The economic literature of every succeeding year embraces works conceived in the true scientific spirit, and works exhibiting the most vulgar ignorance of economic history and the most flagrant contempt for the conditions of economic investigation. It is much as if astrology were being pursued side by side with astronomy, or alchemy with chemistry. Broadly speaking, the general tendency of popular economics is towards rash generalization and fallacious arguments post hoc ergo propter hoc. This is frequently combined with an imperfect analysis of fundamental conceptions, leading to confusion of thought and the selection of false propositions as self-evident postulates and where deductive reasoning is employed, its results are often applied without regard to the conditions requisite for their valid application. To this it must he added that the sharp distinctions drawn by opposing schools, and their narrow dogmatism have unnecessarily complicated the whole problem. The subject has become involved in heated controversies that have not only made it wearisome to unprejudiced persons, but have also done injury to the credit of political economy itself. Outsiders are naturally suspicious of a science, in the treatment of which a new departure is so often and so loudly proclaimed essential. So far, it may be inferred, from economists having made progress in their science, they cannot even agree how to set about their work.
The besetting fallacy of writers on economic method has been justly said to be the fallacy of exclusiveness. A single aspect or department of economic study is alone kept in view, and the method appropriate thereto aggrandized, while other methods, of equal importance in their proper place, are neglected or even explicitly rejected. Hence the disputants on both sides, while right positively, are wrong negatively. Their criticisms on rejected methods are, moreover, too often based on misapprehension or misrepresentation. Methods are attacked for not doing what those who advocate their use have never imagined they could do; and the qualifications and limitations, with which each side expounds its own method, are overlooked by the other side. This combined with the fallacy of exclusiveness, or rather in consequence of it, there is in these controversies a remarkable prevalence of ignoratio elenchi.
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Friday, November 18, 2011
Father Knows Best
From The Scope and Method of Political Economy by John Neville Keynes:
Posted by Sandwichman at 3:00 PM