If you spend enough time observing politics, you will inevitably stumble upon someone claiming that economics is not a science. It is almost always followed with an argument in favor of something that contradicts an economic principle. Now, as convenient as it might be if we could simply turn off gravity, we cannot choose which laws of science we’d like to abide by. And contrary to what some may say, economics is in fact, a science. For those inclined to believe otherwise, it helps to clarify this if we compare it to something universally accepted in the science community; energy.
For example, when we think of the difference between hot and cold, what we’re really talking about is the level of heat energy present. Cold is simply the natural state. It is the heat we measure, and if we want to change the temperature, we either add or subtract some aspect of it. Likewise, darkness is the natural state in the absence of light, and when we want to change it, we add visible light.
When we look at the science of economics, the heat we measure is undoubtedly prosperity. Just like how cold is the absence of heat, poverty is simply the natural state of things in the absence of prosperity. If we take a group of individuals and place them on an island, their starting point would be a state of abject poverty. To change this requires the addition of an observable amount of prosperity.
The question then becomes how do we add prosperity?
Just as the first men made countless attempts to create fire, mankind has spent millennia experimenting with ways to attain prosperity. Similar to fire’s observable necessities, prosperity may only be created when complying with the laws of economics. Like dropping an ice cube into a cup, we understand that without creating more energy, we may only transfer the current overall level between objects. Yet, we oftentimes see politicians claim the ability to simultaneously transfer levels of prosperity between people while increasing its overall level using redistributive policies, without adding any new element of prosperity.
If only that were possible.
Capitalism, socialism, and the myriad of mixtures in between tried throughout our history have served as experiments in the means of reaching prosperity, the majority of which have been unsuccessful. Like any experiment, however, some produce better results than others.
And nothing has brought on the heat of prosperity like capitalism has, precisely because it operates within economic laws. In America, it’s no coincidence that even while still in its infancy compared to its European counterparts, its capitalistic experiment catapulted it into becoming the world’s largest economic powerhouse. Setting the bar for the standard of living in just a few short centuries. And we see this experiment repeated time and again.
Even in places like Scandinavia, where critics of capitalism claim economic success without it, history and science show us the opposite is true. The bulk of economic growth was achieved before implementing their large social programs. And much like what we’re seeing in modern-day America, the adoption of these welfare programs has been accompanied with stagnation, an overall ‘cooling effect’ on the economy, only managing to survive from the hot embers of capital accumulation left behind by the free market aspects still lingering today.
We must stop believing politicians when they tell us they can give us what we want by operating outside the laws of science. We’ll no sooner see real growth from a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan then we will jump out of a plane and float away into space. Like it or not, economics is a science, and if we choose to only recognize economic realities when they align with our political aspirations, we’ll see the continued loss of heat from our economy, and our prosperity along with it.
Thomas J. Eckert
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