The normative purpose of economic ‘science’

The necessity of abstraction is self-evident. By its very nature, intellectual activity involves coming to terms with a chaos of observations through the imposition of an order which is itself an artifact of the mental process. In this activity, a selective strategy must be used. Irrelevances must be blotted out, where these consist of observations that tend to disprove, qualify, or overly complicate the sought-for mental picture. Any theory is abstracted from the reality perceived by the senses, and theory derives its potential value precisely because it is so abstracted. From this perspective, it follows that any theory, any model, can, and indeed must, be able to tolerate a certain amount of dissonance with perception before it loses its relative superiority over potential alternatives

James Buchanan
Subject Area: 
Published in: International Review of Law and Economics
1981 Pages 155-166


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