An interesting debate in the latest issue of Capitalism and Society
on the current status of Economics and other Social Sciences, worth reading especially for the two comments to the leading article on the theme. Unfortunately, Jon Elster, in his “Excessive Ambitions
“, otherwise a welcome (and relatively informed) outsider’s critique, does not manage to rise up to his declared ambitions of debunking the status quo / portraying “the persistence in the economic profession and elsewhere of these useless or harmful models
“, and eventually falls easy prey to his commenters: Pierre-André Chiappori
(who, very elegantly, but unmistakenly, tackles most of the points raised by Elster in his criticism of economic theory and testing its predictions) and respectively, David Hendry
(who virtually destroys Elster’s line of reasoning and conclusions on empirical modelling in Economics). To add up to that, beyond the many (surprising!) fallacies that Elster commits in his scientific criticism (not even half of them acknowledged, e.g. his sole reliance on third-party sources in the discussion of the criticism to the empirics is somewhat revealed, however the very selected sample of those sources –strategy common also to his earlier sections– does not seem at all problematic to the author), what strikes me throughout his text is his often bringing up the lack of “humility” of economists (e.g., “The competence of economists may not be in question, but their humility is
“), although in reading his piece I was rather intrigued by Elster’s own absence of humility whatsoever in his strongly opinionated, though insufficiently argued, assessment… I was really hoping for something more serious.