A long post, difficult to excerpt. A few snippets:
One of the things that I found jarring about The Rhetoric of Economics is that McCloskey argues, among other things, that appeals to authority are natural and necessary. That pointing out that an argument involves an appeal to authority does not invalidate that argument.
What I would say is that what people think of as scientific discourse does not rely so heavily on appeals to authority. At some point, you can say, “If you don’t believe in gravity, try an experiment yourself. Jump out of a 10-story window and see what happens.”
But when Olivier Blanchard tells you that every macro model includes an aggregate demand relation, a Phillips relation, and a monetary policy relation, he cannot issue an equivalent challenge. Instead, the literature emerged that way mostly because scholars published papers that borrowed from other published papers.
I would not argue that there is a scientific method that is so pure that it can be operated without any bias or other human characteristics. But clearly there are arguments that are more persuasive than others, and arguments that apply the scientific method can be more persuasive than arguments that rely primarily on authority.
For Smith, trade was never a mechanistic process. The act of offering payment is itself an act of persuasion.
I think this notion of the centrality of persuasion in human affairs, and in markets in particular, is what economics should strive to rebuild itself around. This does not mean that the insights from economists’ contributions up to this point should be discarded, just that we should seek to find their appropriate context.