Over the years, I have heard multiple different things described as “not rocket science.” The implication was always that rocket science was just about the hardest thing to do, making virtually everything else easy by comparison. As an economics professor over many of those years, I have increasingly come to object to that characterization. I think the questions of social coordination that economics addresses may not require “rocket science,” but are in many ways much more complex and difficult, especially when it comes to imposing control. After all, we have successfully sent rockets to many places in our planetary neighborhood, demonstrating a tolerable ability to solve enough of the relevant problems, yet economic policies remain known for causing more harm than help. As Peter Boettke once led off a post, “Political economy ain’t rocket science. But it is a discipline that forces one to focus on ideas and the implementation of ideas in public policies.” And the more one tries to control, the more those ideas and implementation issues stack up against the possibility, much less the probability, of effectiveness.
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