is a science inasmuch as it formulates falsifiable theories. However, the peculiarity that distinguishes it from, for instance, natural sciences, is that theories, in most cases, cannot actually in practice be falsified. Economists face very serious difficulties to test their theories because of the complexity of the subject matter and because of the presence of a lot of disturbances. So, as Hausman asserts, they are right in trusting more in the implications deduced from the theory’s axioms than in the negative results which may emerge from empirical testing. It is very rare to see a theory disregarded because of an apparent disconfirmation. In economics there is, broadly speaking, nothing like a crucial experiment. The relationship between explanation and prediction, the role of tests and persuasion in economics, the use of mathematics, the relationship between economic theory and applied economics as well as other methodological issues are reviewed. Given economics’s peculiarities it does not seem reasonable to judge its scientific character on the basis of its ability to use the methods and procedures of the experimental sciences. It seems more reasonable to analyze how to satisfy the scientific method requirements taking into consideration its particularities as a social science.
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Introduction The aim of this article is to review some central ideas on economic methodology. The subject is of interest not only for economists and philosophers of science 1 but also for those who suffer –or benefit from- the results of economists’ recommendations. Two recent episodes before the U.S. courts are illuminating in this respect. In one case, Stanford professor Robert Hall’s opinion was labeled by the St. Louis federal appeals court as “mere speculation.” 2 In 1999, Nobel Prize laureate Robert Lucas testified in a price-fixing case. A Chicago court ruled that his testimony “failed every test of admissibility” because his opinions were inconsistent with the evidence. 3
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ssrn-id839307 - IS ECONOMICS A SCIENCE A discussion of some...

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