Austrian economists sometimes mock mainstream positivist economists by saying that such economists would insist on accumulating data by taking empirical measurements of real-world triangles in order to "test the hypothesis" that the interior angles of a triangle sum to 180 degrees. In similar fashion, I suppose, they would insist on a random sample of all fair plays of Russian roulette in order to measure the proportion of plays that result in a player's being shot. Yet, for all games played fairly with a six-shot revolver, we know precisely a priori that in a large sample, the proportion is exactly 1/6. There is no need here to waste time doing "empirical work."
There is likewise no need for empirical work to test a variety of economic propositions. Indeed, because of the general inability to control properly for everything that should be controlled in an empirical test, such methods only ensure that controversy will persist endlessly about the relationship in question, even though the Austrian, by thinking the matter through a thought experiment, can often know for certain what the qualitative nature of the relationship must be (e.g., setting the legal minimum wage rate above the prevailing market wage rate will necessarily reduce the quantity of labor demanded, ceteris paribus).
Of course, because in the real world other things may not be unchanged, this theoretically valid relationship may be unobserved (and often unobservable), leading positivist economists and lay persons to conclude erroneously that the theoretical relationship does not hold -- that is, that the law of demand has been refuted. Pathetic.
segunda-feira, fevereiro 18, 2013
FB de Robert Higgs: