Economists Are Rediscovering Humility —and Humanity

Field should be seen as an art, not a science

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 26, 2010 5:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – The failure of economists to spot the financial crisis in advance is causing soul-searching that will redefine the whole field, writes David Brooks. The cutting-edge models economists built over decades ignored the complexities of human nature and economists are now rediscovering the humility of an earlier time and trying to learn from psychologists and sociologist, Brooks writes in the New York Times.

Economists are now "taking baby steps into the world of emotion, social relationships, imagination, love and virtue," Brooks writes. In the years to come, he writes, the field will return to being a "subsection of history and moral philosophy" that keeps other contexts in mind when attempting to make predictions. Economics will reemerge as an art, not a science, he predicts.

The models economist built not only failed to predict the financial crisis, they actually made it worse, Brooks writes.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
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One gets the sense, at least from the outside, that the intellectual energy is no longer with the economists who construct abstract and elaborate models. Instead, the field seems to be moving in a humanist direction. - David Brooks

Economics achieved coherence as a science by amputating most of human nature. Now economists are starting with those parts of emotional life that they can count and model. - David Brooks

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