The Dismal Science

By Eric Crampton 24/08/2012

Thomas Carlyle called economics the “Dismal Science”, in contrast to what he termed the “Gay Sciences” of poetry and literature. The Dismal Science feed at SciBlogs brings top commentary from the New Zealand economics blogosphere to those more familiar with the Bench Sciences. Curated by the University of Canterbury’s Eric Crampton, who blogs at Offsetting Behaviour, the feed picks posts from our country’s top economics blogs, including Anti-Dismal (Paul Walker), Fair Play and Forward Passes (Sam Richardson), Groping Towards Bethlehem (Bill Kaye-Blake), Offsetting Behaviour (Eric Crampton and Seamus Hogan) and The Visible Hand in Economics (Matt Nolan, James Zucollo and co-bloggers).

The Masthead at The Dismal Science borrows Fleeman Jenkin’s illustration of barter as a rather beautiful dance, with lines of exchange among individuals.

Although people sometimes think that economics is just about money or business, it is much broader. Economics analyses individual choice under conditions of scarcity and how those individual choices aggregate into social outcomes – the dance Jenkin illustrates. Posts at The Dismal Science will reflect that rather broad domain of analysis.

We wear Carlyle’s epithet proudly: Carlyle deemed economics Dismal because of John Stuart Mill’s opposition to slavery. Economics insists on an approach based in methodological individualism – that individuals are the fundamental unit of analysis, that their individual subjective valuations as revealed by their choices forms the basis of economic notions of welfare, and that all individuals’ welfare get to count. The economic approach is antithetical to Carlyle’s insistence on a hierarchy of men where, by his assumption rather than revealed by their choice, one group are made better off by being enslaved.

Welcome all!