Monday, March 10, 2008


New readers of this blog may be wondering about the meaning of anti-positivist. Simply put, an anti-positivist is one who does not subscribe to positivism. OK, so what's positivism. According Ludwig von Mises:
Positivism. A doctrine taught by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). It holds that man's knowledge of all subjects passes through three stages (theological, metaphysical and positive). Contemporary positivism seeks to apply the experimental methods of the natural sciences (q.v.) to the study of the problems of human action (q.v.). The maxim of positivists is that science is measurement. (from
Note: Auguste Comte was both the founder of sociology and an intellectual father of Marxism (the relationship between the evil ideas and ideals of sociology and Marxism is quite obvious -- the siblings have an uncanny resemblance).

In short, positivism is the belief that one must use observation and correlation in order to study human action. In practice, it looks any of the host of useless studies produced by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The positivist belief is that if one can correlate two sets of data, they are related.

What you end up with is sheer nuttiness, studies such as those below. Rest assured, in the end, its your tax dollars that paid for most of these studies. Enjoy them. Just do not think that these studies can impart any real knowledge.

This subject to be continued ...

National Bureau of Economic Research
Week of March 3, 2008

The following NBER Working Papers that match your selections
were released in electronic format this week. Abbreviations
in parentheses refer to NBER Research Programs. (visit for Program information.)


1. Caste, Kinship and Sex Ratios in India
by Tanika Chakraborty, Sukkoo Kim #13828 (DAE)

2. Reference Prices and Nominal Rigidities
by Martin Eichenbaum, Nir Jaimovich, Sergio Rebelo #13829 (EFG ME)

3. Political Entry, Public Policies, and the Economy
by Casey B. Mulligan, Kevin K. Tsui #13830 (IO PE POL)

4. International Economic Policy: Was There a Bush Doctrine?
by Barry Eichengreen, Douglas A. Irwin #13831 (IFM ITI)

5. Social Learning and Peer Effects in Consumption: Evidence from Movie Sales
by Enrico Moretti #13832 (IO LS)

6. Identifying Agglomeration Spillovers: Evidence from Million Dollar Plants
by Michael Greenstone, Richard Hornbeck, Enrico Moretti #13833 (LS PR)

7. Intermediate Goods, Weak Links, and Superstars: A Theory of Economic Development
by Charles I. Jones #13834 (EFG)

8. Evaluating the Impact of Technology Development Funds in Emerging Economies: Evidence from Latin America
by Bronwyn H. Hall, Alessandro Maffioli #13835 (PR)

9. Testing for the Economic Impact of the U.S. Constitution: Purchasing Power Parity across the Colonies versus across the States, 1748-1811
by Farley Grubb #13836 (DAE)

10. The Increase in Leisure Inequality
by Mark Aguiar, Erik Hurst #13837 (EFG LS PE)

11. The Cognitive Link Between Geography and Development: Iodine Deficiency and Schooling Attainment in Tanzania
by Erica M. Field, Omar Robles, Maximo Torero #13838 (HE LS)

12. Is There an "Emboldenment" Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq
by Radha Iyengar, Jonathan Monten #13839 ( POL)

13. The Role of Labor Market Changes in the Slowdown of European Productivity Growth
by Ian Dew-Becker, Robert J. Gordon #13840 (EFG LS PR)

14. Globalization and the Great Divergence: Terms of Trade Booms and Volatility in the Poor Periphery 1782-1913
by Jeffrey G. Williamson #13841 (DAE)

15. Capital Inflows and Reserve Accumulation: The Recent Evidence
by Carmen M. Reinhart, Vincent R. Reinhart #13842 (IFM)

16. Does Temporary Help Work Provide a Stepping Stone to Regular Employment?
by Michael Kvasnicka #13843 (LS)

17. Is the Taxable Income Elasticity Sufficient to Calculate Deadweight Loss? The Implications of Evasion and Avoidance
by Raj Chetty #13844 (LS PE)

18. Language in Visual Art: The Twentieth Century
by David Galenson #13845 (LS)

19. Global Rebalancing with Gravity: Measuring the Burden of Adjustment
by Robert Dekle, Jonathan Eaton, Samuel Kortum #13846 (IFM ITI)

20. Education and Labor Market Consequences of Teenage Childbearing: Evidence Using the Timing of Pregnancy Outcomes and Community Fixed Effects
by Jason M. Fletcher, Barbara L. Wolfe #13847 (CH HC)


Anonymous said...

Anti-positivism seems to be what is applied when one's beliefs are challenged by facts and evidence.

Most criticism of modern social sciences are because the evidence collected and conclusions reached contradict standing orthodoxies. As the underpinnings of our Faith is challenged by emerging science, we strike out and criticize the science and the evidence collected.

We do this because the opposite, to question our Faith and beliefs is too painful and trying. It is much easier to attack the messenger and ignore the ramifications of the message.

Jim Fedako said...

If you are capitalizing faith to mean faith in Jesus Christ, you are wrong in your analysis and conclusions.

Ludwig von Mises and FA Hayek, two staunch critics of positivism, are both small "a" atheists.

We are talking the social sciences, not the natural sciences. And, we are talking beliefs such as the Keynesian theory of economics, etc.

Read Hayek's The Counter-Revolution of Science.

I'm not certain what you are implying. So, you'd have to provide an exmple and clarification.

But, if you read one of the NBER studies and assume you have just read Truth, just wait a week or so for the refutation -- a study likely also published by NBER.

My capital "f" Faith is not subject to an NBER correlation.

Anyway, waiting on your response to my call for an example and clarification.

Anonymous said...

I was referring to Faith as the belief in a higher power. I was not referring to Christianity alone. Faith may be a belief in a deity but it does not need a Supreme Being.

Faith is what we use to explain the unexplained.

I think the current debate over Global Warming and man's impact on our environment is a perfect example.

There are those who don't want to or can't contemplate that man may be able to impact the health of the Earth. So in the face of overwhelming evidence, there are those that will insist that man cannot be damaging his environment with man-made pollutants.

I do not include those who disagree with the remedy for man's impact but those who outright deny any impact at all.

Jim Fedako said...

You are loosing me here ...

Global warming is a natural phenomenon. It's not related to the social sciences.

I'd be glad to debate global warming (which I note the you capitalize), but the post here is on human action (or, praxeology); the fact that man acts by using scarce resources to relieve wants.

Anonymous said...

Oh, goodness. Here we go with the global warming crap again...

Just google on "Maunder Minimum" to understand the bases of climate change. The read some of MIT climatologist Richard Lindzen's studies on oceanic thermodynamics and tranference--he pioneered that field.

This will teach you everything you need to know about climate change, and why you're a dope for believing in CO2-driven climate change. Al Gore's "hockey stick" proof was debunked years ago.

Jim Fedako said...

And, here I thought the cause of global warming was society organized under an incomplete system of socialism.

Finish the job, then you have a workers utopia plus a new Garden of Eden.

Anonymous said...

My comment was based on the list of papers and your assertion that the scientific method is not applicable to the social sciences.

Pick any of the papers you listed as an example of where you Faith (anti-positivism) ignores the results of the scientific process since the results run counter to your beliefs.

My example of Global Warming was purely an example of where the scientific conclusion runs counter to certain beliefs and is therefore challenged not with facts but general statements of belief. The belief being that the Earth is too big for man to have this kind of impact so it cannot be.