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Friday, December 14, 2012

Malthus on Empiricism in Economics

The first business of philosophy is to account for things as they are; and till our theories will do this, they ought not to be the ground of any practical conclusion... a frequent appeal to this sort of experience is pre-eminently necessary in most of the subjects of political economy, where various and complicated causes are often in operation, the presence of which can only be ascertained in this way. A theory may appear to be correct, and may really be correct under given premises; it may further appear that these premises are the same as those under which the theory is about to be applied; but a difference which might before have been unobserved, may shew itself in the difference of the results from those which were expected; and the theory may justly be considered as failing, whether this failure arises from an original error in its formation, or from its general inapplicability, or specific misapplication, to actual circumstances. -- Principles of Political Economy, pp. 8-9

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