Re: Social Science Fiction?

The Baileys (
Mon, 15 Mar 1999 21:38:19 -0500

Robin Hanson wrote:

>Physicists can declare the universe has eleven dimensions, based on the
>slimmest of evidence, and media coverage basically says "isn't that cool."
>Economists can say price limits probably reduce the supply of an item like
>labor, standard economic wisdom for centuries, and if the media mentions
>it at all it is described as controversial, being sure to quote disagreeing

I suspect issues in economics are more controversial (even needlessly so) because of the political baggage that many attach to them. The efficacy of capitalism or socialism isn't undermined by the existence of eleven dimensions.

Additionally, I've noticed a general attitude towards economists (even the transfer pricing ones I deal with) by non-economists that they don't really know anything. I've not checked the latest accuracy figures for economists predictions but the general feeling I get is that it is not spectacular. People generally have a skepticism of economists. But is this justified? I'm not sure. I don't think so. I suspect the complexity of the phenomena economics attempts to describe and model is higher than that of, say, physics. I'm not saying physics is not a complex subject. But using Chaitin's definition of complexity, I suspect the "theory of everything" for economics will be more complex (i.e., longer) than the "theory of everything" for physics. I believe it will have more variables, more echelons, more overall complexity. Perhaps the success rate of economic predictions is similar to that of meteorologists for a reason, both subjects attempt to model an extremely complex interplay between a host of agents.

Doug Bailey