At the end of the day I sign on with Sawicky’s commentator who says that economics is sociology that thinks it’s physics. Trouble is, when all is said and done, I’d still rather read economics than sociology. Indeed, one reason economists get away with it is what an economist might call the “How’s your wife? Compared to whom?” problem—the other guys simply do not offer a plausible alternative.
Here’s an example. Economists have been telling us for years to be suspicious of governments and to trust markets. Public employees, they tell us, have the wrong incentives. The sociologists say they have it backwards: it’s the entrepreneurs who have the wrong incentives, and privatization bespeaks a tragic loss.
The point is, of course, that they are both right: lousy incentives abound. What I would like to see is a good comparison-in-depth: what works when? Which sent of bad incentives cost what? Which ones are most amenable to taming and control?
I’ve never seen anything in economics that offers anything really useful or interesting on that question. You might think of it as a problem for sociology. Trouble is, of course, I haven’t seen much there very interesting either.
Fn.: This all brings to mind a wonderful piece I showcased last year about the wholly arbitrary and, well, "political" sources of the capital glut.