Deirdre McCloskey: What Kenneth Boulding Said Went Wrong with Economics, A Quarter Century On

Excerpts from this essay: 

1. It is appropriate to call economics since 1948 “Samuelsonian”

2. Science is about Mow Much. Existence theorems and tests of statistical significance have no connection to actual findings about How Much in actual economies”

3. There’s nothing, in short, unscientific about the humanities. Boulding spoke of the “inside track” we have as social scientists because we are the very thing we study, unlike the position of the physicist studying the atom or the biologist the cell or the geologist the mountain. “The outside track is frequently associated with scientific knowledge and the inside with folk or humanistic knowledge. The social scientist is frequently inclined to deprecate the inside track and to pretend that he operates only on the outside track. If we examine the social scientists carefully, however, we shall find that … their theoretical models owe a great deal to the power of man to known himself from the inside” (1964, p. 59). And how do we know ourselves from the inside? Through the arts and the humanities.

4. Many scientists mistakenly think that ethical categorization is not relevant to science: this is an echo of an attitude dating to Max Weber and adopted enthusiastically in economics during the middle of the twentieth century that fact and value are from different realms. Boulding did not agree. He realized, as many economists still do not, that “a process by which we detect errors in propositions of fact is not very different from that by which we detect error in propositions of value”