October 19, 2016

The bigots of common sense

Comment on Barkley Rosser on ‘David Sloan Wilson’s econ critique’


In your account of the various strands of evolutionary economics you forgot the pivotal connection: Malthus is the key figure, he represents the deep unity of Political Economy and Darwinism.

Economics is a cargo cult science, that is, it always copied genuine science without ever getting on its own scientific feet. The history of economic thought consists of two main strands. First, economists copied Newtonian physics then they copied (re-imported) Darwinian biology. Having NO own scientific gravitas economists jumped on every bandwagon from game theory, to evolutionary game theory, to chaos theory, to complexity theory and had their dilettantish fingers in every pie from psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, political science, social philosophy to biology/Darwinism.

Curiously, until this day the representative economist has no idea of the foundational concepts of his own discipline, that is, of profit and income. Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism is provable false.

The fundamental distinction in economics is between political economics and theoretical economics and the fact of the matter is that political economics (= agenda pushing) dominates theoretical economics (= science) since the founding fathers. And this is why economics never rose above the proto-scientific level.

The very characteristic of political economics is its rhetorical appeal to common sense. This started with Adam Smith: “... he disliked whatever went beyond plain common sense. He never moved above the heads of even the dullest readers. He led them on gently, encouraging them by trivialities and homely observations, making them feel comfortable all along.” (Schumpeter, 1994, p. 185)

This continued to Marshall and Keynes: “In the early thirties he [Keynes] confessed to Roy Harrod that he was ‘returning to an age-long tradition of common sense’.” (Coates, 2007, p. 11)

Now, David Sloan Wilson tries again to unite the scientific retards under the banner of common sense: “... [econ] is dominated by a single theoretical edifice ... The edifice is based upon a conception of human nature that is profoundly false, defying the dictates of common sense, before we even get to the more refined dictates of psychology and evolutionary theory.”

About the relationship between common sense and science all has been said by the great methodologist J. S. Mill: “People fancied they saw the sun rise and set, the stars revolve in circles round the pole. We now know that they saw no such thing; what they really saw was a set of appearances, equally reconcileable with the theory they held and with a totally different one. It seems strange that such an instance as this, ... , should not have opened the eyes of the bigots of common sense, and inspired them with a more modest distrust of the competency of mere ignorance to judge the conclusions of cultivated thought.”

The very characteristic of science is to TRANSCEND common sense. Therefore, there is no need at all to go into the details of Wilson’s soap box economics, his appeal to common sense is sufficient to disqualify him as a scientist.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Immediately preceding 'Evolutionary economics: Just another degenerated research program'
Immediately following 'New economic thinking ― false promises and hopes'