You may have noticed. I am not overly fond of neoclassical economics. But today I thought I would talk about criticisms you might find in the blogosphere that I find unpersuasive. That is, I do not like certain one-line assertions, without additional elaborations. I make no attempt to demonstrate here that some make these assertions.2.0 "Economics Is Not Science"
If you are not arguing about the history, philosophy, or sociology of science, why would you care if a particular field is a science? Should you not be more concerned if the arguments in a field tend to be persuasive, if the norms in the field lead to such arguments? I can see a role here for classifying types of assumptions. One can argue about whether economists put forth supposedly substantial theories that cannot be falsified by any logical or empirical findings. Likewise, perhaps some communities of economics are not as quick as they should be to discard empirically falsified theories. Or one could ask if whatever laws are supposed to be embedded in economic models are restricted to certain institutional and historical instances of capitalism. I hope in putting forth criticisms along these lines, I try to provide concrete examples, not just abstract claims.3.0 "Economic Theory Does Not Correspond To Reality"
What does use of the word "reality" add to an argument about the persuasiveness or non-persuasiveness of a certain set of doctrines? (I do not mean here to downgrade Tony Lawson's research into ontology and economics. In particular, I do not have a problem with the idea that economic systems are invariably open systems. I guess this idea is in tension with my simultaneous interest in natural experiments.)4.0 "People Have Free-Will; Thus, Economies Cannot Be Modeled With Mathematics"
I am also not fond of the claim that, since people have free will, one cannot apply mathematics to economics. First, I think at least some applications of mathematics in economics are about algorithms and accounting conventions. I do not see how ideas about consumer choice are relevant to much of this work. Second, I tend to think of the distinction between free will versus determinism as one of those tired dualisms that the linguistic turn in philosophy should have dissolved. I usually cite work drawing on Ludwig Wittgenstein for this sort of point. But let me mention J. L. Austin's "A Plea For Excuses" as being directly relevant for an analysis of when an action is voluntary and of when an agent is responsible or blameworthy for what they do. Austin argues for distinctions that you might not initially see. Third, I agree that describing agents as if they calculate how to obtain a maximum utility curve, given preferences and constraints does not leave room for genuine individual choice. One might try to problematize individual choice and seek more sophisticated models. Such an approach does not necessitate the rejection of mathematics.