It’s funny… I was told by a professor in my department a while back that my beliefs on economics and political economy amounted to nothing more than ideology. Indeed, my “ideology” (libertarianism) made him, in his own words, uneasy. Well, it was his fault for asking ideologically-laden questions in class in the first place. One time, he asked my fellow grad students and I, in our comparative political economy class, whether we favored a flat income tax or a progressive income tax. Most preferred progressive, of course, but when he got around to me I quite naturally had to say: no income tax. But that answer was out of bounds. It is perfectly acceptable to debate the merits of different varieties of statism, but to question the merit of statism itself is out of the question. It wasn’t long after this episode that he called me into his office and told me that the theories of the Austrian School of Economics, because they didn’t involve empirical (quantitative) testing, amounted to an ideology and that my Austro-libertarianism made him uneasy. He then recommended that I seek another major for my Ph.D. (Miraculously, I still got an A in the class.)
What is funny is that these so-called social scientists reject logical arguments and value judgments as unscientific while holding up empirical quantitative testing of arbitrary hypotheses with crude measures as scientific. They seem to think that truth cannot be arrived at by logical reasoning and that value judgments are arbitrary and subjective. Yet they do not see that if my position amounts to nothing more than ideology, then all the more so does theirs. They have simply shifted the realm of what is considered acceptable debate from metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics to a certain methodology. A case in point is hegemonic stability theory in the field of international relations. Scholars debating the merits of this theory cannot agree on how to define, measure, and operationalize hegemony; consequently, they cannot agree whether the theory is correct or not (assuming dubiously that empirical quantitative analysis could answer that definitively anyway). So, one can’t question the ideology of empirical qualitative/quantitative (especially quantitative) hypothesis testing. One can only question how to go about doing this so-called science from within the accepted ideological framework. The dismal state of affairs prevailing in the hegemonic stability theory debate pervades all of mainstream political science; indeed, I dare say, all of mainstream social science.