Is Economics Neutral
economics the term ‘ends’ means the goals which a man wishes to achieve
in the economic aspects of his life. The ‘means’ are the sources which
are used to achieve the ends. For example, the ends or goals of the people are
to achieve a rising standard of living, to protect themselves through social
security schemes when they are out of job etc. The question whether
concerned with means or ends or with both has remained under debate. We,
briefly, discuss the views of the economists in this regard.
There is a
difference of opinion among economists regarding the neutrality of Economics.
The controversial point is whether Economics is concerned with the means or with
the ends or with both. The classical economists are of the views that:
is purely a science".
According to them, the main function of an economist is to
study the causes and effects of an economic phenomenon. They are also of the
opinion that Economics is concerned with means and the study of ends lies
outside its scope.
For example, Cairnes considered that:
“Political Economy stood
neutral as regards ends, as mechanics stand neutral between rival schemes of
Senior, speaking on the nature of the economic
“Whatever be their generality and
their truth, they do not authorize man in adding a single
syllable of advice”.
Thus we find that
according to classical economists Economics is not concerned at all with the
value judgments or ends. The ends may be moral or immoral social or anti-social, Wise or foolish, good or bad, the economist has no direct concern with them.
For example, if the government cuts taxes, imports will rise. The policy of
increasing government expenditure will reduce unemployment and raise inflation
etc., are positive statements. These are positive statements and can be checked
against the evidence and proved correct or incorrect. The economists as
scientists cannot pass value judgments and say that taxes should be reduced to
above mentioned traditional of describing Economics as neutral science was
opposed by Neo-classical economists. They introduced the concept of “welfare” in
the study of Economics. According to them, Economics is a social science and has
also a normative aspect. It studies manes activities in relation to wealth which
he tries to produce in order to promote his welfare.
Robbins has upheld the view of the classical economists. He is not in favor of
including welfare considerations in the study of Economics as welfare is purely
subjective in character and cannot to exactly measure. Moreover, human welfare
does not simply depend upon material goods, also depends upon services as well.
There are certain activities which are not conductive to human welfare
such as manufacture and sale of wine but they are regarded economic activities
because the economist cannot arrogate to himself the role of a moralist.
is, therefore, of the view that the
interpretation subjective things admitted to scientific discussions. He believes
that Economics is concerned merely with the utilization of scarce means far the
satisfaction of multiple ends. As our ends are unlimited and the means to
satisfy them are limited, therefore a problem of choice arises for selecting the
uses to which the scarce resources can be effectively applied.
According to him,
the duty of the economist is to study the use of the means for the realization
of particular ends. As regard the ends, he has nothing to do with them. They may
be noble or ignoble. Economics entirely neutral between them J.M. Keynes has also
supported Robbins’s view. He says:
“The theory of Economics does not furnish a
body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method
other than doctrine, apparatus of mind and technique of thinking which helps its
possessor to draw correct conclusion”.
In short, according to Keynes also,
Economics is a pure science.
Though many economists right from Classical School to J.M. Keynes have described
economics a neutral science but the fact is that none of them have been able to
adopt the neutral attitude of mere scientist. Robbing, chief exponent of the
view could not retrain attacking the Government planning. He advised the
Government to adopt laissez-faire policy. J.M. Keynes who is often
charged as a depression economist, has birds suggested many measures to
counteract cyclical fluctuations.
It is now increasingly recognized among economists that economics is not merely
a pure simple science but has an applied aspect too. Friedman has also
emphasized the fact that not concerned with the economic problems in the
abstract. It studies how a particular society its economic problems.
therefore, conclude that Economic deal with means as well as with ends If we
exclude ends from the study of Economics, then there will be no use of studying
For example, if a low paid person worried about the fast increasing
prices of commodities comes to an economist to know its causes and he
(economist) being The follower of Robbins simply discusses the causes of
inflation in the country and refuses to discuss with him its consequences and
suggesting remedies; naturally the poor man will not be satisfied and he will be
too much disgusted with the subject of Economics. He will rather hate it. Frazer
is right when he says that “an economist who is only an economist is a poor
pretty fish”. The modern economists being more realistic also include the
normative aspect in the study of Economics.