By John Jewkes
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Additional resources for A Return to Free Market Economics?: Critical Essays on Government Intervention
It can tell him where he will get to if he travels in one direction or another, but beyond that it is neutral as to whether he travels north, south, east or west. Every wise traveller carries a map but no sensible traveller asks the map where he should go. So, too, with economics; although it should never be forgotten that, just as men may sometimes prefer not to take the shortest route between two points on the map, so economic motives are not always, perhaps not usually, the most important promptings of the human spirit.
But, of course, the reasons why it cannot be made the basis for prediction is that what is true of the past need not be true of the future and that the conditions in the future are essentially unknowable. v The purpose of a science is understanding and not the power to predict. 1 So long, theretore, as the economist devotes himself with integrity to an understanding of the world around him, whether or not that provides him with the means for knowing better than the man in the street what will be the economic future, he can claim respectability for his studies.
Before the war, many economists were prepared to accept and even to endorse the estimates of future population which suggested that most western countries were confronted with an imminent decline in population. The most alarming pictures were painted of the effects of this decline, of the virtual impossibility of arresting it and of the menace which thereby confronted western civilization. Again the forecasts have proved unreliable. For example, in Great Britain the present population is now considerably larger than the pre-war forecasts which were based even on the 'highly optimistic' assumptions.
A Return to Free Market Economics?: Critical Essays on Government Intervention by John Jewkes