The End of Prophecy: A Comment on Pryor's Study
Baert, Patrick, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology
PATRICK BAERT [*]
ABSTRACT. This comment is in response to Frederic L. Pryor (2000). "The Millennium Survey: How Economists View the U.S. Economy in the 21st Century." The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 59 (January), pp. 3-33.
This paper criticizes the tendency to take seriously or at face value prophecies by economists about future economic indicators: people develop knowledge as they go along, and this makes for the unpredictable nature of the future. Extrapolations are often erroneously presented as prophecies. The article finishes with an appeal for utopian thinking. There is a cognitive dimension to utopias or dystopias in that they make one reflect upon the previously tacit assumptions of our present, and make one aware of other choices.
Laurence Moss asked me to reply to Pryor's article in the same issue of the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Pryor's article "The Millennium Survey: How Economists View the U.S. Economy in the 21st Century" summarises how a group of economists expects some aspects of the US economy to evolve in the next 50 years. The research was based on a random sample of members of the AEA. The economists were asked a number of questions regarding the future development of key economic indicators, such as, for instance, GDP, economic globalisation, and so on.
I find myself in a difficult position. On the one hand, I acknowledge the technical sophistication of Pryor's survey. It is a highly competent piece of research, and furthermore Pryor is aware of some of the technical limitations which are intrinsic to this kind of study. On the other hand, I have to admit that I do not share some of the presuppositions that may underpin this …
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Publication information: Article title: The End of Prophecy: A Comment on Pryor's Study. Contributors: Baert, Patrick - Author. Journal title: The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Volume: 59. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2000. Page number: 65. © 1999 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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