I am not sure that this is what he intended, but in today’s AFR Richard has an article looking sceptically at whether economics is a science or just a bunch of opinions. He proves it is a science.
The article comes from a dispute he is having with Judith Sloan about tax and the rich. I don’t want to revisit the argument. If you can lay hands on a copy of the AFR (or get behind its paywall) it is an interesting read. But the key feature of Richard’s article is that he approaches the dispute using the scientific method. He presents the different views and the underlying theoretical models. He isolates the key assumption that distinguishes between the models (I will let others judge if he got this right). He leaves us with the empirical question – what is the elasticity of tax avoidance for those with high incomes? This is an area that many economists have looked at so I suspect there are some good answers.
But despite using the scientific method to address the question, I suspect that Richard really wants the opposite conclusion. Thus he concludes “… if economists can disagree by three orders of magnitude about the likely impact of a policy, or they can’t admit when they are wrong, then they will add little more to the public debate than confusion and newspaper copy”.
Thus, Richard’s beef seems to be about scientists disagreeing, not about whether economics is a science. He proves the latter. As to the former, I would like Richard to show me a science where there are not areas with even more controversy! I don’t think there are any.