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Is Milton Friedman an artist or a scientist?

Listed author(s):
  • David Colander

Most economists will agree that Milton Friedman is a brilliant economist. Yet, the majority assessment is that his work is ideologically flawed, and that the Marshallian economics he advocates has been superseded by Walrasian economics. In this paper I argue that the reason for this negative assessment is that Friedman, like Alfred Marshall before him, tried to straddle a fence between policy and logical-deductive theory, combining the artistic science of the historical and institutional school with the logical-deductive science of economics under a single category which Friedman called positive economics. This combination worked for Marshall, but did not work for Friedman, I argue that the profession's criticisms of Friedman stand, if he is viewed as a positive scientist as the profession currently defines positive economics - as logical deductive exercises. But that, I argue, is not how Friedman should be viewed; he should, instead, be viewed as an economic artist - as an applied policy economist extraordinaire - whose primary flaw has been his failure to make clear the importance of the artistic component of his economic science.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 2 (1995)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 105-122

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:2:y:1995:i:1:p:105-122
DOI: 10.1080/13501789500000005
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