Saturday, February 11, 2012

Homo Economicus

Fabio Rojas comments on
“the economics of science’ on Org,net HERE

The one thing that left me scratching my head are quotes like this: "From this research, Stern synthesized an insight that remains with him today. “Scientists don’t only care about money,” he says. “They care about discovery, and control. Those are just first-order facts about the scientific enterprise.”

The Stern quote hits on a theme that has been old hat in the social analysis of science since the day of Merton, if not earlier. Why are economists constantly surprised by these findings? Isn't variance in human motivation the plausible prior hypothesis? Don't economists believe in differences in personality and socialization? Isn't the real question the degree to which specific activities are governed by financial considerations, not treating non-financial considerations as anomalies?”

Only those modern economists wedded to notions of Homo economicus and ‘Max U’ (and not given to introspection or to self-examination) would be surprised at the presence of multiple motivations in everyday life. That’s the problem with highly simplified (naked!) theories that are devised to fit calculus rather than the real world.



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