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Who Cares if Economics is a “Science”?

It’s silly season again. The Nobel Prize in economics is being announced in a few hours and we’re already seeing the uproar over the award.  This annual tradition usually amounts to:

  • Economics isn’t a science.
  • The Nobel in Economics is fake.

Let’s just stop with all the silliness here.  There are Nobel prizes for peace and literature in addition to the hard sciences.  I don’t see anyone in an uproar over how “scientific” they are.  And while I love peace and literature, I don’t know think the work being done in those fields is necessarily more important than economics.  But that’s not important.  What is important is that economics, on its own, is hugely important.  In fact, one could easily argue that economics is the most important science (work, research, who cares what we call it) that is being done.

Given how little we actually know about the economy, how complex economic systems are and how important they are to our everyday lives, it’s imperative that we actually put economics on a pedestal.  How else will we ever become better educated about it and destroy many of the misunderstandings that currently exist in this relatively young field?   If the financial crisis taught us anything it’s that we aren’t paying enough attention to how economics is done and how it can be improved.  That’s a good thing.  And the annual award helps to shed a nice big spotlight on a very important part of the world.

We shouldn’t tear down economics.  We should place even more scrutiny on it.  We should have an insatiable desire to better understand it.  That is the only way to improve economics and help make the world a better place by having more realistic and superior economic policy in place.

Perhaps most importantly, there’s no way Alfred Nobel could have known that economics would be as important today as it is.  After all, economics was a rather untouched field in 1896 when he died.  And I have a feeling, if he knew his name was attached to an award that was helping to improve a much needed and important field, that he wouldn’t object to the award’s existence.

The bottom line is, it’s counterproductive to tear down economists and economics.  These are good people doing important work.  They deserve our scrutiny, but they also deserve great praise when they do great work.  So let’s cut the nonsense about whether economics is a real science or not.  It’s hugely important to the world and at the end of the day that’s really all that matters.