The social sciences, and economics in particular, separated from moral and political philosophy in the second half of the 18th century when the results of the myriad of intentional actions of people were perceived to produce regularities resembling the laws of a system. Both Physiocratic thought and Smith’s Wealth of Nations reflect this extraordinary discovery: scientific laws thought to be found only in nature could also be found in society. This extension poses several problems. A serious one refers to the tension of combining individuals’ freedom of action with the scientists’ desire to discover the systematic aspects of the unintended and quite often unpredictable consequences of human action, that is, the desire to arrive at laws characterized by a certain degree of generality and permanence.
KeywordsCeteris paribus Economic laws Law of diminishing returns Law of variable proportions Marginal revolution Natural law Neo-Austrian economics Positive economics Substitution Tendency laws
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