Autism in Economics? A Second Opinion

April 2, 2009

Autism in Economics? A Second Opinion

A popular claim among critics is that economic science is suffering from autism, a severe developmental disorder characterised by impairments in social relations and communication, combined with rigid and repetitive behaviour. So far, this allegation has not been substantiated. This essay explores the claim of autism in economics based on modern schemes of diagnostics. A key finding is that the structure of the critique against mainstream economics bears a striking resemblance to the structure of the diagnostic criteria for autism. Based on an examination of three groups of key symptoms, I conclude that the required set of criteria for the autism diagnosis are not met. However, there are parallels which may serve as constructive reminders for the future development and application of economic theories and models.

Buridan sent me this quaint little abstract. I could see how some people might find it offensive, but in the context that northern europeans are reported to have a very different attitude towards autism spectrum disorders. If autism isn’t a disease, but a normalcy that our abnormal world can’t handle, then taking up the topic this way, doesn’t have the expected negative connotations it would otherwise have. Will have to read this.

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