fredag 20 april 2007

"Economics is an art, not a science"

Petticoat Lane, London 1971
Originally uploaded by Floyd Nello.

I was having a discussion this morning with a friend, and he disagreed with my statement that economics is a science - arguing that, on the contrary, it is an art.

I pointed out that economics is subject to laws, such as the "Law of One Price", which sums up the universal experience that, at a particular time and place, the some products sell for much the same price.

You can see this in any street market. This is Petticoat Lane, in Wentworth Street, probably the most famous and oldest of all London's street markets. The market was established over 400 years ago. This is how it looked back in July 1971. Here you can see economics in the raw.

What do we find? The price of fruit, veg, and most other ordinary commodities is much the same, whichever stallholder you go to.

My friend wasn't having this. He suggested that if you looked or sounded foreign, you would be charged more, but that he could often negotiate a bargain as he knew the local stallholders.

All of which is to say that you have to postulate unusual circumstances to show a deviation from the general rule. He thereby proved the point - that on the whole, fruit and veg will change hands for much the same price in a particular market on a particular day.

And so economics is a science.

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