Cartoon: Scientific Objectivity

Source(SMBC)

I think economists can relate … (to the first part – not so much the conclusion)

  • Most economists aren’t economists so much as they are bad philosophers.

    The model of “science” that most economists have in their heads and demand in publications is the cartoon …

    Imagine if Charles Darwin conceived of “science” the way economists picture science. Darwinian biology wouldn’t exist.

    And the “fact” / “value” distinction has nothing to do with it.

    By some accident, economists are mostly right about that one .. the one part of the picture of social science they inherited correctly from Menger, Weber and Hume.

  • Saturation Macroeconomics is a precise and predictable science: Its simple quantum time-based fractal laws predicted the current asset collapse and the exact day of the Wilshire saturation nominal valuation high on 11 October 2007.

  • Hi Greg,

    I would say that the fact-value distincion is extremely important – even though it is something Menger, Weber, and Hume did not hold.

    The issue is that sometimes economists, like other social and natural scientists, try to sell off value judgments as facts. I enjoyed this cartoon as it took the language supporting objectivity – and showed how hollow it was when it comes to make what is really a value laden statement.

  • Hi Garry,

    I don’t know – the issue with saturation macroeconomics is that it doesn’t clearly capture the channel of cause and effect. As a result, if we want to design policy based on it we might find ourselves a bit stranded when the “structure” of the economy suddenly changes …

  • Greg Ransom

    What?

    “I would say that the fact-value distincion is extremely important – even though it is something Menger, Weber, and Hume did not hold.”

  • Greg Ransom

    No one ever explained the fact / value or, better, the theory / value preference distinction better than Menger.

    Weber’s version derives from Menger. Mises also give a good version of it, developed in conversation with Weber, and under the influence of Menger.

  • Menger, Weber, and Hume were all against strict positivism weren’t they? They felt that normative value judgments were not so separate from “objective facts”.

  • “No one ever explained the fact / value or, better, the theory / value preference distinction better than Menger.”

    I did not realise that, I haven’t seen anything he wrote on the fact/value issue do you have any links that I could look at – from what I have read, I know he was a marginalist, but I garnered the impression that he still believed in cardinal utility, which isn’t really a fact based discipline.

    Hume, and all of the political economists back then, didn’t really distinguish sufficient between value judgments and facts – that was the positivist critique of them.

    Overall, my impression was that the distinction between fact and value wasn’t sufficiently determined until positivism entered into economics through the early-mid 20th century.

  • The positivists screwed up the “fact” / “value” distinction, they didn’t come up with it.

    For Menger’s account, see _Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics_ or do a google search, and you’ll likely find some article on Menger’s work on this.

    Note well that Menger provides some of the first and best arguments against positivism, some of them very similar to things found in Popper and Hayek.

    Here’s Hume on the “is” / “ought” distinction:

  • The positivists screwed up the “fact” / “value” distinction, they didn’t come up with it.

    For Menger’s account, see _Investigations into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to Economics_ or do a google search, and you’ll likely find some article on Menger’s work on this.

    Note well that Menger provides some of the first and best arguments against positivism, some of them very similar to things found in Popper and Hayek.

  • Hi again Greg,

    I’ll be sure to look at the link on Menger. As I said, I didn’t realise that he wrote on methodology – I thought he was simply a marginalist. The old school marginalists were heading down the road towards “framing” issues, but they were still kept throwing in normative statements without identifying them as such.

    Also to be clear on Hume – I do realise that the is/ought distinction existed before. But knowing that such a distinction exists does not imply that an author will see this as the right way to define policy. Hume, like other political economists, did not appropriately separate normative and objective statements in their policies – hence why I don’t feel that he believe in the importance of the distinction in the same way that we do today.

    Thanks for the commentary though – I will be sure to read about Menger and update my views accordingly.

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  • Intresting, I never knew that before thanks!