Saturday, March 03, 2012

Is Economics a Real Thing?

The Dilbert cartoonist writes:
All of this makes me wonder how one would go about analyzing the field of economics to find out if it's mostly legitimate, albeit imperfect - like weather forecasting, or mostly psychological, like horoscopes. Let's dig into that question.

In recent years, the definition of economics has broadened, thanks to popular books such as Freakonomics. Now when we speak of economics we can include scientific studies and analyses on just about any interesting aspect of life, from crime rates to prostitution. I consider that a red flag for the legitimacy of economics. In my experience, whenever someone tinkers with the definition of a thing, it's because the original thing is broken and no one is willing to admit it.
Freakonomics? Maybe that has become the most public face of popular economics, but much of it is bogus, as I have noted in what's wrong with Freakonomics and here and here. A close second might be Kahneman, who I criticized below. These guys not only sell millions of books, but they have also received prizes from academic economics for being among the tops in their fields. Another example is the NY Times columnist Paul Krugman. His columns are filled with economic errors, as documented here and on the blog The Big Questions. And yet these guys are wrong about their most famous assertions.

So yes, the field of economics is in a sorry state.


Ben Nager-Sadoff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger said...

The Landsburg blog posts are here, here, and here.

Yes, I know Fluke was not saying that she was a slut for not using contraception. She was complaining that the cost of contraceptive pills was not bundled with the Georgetown tuition. Georgetown policy was only to pay for the pills if there was some medical need (other than contraception).

The idea that some Georgetown law student could not afford $100 is silly. Every single lecture there costs more than $100.