Re: people, places, things, and ideas

Mike Masnick (
Fri, 08 Jan 1999 23:40:10 -0800

On the verge of beating this to death, but...

At 02:49 PM 1/8/99 -0500, Robert S. Thau wrote:
>Economists claim that what they're doing is a science.

Some economists claim that. Most of the economists that I know or met have
not. I consider it a philosophy, and a tool - a rather useful one.

> However, what
>you're saying here is that whatever they do fails to meet the basic
>criterion of falsifiability. Yeah, just about any behavior can be
>"explained" by constructing suitably twisted functions of whatever
>numbers happen to be lying around, calling them "costs", and claiming
>that the people concerned have acted to minimize them. And I'm sure
>some economists do that. But what's the point?

To learn? To learn what factors have a really strong influence to be able
to make better policy and predictions in the future? I'm sorry that it's
not an exact science, but there are some extraornidarily useful lessons
that come out of economics, and tossing away the whole thing because it's
not an exact science, or because you've heard one economist (or a school of
economists) that you don't necessarily agree with (or fully understand)
doesn't condemn the whole subject.

Besides, just because economics on the whole might not be able to be
"falsifiable", doesn't mean that certain theorems or models can't be tested
and falsified. That's what we learn from. And the ability to look back
and later explain why something in the past happened, is useful in creating
future models.

Finally, to simplify economics down to "minimizing costs" as you have done
throughout this thread is simply wrong. It belittles the study as well.
I'm not an economist. I'm also not a computer scientist, but you don't
hear me complaining that computer science must be a crock of shit simply
because my computer crashed last week.

I think my stand on this is pretty clear. Arguing any further doesn't seem
likely to get us anywhere, unless you honestly feel there's more to be
added, I think I'm through...