The end of economics, and the end of physics


Fabio Rojas, a top sociologist, believes economics is finished:

Economics, as understood for hundreds of years, has played out. The major problems of econ 101 have been solved. We know about supply and demand, marginal utility, choice under uncertainty, and budget constraints. We have a wide variety of tools, ranging from game theory to econometrics, that help us identify these processes in situations ranging from war, to car sales, to dating. We are also seeing how these processes plug into classic macroeconomic issues, such as growth and international trade.

However, the market system itself, as indicated by Tim’s concluding chapter, depends on population, innovation, and liberal economic institutions. These, in turn, depend on psychology, group culture, and networks, the domain of sociologists, psychologists, historians, and anthropologists. Economists have shown how the market system processes the inputs, but there’s still much, much more to be said about where the inputs come from. That’s what’s going to be exciting in the decades to come, and I can’t wait to see it.


Datacharmer, an occasionally tactless economist, says no way. Exhibit A is this quote by Albert Abraham Michelson, circa 1903:

The most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplemented in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.

Exhibit B is less sensationalist, and more to the point. Stay tuned, it will appear here tomorrow.

2 comments:

  1. Al Says:

    This is a classic example of other social scientists not understanding what economists do. At least he didn't make the usual error of assuming the subject is the same as finance but come on- economics is more than econ 101!

    I'd be much more comfortable with an economist modelling institutions/social networks than some sociologist...by all means liaise with anthropologists to get a deeper understanding of human behaviour...but what is an anthropologist going to do after describing it?

    Looking forward to the next post about this.

  2. Matt Nolan Says:

    "but what is an anthropologist going to do after describing it? "

    I'm sure that there are reasons that anthropologists and sociologists exist - there must be something there.

    Personally I think the economic method is a better method for framing problems, but I'm sure that they are better at doing something - lets no forget about specialisation after all