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The historian Norman Stone, who died in June, always insisted that history students learn foreign languages.No social science has succumbed to this temptation more than economics. Its models of human behavior are built not on close observation, but on hypotheses that, if not quite plucked from the air, are unconsciously plucked from economists' intellectual and political environments.This method gives economics a unique predictive power, especially as the utilities can all be expressed and manipulated quantitatively.The goal of economics is to replace the particular languages that obstruct the discovery of general laws with the universal language of mathematics. Elon Musk takes Lucas' interacting robots one step further, with his ambition to link the human brain directly to the world (which includes other human brains). In the West itself, the authority of economics has diminished, but this hasn't dented the West's propensity to export its civilization. "Good economics" has been partly replaced by a commitment to universal human rights as the means to save the world from itself, but the purpose is the same: to lecture everyone else on their shortcomings.It was that power which made Western thought seem universal in the first place.
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