Pete Boettke on Economic Methods

He is saying (at this year’s APEE conference),

From a Buchanan perspective, basic economics can be conveyed in 8 points.
1. Economics is a “science” but not like the physical sciences. Economics is a “philosophical” science and the strictures against scientism offered by Frank Knight and F. A. Hayek should be heeded.

2. Economics is about choice and processes of adjustment, not states of rest. Equilibrium models are only useful when we recognize their limits.

3. Economics is about exchange, not about maximizing. Exchange activity and arbitrage should be the central focus of economic analysis.

4. Economics is about individual actors, not collective entities. Only individuals choose.

5. Economics is about a game played within rules.

6. Economics cannot be studied properly outside of politics. The choices among different rules of the game cannot be ignored.

7. The most important function of economics as a discipline is its didactic role in explaining the principle of spontaneous order.

8. Economic is elementary.

As you know, I prefer not to use the term “science” at all. Instead of “philosophical science,” I would call economics one of the disciplines that studies human behavior.

Also, although “only individuals choose,” people are embedded in culture. Human behavior is influenced by ideas, which come from other humans.

These are minor quibbles. I think that points (2), (3), and (7) are particularly important. But I doubt that we will see much of what Boettke wants in college economic teaching in the next decade. Instead, I predict that academic economics will move very far to the left. That is what I conclude in my forthcoming essay on economic methods.

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3 Responses to Pete Boettke on Economic Methods

  1. Gary Steinmetz says:

    It would be nice if each statement was followed by an example that conforms with the statement and an example that runs counter to the statement. Preferably, each conform/counter example would be one that was or is held by an economist.

  2. Philo says:

    What is the principle of spontaneous order (The Principle of Spontaneous Order?)?

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