Friday, 3 January 2014

The science of economics?

An extract from John Medaille's article in Second Spring, issue 17 on The Economy. The journal is available from Thomas More College.

Far from being an “exact science,” economics resembles nothing so much as a war of ideologies, each proffering a different view of man. And this is how it should be; economics, like every other humane science, must begin with a view of the human person, and we must start comparing economic systems with a comparison of their view of the human person. Everything else depends on that. And it turns out that there really are only two views, albeit there are multiple variations of these views: man is ether a free contracting individual, or else he is a social being always enmeshed in a series of relationships and obligations.

The men of the 19th century, repelled by the messiness of humane considerations, looked with envy on the precision of the physicists, and attempted to emulate them. But this turned out to be a romantic quest, a heartfelt desire to resolve all things by a formula, and so get at the root of all things in a way no one could doubt. But this cannot be a realistic enterprise. For the humane sciences consist not in rejecting the complexity of human life, but in embracing it. At base, all our systems are moral systems, describing not only what we are doing, but what we ought to be doing.

In this science, the Roman Pontiffs are not interlopers but full participants, offering a realistic view of human relationships, a view upon which every other human science depends.

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