Mark Thoma asks
. . . but should economics be value free, at least in principle? I used to think the answer was a clear yes — we should do our best to promote positive analysis and avoid normative — but in recent years I’ve become much more open to other possibilities.
I’m still not fully convinced that we should abandon the principle of promoting positive analysis over normative, I want to believe it’s possible, but as it stands many people disguise normative conclusions behind positive analysis — and these are some of the top people in the profession. (One of the reasons my views have evolved is the surprising and rather blatant political posturing hidden as economic analysis from some top economists on the other side of the political fence — I refuse to sit by idly while those games are being played. It’s also amazing how often economists get theoretical and empirical results that support their political leanings. I’d like to believe that their economics is pure and that it drives their politics, and not the other way around, but given how often prior political beliefs are confirmed through what is supposed to a scientific process, you have to wonder if we aren’t more like lawyers arguing an ideological position than scientists in search of the truth.
I think the vast majority of economics is likely to progress ultimately free of ideological constraint. The simple reason: this too shall pass.
I’ve had conversation with non-economists over whether or not economics will be radically different in the wake of the Great Recession. My answer, is probably not very much. When its all over you will be gone, but we will still be here.
That’s true for most ideologues. When its all over they will go back to doing whatever it was they were doing before. There will be no stimulus package for them to be exercised over. No non-standard monetary policy to make them fret about hyper-inflation. No dismay over progress sending them into the arms of radically alterative statistical accounts of the GDP and inflation.
We will have the luxury afforded to other disciplines, that of being boring.
Some areas will have controversy for the foresee able future – the effects of taxation for example – however, the long project to flush out Daivd Hume’s 350 year old observation that money and industry are somehow connected will recede back into the towers of geekdom.