Courtesy Reuters

Politics Versus Economics

POLITICIANS accuse the science of political economy of having failed. On the other hand, there are economists who see in politics nothing but a crude and undisciplined force which upsets their field of activity. The discussion would be more productive if only a little more effort could be devoted to arriving at an understanding of one or two cardinal problems affecting the relations between the state and economic life, and hence the relations between politics and political economy.

To the politicians I would suggest that, before accusing economics of having failed, they might first find out more about the recent results of scientific investigation in that field. Political economy is in a bad way. Although still a comparatively young science, it probably has made more rapid progress during the past few decades than has been made in any other branch of intellectual endeavor. But in the whole scientific domain progress always implies increasing complexity. Far from being simple, social life is infinitely complicated. How, then, can we expect to succeed in reducing the science of social life to a few simple formulas? In the field of natural science, the most ambitious layman readily admits that he does not understand the atomic theory or the quantum theory or the doctrine of relativity. But in questions of political economy anyone seems to imagine himself competent to pass authoritative opinions, even though he has never troubled to acquire the faintest idea of the many useful results of laborious economic investigation and reasoning. The worst of it is that there are even university professors in the ranks of these "laymen," a fact which tends especially to puzzle and confuse the non-specialist and the politician. It surely would be impossible today in a great university in any civilized country for anyone to teach physics if he knew no more about the atomic theory or the theory of relativity than the average newspaper reader -- that is to say, nothing. But it seems to occasion no surprise

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