Saturday, December 10, 2011

The problem with economics -- ideology over science

I was struck by the following video from Prof. Greg Mankiw's blog.  Prof. Mankiw links to the following video by Prof. Stephen Marglin who discusses his alternative introductory economics course.

What I noticed within the first few minutes of the talk was the way Prof. Marglin treats economics.  Economics is not about describing how economies work.  Instead, economics appears to be about promoting ideology.  Prof Marglin describes his course as first outlining traditional (market based) economics, then providing critiques and alternative economic theories.  His real concern appears to be political results -- income redistribution, environmental concerns, "justice", etc.

Economics has long attempted to become a "science".  But to be a "science", economics must focus on how economies react to various events by trying to explain past events in the economy, then moving to predicting future events.  Introductory chemistry classes describe and explain chemical reactions.  They don't discuss which chemical reactions are good or bad.  Economics, and in particular Prof. Marglin's economics, focuses not on how economies reaction to actions but instead on the desired results.

I'm afraid I would suggest that Prof. Marglin might be more at home in a political science department.  To the extent his view exists predominates (and I got the Marxist professor for one semester of introductory economics back when I was in college) perhaps the economics department should be merged with political science.