Is Economics a Science? A Discussion of Some Methodological Issues

23 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2005

See all articles by Victor A. Beker

Victor A. Beker

University of Belgrano - Department of Economics; University of Buenos Aires

Date Written: July 2005

Abstract

The aim of this article is to review some central ideas on economic methodology.

Many people doubt whether economics can be considered as science. This sort of doubts does not exist, for instance, with respect to physics or chemistry.

The main conclusion is that economics is a science inasmuch as it formulates falsifiable theories. However, the peculiarity that distinguishes it from, for instance, natural sciences, is that theories, in most cases, cannot actually in practice be falsified.

Economists face very serious difficulties to test their theories because of the complexity of the subject matter and because of the presence of a lot of disturbances. So, as Hausman asserts, they are right in trusting more in the implications deduced from the theory's axioms than in the negative results which may emerge from empirical testing. It is very rare to see a theory disregarded because of an apparent disconfirmation.

In economics there is, broadly speaking, nothing like a crucial experiment.

The relationship between explanation and prediction, the role of tests and persuasion in economics, the use of mathematics, the relationship between economic theory and applied economics as well as other methodological issues are reviewed.

Given economics's peculiarities it does not seem reasonable to judge its scientific character on the basis of its ability to use the methods and procedures of the experimental sciences. It seems more reasonable to analyze how to satisfy the scientific method requirements taking into consideration its particularities as a social science.

Keywords: Methodology, prediction, crucial experiment, refutation

JEL Classification: B40

Suggested Citation

Beker, Victor A., Is Economics a Science? A Discussion of Some Methodological Issues (July 2005). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=839307 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.839307

Victor A. Beker (Contact Author)

University of Belgrano - Department of Economics ( email )

Buenos Aires
Argentina

University of Buenos Aires ( email )

Av. Córdoba 2122
Buenos Aires, C1120AAQ
Argentina

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