Patrick O'Donnell uses the occasion of a review by Thomas Frank of Thomas Picketty's new book Capital in the Twenty-first Century. He takes the opportunity to bash the pretensions of economists. It reminds me of the problems of statistical measures in epidemiology and debates about how to make reasonable inferences of causation of disease. This was a central concern of mine in the pre-Daubert and the post-Dabubert era. There defense attorneys for drug companies took a kind of Popperian (nothing can be proven) stance. Probabilities are predictions and cannot be used to prove causation was the argument. I took that on in a 1995 essay that I still like: Against the Odds - Proving Causation of Disease with Epdemiological Evidence. - gwc
Ratio Juris: The Imperialist and Scientistic Pretensions…or The Secret and Not-So-Secret Sins, of Economics:
by Patrick O'Donnell
Quoting Deirdre MCloskey:
“It is not difficult to explain to outsiders what is so dramatically, insanely, sinfully wrong with the two leading methods in high-level economics, qualitative theorems and statistical significance. It is very difficult to explain it to insiders, because the insiders cannot believe that methods in which they have been elaborately trained and which are used by people they admire most are simply unscientific nonsense, having literally nothing to do with whatever actual scientific contribution (and I repeat, it is considerable) that economics makes to the understanding of society. So they simply can’t grasp arguments that are plain to people not socialized in economics.”
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