There’s been a good back and forth on the econ blogosphere lately regarding the epistemology of economics. The public perception of economists is not the greatest for a variety of reasons: we (mostly) didn’t see the financial crisis coming (despite the old saw that economists have predicted 9 out of the last 5 recessions); we underestimated the size of the ensuing recession; and whatever the policy, you can almost always find economists on both sides of the issue (in other words, there seems to be little shared agreement).
To an extent, this is unfair, and largely biased due to the outsize popular fascination with macroeconomics, which is still a very new science with little data and an inability to run experiments. Still, macroeconomics is more popular for a reason: the macroeconomy is central to our livelihoods. If the country enters recession, we may not have a job any longer. I doubt there are many people who would not be interested in making the field more scientific. But can economics ever really be a science?
- Russ Roberts, economist and host of the great EconTalk podcast, fired the first shot.
- Noah Smith, an economist and columnist at Bloomberg View, responded on his own blog, as did Adam Ozimek at Moody’s.
- Tyler Cowen, economist at George Mason, added his own comments at Marginal Revolution.
- And Noah has a response to Tyler’s response, as well as a follow up column at Bloomberg.
This type of dialogue is what makes the economics blogosphere so interesting to follow. While I won’t say *all* are required reading, I would definitely recommend the initial Roberts piece and Noah Smith’s Bloomberg column at the bare minimum.