Economics--Mathematical Politics or Science of Diminishing Returns?

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Economics today cannot predict the likely outcome of specific events any better than it could in the time of Adam Smith. This is Alexander Rosenberg's controversial challenge to the scientific status of economics. Rosenberg explains that the defining characteristic of any science is predictive improvability - the capacity to create more precise forecasts by evaluating the successes of earlier predictions - and he forcefully argues that because economics has not been able to increase its predictive power for over two centuries, it is not a science.
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Rosenberg (philosophy, U. of California, Riverside) says that although there are no established criteria for determining what is a hard science and what is not, at the very least, a discipline should be able to improve its predictive record in the first two centuries of its existence. By this standard, he says, economics is not a science, but a branch of political philosophy that applies mathematics to human behavior. For non (or skeptical) specialists. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 What Does the Philosophy of Science Have to Do with Economics? 1
The real relation between philosophy and science 2
The mutual constraints of goals, theories, and rules 12
The proximate goals of economics 17
Ch. 2 Two Dead Ends in the Philosophy of Economics 21
Does philosophy constrain economics? 22
Economics without epistemology 30
The role of prediction in biology, physics, and economics 44
Ch. 3 Is Economic Theory Predictively Successful? 56
Friedman on the predictive weakness of economic theory 57
Leontief on the same subject 62
Are generic predictions enough? 67
Generic predictions in Keynesian macroeconomics and rational expectations theory 71
Gibbard and Varian on economic models as caricatures 80
Ch. 4 Neoclassical Economics as a Research Program 87
The methodology of scientific research programs 88
Lakatosian consolations for economists 90
Research programs and the demarcation problem 96
Down the slippery slope to McCloskey 107
Ch. 5 Economics and Intentional Psychology 112
Expectations and preferences, beliefs and desires 118
The problem of improvability 124
Economics and linguistics: Nelson's gambit 131
Are there expectations and preferences? 140
Conclusion 149
Ch. 6 Could Economics Be a Biological Science? 152
The problem of exogenous tastes 155
Becker's new theory of consumer choice 161
Stable preferences as human needs 166
Can we "naturalize" information? 170
Generic predictions and the temptation of biology 177
Darwin, Friedman, and Alchain 183
Equilibrium and information in evolution and economics 193
Conclusion 199
Ch. 7 Why General Equilibrium Theory? 200
"Economics just is general equilibrium analysis" 200
Can we have partial equilibrium without general equilibrium? 206
What needs explanation? Can general equilibrium theory explain it? 211
General equilibrium and the social contract 215
Are generic predictions enough after all? 224
Ch. 8 Is Economic Theory Mathematics? 228
Extremal theories and intentionality 229
Economics as applied mathematics 237
Microeconomics and Euclidean geometry 239
But is it science? 248
Bibliography 255
Index 261
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