The Myths of the Social Sciences

Several years ago one of my former roommates at Harvard, now an economist with the United Nations, dropped by for a visit. We drifted into an informal review of the social science courses we had taken at Harvard in the late 1950's. The one overriding memory that we both had of those courses was that they assumed that the central planning of societies, especially of the economic segments of societies, worked. This led all of Harvard's social scientists, with no single exception we could remember, to assume that the Soviet economic system was inherently far more rational, creative, and productive than the American.

That was why they believed, along with their counterparts in other Western governments, that the Soviets were such a grave threat to the West. The Soviets would soon surpass us and might "bury us" economically, unless we met their threat with a democratic form of social and economic planning. The form of economic planning they favored, almost universally, was Keynesianism. Government planning of aggregate consumption, through the miracles of deficit financing and the "multiplier effect," would solve the terrible social problem of the business cycle and send us soaring onward and upward. Though they did not have as unified a view of general social planning, some of them soon came up with such a grand proposal and helped to implement it in Lyndon Johnson's Great Society plan, euphemistically...

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