A relevant feature of the current crisis in economic knowledge is the recurrence of the Ricardian Vice. Joseph A. Schumpeter coined this term in his book History of Economic Analysis when he criticized the habit assigned to Ricardo to represent the economy by a set of simplified assumptions and to use tautologies to develop practical economic solutions. Indeed, Schumpeter rejected the kind of economic thought that mainly favours deductive methods of inquiry – based on mathematical reasoning- because the habit known as the Ricardian Vice generates analytical unrealistic results that are irrelevant to solve the real-world economic problems.
Also Keynes warned that the understanding of the economic phenomena demands not only purely deductive reasoning, but also other methods of inquiry along with the study of other fields of knowledge- such as History and Philosophy. In his own words:
“The study of economics does not seem to require any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject at which very few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.” (Keynes, Collected Writings, vol. X: Essays in Biography)
Today, Schumpeter’s and Keynes’s criticism could be certainly addressed to those economists whose beliefs ultimately privilege the deductive method of inquiry in Economics. Due to these beliefs, mainstream economists favour the adoption of a nominalist bias. And as a consequence, the trouble is that the dialogue between economic theories and the economic reality turns out to be abandoned not only in academic research but also in the policy making process.
This dialogue is complex and should be considered in any attempt to build realistic economic theories, as Keynes warned. Indeed, the changing environment of real-world markets through time -that is irreversible- refers to a certain degree of ontological indeterminacy that should be considered in realistic economic theories and in the study of Economics.