nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2007‒07‒27
four papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Chicago

  1. Thrift as a Virtue, Historically Criticized By McCloskey, Deirdre
  2. Mercantilism in the Reign of Frederick II and Prussian Industrial Politics in Upper Silesia 1740-1786 By Toni Pierenkemper
  3. Verification of Citations: Fawlty Towers of Knowledge? By Wright, Malcolm; Armstrong, J. Scott
  4. Is Peer Review in Decline? By Glenn Ellison

  1. By: McCloskey, Deirdre
    Abstract: Thrift has been viewed since the blessed Adam Smith as the foundation of economic growth. Economists, the theorists of prudence, wsh it so. But it was not, and is not true. Modern economic growth came from some other source---perhaps the stunning shift 1600-1776 in the rhetoric of economy-talk.
    Keywords: thrift; savings; industrial revolution; growth models;
    JEL: O11 N10
    Date: 2006–06
  2. By: Toni Pierenkemper (Department of Economic and Social History, Cologne University Germany)
    Abstract: In late 18th century Prussia, the conditions were laied down that were to form the basis of the economic upturn of the 19th century. This period of transition was marked by a break with the former “mercantilist” or “camerialist” system as it is termed in its specific German form of promotion of trade and industry by the state in the 18th century. It was not mercantilist policy but its avoidance that contributed considerably to the success of industrialisation beginning the late 18th century. The Prussian political economy in the middle of the 18th century, labelled ‘Friederician Mercantilism’ according to Frederick II (1740-1786), is addressed in the context of the international mercantilist system (France and England). The traditional view of German economic history is that “Friederician Mercantilism” laied down the conditions for industrial development in the 19th century. The results of this paper are different: The mercantilist sytem impeded development and, combined with the King’s obstinacy in adhering to the system, did nothing to help pave the way for development into a modern industrial nation. This is demonstrated using the example of the newly acquired Silesian province (1740), which was in no good economic state in the mid-18th century; and the first decades subsequent to Prussia’s acquisition were marked by the belligerent circumstances associated with its takeover. Later, “Friederician Mercantilism” only made a limited contribution to the transformation of Silesia into a modern industrial region. In spite of an active trade policy, the measures implemented by the Prussians in order to boost industry proved to be misdirected: financial, trade, and industrial policies emerged as irrelevant or even disadavantageous to the Silesian province. This was even more so the case for the Upper Silesian coal mining district, which was, over the course of the 19th century, to grow into a powerful industrial centre. The new Prussian administration completely underestimated this area’s potential for development. In the 1770s there was a broad discussion of the economic situation in Upper Silesia that resulted in state activity in the domain of the Upper Silesian iron industry. However, it was shaped by the state’s military and fiscal interests. “Friederician Mercantilism” had no perspective for economic development and it was only with the death of Frederick II in 1786 that the potentiality of Prussia’s and Upper Silesia’s development into a modern economiy characacterised by free enterprise emerged.
    Keywords: Mercantilism, State, Prussia, Silesia, Industrial Politics
    JEL: N33 N93
    Date: 2007–01
  3. By: Wright, Malcolm; Armstrong, J. Scott
    Abstract: The prevalence of faulty citations impedes the growth of scientific knowledge. Faulty citations include omissions of relevant papers, incorrect references, and quotation errors that misreport findings. We discuss key studies in these areas. We then examine citations to Estimating nonresponse bias in mail surveys, one of the most frequently cited papers from the Journal of Marketing Research, as an exploratory study to illustrate these issues. This paper is especially useful in testing for quotation errors because it provides specific operational recommendations on adjusting for nonresponse bias; therefore, it allows us to determine whether the citing papers properly used the findings. By any number of measures, those doing survey research fail to cite this paper and, presumably, make inadequate adjustments for nonresponse bias. Furthermore, even when the paper was cited, 49 of the 50 studies that we examined reported its findings improperly. The inappropriate use of statistical-significance testing led researchers to conclude that nonresponse bias was not present in 76 percent of the studies in our sample. Only one of the studies in the sample made any adjustment for it. Judging from the original paper, we estimate that the study researchers should have predicted nonresponse bias and adjusted for 148 variables. In this case, the faulty citations seem to have arisen either because the authors did not read the original paper or because they did not fully understand its implications. To address the problem of omissions, we recommend that journals include a section on their websites to list all relevant papers that have been overlooked and show how the omitted paper relates to the published paper. In general, authors should routinely verify the accuracy of their sources by reading the cited papers. For substantive findings, they should attempt to contact the authors for confirmation or clarification of the results and methods. This would also provide them with the opportunity to enquire about other relevant references. Journal editors should require that authors sign statements that they have read the cited papers and, when appropriate, have attempted to verify the citations.
    Keywords: citation errors; evidence-based research; nonresponse bias; quotation errors; surveys.
    JEL: Y8 C81 B4
    Date: 2007–07
  4. By: Glenn Ellison
    Abstract: Over the past decade there has been a decline in the fraction of papers in top economics journals written by economists from the highest-ranked economics departments. This paper documents this fact and uses additional data on publications and citations to assess various potential explanations. Several observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet improves the ability of high-profile authors to disseminate their research without going through the traditional peer-review process.
    JEL: A14 I23 O30
    Date: 2007–07

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