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Is Economics a Science or an Art?

Updated on May 31, 2014


Answering whether economics is a Science or an Art is a challenging task because of numerous convincing arguments. Economists are significantly and divergently grouped on the subject whether economics can be considered as a science or as an art. In spite of this, few decide on a middle track claiming that it is both a science and an art.

Economics as a Science

Let us look at the perception of Prof. Robbins regarding economics. He looks at economics as a science. According to him, the last three letters of the word ‘Economics’ i.e., ‘ics’ suggest a transparent evidence that it must be a science like physics, mathematics, and dynamics. In his own words, “Economics thus derives its name from the fact that it is a science rather than an art.” Science is a systematized body of education, which tracks the association between cause and effect.

The properties of a science are that:

  • It is truly a systematized investigation of a subject matter.
  • It determines the cause and effect association of elements.
  • The laws are universal in nature.

Science is quantitative; on the contrary, the foundation of art is qualitative. Science is a perfect and descriptive; art is obscuring together with suggestive. Science looks for information and facts whereas art desires for elegance. Furthermore, scientific research is impersonal and unbiased at the same time the appreciation of the art is intensely personalized and prejudiced.

The following justifications are advanced to take a look at economics as a science:

Systematized Analysis

The first crucial characteristic of a science is always that it needs to be a systematized research. The scientific method of research involves three significant phases, namely observation, reasoning and verification.

Similarly, in economics as well principles are generally developed after the appropriate details are methodically gathered, categorized and analyzed. Additionally, it is meticulously clubbed into five elements, namely consumption, production, exchange, distribution and public finance.

Scope for Experiments

In physical and natural sciences, tests can be carried out in laboratories. In economics, overall economy alone is a laboratory from which a number of laws and ideas could be examined. The several economic systems such as capitalism, socialism and mixed economy are the studies of economics. Similarly, price mechanism is an experiment in a free enterprise economy, which exhibits the way resources are efficiently dispersed without a central organizing authority. Additionally, numerous monetary and fiscal plans could be analyzed in an economy to determine their part in the economic activities.

Nature of Economic Law

A Science is not about collecting information, but it creates a relationship between cause and effect. Laws in physics and chemistry track down this cause and effect association very evidently. As an example, two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen will certainly structure water, all other things being the same. Similarly, Newton’s law of gravitation describes the way things have a tendency to move downwards when nothing stops them. In economics, the law of demand claims that other things being equal, a decline in the price of a product results in an increase in demand and vice versa. In this case, decrease in price is the cause and rise in demand is its effect. Hence, the further qualification for a science is also satisfied.


The final necessity for a science is that its laws ought to be widely accepted. In economics as well, the law of demand, the law of diminishing returns etc., are universal anyway.

Unique Credibility

As emphasized by Marshall, the measuring rod of money has conferred a unique credibility to economics similar to other physical sciences perhaps even a position better than that of various other social sciences. In Marshall’s phrases, “Just as the chemist’s fine balance has made chemistry more exact than most other physical sciences; so this economist’s balance (money) rough and imperfect as it is, has made economics more exact than any other branch of social science.”

The following discussions are posed to prove that economics is not a science:

Universal Application

Economic laws are not universal in nature. The laws, that are relevant to capitalistic nations, are not appropriate to socialistic nations. The laws that are convincing in a developed economy may well not integrate with a developing economy.

Conflict of Interests

You find a fashionable statement – “lay six economists end to end and you will never reach a conclusion.” Many economists debate that economics is not a science simply because economists differ.

Less Scope for Prediction

The tides in the ocean are the biggest on the night of the full moon. While the size of the moon diminishes, the size of the tides as well continues on abating. As a result, based on the scale of the moon, you can predict at what time the tides in the ocean will probably be the biggest, however this kind of judgment may also end up being absolutely wrong. Similarly, economic laws are merely documents of tendencies and are just approximate. On many occasions, the law may well not do business. In spite of this, economists claim that economics is a science mainly because it fulfills the attributes of a science.


In contrast to physical laws such as gravitation, economic laws are not precise and appropriate. Majority of the economic laws could function on condition that the qualifying assumption ‘other things being equal’ is valid. Physical sciences apart from biology work on lifeless stuffs such as fluid, gas, energy and so on. On the other hand, economics tackles people at large, whose behavior are not only varying but are also unpredictable. The inexactness in economics occurs because of numerous factors. The following are some of them:

  • The laboratory study is very unlikely.
  • The economy in which we dwell is complicated.
  • The economist could be induced by his own bias and prejudices.

Economics as an Art

The organized application of scientific principles is an art. In this particular impression, economics is an art. Economics delivers solutions for several of the complications. The law of equimarginal utility assists an individual to resolve his difficulty of obtaining optimum satisfaction with small resources. The doctrine of consumer’s surplus facilitates a finance minister in the area of taxation. Keynes’ principle of employment offers the best way to solve unemployment. As reported by Robbins, the task of an economist should be to investigate and clarify economic impacts, however, the dilemma of value judgment needs to be left to the legislators and moral experts.

At the same time, a sensible and systematic technique would look at its science and art facets.The science of economics might not be significantly useful until it provides not only light but also fruit. The research of economics is going to be a trash if this cannot provide you with solutions to numerous challenges of the economy. However, Science without Art or Art without Science could be meaningless and prove disastrous. Since economics possess the characteristics of both, we may conclude that economics is both a science and an art.

© 2013 Sundaram Ponnusamy


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