nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2007‒01‒14
eight papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Chicago

  1. The Roadblock of Culturalist Economics: Economic Change á la Douglass North By Khalil, Elias
  2. Economic theory and social justice By Johnson, Joseph
  3. Natur und Gerechtigkeit als Grenzen der Ökonomie By Malte Faber; Thomas Petersen
  4. Keynes, l'arte, lo stato: il paradiso ritrovato e poi perduto By Cedrini Mario
  5. The Sources of Economic Energy. By Greco Nino
  6. Interview with Kenneth Arrow By Dubra, Juan
  7. Uncounted or illusory blessings? Competing responses to the Easterlin, Easterbrook and Schwartz paradoxes of well-being By GASPER, D.
  8. Economic Growth with Energy By Alam, M. Shahid

  1. By: Khalil, Elias
    Abstract: In his 2005 book, Understanding the Process of Economic Change, North offers a rough account of economic change that can be called “culturalist economics.” In his account, he attributes the change of well being of individuals to, besides technology and demographics, cultural heritage or cultural beliefs. Using this basis, he then attributes "the mystery of the unique evolution of western Europe" to a causative view that combines "Christian dogma" and English "individualism." This combinatory belief assures property rights, and hence explains the success of Western Europe and the US and the failure of Islam and Latin America in terms of their respective economic development. But North’s culturalist economics faces a roadblock: it does not explain the origin of beliefs, and it neglects the role of rational choice in manufacturing beliefs. Specifically, it ignores the roles of agency, revolutionary change, and the dynamics of empire.
    Keywords: cultural economics vs. culturalist economics; reification of culture; Christian dogma; individualism; mystery of rise of Europe; Islam.
    JEL: Z1 N01 B52 N0 B40
    Date: 2006–12–05
  2. By: Johnson, Joseph
    Abstract: Is justice individualistic or both individualistic andsocial? Opposite views on this question include von Hayek, who said that `social justice' was an oxymoron, and the late Holy Father who, in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis said that some socio-economic institutions can have`structures of sin' in their architectures. The Old Testament prophets have been interpreted either way! Using results from the Capital Controversy in economic theory, Sen's work on famines, and the Parsonian theory of the institution, we show that the `social'-justice dimension of an individual act is where its justice is unintelligible in merely individualistic terms, but requires institutional analysis.
    Keywords: Social justice; economic justice; microfoundations of macroeconomics; Capital controversy
    JEL: D63
    Date: 2006–10–12
  3. By: Malte Faber (Universität Heidelberg, Alfred-Weber-Institut für Wirtschaftswissenschaften); Thomas Petersen (Universität Heidelberg, Institut für Umweltphysik)
    Abstract: In den letzten drei Jahrhunderten ist die Wirtschaft in vielen Ländern - langfristig gesehen - dauernd gewachsen. Materieller Mangel ist in den entwickelten Ländern weitgehend verschwunden. Für die Erkenntnis der Leistungsfähigkeit der Marktwirtschaft wie der Defizite der sozialistischen Planwirtschaft haben die modernen Wirtschaftwissenschaften Entscheidendes geleistet. Die ungeahnte wirtschaftliche Leistungsfähigkeit des marktwirtschaftlichen Systems hat aber auch immer wieder ungeahnte neue Probleme mit sich gebracht. Zwei Defizite der Ökonomie werden in diesem Aufsatz analysiert: das Naturverständnis und die zu geringe Beachtung von Gerechtigkeitsfragen. Gibt es, wie David Hume, Adam Smith, Karl Marx und John Maynard Keynes annahmen, keine durch die Natur gesetzten Schranken für wirtschaftliches Wachstum, können jedermann Zuwächse seines wirtschaftlichen Reichtums in Aussicht gestellt werden. Folglich können Fragen der gerechten Einkommensverteilung vernachlässigt werden. Jedoch zeigt z. B. eine Analyse wirtschaftlicher Produktion mittels der beiden thermodynamischen Hauptsätze: die Natur setzt dem Wachstum Schranken, d.h. es gibt nicht immer nur Gewinne für alle. Dann aber stellen sich unabweisbar Fragen der Gerechtigkeit, und zwar bevorzugt dann, wenn es Verluste zu verteilen gibt. Unsere These ist, dass die Vernachlässigung der Schranken der Natur systematisch zu einer mangelnden Berücksichtigung von Gerechtigkeitsüberlegungen geführt hat.
    Keywords: Comprehension of nature, limits of nature, justice, thermodynamics, joint production
    JEL: A10 A12 A13 B10 B20 Q3 Q4 Q30
    Date: 2006–12
  4. By: Cedrini Mario
    Abstract: L'attività di sostegno alle arti che John Maynard Keynes ha svolto e teorizzato nel corso della sua vita dipende in modo pregnante, anche se non esclusivo, dal recepimento della concezione filosofica di Moore, cosi come dalla condivisione delle idee e dell'esperienza di Bloomsbury. L'originalità del pensiero di Keynes consiste, in particolare, da un lato nell'inquadrare le arti all'interno di quell'enjoyment of life cui potrà finalmente dedicarsi l'uomo liberato dall'ossessione della scarsità e dal "problema economico"; dall'altro per la soluzione offerta ai complessi rapporti tra arte, stato e mercato, preservando il carattere di libertà e le potenzialità di coesione sociale che qualificano le arti, e delineando con sufficiente chiarezza i ruoli dell' autorità pubblica e della libera iniziativa privata nel sostegno a queste ultime. Ne discende, per la società dell' avvenire e per quella del presente, una concezione non esclusivamente materialistica del welfare state. Il movimento verso la risoluzione del problema economico giustifica le attività intraprese dallo stato per realizzare le precondizioni del vero benessere, dunque non solo di quello materiale. Lo stato potrà abbandonare i criteri di spesa utilitaristici e sostenere le most public arts. Inoltre, attraverso il suo esempio e l'aiuto a istituzioni semipubbliche di promozione delle arti, sosterrà lo sforzo dei cittadini nel favorire forme di enjoyment of lìfe altrimenti sacrificate alla considerazione dell' economia come problema permanente dell'umanità. Il "paradiso ritrovato" di Keynes è qui prospettato come possibile alternativa al modello di welfare state materialistico del secondo dopoguerra: giudicato fallimentare dal punto di vista dell' efficienza economica, e tuttavia sconfitto in primo luogo dalla sua incapacità di attrazione culturale, la società del "paradiso perduto" non contemplerà il sostegno alle arti tra le sue responsabilità.
    Date: 2006–11–01
  5. By: Greco Nino
    Abstract: The time and space so loved by philosophers and poets, burden and delight of physicists and astronomists, for a long time have been more for economists elements of inconvenience than of analysis. All this finds a justification in the mechanistic logic which also regulates the great economic theories. But the “Newtonian†general economic theory, fascinating though it is and irreplaceable in conferring rigour to theoretical formulations and reducing to a simplified form the apparently (or real) chaos of the great systems, in its necessarily high flying it is unsuitable to interpreting the local level where, instead, it is indispensable to keep one’s feet on the ground, to move in the territory following the infinite combinations of the surrounding countryside, to worm oneself into the maze of economic and social interrelations which make it unique and unrepeatable.The long journey began with the Solow type neoclassical growth models, characterised by the production function with decreasing returns and with perfect market forms, passing through endogenous growth models, now reaches territorialised forms, which have the advantage of being less abstract than neoclassical models, in that they operate in imperfect markets, but which do not manage to keep the growth rate under control, which is always given as positive. From “implosive†models we pass to “explosive†models.Forceably including local interrelations into classical production functions is not successful in overcoming the basic contradictions between Newtonian determinism and localistic indeterminism, with the result that the classical elegance is lost without acquiring localistic concreteness Now the new physicists are trying again with the String Theory, above all in the M version or the Theory of Everything. But this fascinating theory does not yet allow us to understand some fundamental things, for example it does not tell us why particles align in a certain way, in a certain order and with a certain potential. Adapting concepts and paths elaborated by post-Newtonian physics, the economist could do much less and a bit more. Much less because he is not required to solve in any way the mysteries of the universe, a bit more because, perhaps, he can describe without contradictions, using known economic science, what physicists, in their field, are not able to describe: he can tell us, using formal models why at a certain point in time and space a determined productive set composed of a well defined number of “economics quanta†relative to material and immaterial elements, of which is known the magnitude, order and force, behaves like a string and begins to “vibrate†setting off the chain reaction of economic development.
    Date: 2006–08
  6. By: Dubra, Juan
    Abstract: Arrow argues that the biggest failures of economic theory are: our failure to explain the business cycle; the missing explanations for the size of fluctuations of prices; our failure to explain the causes of growth and of the spread of innovation. He then discusses several of the existing alternatives to the rational expectations paradigm. He tells the story of his dissertation, and how Koopmans wanted to decline his Nobel Prize.Finally, he discusses health care reform, and malaria in Africa.
    Keywords: Health Care; Business Cycles; Fluctuations.
    JEL: D00 D01 G12 E32 I0
    Date: 2005–03
  7. By: GASPER, D.
    Keywords: welfare economics; quality of life; measurement; income distribution; economic theory;
    Date: 2006
  8. By: Alam, M. Shahid
    Abstract: This paper works out some of the basic properties of an economy with energy as a factor of production. The economy now consists of streams of energy conversions that direct energy to the production of goods and services. The focus on energy generates a variety of insights. It yields a new taxonomy of economies and economic activities; allows a better grasp of the tasks performed by labor and capital; raises the prospect of examining growth as the speeding up of machines; and identifies greater use of energy as an important source of growth. In addition, we use these results to explain the near stagnation in living standards in agrarian economies in the millennia before 1800, and the dramatic acceleration in growth since that date.
    Keywords: Economy; energy; capital; labor; growth; sources of growth; Adam Smith; John Stuart Mill; industrial revolution
    JEL: Q40 B0 O40 O47 Q01 D2
    Date: 2006–12–25

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