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Is economics a science aimed at deceiving people?

I recently heard in the news that Spain faces an imminent economic ruin, because statistically there are going to be lots of elderly people who are unproductive. This devastating message was announced by some highly educated economist.
Am I alone in thinking that a large pool of potential customers is an opportunity rather than a threat? In my view the senior citizens are a blessing to the economy. Younger people will find lots of employment in extending their loving care to them, particularly to those without a family. Elderly people need to be looked after by doctors, physiotherapists, entertainers, they will want to travel and to play etc etc and they have their retirement pensions to pay for all these things.
I believe that economists are either spun out as not to be able to think reasonably or that they disseminate false statements on purpose to further oppress the population at large. Judging by their looks, the latter is the case.
Another good example of how economists bend the reality to serve their cunning aims, is how they insist that at the time of mass unemployment, the retirement age should be ... extended! In other words economists propose that where there is a shortage of jobs, those jobs which could be made available, will not be available. Is that standing the world on its head or what?

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  • Jan 15 2013: Economics is not a science. It simply doesn't meet the requirements of empiricism, falsifiability and self-correction. There are economists out there who work scientifically but the field as a whole is not scientific.

    "Another good example of how economists bend the reality to serve their cunning aims, is how they insist that at the time of mass unemployment, the retirement age should be ... extended! In other words economists propose that where there is a shortage of jobs, those jobs which could be made available, will not be available. Is that standing the world on its head or what?"

    In the world of economics natural resources are endless, like manna from the heavens, so economists are surprised when all those unemployed "lazy bums" don't go to work and produce more stuff (though some unemployment in the West is caused by the Chinese working 60 hour work weeks). The rate of automation has surpassed the rate of learning how to make more crap per liter of petroleum, but since most economists wouldn't know the difference between a protein and a photon, they don't understand what's going on and start pulling bogus explanations from their behinds.
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    Feb 15 2013: I am having a problem getting past the "economics is a science" statement. When I hear economists talk, I have that feeling it is Sunday Morning and a TV evangelist is berating our behavior and condemning us to hellfire and damnation.
    Where I get really confused is when economists speak with the certainty of a raising sun that next year the entire money future will better or worse and my weatherman can't tell me if it will rain this weekend. At least meteorologist are honest to say that the best they can do is guess.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Jan 18 2013: Most economists believe their own lies to self. If they saw the horror of what they espouse, they would crawl into a corner and die of shame.
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      Jan 18 2013: most economists do crawl into a corner, and work on some insignificant mathematical model of a subarea of a subarea. or try to theoretise marketing and branding.
  • Jan 16 2013: Well yes it certainly is a science.

    It is the lack of insight into human behavior what makes economic models so far off these days. Some of the mechanisms that have been discovered and established over the past centuries are quite astonishing, but with the component of individual preferences remaining not fully uncovered yet, a model can never be entirely accurate.

    Economics deals with the allocation of scarce goods and once we know and apply individual preferences in models by means of recent developments such as Agent Based Modelling tools, it can become more precise in its predictions and serve society a whole lot better.

    Don't forget it's merely half a century since the first economist abandoned the concept of the homo economicus and started to embrace psychological insights. Once we make more progress in this field and put ABM models to use, economic policy becomes more rational in a world of irrational individuals, with all their biases, framing and other limitations. That includes myself of course.

    Scientists like Samuel Bowles or Daniel Kahnemann have done some great work in this field and it would be just wrong to disqualify their works as not being scientific. Austrian or Keynesian, is does not matter a great deal what you prefer, because the outcomes of the ideology can only be theorized. In fact I have been supportive for both theories sequentially, but truth is that there does not exist a rational individual in this world and only a model where this can be included can make a sound prediction for future policy. So lets not waste time over this by having discussions about that topic. You can Google it and read for days about this same discussion, perhaps among even more educated economists than ourselves.

    Now, let's move forward before a whole generation gets stuck in a life of indebtedness.
    • Jan 16 2013: "It is the lack of insight into human behavior what makes economic models so far off these days. Some of the mechanisms that have been discovered and established over the past centuries are quite astonishing, but with the component of individual preferences remaining not fully uncovered yet, a model can never be entirely accurate."

      This is true of all social sciences, the difference is psychologists and sociologists, no matter how flawed they are, at least try to improve as a whole: economists on the other hand seem to have a hard time criticizing traditions and accepting new research. It is no coincidence economists are so much more bitterly divided than psychologists and sociologists.
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      Jan 16 2013: Rene, did you mean half a decade or half a century since the first economist began to consider psychological/behavior insights to qualify or extend rational actor models? This was certainly part of higher level economics education in the 70s and Herbert Simon won a Nobel prize in the 60s, I believe, for his work on bounded rationality.

      The Samuel Bowles I have read published his best known work in the early or mid 70s.
      • Jan 16 2013: Thank you kindly for pointing that out Fritzie. It was my intention to refer to half a century ago and I'm confident we've read the works from the same Samuel Bowles.
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          Jan 16 2013: You can go back up and edit, Rene, so you don't accidentally confuse people with "half a decade." While there is much yet to learn in economics as a discipline to improve its practical use, people without a lot of background in the subject typically think economics is more backward than it is, I think.
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      Jan 16 2013: austrian economics treats human psychology as a terra incognita, which it pretty much was a few decades ago, but still manages to draw useful and meaningful conclusions. simply put, we do not need to know how the mind works in order to build a sound theory of economics.
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        Jan 18 2013: It is still terra incognita. The psychs would have you believe otherwise but that is just a charade, aimed at enslaving the slightly less than vigilant for financial gain. The results of the psychs speak for themselves, they have as much comprehension of terra incognita as I do where the salad fork goes.
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    Jan 15 2013: Economists do not agree with each other, so one can seldom say that economists believe or argue one thing or another. Some economists argue one thing and some another.

    I don't think one can say generally that "they disseminate false statements on purpose." I think economists can come to wrong conclusions and often do, because prediction is complex in social systems.

    So no, economics is not a science and is not aimed at deceiving people.
    • Jan 15 2013: "I think economists can come to wrong conclusions and often do, because prediction is complex in social systems."

      That's the difference between the scientist and the economist: if you ask a meteorologist whether it's going to rain on 16 October 2019 he will tell you he cannot make that prediction, when you ask an economist whether the stock of Microsoft will go up on 16 October 3019 he will give you a 30 minute explanation of why exactly Microsoft stock will go up or down on 16 October 3019.
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        Jan 15 2013: That's not my experience at all. Both scientist and economist know the limits of prediction, particularly prediction far out into the future, or far outside the range of the data they use to establish the values of the parameters in their models.
        • Jan 16 2013: It is my experience: economists think they are gods, they don't rationally take into account the error margin of a scenario, they're like the political pundits who got the election wrong, they'll just make up some excuse of why their predictions were wrong and then proceed to make new predictions of things that are far too uncertain for anyone to make.
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        Jan 16 2013: These are stereotypes you may hold that you would find it hard, I think, to support with actual evidence.
        • Jan 16 2013: Damn right it's a stereotype, not all economists are like that, some dare to say "I don't know", others even do actual research to see if long held beliefs have any basis in reality, but too many in high places do fit the stereotype.
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        Jan 16 2013: Thank you, John, for qualifying your original statement.
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    Jan 17 2013: Just curious, Jarek- you write that 'judging by their looks", "they disseminate false statements on purpose."

    I am trying to understand this statement.

    I am also curious whether you ACTUALLY think that economics as a discipline is aimed at deceiving people. If so, what other disciplines do you believe are aimed at deceiving people?
    • Jan 18 2013: Fritzie, the economist's looks - those who appear in the media - suggest that they are well educated, intelligent people capapable of understanding the fallacy of their own statements.

      When I suggested in my post that economics is a science aimed at deceiving people, I did so in order to pique and provoke a chance viewer. In fact I believe that economics is as neutral and innocent as any other branch of social sciences as long as it is not hijacked by a certain class of people in order to lead by the nose another much more populous class of people :-)

      In aswer to your last question, I would say that all money/trade etc related disciplines are prone to be dishonestly employed which is not the same as to say that was their original raison d'etre.
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        Jan 18 2013: Thank you. That is what I suspected you actually thought.
  • Jan 17 2013: John - I did find Ricardo discussing wages in a two hundred year old two or three page paper in a 55 year old book with brief philosophical papers Pretty accurate paper. What has bothered me about some economic theory is that I am a former physics guy who remembers thermodynamics. Of course, we can see problems if we know things from other science departments or other colleges.
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      Jan 17 2013: George, I don't understand this sentence: "What has bothered me about some economic theory is that I am a former physics guy who remembers thermodynamics." Perhaps it is because I have not myself taken Stat Mech?
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    Jan 17 2013: I am not an economist and really know very little about it. It would appear that the two major economic theories (Austrian ansd Keynesian) support a political approach. One supports big government and entitlement programs and the other does not.

    The real threat is that the bottom line is being ignored. If stripped to the bone what is the purpose. Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. It is a measuring tool.

    To be of value it must be capable of being applied against something ... that something is usually the trade balance and the countries debit.

    Our current national debit is 100% of our GDP. That cannot possiably be a deception .. that by any other name is a giant RED FLAG.

    A different perspective would be that if your bills were 100% of your take home pay ... how would you eat. No cheating here pay your bills.

    If used properly then I see econimics as a tool or a guide to the finicial health of the nation. It is the same as the bank statement that you and I receive each month ... it says we are managing our assets well or we are not.

    The problem is that by smoke, mirrors, and political objectives we are being told that even though we are broke and getting "broker" everything is alright.

    Economics, to me, is really quite simple ... if ya ain't got it ... ya can't spend it. As Barron Von Richthofen said ... "everything else is rubbish."

    You want to solve the problem. Really. Kick out all of the "expert" economists and put a couple housewives that struggle every month to make ends meet by doing the simple math of survival and all of this crap would be gone.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • Jan 16 2013: economics is a discipline aimed at deceiving itself.
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    Jan 16 2013: wow, that is definitely a new level of keynesian economics. you should be the chairman of the fed. no, seriously. keynesian economics is a huge system of doublethink. you need to believe in contradictory statements at the same time, you need to accept nonsensical or clearly false statements or double standards on regular basis. but your idea extends keynesian economics in a huge way. and in a way that is completely compatible with it in its logic, but contradicts it at the same time. so nice job.

    except it is false. it is false even in keynesian economics. and keynesian economics is false itself. your idea is false in keynesian economics, because they state that the aggregate demand pulls the economy. it does not matter who has the demand. state could also spend the same sum, so the existence of retired people don't help at all. more like they are a hinderance, because the bastards might decide to save, which is a problem in keynesian economics.

    but the true problem with it of course is that keynesian economics is false. demand does not pull the economy. not any more than the cart pushes the horse.
    • Jan 16 2013: This reads as the muslim pot accusing the christian kettle of having no evidence to support the divinity of Jesus Christ.
  • Jan 16 2013: Good John. Also, Jarek these people often have agendas. Employers often want to lower wages and advocate immigration to do that and other things that the rest of us may not want. There are many expenses associated with kids so we shouldn't just pick on the old people. In America the schools are broke, but Social Security has historically been viewed as an account from which money can be borrowed - sounds like a political agenda unless you trust politicans more than I do.
    • Jan 16 2013: It's not that economists themselves have a vested interest in supporting big business, but the people who wrote their textbooks and invented the theories did. It's really striking how much economists accept for facts when there has never been any research to support it, or worse, when the research that does exist points to the contrary. In science you can't get away with that, in economics you ca, there is so little self-correction in economics.

      When an economics textbook says "human beings always try to maximize material profit in their interactions" this applies to the sort of people that go into economics or big business, but not the general population, still this assumption was penned down without any research into it having been done and now that there has been some research to the contrary, that research is flatly ignored.
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    Jan 16 2013: A science by definition is something that can predict things, economics is a science to that degree. The Austrian school is 100% at predicting therefore very much a science.

    The Keynesian s on the other hand are not only not a science but pure propaganda that give the subject a worser name and are very much used by politicians to manipulate people.

    Here is an example of a Keynesian of the worst order:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/media/video/337732
    • Jan 16 2013: Austrian economics is actually the worst, Keynesian is not a science either, but Austrians are the worst: they don't use math, they don't accept evidence that contradicts their views, they don't even go looking for such evidence. They're a religion.
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        Jan 17 2013: As usual John you do not have the slightest idea of what you are talking about.
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        Jan 17 2013: and you know that because you studied austrian economics? could you pass any entry level exams?