Reactivity in Economic Science

12 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017

Date Written: August 01, 2017


There is a fundamental difference between the natural and the social sciences due to reactivity. This difference remains even in the age of Artificially Intelligent Learning Machines and Big Data. Many academic economists take it as a matter of course that economics should become a natural science. Such a characterization misses an essential aspect of a social science, namely reactivity, i.e. human beings systematically respond to economic data, and in particular to interventions by economic policy, in a foreseeable way. To illustrate this finding, I use three examples from quite different fields: Happiness policy, World Heritage policy, and Science policy.

Keywords: Economics, Social, Natural Science, Reactivity, Data, Happiness, Economic Policy

JEL Classification: A100, B400, C700, C800, D800, Z100

Suggested Citation

Frey, Bruno S., Reactivity in Economic Science (August 01, 2017). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6593, Available at SSRN:

Bruno S. Frey (Contact Author)

CREMA ( email )

Südstrasse 11
Zurich, CH 8008
+41 44 380 00 78 (Phone)

University of Basel ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
Basel, 4002

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