Economics – people or facts?

In preparing for a small workshop I’ve co-organised* in Oxford tomorrow, on “Rebooting Welfare Economics”, I’ve been browsing my bookshelves. Two titles jumped out: Ariel Rubinstein’s wonderful Economic Fables (winner of the first ever Enlightened Economist annual prize in 2012 – I’ve only just realised this blog is 10 years old) and John Hicks’s The Social Framework. Hicks states (p3 of my 1947 edition): “Economics studies facts and seeks to arrange the facts in such ways as make it possible to draw conclusions from them.” The positivist claim to separate ‘facts’ and positive knowledge from the normative shines out (see Chapter 3 of my Cogs and Monsters). Rubinstein says (p15): “Economic theory is concerned precisely with the abstract concepts related to the interaction between people.”

People or facts? I’m in the people camp.










*With Eric Beinhocker, Tim Besley, Mark Fabian and Margaret Stevens.

2 thoughts on “Economics – people or facts?

  1. When I read Economics at Cardiff in the late sixties and early seventies we used to be taught about these issues and have some lively debates! I doubt whether Econ students get that these days.

  2. Back in my halcyon days as an Undergraduate at University of Essex the key focus was on mathematics. I complained and often asked what had happened to the people. Economics had become more science than social. However, in answer to your question I would that it should be about people, but not only. People are facts, but not the only ones.

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