Why is economics a science?

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Economists view themselves as scientists and their field of expertise as scientific. As part of their work, economists collect data, test hypotheses and develop theories to explain how economic phenomena work.

History

  • Philosopher Karl Popper defined something as scientific if there is a logical possibility of it being found false. Economists see economics as a science under Popper's definition.

Features

  • Economics has a set of theories that explains how economies work. Economists develop these theories after extensive observation, research and critical analysis. These are elements of the scientific method.

Benefits

  • Just as the physical sciences offer basic, simplified explanations for understanding a complex world, economics offers similar statements for explaining how economies work.

Considerations

  • Although economists use observations, theories and other scientific tools, they cannot conduct controlled laboratory experiments, unlike their counterparts in the physical sciences. Economists cannot, for example, manipulate prices in the economy, and must rely instead on facts as they present themselves in the natural world.

Prevention/Solution

  • To compensate for the lack of laboratory conditions, economic science uses statistical analysis as a way to hold certain variables constant and observe the effects of other variables.

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References

  • Principles of Economics (3rd edition); N. Gregory Mankiw; 2003
  • Theories of Political Economy; James Caporaso and David Levine; 1994
  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Mark Wallace
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