Economics as an Exact Science
Ray H. Taber
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, May-June
In these last few years, thanks to Ingersoll, Beckwith and others, a
new realization seems to have developed of the immediate need for a
scientific approach to this subject of Economics. While the fields of
Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Engineering have been studiously
classifying and organizing their data, Economics appears to have
marked time, in this respect. Isn't it the duty of this generation to
correct this condition?
To date, so far as I am aware, there is no such thing as a Scientific
Text-book of Economics. We have books galore, it is true, but no
logical, consecutive chain of reasoning from the simple to the
complex. The subject appears to be in the same stage of evolution as
Mathematics in the pre-Euclidean era, a verbal foot-ball to be argued
about and kicked around from pillar to post.
It seems to me that any attempt to bring order out of the present
- Authoritative definitions of terms.
- Axiomatic statements of basic truths.
- A system of rigid, consistent, step-by-step proofs from axioms
to theorems representing basic laws and principles by as nearly
mathematical treatment as possible.
- Units for measurement and comparison of quantitative relations.
- Symbols and formulae for brevity and exactitude of expression.
Just because the field of Economics involves the sometimes uncertain
element of human nature, do we have to throw up our hands and say no
positive statement is possible? Personally, I am unwilling to admit
Economics deals with "Matter," as does Physics, only
Economic Matter consists of "Goods with the power of satisfying
Desire." It deals with "Force," but instead of a push
or pull, Economic Force is "Desire," the greatest of all
forces. And it deals with "Resistance," but instead of
mechanical friction or electrical ohms, "Economic Resistance"
is the man-hours of work to be overcome in the production and
transportation from raw material to product in the consumer's hands.
Tie these quantities together by the formula W = JD R
where W = Wealth expressed in Goods
D = Desire
R = Resistance
and we have the simplest possible expression of a basic truth.
The above is mentioned only as a sample. The ground work of
definitions and axioms should of course come first; then the super-
structure. Yet if such a method could once establish the truths of
Economics on as sound and reliable a basis as has been laid for our
other Sciences, one of the greatest sources of confusion and
misunderstanding would be removed.
We no longer argue about the law of gravity, the combination chemical
reagents, the bending movement of a beam or the flow of current in an
electric circuit. We know these things. In case a question arises, we
turn directly to the text-book for verification. Why not for
LAND AND FREEDOM is our best publication. It can speak most
authoritatively for the movement. It has the widest circle of
contacts. Would it not be worth while to invite its readers to offer
their consideration toward such a purpose, so that after summarizing
and sifting out the best of the material received, publication of the
final results might be made in text-book form?