A critique of the Nobel Prize for Economics 2012

Just spotted on ThinkMarkets, a critique of the attempt to make economics like engineering:

I have no problem with better matching techniques for students applying to medical school or trying to get into certain popular courses and so forth. But I do object to the project of making economics more like engineering. Economics was born of the desire to elaborate and explain the spontaneous ordering of the market. It also tries to explain the conditions under which that ordering process may break down in markets. Markets generally coordinate but sometimes they may not. Let’s find out when, why, and how. It is very, very, important to understand – for both students and practitioners of economics alike – that markets are not like bridges. So I do not want an engineer teaching economics.

As an engineer myself, I have considerable sympathy with the view that economics is not like engineering. Engineering is about producing the desired behaviour in inanimate objects and systems, usually ones whose behaviour is predictable. Economics is about the actions of living, thinking, choosing, acting people. It is about the complex, dynamic tapestry of life. As Hayek explained in his Nobel lecture, it’s just plain wrong to apply the techniques of the natural sciences to economics.

Still, no doubt people will continue to try for a while yet.

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Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. Gary says:

    I was always unde the impression that the Nobel Prize in Economics isnt actually a true ” Nobel ” prize anyway??