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Christian Economics: Teacher’s Edition
Humanistic economists are involved in a giant charade. They pretend to be ethically neutral. They pretend that economic science is a true science, and that true science is value neutral. Science is never value neutral. It always has highly theological assumptions about God, man, law, sanctions, and the future.
Economists want to be regarded as scientists. They also want government policy makers to take their recommendations seriously, especially policy makers in civil government. Alone among academic social scientists, economists’ opinions are taken seriously by politicians. Economists are sometimes paid to be advisors. Yet if we take seriously their claims of ethical neutrality, and we therefore take seriously their claim of being scientists, we should not take seriously their policy recommendations. Why not? Because policy recommendations are not scientific, according to economists. Why not? Because it is impossible to make scientific comparisons of subjective economic utility, and subjective economic utility is the only economic utility there is, according to methodological individualism. This was Lionel Robbins’ argument in 1932 in The Nature and Significance of Economic Science, Chapter VI. But economists dearly want to be taken seriously both as scientists and policy advisors. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. This included Robbins. He backed off from his position publicly in 1938 without offering any logical explanation for his reversal when Roy Harrod pointed out that his position would mean that economists could not make policy recommendations.
The best example I have ever read of this cake-having and cake-eating schizophrenia was provided in a book written by George Stigler early in his career. He was for over two decades a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1982. His second book, The Theory of Competitive Price (1942), became a standard text in upper division college courses on economic theory. In it, he wrote the following: