Economics : positive or normative science ?
There is no need for us to ask the question whether economics is a positive science or normative science. Instead of that, we may look at it as a subject that has two parts, namely positive economics and normative economics. As Asimakopulos puts it, 'positive economics can be defined as a body of systematized knowledge concerning what is, while normative economics tries to develop criteria for what ought to be'
Positive economics is mainly concerned with the description of economic events and it tries to formulate theories to explain them. But in normative economics, we give more importance to ethical judgements. Normative economics is concerned with the ideal rather than the actual situations.
Statements on economics may be classified into
positive statements and normative statements. If there is disagreement over a
statement, we can find out whether it is true or false by verifying facts. But
when there is disagreement over a normative statement, we cannot settle the
issue simply by appealing to facts. The questions, 'what are the policies that
the Government should follow to reduce unemployment ? what should it do to
reduce inflation ? are all questions in positive economics. On the other hand,
if we ask the question, 'should the government be more concerned about
unemployment than inflation ?', then it is a normative one. Economists like
Lionel Robbins believe that we must leave normative questions, such as what
ought to be done to political and moral philosophy and that we must study and
analyse only positive questions. Robbins tells that an economist as an
economist has no business to pronounce judgements on the ethical aspects of
economic question. He feels that if normative considerations are taken into
account, economics cannot be an exact science. But many economists differ from
this view. They believe that as economics as a social science has to promote
human welfare, we have to consider ethical issues in economics. Now, we have a new
and important branch of economics known as 'welfare