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3/11/2018 12:51 am  #1

Positive economics and normative political economy

Just curious what most people here think the relationship is between positive or descriptive economics and normative political economy. I'm not a consequentialist and I assume virtually no one on this forum is, so what kind of import do the lessons from economics have to play in saying how society should be organized? And what's the best kind of normative ethical theory to interpret this in light of?


3/11/2018 11:04 am  #2

Re: Positive economics and normative political economy

It's not by any means a full answer, but I think that when it comes to economics and politics, we may have a predilection for systems that are more efficient and bring better results for the highest number of people. It sounds consequentialist, but ir's only close to that: the thing is that when we are discussing the State or a society, we have to think of the common good; no longer are we simply thinking of individual ethics and rules of action, we are, instead, thinking about what best favors the community in general. So I think this gives considerable strength to policies which are more efficient and bring the best results for the highest number of people or the biggest sectors of society. These policies should, however, respect intrinsic natural rights, and as such there's really no consequentialism involved.

To me the best ethical theory for this is is still natural law; politics would be something like ethics applied to the community, when we are seeking to further society's natural ends: peace, prosperity, and to better allow every individual to also fulfill his own natural ends. The common good takes precedence over the individual good, but at the same time individual rights are to be protected and there shouldn't be unjust laws.

Just my 2 cents anyway, nothing too fancy.


3/13/2018 4:31 pm  #3

Re: Positive economics and normative political economy

Any sort of science should be used in governance with caution and moderation. It's a delusion to have "experts" rule you, unless you like unrestrained technocratic dystopia. They can advise, but not rule.

Of all scientists, lawyers and economists are closest to power - always, whether it be capitalist rule, communist rule, dictatorship or democracy. Lawyers have the deserved reputation of having no ethics, while they inform the contents of the laws that are supposed to guide our conduct. And economists shape our state of economy while their predictions of the effects of economic activity consistently fail.

Economics is in an extremely atrocious state as a science. It lacks method. It lacks focus of what it's supposed to be analysing. It has no idea of its scope and of its place among other sciences.

Those people have too much power already. No need to give them more of it. Then again, there's nobody else to give power to either.


3/14/2018 12:48 am  #4

Re: Positive economics and normative political economy

I suppose it depends if one is using the term descriptive economics in a general sense, or one means specifically what is current economic orthodoxy (i.e., more or less neoclassical economics). It doesn't seem to me that the latter should be treated without caution. Otherwise, I would say that descriptive economics, so far as it is purely descriptive and can be trusted as accurate, should be treated like any other technical or scientific knowledge is treated. Any normative or prescriptive platform has to take onboard relevant technical or scientific knowledge: if true, these  scientific fact are just how the world works. 

​That said, it is important to discern what are normative elements being sold as descriptive ones, just as it is important to make sure the latter are an entirely accurate picture of reality. 


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