nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2006‒01‒24
ten papers chosen by
Andy Denis
City University

  1. 'Home Biases', 19th Century Style By Flandreau, Marc
  2. Social Identity Strategies in Recent Economics By John B. Davis
  3. Gigerenzer the Decided: A Tale of Difficult Distinctions By Floris Heukelom
  4. Marshall’s Influence on Swedish Economic Thought By Sandelin, Bo
  5. John Rawls's Justice as Fairness: anti-foundationalism, deliberative democracy, and cosmopolitanism By Fabrizio Trifiró
  6. Searching where the Light Is: Connecting Theory and Policy in Economics By David Colander
  7. "Free Entry and Exit" from the Market: Simplifying or Substantive Assumption? By Robert E. Prasch
  8. fairness: a survey By Ottone, Stefania
  9. Etica ed Economia By Adelino ZANINI
  10. Abracadabra! Social Norms and Public Perceptions through Harry Potter’s Looking Glasses By Avichai Snir; Daniel Levy

  1. By: Flandreau, Marc
    Abstract: This paper discusses the existence of 'home' biases in the 19th century global capital market, whereby colonies appear to have received a 'disproportionate' amount of capital from their metropolis. Starting from a discussion of the Bulow Rogoff (1989) problem, we argue that imperial links provided a natural institutional framework to make pre-commitment credible by ensuring an adequate degree of willingness to pay. This was not because imperial rule provided coercion or punishment, but rather because it supplied a legal framework that effectively suppressed the « sovereign » nature of colonial debts. We conclude that the greater facility with which capital migrated in the 19th century has much to do with the fact that colonies were more akin to the 'regions' of modern countries
    Keywords: colonies; home bias; Lucas paradox; willingness to pay
    JEL: F31 N32
    Date: 2005–12
  2. By: John B. Davis (Faculty of Economics and Econometrics, University of Amsterdam)
    Abstract: This paper reviews three distinct strategies in recent economics for using the concept of social identity in the explanation of individual behavior: Akerlof and Kranton’s neoclassical approach, Sen’s commitment approach, and Kirman et al.’s complexity approach. The primary focus is the multiple selves problem and the difficulties associated with failing to explain social identity and personal identity together. The argument of the paper is that too narrow a scope for reflexivity in individual decision-making renders the problem intractable, but that enlarging this scope makes it possible to explain personal and social identity together in connection with an individual behavior termed comparative value-objective evaluation. The paper concludes with recommendations for treating the individual objective function as a production function.
    Keywords: identity; personal identity; reflexivity; individual objective function
    JEL: D63 Z13
    Date: 2005–08–10
  3. By: Floris Heukelom
    Date: 2005–12–12
  4. By: Sandelin, Bo (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
    Abstract: Alfred Marshall was by no means ignored, but his influence on Swedish economic thought at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century was limited. On the general level,science and culture in Sweden were more dependent on the German-language countries. In a small country like Sweden, where there were only two chairs in economics in 1900, and eight in 1940,a few individuals embodied the development of the discipline. Knut Wicksell’s theory of value and capital was mainly influenced by Jevons, Menger, Walras and, especially, Böhm-Bawerk. Gustav Cassel was inspired especially by Walras, but preferred Marshall to Böhm-Bawerk. There are not many references to Marshall in Heckscher's writings, but there may have been an indirect influence. Myrdal was well aware of Marshall's positions, but Marshall does not seem to have been an especially important source of inspiration. Marshall's Principles and Economics of Industry can be found in students' reading lists at Swedish universities during the first decades of the 20th century, often as optional literature. <p>
    Keywords: Marshall; Sweden; Wicksell; Cassel; Heckscher; Myrdal
    JEL: B13 B20 B31
    Date: 2006–01–03
  5. By: Fabrizio Trifiró
    Abstract: This paper aims at illustrating through a close reading of the works of John Rawls the anti-foundationalist cosmopolitan deliberative democratic approach to liberalism that I have sketched in the IIIS Discussion Paper N.47. I shall argue that despite what some of his critics believe Rawls' liberal theory of justice 1) is not concerned with foundational preoccupations (e.g. Michael Sandel); 2) does not ignore concrete processes of collective deliberation over matters of public interests (e.g. Amy Guttman, Dennis Thomson, Brian Barry); 3) nor does it endorse rigid limits to the scope of democratic deliberation (e.g. Jeremy Waldron, John Gray, Richard Bellamy ). Yet I shall claim, following Andrew Kuper, that 4) there is a real risk of infringing individuals' primary moral significance in trying to stretch too much the limits of liberal toleration in order to accommodate political liberalism with multiculturalism in the international sphere.
    Date: 2005–12–15
  6. By: David Colander
    Abstract: In this paper I discuss economist’s tendency to do abstract theory, and suggest an alternative way of relating theory and policy that I provides a much more positive spin on mainstream economists’ tendency toward abstract theorizing than that given it by most heterodox economists. The gist of the argument is that we should think of economic theory not as a precise map, but as a general pattern generator, which is useful to keep in the back of our minds and we approach policy problems.
    Date: 2005
  7. By: Robert E. Prasch
    Abstract: Economic theory, of necessity, presents an abstraction to the reader. Abstraction is required to achieve the perspective that allows for theory, that is to say, understanding and interpretation, to occur. If the abstraction is done well only inessential details are set aside -- details that would otherwise divert the theorist from grasping the essential or fundamental elements of the process under examination. For example a study of the mechanisms that cause a moving automobile to stop can reasonably abstract from the vehicle's color scheme. For this process to be valid it is critical that the theorist distinguish between "simplifying" and "substantive" assumptions. The former clears away the inessential. The latter elevates or prioritizes the inessential -- thereby contributing to a distorted understanding. The difficulty is that distinguishing between simplifying and substantial assumptions remains, and will always remain, something of an art. Fifty years ago the siren of "Positive Economics" proposed that this critical distinction could be reliably made by adhering to a set of clear and simple rules. While some economists and empirical psychologists maintain a nostalgic commitment to that eclipsed understanding of science, today most thinking practitioners are aware that such an epistemological stance, with its triumphant dismissal of the need for defensible assumptions, was naive -- even misguided. Out of this epistemological vacuum economists have retreated to several crude "fixes" to guide their selection of abstractions. Occasional assertions to the contrary, these methods are conventions. Innocent of any knowledge of these issues, many economists instinctively deploy the abstractions used by their graduate advisor, or rely on those that most frequently appear in what are held to be the profession's premier journals. Economics, perhaps more than ever, is now defined by what economists do. Ideally, the distinction between substantive and simplifying assumptions could be grounded in something more meaningful. Such a ground does exist -- it is called judgment. Unfortunately judgment, like "beauty" or "goodness," is difficult to define without invoking specific cases. The reason is that good judgment requires a sense of context. Context is most readily gained through direct experience, a study of history, or the comparative method. Once acquired, this knowledge enables the researcher to "compare and contrast" one situation with another, to learn from previous efforts to interpret the subject at hand, or to benefit from multiple approaches to a single question. In short, judgment requires the kind of broad-ranging knowledge that is largely absent, even disdained, in the training of the economists of our era ("training" is the appropriate term in this context -- to be contrasted with "education"). To appreciate the implications and importance of the distinction between "simplifying" and "substantive" assumptions, consider the conventional assumption of "Free Entry and Exit."
    Date: 2005
  8. By: Ottone, Stefania
    Abstract: In this paper I provide an excursus, as complete as I could, of the most important theoretical and experimental works concerning fairness. The aim is twofold. First of all, I want to underline the importance of the role played by experimental economics in testing and improving models on this topic. Secondly, I want to mention some evidence that, even for fair-minded people, economic factors such as competition and costs, still matter in their decisional process.
    Date: 2006–01
  9. By: Adelino ZANINI (Universita' Politecnica delle Marche, Dipartimento di Economia)
    Abstract: Prendendo atto dell'ampia diffusione odierna di riflessioni relative al rapporto tra etica ed economia, l'autore si chiede anzitutto quale sia il grado di autenticita' - in senso filosofico - rilevabile negli ormai consueti appelli all'etica. Attraverso un rapido attraversamento delle specifiche riflessioni di Adam Smith e J.M. Keynes - e sulla scorta di quanto inquesti anni ha scritto A. Sen -, si evidenzia la necessita' di non attribuire all'etica una mera supplenza epocale e, conseguentemente, di ritornare a considerare quale sia il rapporto originario tra scelta economica, scelta politica, responsabilita' morale.
    JEL: A12 A13
    Date: 2004–05
  10. By: Avichai Snir; Daniel Levy
    Abstract: Economic organization of the imaginary worlds depicted in popular literary works may be viewed as a mirror to public opinion on the economic organization of life. If a book becomes a best-seller, it is because the book conveys messages, feelings, and events the readers can relate to. In other words, the book’s readers identify with the set of norms and rules that govern the development of the plot and the actions of its heroes. Therefore, a best seller, as a book that successfully relates to readers of its time, can teach us on the norms and believes of its audience. Following this line of thought, we use the method of deconstruction to analyze the highly successful J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. Studying the books within their social context allows us to learn about people’s norms, and their perceptions of issues such as the role of government, the structure of financial markets, poverty and inequality, etc. Thus, by looking at the Potterian economy through magnifying glasses, we obtain a perspective on what people might view as an ideal economic structure. Some aspects of this ideal world, we find, are quite different from the real world.
    Date: 2005–09

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