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Induction and deduction
Principles or theories
Economics is concerned with gathering the facts relevant to
a specific problem of the economy
Theoretical economics involves generalizing about
Policy economics is concerned with influencing economic
behaviour or its consequences
Economic principles are generalizations and characterized by imprecise quantitative statement. Economic facts are usually diverse; some individuals and institutions act one way and some another way. Hence, economic principles are stated in terms of averages. For example, when economists say that the average household earned an income of $22,390 in 1981, they are making a generalization. It is recognized that some households earned much more and many others much less. Yet this generalization, properly handled and interpreted, can be very meaningful and useful.
Economists try to find economic principles by building models. The predictions of the models form the basis of economic theories. The theories can be tested by comparing the predictions of the models with the facts of the real world.
What methods are used by economists to develop their theories?
Induction takes place when accumulated facts are arranged systematically and analyzed so as to permit the derivation of principle. Deriving principles of facts we are describing the inductive or empirical method.
The other method is called deductive or hypothetical. For example, economists may say that it is rational for consumers to buy more of a product when its price is low than when its price is high. Such untested principle is called a hypothesis. The validity of this hypothesis can be tested by the systematic and repeated examination of relevant facts. Thus, the deductive method goes from the general to the particular, from theory to facts. Most economists view deduction and induction as complementary, rather than opposing, techniques of investigation.
All sciences are careful to distinguish between two types of statements: statements about what is or was or will be – positive statements; and statements about what ought to be – normative statements. Thus, positive economics investigates the ways in which economic agents seek to achieve their goals. It deals with facts and is free from subjective opinions. For example, ‘The unemployment rate is 7%’.
Normative economicsmakes suggestions about the waysin which society’s goals might be more efficiently realized. For example, ‘The unemployment should be lowered’.