Phillip Ball's Financial Times' critique of economics, titled Baroque Fantasies of a Peculiar Science caused quite a stir recently in the economics blogs (particularly here and here). But last week the bickering subsided with Dave Altig (macroblog) and Phillip Ball seeming to have reached an accord.. At one point Altig said, "If you want, call economics an attempt to construct coherent stories about social phenomenon..." Sounds about right to me. We economists are indeed story tellers. Following this discussion, it seems clear that economists need to be much more open and honest about our assumptions and the linkages, such as they are and often are not to the real world of policy and action. No argument from me on that score. I've been arguing similarly for years.
For more critique, see Steve Cohn's August 2002 Telling Other Stories: Heterodox Critiques of Neoclassical Micro Principles Texts [PDF] wherein Cohn attacks the "'rhetoric' of neoclassical theory, …critiquing many of the stories told, the metaphors used, the analogies drawn, and the framing language deployed"
In addition, there have been many book-form critiques arguing that economists, particularly neoclassical economists have over-driven their headlights in much the same way that Bell argues. Here are six of my favorites (arranged by date of publication):
J. de V. Graaff. Theoretical Welfare Economics. 1957
- Guy Routh. The Origin of Economic Ideas. 1975
- Mark Blaug. The Methodology of Economics: Or How Economists Explain. 1980
- Robert L. Heilbroner. Behind the Veil of Economics: Essays in the Worldly Philosophy. 1988
- Mark Sagoff. The Economy of the Earth: Philosophy, Law and the Environment. 1988
- Andrew Bard Schmookler. The Illusion of Choice: How the Market Economy Controls Our Destiny. 1993