Death of Political Science and Economics

One of the conclusions that I have drawn from my publius fellowship is that political science and economics are both in SERIOUS trouble. The problem centers around method. In both political science and economics the diciplines have discarded natural law/natural right in favor of the empirical method (statistics, logical positivism). Because of this, economics and political science are unable to give an account of themselves. Economists cannot tell people why property rights are just and political scientists cannot tell us why democratic republics are better than tyrannies.

Leo Strauss, in Natural Right and History (currently reading), gives us an account as to why. Since political scientists had rejected natural law, they had no principle reason to object to fascism. Behaviorialism, the dominant theory of the time, was unable to say "Hitler is evil." Likewise, economists at that time were completely unable to make the moral (and economic) case against communism and socialism. John Maynard Keynes, the most famous economist of the 20th century, claimed that his theories were as compatable with communism as they were with capitalism. (Note: Keynes was anti-communist. I am just using this to show that he had no PRINCIPLE reason for opposing communism.)

One would think that things are changing today. Political science had its Strauss and Economics had its Milton Friedman (and the Austrians like Hayek). Yet the disciplines are in even worse shape today than they were in the 50's (which is saying something!). The American Political Science journal recently ran two articles. One article argued that no war existed between liberal democratic republics and hence peace would reign once the world democratized. The other argued that no war existed in an autocracy. Which one should we choose? and why? Well, political science cannot answer that.

Economics is a little better. Most economists today accept the basics: private property, markets, incentives, etc. Yet they too are delving into areas they do not belong when they claim that all human behavior is "economic." They try and argue that everyone is a rational optimizer (weighting costs and benefits to maximize our utility). If this is taken as literally as the economists is trying to argue, then humans are incapable of transcending their base self-interest.

In order to overcome this absurdity, we need to return to the classical understanding of natural law. Economists must understand that "rational optimization" really means that all humans by nature seek happiness, which has a far broader meaning than what is currently being suggested. Political scientists need to crawl out from under the hole they have been living in for the past 50 years and start articulating what the best regime is.

Until this happens, the citizens of the United States would do best to ignore the prestigious journals and rely on their flawed, but more accurate, common sense.