The Prudential Science
I ran into this quote going through an old EconTalk the other day, and thought it interesting:
As economists, we’re specialists in prudence only.
That, as you say, is not what Adam Smith recommended. Not at all. I and a number of other people would like to get back to a Smithian economics, which although it didn’t throw away the very numerous insights that we get from thinking of people as maximizers — maximizers in this narrow sense — acknowledges that temperence and justice and love and courage and hope and faith can change the way the economy works.
I’m trying to decide if I agree with it or not. I would certainly agree that economics basically only looks at certain prudential concerns, it doesn’t consider humanistic or theological questions. However, I’m not sure if economics should acknowledge those concerns, or if it is more the case that economists (and others dealing with the field) should clearly acknowledge that there is much more to any question than the question of what is most economically efficient.
The immediate parallel I find myself seeing is to evolutionary biology, where it strikes me as important that scientists (if they are to have a full understanding of the human person) realize that human beings are more than the sum of what can be said about them based on their physical make-up. And yet, when some fellow Christians argue that science must acknowledge that God is the creator of all things, I’m unsure what exactly can be meant by that from a scientific point of view. Certainly, scientists should acknowledge that, if they are to be in touch with the whole of reality (as I understand it to be.) But given the limits of science as a field, I’m not clear there’s any meaningful way in which science can take the knowledge into consideration other than by its practitioners keeping in mind that they are not dealing with the whole of reality. It seems to me that the situation may be similar in regards to economics — as in, I’m not clear that there is a need for (or indeed that there can be) a “Christian Economics” so much as that economists should be Christian.
[And yes, I’m aware that McClowsky is a rather odd fish, but that didn’t seem relevant to the question or the interview.]