By John Jewkes
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Extra resources for A Return to Free Market Economics?: Critical Essays on Government Intervention
I think it can be established, for example, that economists are on the whole a pessimistic lot. There are very good reasons why this should be our occupational disease. I consider that it is almost impossible for us, at some point, not to inject into our thoughts about the future vague impressions that we would not care to defend. Most of us will have gone through that agonising experience of scrutini~ing a curve of past performance that seems to reveal a trend but that, towards its end, shows some tantalising shortperiod divergencies from the trend; of wondering where the line will go next; of extrapolating on different sets of assumptions; of reaching very different conclusions on the basis of the different assumptions and rejecting the outsize results, without any good reason, just because they are outsize.
Although there is little danger of it, in an assembly of this kind, I do not want to be understood to imply that the men who must make the economic decisions cannot derive great and indeed absolutely necessary assistance from those who are trained in ways of economic thought. This is a point I enlarged upon in my earlier article. 2 The golden rule here is The Role of the Economist 31 that the economic expert should be most scrupulous in setting down all his assumptions and indicating the degree of probability that attaches to each one.
Is there not something to be said for an attitude within the following rough outline? First, the use of economics is to provide data and not decisions; it can inform but it cannot prescribe. The best parallel is that of a map. The most important function of the map is to inform the traveller where he is, to provide a frame of references. It can tell him where he will get to if he travels in one direction or another, but beyond that it is neutral as to whether he travels north, south, east or west.
A Return to Free Market Economics?: Critical Essays on Government Intervention by John Jewkes