Now comes the important question of whether economics is a science or an art? Before we go to take up the question, we will first of all define what is a science and what is an art?
What is Science?
We may define science as “it is the collection of facts regarding any research work which is based on impartial analysis, experiments or observations and a causal relationship between the causes and results if established”. Science is not merely a collection of facts, but the facts are so arranged that they speak for themselves.
Economics is a science because:
If the Criterion is this, then economics is surely a science because in economics facts are collected and are carefully analyzed and general principles governing these facts are discovered and framed If we expect a science to formulate laws applicable everywhere ant to all times and to predict the future course of events then, economics is not a science.
The modern economists fully agree that economics is a full-fledged science. Economic laws are on all fours with the propositions of all other sciences.
Economics as A Social Science:
From the discussion on the definition and the scope of economics, we can easily realize that economics studies the aggregate economic behavior of the society, hence, it is a social science. In this subject, even the individual economics behavior is studies as part of the general economics tendencies of the people. For example, we take the demand and supply of a product. These are the individual aspects of an economy. These aspects necessarily represent the general behavior. So, in economics we study the economic activities of a society and therefore economics is a social science.
What is Art?
Art is the practical application of scientific laws, principles and theories. Art may be defined as “The implementation of the proposals on a certain matter of facts”. Economist is like a doctor who examines the patients and finds the causes of disease and then prescribes medicines.
He is not like a philosopher who examines the problem just for the sake of problem. In economics we not only discuss the nature and causes of economic problems but also their solution is proposed. e.g., when there is an increase in demand than the supply, price level goes up. We not only find the causes of increase in price level but also suggest solution.
Economics is an art because:
Economists suggest policies along with their implementation procedures to solve the economic problem. Thus, economics is a science as well as an art.
When an economy faces the problem of over population, the economists explain its causes like illiteracy, sociological and cultural set-up, early marriages, desire of having a good number of children, lack of access to birth control centers, reduced deaths rate, religious considerations, etc. This analysis is said to be positive economics or science.
When economists suggest to control birthrate by late marriages, education, changing social and cultural set-up, higher standard of living by a smaller number of children, providing door to door birth control facilities, etc. this is said to be normative economics or science.
When government implement all this suggestions and people act upon and take care by different means and actions it becomes art. Thus, economics is a science as well as an art.
In the opinion of Economists:
Let us see what is economist opinion about economics being a science or an art. Classical economists like Malthus, Ricardo, Mill and Senior called economics a positive science. They say that Economics has no concern with the nature of wants rather it is neutral in this connection. For example:
In the words of Senior:
“How much time and divine the objectives may be, they don’t allow any economist to add even a single word.”
In the words of Robbins:
Prof. Robbin also calls economics neutral science declaring it Positive science. He says that economics is above the goodness or badness of objectives. In this way economics is not a moralist in this opinion.
Prof. Keynes views economics is as a positive science. neo classical economics like Marshall canon Pigou etc. term economics is a positive science as well as normative science they also call it an art.
In the words of Pigou:
An economist is a doctor who diagnoses the disease of patient and also applies Ointment on his injuries. He is not like a philosopher who seeks knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
The fact is the economists who called economics a neutral science, are not natural for example Malthus advocated population control in the world. Robbins advised to be economical between limited resources and unlimited wants. Keynes stressed to solve the problems of unemployment and economic depression.
So, economics is both a science and an art. Economics is science in its methodology and an art in its application, because it has theoretical as well as practical aspects.