Philosophia Naturalis 13 is up at the Cocktail Party, which makes me think about economists again…
A lot has been said about the dismal science, both its applications, and the inapplicability of its grander theorizing.
Which is actually rather unfair, economics is, in parts, well founded quantitative and based on well defined assumptions that are tested both by observational data and microeconomic experiments.
I conjecture that much of the problems of economics may come from the fact that most of the people who “do” economics – whether by trying to apply academic economic theory, or by being participants in the economy – only comprehend the economics at the level of first order perturbation theory.
This seems particularly true of “econ 101 libertarians” and applied business studies types, who seem have turned off their brain input somewhere after “rational economic actor” and before “externalities”, but the short version of their strength, and limitation, seems to boil down to seeing economic acts as linear perturbations on a fixed background – they don’t tend to experience or understand backreaction, global optima or non-perturbative effects.
Problem is, that a lot of the important stuff in the long term is non-perturbative.