Monday, November 26, 2012

Robert Johnson — What About the Questions That Economics Can’t Answer?

Can economics be morally centered? And perhaps more importantly, should it be?
These are questions that society is grappling with in the face of the economics profession's failure to confront the global impact of exploding inequality within and between countries. 
Limitations of the Dismal Science
Economists are very good at studying mechanisms for efficiently allocating things. But they are less effective at addressing more fundamental questions related to these things' social value. Indeed, economists typically leave values unexamined in their mathematical formulas. Social utility is simply not explored.

But what happens when economists' implicit value assumptions break down?
Yahoo Finance
What About the Questions That Economics Can’t Answer?
Robert Johnson | Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking
(h/t Stephan Ewald via Twitter)

It's necessary to view human knowledge as an integrated whole rather than atomized into separate and distinct disciplines.

On one hand, economics is a subset of political economy, which is a subset of social and political philosophy, which is a subset of ethics. Ethics interfaces with metaphysics and epistemology in formulating the fundamental POV of a system of thought.

The other hand, economics as a science is subset of cognitive-science-psychology and social science and is informed by other social sciences such as anthropology and sociology. Psychology and sociology are subsets of life science, including biology and evolutionary theory. Economics, being focused on real resources and production, also depends on hard sciences and their application, e.g., physics, engineering.

Moreover, all thought must find expression to be communicated and therefore, logic and its branches, mathematics and analytic philosophy-philosophy of language are also essential.

This list is not offered as exhaustive. Indeed, the entire body of human reflection impacts economics to some degree and ignoring important contributions from any field is myopic.

Considering economics in isolation from the entire system and the subsystems in which it is nested results in persistent ignorance and often malignant error.

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