Freedom of Research in Economics
A Goal to Strive for?
Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy , Volume 16 p. 8- 20
In the following essay, I will investigate whether freedom of scientific research (FSR) can be justifiably constrained. I will focus on the issue of FSR in economics. The common narrative is that the field is dominated by the scientific paradigm endorsed by orthodox economists, who marginalize academically those who rely on different approaches, namely heterodox economists (Romer, 2016; Roos, 2016). In this essay, I will refer to orthodox economists as those representing the dominant school of thought in economics, which is constituted mainly by neoclassical economists (Colander et al., 2004; Dequech, 2007). Neoclassical economists are, in turn, characterised by shared theoretical and methodological features. The shared theoretical characteristics that feature in the work of most orthodox economists are at least the following three. Firstly, orthodox economists ground their economic models on the assumption that individuals are rational. I herein identify individual rationality with expected utility maximisation1. Secondly, they usually emphasise that the economy will tend to the equilibrium (at least in the long run). Thirdly, they tend to neglect the fact that people, in real life, might be affected by severe uncertainty, i.e. uncertainty that cannot be treated probabilistically (Dequech, 2007; Walker et al., 2013). Moreover, those economists usually share an emphasis on both mathematical formalism (i.e. they base their economic analysis on mathematical models) and axiomatism (i.e. they deductively derive their models from a set of axioms) as rigorous tools of investigation. I propose, however, to characterise orthodox economists through their shared theoretical and ideological assumptions (i.e. assumption of individual rationality, tendency of the economy to reach an equilibrium in the long run, lack of severe uncertainty), rather than focusing on their common methodological framework. The reason for this is that the three ideological assumptions mentioned above characterise orthodox economists specifically. In contrast, methodological assumptions such as mathematical formalism, while shared by most orthodox economists, are not exclusive to them. This is in line with the labelling proposed by some prominent economists themselves such as Colander et al. (2004), Dequech (2007) and Hodgson (1999))2.
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|Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy|
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Costella, A. (2019). Freedom of Research in Economics. Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy, 16, 8–20. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/124789