One of the most common questions among new economics students is whether the study of economics is truly a science. The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The trouble we run into is one of first trying to define what science is, then explaining how the study of economics fits into that definition. This is a problem because the dictionary definition of ‘science’ is broad enough to include everything from mathematics to biology to behavioral anthropology.
Economic science does fit under the dictionary definition inasmuch as it utilizes the scientific method of study to analyze economic data and phenomenon. In that sense, the study of economics is a science. However, creating an explaining economic theory requires relying on information that is not necessarily scientific. For example, the way an economic cycle is influenced by consumer perceptions is not something that can be scientifically measured with high accuracy. This means speculation is unavoidable. Unfortunately, the amount of speculation necessary in some portions of economic science is that which leads critics to say that the study of economics is not scientific.
In the end, whether or not the study of economics is truly a science depends on how you define the word ‘science’. However, it does not matter in terms of actual study. Whether it is a science or not, the study of economics is critical to understanding how our economy works and what affects it. For example, sound economic study reveals why it is dangerous for government to simply print money as a means of paying debts. The more the powers-that-be know about economic science, the more likely they will be to make sound decisions.
The study of economics is important on a personal level as well. Why? Because most of the fundamental principles of economics we observe on a national level actually begin at an individual level. The national economy is just an extension of the combined individual economies of each citizen. Therefore, whether or not you consider economics a science, its study is still important.