July 19, 2021

Economic science needs humanities

 Bettering Humanomics. A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science

The discoveries I have made by responding critically, yet as amiably as I could manage, are two:

1. There seems to be emerging a new and I think more serious and sensible way of doing economic science—quantitatively serious, philosophically serious, historically serious, and ethically serious, too, as I argue in this volume. The economist Bart Wilson and a few others nowadays call it the “humanomics,” as in the title here.4

2. But, I argue in the other volume, neoinstitutionalism, from Douglass North and Daron Acemoglu and many other economists and political scientists, is not the way forward. Scientifically speaking, its factual claims, like those of the other recent neobehaviorist fashions, such as neuroeconomics and behavioral finance and happiness studies, are dubious—or, at best, questionably founded and argued. The neoinstitutionalists, like the others, do not listen, really listen, to the evidence of humans, or to their friends’ scientific questions and objections. Substantively, they treat creative adults like a flock of little children, terrible twos, to whom we need not listen. We need, they say, merely to “observe their behavior,” omitting for some reason linguistic behavior. And then we record the behavior in questionable metrics. The children-citizens will be pushed around with “incentives,” beloved of Samuelsonian economists and econowannabes. From a great height of fatherly expertise in discerning and designing Max U institutions, the neoinstitutionalist looks down with contempt on the merely human actions and interactions of free adults.

A key book by controversial Deirdre McCloskey, this is the outline:

Part I. The Proposal

Chapter 1. Humanomics and Liberty Promise Better Economic Science

Chapter 2. Adam Smith Practiced Humanomics, and So Should We

Chapter 3. Economic History Illustrates the Problems with Nonhumanomics

Chapter 4. An Economic Science Needs the Humanities

Chapter 5. It’s Merely a Matter of Common Sense and Intellectual Free Trade

Chapter 6. After All, Sweet Talk Rules a Free Economy

Chapter 7. Therefore We Should Walk on Both Feet, Like Ludwig Lachmann

Chapter 8. That Is, Economics Needs Theories of Human Minds beyond Behaviorism

Part II. The Killer App

Chapter 9. The Killer App of Humanomics Is the Evidence That the Great Enrichment Came from Ethics and Rhetoric

Chapter 10. The Dignity of Liberalism Did It

Chapter 11. Ideas, Not Incentives, Underlie It

Chapter 12. Even as to Time and Location

Chapter 13. The Word’s the Thing

Part III. The Doubts

Chapter 14. Doubts by Analytic Philosophers about the Killer App Are Not Persuasive

Chapter 15. Nor by Sociologists or Political Philosophers

Chapter 16. Nor Even by Economic Historians