Thursday, September 3, 2009

Skeptics of Macroeconomics

I am currently enrolled in a course that can best be described as "A History of the Science and Policy of Climate Change" and is essentially a lead-up to the upcoming summit in Copenhagen in December. My first reading is a Synthesis Report from 2007, the Summary for Policymakers, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I've read 1/3 of the report and am fascinated by the fact that every claim they make is accompanied by a listed certainty in italics: likely, more likely than not, very likely, etc. I assume this phenomenon is somehow connected to the skepticism of the science of climate change that has been perpetrated over the last 20 years.

Lately I've been fascinated by the parallels between the science of climate change and the science of economics. Climate can be subdivided into long and short-term trends, not unlike the division between macroeconomics and microeconomics. I can't help but wonder why climatologists are held to such high standards and forced to go to great lengths to try to prove the validity of their science, while macroeconomists - who, I'm beginning to think, may not be scientists at all - have not historically faced the same scrutiny. I realize that the recent economic events have changed popular views of macroeconomists, and that they do provide statistical models, confidence intervals, etc. in their work, but they simply are not forced to jump through the same hoops climatologists are. If you ask me, they should be.

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Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty