I thought that economics was more than it is when I was first attracted to it 25 years ago. I figured since economics is so influential in the public sphere, it had good methods.
When I read von Mises, Hayek, Sowell, Hazlitt, Skousen and others, I was educated to the limits of economics as a social science–it is a study of human economic behavior–and limited by the complexities of human action (I stole that from von Mises).
Hayek said the “fatal conceit” was born of intellectuals with the pretense that they could accumulate enough knowledge to make central planning of economies possible–leftist still promote that canard, on display with Keynesian nonsense like Krugman at the NYT and the behavior of the Federal Reserve nomenklatura.
This essay in The Guardian proves that even a bad newspaper can get it right sometimes, even bloody eyed socialists can identify hocus pocus and pretense, even though lefties have more pretensions than most.
I would add another significant contribution of this author–the problem of culture of banking and finance. It should not be ignored that behavior of people in banking and finance is now ruthless and often immoral, very short term and selfish so that institutions are put at risk.
The essay tells the story of Alan Greenspan’s naivete’, a naivete that is inexcusable in a man with his experience and knowledge–he couldn’t imaging people allowing their own banks to go down if the actions taken would allow personal gain? Really? A self serving pretentious person can’t imagine an amoral manipulative banker or two?
Economics is a social science, and things happen because of personal interests and knowledge of the systems.
At one time, about 20 years ago I knew a PhD from U of Chicago so I asked him what he knew about von Mises, and Hayek. I was shocked when he told me he knew nothing about their ideas, that econometrics was all the rage when he was at U of C. He claimed he enjoyed reading Human Action (1949), Socialism (1936), that I provided for him with all my dog ears and marks. I kinda doubt it. Since Hayek was at U of Chicago, but not liked there, I didn’t bother to offer him Road to Serfdom (1944), or The Fatal Conceit (1988), two of the most popular economics books ever.
So economics is a social science–I do believe and economists may be deluded.