Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

In the Air: Economics and the Social Sciences

In Intellectual History on March 26, 2010 at 9:11 am

In response to a request by ICAR’s communications guru, Paul Snodgrass, I will say a few words about the David Brooks column today. He must have read Kristof yesterday as well, because he has a really fascinating column on the history of Economics that gets us thinking. I think that Brooks’ call for a great history of economics is wanting right now. Of course, there are many good examples out there. One that bears noting is Joseph Schumpeter’s  History of Economic Analysis. If you read this posthumously published book, you see that there is quite a bit of diversity concealed in Brooks’ first act. His history is a bit truncated. In fact, there are many sciences of economics out there (and I hear at least one colleague quietly condemning me for my last post for overemphasizing fresh water schools). We could spend time with the now forgotten methodenstreit in Germany, which produced Max Weber among other things. We could remember John R. Commons and his Wisconsin institutionalism that helped to give birth to the Social Security Act and much more. This is alive today mainly in Transaction cost economics, which I once quipped did not inherit the lion’s share of Commons estate. There is today Read the rest of this entry »


Rigor Without Mortis: Do-gooders and do-badders

In Intellectual History on March 25, 2010 at 10:12 am

This will be a quick shot that reveals more of my prejudice than my wit, but I had to say a few words about a column by Nicholas Kristof today. I should say first that I really enjoy his columns in general. He shocks me out of my dogmatic slumber on occasion and keeps me focused on the world when I might drift back into the details of American agonistic minutiae. But he got me going today in a bad way and it seemed to be worth explaining why that is. Here is the offending paragraph:

We’re getting a much better handle on what policies can overcome poverty. We’re now seeing more experiments, modeled after randomized drug trials, that measure carefully whether an approach works and how cost-effective it is. Partly this reflects the rise of economists (at the expense of political scientists and do-gooders) and the rigor they pack in their briefcases.

Now, Kristof Read the rest of this entry »