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Free Minds & Free Markets

'Economists Say' a Lot of Things. Many of Them Are Wrong

Appeals to what 'economists say' is used to coat liberal policy positions with a veneer of scientific certitude.

"A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation—and may finally raise wages significantly," opens a recent New York Times article surveying the state of the American economy.

One imagines that readers of the esteemed paper were surprised to run across such a rosy assessment after having been bombarded with news of a homicidal Republican tax plan for so many weeks. But not to worry! Over the next few thousand words, the authors do their best to assure readers that neither deregulation nor tax cuts are really behind this new economic activity—even if business leaders keep telling them otherwise.

For example, they claim that "There is little historical evidence tying regulation levels to growth." A few paragraphs later, we again learn that "The evidence is weak that regulation actually reduces economic activity or that deregulation stimulates it."

A reporter without an agenda might have written that evidence was "arguable," because I bet I could corral a bunch of economists to tell you that lowering the cost of doing business spurs economic activity quite often. And though the Trump administration somewhat overstates its regulatory cutbacks, it has stopped hundreds of Obama-era regulations from being enacted. Even better, it has stopped thousands of yet-to-be-invented regulations from ever being considered. There's plenty of evidence, in the article and elsewhere, that this kind of deregulation has plenty to do with investment and job growth.

There is also plenty of evidence that econ reporters at major publications have spent the past decade propping up economists who tell them what they want to hear. That is to say, they prop up economists who obsess over "inequality" rather than economic growth, who worry about the future of labor unions or climate change or whatever policy liberals happen to be plying at the moment. There are plenty of economists out there making good arguments for the free market who will never be member of the "economists say" clique.

For eight years, we consistently heard about how "economists say" everything Democrats were doing was great (even when hundreds disagreed). Unsurprisingly, "economists" were wrong about a lot. The rosy predictions set by President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers regarding the "stimulus," the administration's prediction of 4.6 percent growth by 2012 and the Congressional Budget Office predictions about Obamacare were all way off base.

There are thousands of unknowns that can't be quantified or computed, including human nature. But after decades of using data to help us think about goods, services, jobs, consumption and our choices, "economists say" is now used to coat liberal policy positions with a veneer of scientific certitude. And since Democrats began successfully aligning economics with social engineering, we've stopped seriously talking about the tradeoffs of regulations.

A good example of this trend is the push for a $15 minimum wage—an emotionally satisfying, popular and destructive policy idea. Most cities that have passed the hike have experienced job losses. When researchers at the University of Washington studied Seattle's $15 minimum-wage hike, one of the largest in the nation, they found that thousands of fewer jobs were created and thousands of people lost hours of work, making them poorer.

No doubt a lot of people were surprised. Vox, a leading light in the liberalism-masquerading-as-science genre, ran an article headlined "The Controversial Study Showing High Minimum Wages Kill Jobs, Explained." You might wonder why incessantly quoted studies from liberal "nonpartisan" groups that falsely predicted minimum wages wouldn't hurt cities aren't "controversial." Because if you want to raise the minimum wage, you will raise the price of labor and often reduce the amount of labor that's going to be hired. That's the trade-off. For decades, most economists agreed.

While most economists I've known are relatively humble about forecasting, the ones who aren't get most of the press. "Out of 42 Top Economists, Only 1 Believes the GOP Tax Bills Would Help the Economy," a November Vox headline read. (Indeed, 36 percent of those polled gave the wholly rational answer of "uncertain.") "We'll be lucky to have 2 percent" growth, "economists say" regular Mark Zandi told CNN in May.

Certainly, the economy doesn't have the room to grow that it had in 2007 or 2012, but so far, Zandi is wrong. Neither deregulation nor tax cuts are a panacea. But businesses have already acted on deregulation and corporate tax cuts. Dozens of companies announced they would hand out bonus checks to hundreds of thousands of workers before the corporate tax cut was even signed into law. Perhaps these corporations only did it all to gain favor with the administration. Hey, some people suck up to government by cutting bonus checks for their workers, and some people make electric cars no one wants. The fact is that deregulation and tax cuts matter. We already have evidence. We just don't give voice to the economists who would tell us so.

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  • JoeBlow123||

    Economics should really not be considered a science or receive a Nobel Prize. There are some decent principles to be discerned from the muck that should generally be helpful but besides that it is straight guessing with fancy math.

    How anyone can put stock in "economics" as a predictive science nowadays boggles me.

  • juris imprudent||

    Irony can be so beautiful at times.

  • Sevo||

    "Economics should really not be considered a science or receive a Nobel Prize. There are some decent principles to be discerned from the muck that should generally be helpful but besides that it is straight guessing with fancy math."

    Know-nothing bullshit.
    "Science" is not one subject or the other.Science is a process, and economics is a subject which is easily studied by that process.

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    Yeah- I have a master's degree in econ- this weird concept that economics isn't science is based around the idea that economic forecasts have pretty limited accuracy. That's a dumb rationale though- economics as a science just has a lot more variables to account for than other sciences- there is no real true "vacuum" for running experiments- so we rely on math, and then use empirical data to "prove" or "disprove" hypothesis. That doesn't make it unscientific- just makes it hard.

    Politically-based economics ruins the authority of the discipline though- since you can alter assumptions significantly in a way that you can't really in other sciences, it leads to modeling to achieve a pre-set conclusion, as opposed to gaining understanding and making a real forecast. It can be true to say that we don't have a clear understanding of the ultimate impacts of small changes in minimum wage on the gross economy; it can't be true, though, to believe that historically large changes in minimum wage will act similarly- the size of the increase outweighs the unmeasured variables. But you can find a leftist economist that will just take the dumb Card-Krueger study from the fast food industry in Massachusetts and say "Hey look! Increases are always good!"

  • JesseAz||

    Just because a discipline uses math doesn't mean it is a science. There are very few hard rules in economics. Economic models have a problem in that they are based on assumptions of not only how Humans will react today but how they will react tomorrow. This is a terrible subject to declare as science since irrationality is a precursor of human existence. The problem is that irrationality can't be defined, but merely attributed to the human condition. We see the left claim wanting more freedoms is irrational while the right claims wanting more regulation is irrational. The truth is somewhere in the between but as conditions and societies change, that line changes with it.

    There is virtually no set of economics that is not based on social assumptions of a populace. That is where I think you are off when you attempt to pull politically-based economics out from economics. Economics is inherently a study of human behavior, just in markets.

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    There are many hard rules in economics. Really, the basic tenets of economics follow the supply demand curve- anything beyond that is an attempt to measure things. You're positing that unmeasured variables- including human behavior being irrational, removes the entire study of economics from science- that doesn't make any sense. That's like implying physics wasn't science because until we understood quarks. A science being poorly understood isn't the same thing as saying that it isn't scientific; experimentation is still a thing- controls can still be introduced, and comparisons made. Hypothesis and testing is at the base of any science- economics clearly qualifies- albeit with additional confounding variables than other sciences.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Economics isn't a science.

    It's an historical study.

    It cannot predict, it can only track. It can show you the whys and wherefores of an 'economic trend' AFTER that trend has died.

    Why?

    Because there is only one unwavering Law of Economics--

    Everyone will always seek the best for themselves--as defined by themselves--in every interaction.

    And it is so subjective that it is not even reliable as an indicator of past events

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    Utility is a variable in economic studies; for individuals, it can't be predicted, in aggregate, it can be predicted fairly well. If it couldn't, there'd be no such thing as marketing studies and essentially running a business successfully would be blind luck.

  • ace_m82||

    It cannot predict, it can only track.

    It can predict. Humans act in their own perceived best interest. The issue is that people who call themselves "Economists" try to use math instead of our understanding of how humans react to incentives to predict things.

    mises.org/blog/continuing- relevance-misess-human-action (copy/paste, remove space)

    In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mises wrote a series of essays in which he argued that economics was a distinct science derived from the insight that all social processes arise from the choices and actions of the individual participants in the social and market order. Attempts to reduce conscious and intentional human conduct to the physical methods of the natural sciences would not merely distort any real understanding of human decision-making and activity, it would create a serious false impression that social and market processes could be manipulated and controlled in more or less the same manner as inanimate matter in a laboratory experiment.
  • Azathoth!!||

    Humans act in their own subjective best interest.

    This may not be logical. It may not be precedented. It may not be apparent.

    Economic predictions are less accurate than weather predictions.

    There are marketing studies of the same business that are wildly at odds.

  • ace_m82||

    Humans act in their own subjective best interest.

    Yes, what they perceive as their best interest.

    That's why, I cannot tell you if the market will go up or down on Monday, I can tell you what will happen if you incentivize lazy behavior (they will be lazy).

    An Iron Law of Economics:

    If government gets involved in X, X will get more expensive*.

    *Perhaps not to the end user, but overall, it will get more expensive.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Those of us formally trained in neuroscience aim to understand the mechanisms that underlie how "humans act in their own subjective best interest." You know, the thing that you think is unscientific.

    Almost anything can be considered a "science" if the scientific method is employed. Sewing can be a science. (And in fact, it's a very well studied one)

  • L.G. Balzac||

    I used to be in a band called "The Swinging Johnsons".

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    There are very few hard rules in Economics in some part because almost every hard rule anyone comes across punctures some fondly held Progressive/Socialist/Communist/Fascist belief.

    Rule of thumb; whenever a Progressive Left type claims that 'science' proves he is right, it is safe to assume that the discipline he is claiming supports him has abandoned evidence for theory.

  • Sevo||

    JesseAz|1.5.18 @ 12:28PM|#
    "Just because a discipline uses math doesn't mean it is a science."
    To be ignored.

  • Barbara Yarhead||

    "historically large changes in minimum wage will act similarly- the size of the increase outweighs the unmeasured variables. "

    This guy gets it. There are numerous studies showing that raising the minimum wage had no effect on jobs or in some studies correlated with increased employment.

    Some liberals use this to diminish the truism regarding the demand for labor. Are the studies wrong? No, but the truism about labor is not at all disproven.

    I've never seen any exposition about the minimum wage that even attempted to discuss all the relevant variables.

  • Azathoth!!||

    There is no 'demand' for labor.

    There is no business, anywhere in the world, that WANTS to increase it's costs.

    And labor is a cost.

    There are no studies anywhere that have ever showed that raising the cost of doing business had no effect or had a positive effect. None.

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    This displays a fundamental lack of understanding of supply/demand curves and how businesses operate.
    If I am a business, I need inputs to operate my business. I would like to purchase exactly the correct level of input as to maximize profit. Inputs include labor.
    Additionally, determining the effects of an increase in minimum wage based on looking at an individual business is a microeconomic question, and worth examining. However, from a macroeconomic standpoint, there are a number of variables- other markets, that are changed when cash flow changes. A small increase in the minimum wage *may* have an aggregate positive outcome in specific situations. It could also have an aggregate negative outcome; it's one specific change, but it affects several other aspects of the macroeconomy, There are, indeed, studies that show this; I have issues with most of them- particularly because they seem to have predetermined outcomes based on their underlying political leaning, but they do exist.

  • Azathoth!!||

    There are, indeed, studies that show this; I have issues with most of them- particularly because they seem to have predetermined outcomes based on their underlying political leaning, but they do exist.

    These are what is known as 'propaganda'. They are lies told to further a political agenda. A study with a predetermined outcome isn't a study. It's a lie dressed nice enough that you'll take it out on the town before knowing what you've done.

  • Zeb||

    There is no 'demand' for labor.

    Then what's that "help wanted" sign I saw today for?

  • sarcasmic||

    There is no 'demand' for labor.

    There is no business, anywhere in the world, that WANTS to increase it's costs.

    And labor is a cost.

    There are no studies anywhere that have ever showed that raising the cost of doing business had no effect or had a positive effect. None.

    Are you serious?

  • sarcasmic||

    I had a longer reply, but deleted it.

    Let me try to be concise. When an employee produces more value than it costs to employ them, the it's profitable to employ the person. Sure it's a cost, but it's margin that matter.

    When the employee costs more than they produce, then it is not profitable to employ them.

    That can happen in many ways, one of which is the government legislatively increasing the cost of employing the person by raising the minimum wage. Again, it happens on the margins.

  • ||

    When an employee produces more value than it costs to employ them, the it's profitable to employ the person.

    ^ This.

    Yes, an employee costs money, but if I make more than they cost, then I want as many of them as I can get.

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    Yeah, you guys did that a lot more concisely than I did.
    One thing economists are good at is verbosity.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Let me try to be concise. When an employee produces more value than it costs to employ them, the it's profitable to employ the person. Sure it's a cost, but it's margin that matter.

    When the employee costs more than they produce, then it is not profitable to employ them.

    Yes. That's what I just said.

    "There is no business, anywhere in the world, that wants to increase it's costs". Arbitrarily raising those costs, such as with a minimum wage hike, DOES NOT take that all important margin into account and frequently results in it being unprofitable to employ someone.

    By raising a business' costs arbitrarily.

    If I could run my business, profitably, without any employees, why would I hire any? Labor is a cost. Not a 'resource'. Workers can produce beyond their cost--but they are, first and foremost, a cost.

  • Azathoth!!||

    oh, and I do actually run a business. profitably.

  • gormadoc||

    There is no 'demand' for labor.
    Sure there is, otherwise why would anyone trade anything of value for it?

    There is no business, anywhere in the world, that WANTS to increase it's costs.
    Say that I produce and sell 50 widgets for every wodget. Buying even one wodget is a cost, but it's necessary for me to make any money at all in that market. Every business has some kind of input that has an associated cost and they must pay in order to produce.

    And labor is a cost.
    It does have an associated cost, yes. But it also produces utility (your product or service). If the utility outweighs the cost, they are profitable to employ. If you want more profit, you also must increase your costs.

    There are no studies anywhere that have ever showed that raising the cost of doing business had no effect or had a positive effect.
    While I doubt the absence of such studies, it shouldn't be necessary to demonstrate through a study. Although why are you putting any credence in the lack of these studies if they aren't scientific and aren't predictive, anyway? If you don't already accept my previous abstract examples, perhaps you'll accept an extremely common practice: training. Restaurants train their new cooks; otherwise it would be a disaster (they're trained through the labor of older cooks, btw). Many software companies, law firms, tax agencies, etc. will send workers to do training in new technologies/practices/laws so that they are more productive in the future.

  • gormadoc||

    If I could run my business, profitably, without any employees, why would I hire any?
    If they add more profit than the cost, why wouldn't you?

    Not a 'resource'. Workers can produce beyond their cost--but they are, first and foremost, a cost.
    Nobody is pretending that labor has no costs, but you are insisting that labor is only a cost. If labor were only a cost nobody would employ it. The fact that labor does follow the law of supply and demand demonstrates that it has benefits and is a resource.

    If I could run my business, profitably, without any employees, why would I hire any?
    This is identical to having employees with no costs, ie. labor is free. This makes your position really weird. It's like you take two extremes ("labor is prohibitively costly -> nobody will hire" and "labor is free -> awesome") which are clearly consistent with supply and demand, and then try to argue that the middle is somehow not consistent with supply and demand. In fact, it really just sounds like you wouldn't hire anyone if their labor weren't somehow free.

    You aren't getting into a very good position by bringing the minimum wage into it. Liberal intellectuals like it when people try to decouple labor and supply-and-demand, because it makes the minimum wage easier to stomach. You should be trying to force the relationship down everyone's throats, so they know that your demand for their labor will fall if the minimum wage is increased, so their hours will be cut.

  • Paloma||

    IOW, the old Division of Labor.

  • Trainer||

    "There is no business, anywhere in the world, that wants to increase it's costs".

    Businesses are increasing their costs all the time. It's called growth. When I moved from a 2,100 sq. ft. facility to a 12,000 sq. ft. facility, I purposely raised my costs including labor because I knew that my return would be much greater than when I was stuck in 2,100 sq. ft.

  • Azathoth!!||

    " When I moved from a 2,100 sq. ft. facility to a 12,000 sq. ft. facility, I purposely raised my costs including labor because I knew that my return would be much greater than when I was stuck in 2,100 sq. ft."

    You expanded your business.

    You did not say "Hey, I'm going to start paying my suppliers and employees more just because."

  • Sevo||

    Azathoth!!|1.5.18 @ 1:25PM|#
    "There is no 'demand' for labor."

    Pretty effing stupid statement.

  • regexp||

    There is no business, anywhere in the world, that WANTS to increase it's costs.

    I've spent my entire adult life working in corporate world working for small and large companies alike and every word of this statement is wrong.

  • Azathoth!!||

    It is likely that, like Trainer, you are misconstruing growth for arbitrarily increasing costs.

    I am not talking about expansion, or investment. I am talking about having the cost of necessary materials or labor arbitrarily raised.

    No business suddenly starts paying it's suppliers more for material just for the hell of it.

    And they especially don't do it with the intent of raising their costs and cutting into their profit margin.

  • Bill||

    If the market rate for labor is already trending upwards, a law
    that raises the minimum wage a small amount will have little
    effect on employment. Most employees were already making
    above minimum wage anyway and future raises were already
    being planned. In fact, if the wage was going to go up by 45 cents
    per hour due to market forces and the government raised it
    35 cents, maybe the businesses could get away with only
    raising it 35 cents and hence increase employment a bit.

    But the bigger picture that of course raising it from $5 to $15 will
    hurt employment still stands.

  • Juice||

    It doesn't receive a Nobel Prize.

  • ace_m82||

    Oh, it can predict a whole lot, but not if you listen to people who are highly paid to tell you what big government folk want you to hear.

    Read this site for actual economics: mises.org

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    If the scientific method is employed to discover economic principles, then it's a science. Just because test tubes aren't involved, it doesn't invalidate its scientific rigor. If you read the economic literature (rather than the NYT's commentary about things they don't understand) you'll realize that economics is every bit as scientific as many of the so-called hard sciences (a term that I hate).

  • Paloma||

    And WAY more scientific than psychology.

  • valentine2||

    I thnk some of the game theory work in Economics is useful and usually debunk many claimed benefits of liberal policies.

  • FlameCCT||

    Possibly however it is still just educated guess at best and SWAG at worst.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Everything is an "educated guess". There are very few systems in this universe that we don't approximate. Einstein proved this re: Newton's seemingly unflappable laws of motion. When we suggest a treatment for a cancer patient, it's undergone years of scientific inquiry but it's still just an "educated guess". When we develop a concept like dark matter to explain observations that are discordant with models, it's an "educated guess."

    All it means is we're not done studying the thing yet. We haven't solved cancer, physics, psychology, climate change, or economics, so we're going to use our best models to "guess" until we do. Some are just further along than others.

  • gormadoc||

    Public choice is fantastic. It really shows how fucked up government systems are.

  • MasterThief||

    I have arguments with leftists all the time regarding "experts." The media quotes experts who agree with their agenda and act like it is not just their opinion (whether majority or minority) but the truth. Paul Krugman is everywhere spouting left wing politics and his opinions are given the weight of an economic expert even when he makes points that disagree with his actual work.
    I don't care what the experts think unless they can show their work. Their opinion is obviously worth considering, but the data needs to show what they are saying.

  • JesseAz||

    I don't know why Krugman continues to get quoted so much. His predictions have a terrible track record, yet he is still the paragon of the left and quoted oft by the left's subordinates.

  • ace_m82||

    "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

  • Paloma||

    The opinion of "experts" is the very soul of progressivism.

  • Longtobefree||

    "All the economists in the world, placed end to end, will not reach a conclusion"

  • Billy Bones||

    "There is also plenty of evidence that econ reporters at major publications have spent the past decade propping up economists who tell them what they want to hear. That is to say, they prop up economists who obsess over "inequality" rather than economic growth, who worry about the future of labor unions or climate change or whatever policy liberals happen to be plying at the moment."

    Looking at you, Paul Krugman.

  • Mark22||

    The rosy predictions set by President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers regarding the "stimulus," the administration's prediction of 4.6 percent growth by 2012 and the Congressional Budget Office predictions about Obamacare were all way off base.

    The problem is not that economists are stupid or often wrong, it's their incentive structure. When they work as intellectuals, they maximize coverage, notoriety, and political influence by saying whatever it takes.

    If they were to put their own money at risk, their predictions would come in line with reality much more.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I think it's a cop out to accuse people of being intentionally disingenuous.

  • Mark22||

    Where did I say that their actions were "intentional"? I'm quite certain Krugman believes the crap that he is spouting; he couldn't be so convincing if he was intentionally lying. Krugman simply focuses his intellect on finding arguments to justify the conclusions he wants to reach, and he is not motivated in finding any evidence or lines of reasoning that contradict his conclusions.

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    I think it's a cop out to accuse people of being intentionally disingenuous.

  • Sevo||

    "I think it's a cop out to accuse people of being intentionally disingenuous."
    Goody for you.

  • Sevo||

    "It really does now look like President Donlad J. Trmup's, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?
    Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.
    Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never."

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive
    /projects/cp/opinion/election-night-2016
    /paul-krugman-the-economic-fallout

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Another pile of anti-intellectual drivel from the cavemen.

  • JesseAz||

    What as anti-intellectual in the article? Be specific.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    There is also plenty of evidence that econ reporters at major publications have spent the past decade propping up economists who tell them what they want to hear. That is to say, they prop up economists who obsess over "inequality" rather than economic growth, who worry about the future of labor unions or climate change or whatever policy liberals happen to be plying at the moment. There are plenty of economists out there making good arguments for the free market who will never be member of the "economists say" clique.

    So you're saying major publications should prop up economists who tell us what we want to hear.

  • Sevo||

    Are you familiar with the concept of "non-sequitur"?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    If you're going to insist that economics is a science, you have to concede that it can't tell you which metrics have value.

  • ace_m82||

    Value is relative.

    mises.org/library/subjective-value-theory

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Subjective, yes, which is my point.

    An economist that writes about growth instead of inequality is not more objective or economic or sciencey or less biased or whatever. It reflects the writer's priorities and values.

  • ace_m82||

    An economist that writes about growth instead of inequality is not more objective or economic or sciencey or less biased or whatever. It reflects the writer's priorities and values.

    Not exactly. The word "economy" means "careful management of available resources". Those who write about inequality are advocating the opposite of that; we know what happens when people try to reduce inequality (and it's not "careful management").

    So, their writings do reflect their priorities and values, yes, but those who decry inequality aren't really being economists.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    "Careful" is also value-laden.

    If your goal is a more equitable distribution of resources, you would still use economic theory to find a solution, right?

  • Sevo||

    Unlabelable MJGreen|1.5.18 @ 12:20PM|#
    "If you're going to insist that economics is a science, you have to concede that it can't tell you which metrics have value."

    Bullshit.
    Supply/demand curves tend to be pretty reliable.
    You

  • Hank Phillips||

    Translation for foreign readers: Green adopts the 1932 Republican idea that liberal means communist, socialist or econazi.

  • Mark22||

    Translation for American readers: Hank is either ignorant of, or willfully hides, the close ideological ties between American progressives and European socialists and fascists.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    If your science isn't able to accurately predict outcomes, it isn't science.

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    Absurd. So meteorology only became a science when weather predictions achieved some arbitrary level of accuracy?

  • JesseAz||

    When I stop seeing meteorologic reports of 0% chance of rain tomorrow ending in rain... then it will become a hard science. It is a soft science based on changing chaotic assumptions.

  • Random Axe Of Kindness||

    Same argument as before- you're creating an arbitrary level of accuracy to define science as soft or hard. That means that there were times historically when chemistry, physics, biology, etc were not hard sciences. The nature of science doesn't change; the understanding of science changes.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    34.5%. That's when it becomes a science.

  • gormadoc||

    Could you give an example of a hard science?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    A hard science would be physics or chemistry, though that's too broad.

    Well tested theories that have proven to be reliably predictive would be things like Maxwell's equations, Newton's laws of motion, etc...

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Why are things unpredictable? Because of two factors:

    1) the system under study is particularly sensitive to random perturbations. This often occurs at very high (e.g. Heisenberg) or very low (e.g. predicting aggregate behaviors) scales.
    2) the models of the system under study are just not mature enough to produce accurate predictions. It's the height of arrogance to assume that we know much of anything about most things. In only 100 years, which isn't that far away really, people will laugh at how barbaric our technologies are and how naive our understanding of the universe is. But here we are thinking we're "advanced" and we know everything.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    The predicted low today in St. Paul MN is 9 degrees. It's -17 as I'm typing this. Meteorology is a profession where you get to look at hot weather babes while spouting nonsense, at least here in MN. They have no track record of predicting the weather except in the very broadest of terms.

    If there is any increased accuracy it's because we've achieved near maximum saturation of internet linked weather stations, which means you can see what the weather is somewhere and see which direction it's headed, therefore allowing you to tell people in it's path what it is.

  • Zeb||

    Random Axe is right, that has absolutely nothing to do with it being science or not. It just means that if it is science, it's not terribly well developed.

    Do you also claim that physics wasn't science before Einstein because it couldn't accurately predict the orbit of Mercury?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Science is the application of the scientific method. You can't apply the scientific method if you can't replicate your results.

    Physics is a seriously broad field concerned with science, but it isn't science per se.

    Error intervals will end up being part of a prediction. The statistics implied by Boyle's law doesn't mean that it's impossible that every gas molecule won't suddenly end up on the other side of the room and I'll suffocate, it just means that the likelihood of that happening is extraordinarily small.

  • Deven is my bitch||

    True. YOU do not get to define the accuracy, or evaluate conformance with it

  • Deven||

    Why am I your bitch?!

  • Mark22||

    If your science isn't able to accurately predict outcomes, it isn't science.

    So when people discovered quantum mechanics or chaotic systems, physics stopped being a science? I don't think so.

    Just like physics, economics predicts outcomes under well defined boundary conditions very accurately.

    Just like physics, economics cannot make reliable predictions for many complex, ill-defined, random, or chaotic systems.

  • gormadoc||

    Physics can't predict which slit an electron will go through -> NOT science!
    Chemistry can't predict the lifetime of an excited electron in a higher orbital -> NOT science!
    CS can't predict when a program will halt when given both the input and a description -> NOT science!
    Astronomy can't predict when the next interstellar comet will pass through our system -> NOT science!

    Since these are the hard sciences, and soft sciences obviously have less science-iness in them, there are no sciences.

  • Mark22||

    Well, that's what Critical Theory and Neo-Marxism has been telling us all along: science is merely social convention and a means of social control of the oppressed by the privileged! Quantum mechanics proves it!

  • Hank Phillips||

    Clearly, former social climate scientists are changing jobs and becoming social science economists. Either way, they still can't differentiate a constant or make a prediction that is not falsified by reality once its "use by" rate rolls around.

  • Cranedoc||

    Monkeys choosing answers at random consistently beat predictions of economists. If economics is a science, it's not a very good one. Ether that, or most economists are not using much science to make their predictions.

    But wait! Don't economists use Math to justify their claims?

    Math=\=Science. You can do math problems all day and come to conclusions that will never be anchored in reality. How else can you explain things like irrational numbers?

    Economics is a study of human motivations, and how money influences human motivation. As such, psychologists should probably weigh in more often.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    +Economics is a study of human motivations, and how money influences human motivation. As such, psychologists should probably weigh in more often.

    The link between economics, psychology, systems neurobiology, and molecular neurobiology is rather strong. You're just changing the size of the system. It's often the same general (scientific) approach applied in all four disciplines.

    Which one is "a science" depends ONLY on whether the scientific method was used.

    Some of the most carefully conducted science I've seen has been in the area of sports. There have been a number of studies on American football and baseball that have been quite impressive. Yet nobody would call baseball "a science." That's because it ISN'T a science. Neither are biology, physics, or chemistry. Those are disciplines. The method used in which a hypothesis is tested is the "science." This isn't just an academic or semantic distinction. People who don't understand this concept usually don't understand the amount of work put into economics, and they're almost certainly unable to interpret the scientific acumen of a particular study. [I'm talking to you, New York Times]

  • Cynical Asshole||

    ..."economists say" is now used to coat liberal policy positions with a veneer of scientific certitude.

    But, Progressives "fucking love science," unlike those knuckle dragging barbarian Conservatives. /sarc

  • Deven is my bitch||

    You should leave the /sarc off. Makes sense that way

  • Mark22||

    Sure: progressives "love science" in the same way Jeffrey Dahmer "loved his boyfriends".

  • L.G. Balzac||

    ooh!

  • Sevo||

    "You should leave the /sarc off. Makes sense that way"

    You should STFU; you make more sense that way.

  • Sevo||

    "You should STFU; you make more sense that way."

    Retracted, apologies.
    Read before posting, Sevo.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I think the accurate statement is that Progressives worship science.

    They replaced god with government and ended up getting the same outcome.

  • Deven is my bitch||

    When researchers at the University of Washington studied Seattle's $15 minimum-wage hike, one of the largest in the nation, they found that thousands of fewer jobs were created and thousands of people lost hours of work, making them poorer.

    Good thing you did not cite the studies. Because one would wonder how the service industry managed to cut jobs and hours to accommodate the min. wage increase, and yet serve the same demand.

    Indeed, 36 percent of those polled gave the wholly rational answer of "uncertain."
    Which would then, explain why they would be among those who did not believe it'd help the economy.

    Certainly, the economy doesn't have the room to grow that it had in 2007 or 2012, but so far, Zandi is wrong. Neither deregulation nor tax cuts are a panacea.
    The former is an excuse for the latter not being even "one weird trick" much less approaching cures.

  • Mark22||

    Because one would wonder how the service industry managed to cut jobs and hours to accommodate the min. wage increase, and yet serve the same demand.

    In the usual way: by laying off workers that used to receive wages below the new minimum wage and replacing them with new workers that are productive enough to be paid the new minimum wage.

    I.e., the minimum wage law didn't cause wages to rise for low wage workers, it caused them to leave the workforce. In different words, minimum wage laws screw over poor people. Of course, that's the real intent behind them, isn't it.

  • russnelson@gmail.com||

    The intent of the minimum wage is to reduce employment of undesired workers. For example, black people.

  • Mark22||

    As I was saying: "that's the real intent behind them".

  • Social Justice is neither||

    Nothing says the industry cut jobs. It says people had hours cut.

    So if an employer can cover mandated benefits for full-time employees at one wage that may not be true at an added 20% per hour. Cutting an employee from full time to part time, dropping mandated full-time benefits and having enough to cover the same hours at wages only costs across 2 employee checks isn't outlandish.

    What it says is the service industry growth was lower than projected. So not everyone could do the above and stay profitable or more people saw the effort and headache as not worth it and didn't even enter the market than before the wage hike.

  • blondrealist||

    I agree that many economists don't seem to know what they're talking about - especially when it comes to how our banking system works. I've lost count of how many WSJ op-ed pieces I've read in the past several years from respected economists that have revealed their poor grasp of how our fiat currency system works - as well as how our banking system works. My favorite example is how many "experts" are concerned about what will happen when banks begin using all their excess reserves to fund loans. Folks, banks NEVER loan reserves - except to other banks. Reserves, excess or otherwise, are part of the interbank system. When it comes to loaning money to businesses (that are not banks) and people, banks are capital constrained, not reserve constrained. Three "experts" that don't understand the basic operational truth of bank reserves that I just described: Martin Feldstein (Harvard), Alan Blinder (Princeton), and Phil Gramm (former Senator and former chair of the Senate Banking committee).

  • KDN||

    What Alan Blinder doesn't know could fill a black hole. At this point I assume all his opinion pieces are just performance art whose sole purpose is trolling the WSJ readership. He makes 3 - 5 glaring factual errors or gross misinterpretations of basic, 101-level theory in each and every column.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    After an intriguing first couple paragraphs, I was disappointed to find that the author offered no evidence of his own. Fluff piece.

  • russnelson@gmail.com||

    That's kinda the whole point: "economists say" is bullshit, and could reasonably be countered with "other economists say" something completely opposite.

  • Sevo||

    JunkScienceIsJunk|1.5.18 @ 6:17PM|#
    "After an intriguing first couple paragraphs, I was disappointed to find that the author offered no evidence of his own."

    You should read more and bullshit less. 8th paragraph, 'bout 2/3rds down:
    "A good example of this trend is the push for a $15 minimum wage—an emotionally satisfying, popular and destructive policy idea. Most cities that have passed the hike have experienced job losses. When researchers at the University of Washington studied Seattle's $15 minimum-wage hike, one of the largest in the nation, they found that thousands of fewer jobs were created and thousands of people lost hours of work, making them poorer."

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    An anecdote is not evidence.

    I was excited at the prospect of hearing the author refute the assertions in the first three paragraphs, but it never came.

  • russnelson@gmail.com||

    "some people make electric cars no one wants".

    Give me enough of a subsidy and I will want an electric car.

  • Steve from Richmond, VA||

    Excellent article.

  • Sprague Pond||

    Dunno if it is Trump, but somebody there is pretty damn smart. Besides the overall economic boom, the multi-pronged attack on the Blue State Donor Model is pure strategic brilliance. Ivy League and Rich-College endowment taxes, caps on local tax and mortgage deductions, reduction in profits from dope and illegal labor, all aimed at urban political donors and the blue governments they elect.
    In the short term it punishes blue-state congressionals who refused the negotiating table, and improves the maker-taker dynamic in favor of red states. In the long term it will precipitate an increase in economic flight to red states, and steepen the slope to state government insolvency, thereby forcing change. Cuomo gets it. That's why he's screaming.

  • Charlie P||

    And then there's Krugman...

  • vek||

    All the "mainstream" left wing economists make me laugh my ass off with their insanity. I own a business. When I see quotes about how minimum wages don't cause losses of jobs, or cause jobs to move to lower cost areas I just shake my head. Ditto with taxes, regulations etc. I'm basically leaving the Seattle metro areas ONLY because they keep passing one insane law after another. Otherwise I'd probably put up with the shit traffic etc. When the $15 an hour minimum wage passes in Seattle city limits, I knew when I expanded I would want to leave Seattle and King County for sure... Now they passed dumb stuff at the state level, so I am most likely going to leave the whole state. I am not a Democrat slave!

    When these people make assertions like the above it's simply ridiculous. I've had this conversation with libtards in Seattle, and told them point blank "I am taking my business out of Seattle SPECIFICALLY because of the new taxes and regulations. Otherwise I would love to stay in the general area. So don't believe it when anybody tells you these things don't matter to business owners, because they do." Sometimes their heads almost explode realizing that an actual business owner DOES in fact care about government decrees that increase their cost of doing business!

  • Brightly||

    Paraphrasing someting Galbraith once said (and perhaps the only thing he's said that I have found particularly useful) :

    Economic forecasting was invented to make astrology look good.

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