nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2008‒04‒29
twelve papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Chicago

  1. Some Legacies of Robbins'Nature and Signifance of Economic Science By Richard Lipsey
  2. Causal Depth contra Humean Empiricism: Aspects of a Scientific Realist Approach to Explanation By Khan, Haider
  3. Political economics and normative analysis By Colin Jennings; Iain McLean
  4. The Other J.M.: John Maurice Clark and the Keynesian Revolution By Luca Fiorito; Matías Vernengo
  5. Hermeneutics and Dialectics: (Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger and) Hans-Georg Gadamer By Khan, Haider
  6. Homo Sapiens Sapiens Meets Homo Strategicus at the Laboratory By Ludovic Renou; Ralph C. Bayer
  7. Adam Smith and the Family By Sebastiano Nerozzi; Pierluigi Nuti
  8. Economists, Incentives, Judgment, and Empirical Work By Colander, David C.
  9. The Methodological Application of Modern Historical Science to Qualitative Research By Iwasaki, Yoko
  10. The Bayesian Fallacy: Distinguishing Four Kinds of Beliefs By Khalil, Elias
  11. Interlocking Editorship. A Network Analysis of the Links Between Economic Journals By Alberto Baccini; Lucio Barabesi
  12. Do men and women-economists choose the same research fields?: Evidence from top-50 departments By Juan J. Dolado; Florentino Felgueroso; Miguel Almunia

  1. By: Richard Lipsey (Simon Fraser University)
    Abstract: The Abstract of your paper: This paper criticises three Robbinsian positions still often found in modern economics: (1) the methodology of intuitively obvious assumptions; (2) treating facts as illustrations rather than as tests of theoretical propositions; (3) assuming that theory provides universally applicable generalisations independent of the characteristics of individual economies and so are independent of specific historical processes. Two corollaries of point (3) are that theory cannot assist in explaining unique historical events such as the emergence of sustained growth in the West and that economists need not interest themselves in the details of the technologies that produce the nation's wealth.
    Keywords: methodology, economic generalisations, measurement, positive economics, historical specificity
    JEL: B41 B31
    Date: 2008–04
  2. By: Khan, Haider
    Abstract: The purpose of this note is to clarify how the idea of "causal depth" can play a role in finding the more "approximately true" explanation through causal comparisons. It is not an exhaustive treatment but rather focuses on a few aspects that may be the most critical in evaluating the explanatory strengths of a theory in the social sciences. It presents a general argument which is anti-Humean on the critical side and scientific realist on the positive side. It also elucidates how explanations in political economy and other social sciences can be judged by the scientific realist criterion of causal depth by an extensive example from research in the political economy of development. In this case, an "intentional" and methodologically individualist neoclassical explanation is contrasted with a "structural" dual-dual approach as rival theories purporting to explain the same set of phenomena. The formal model representing the dual-dual approach can easily be contrasted with its neoclassical counterpart. The comparison shows that the dual-dual model is indeed deeper in terms of causal structure than the neoclassical model
    Keywords: Economic Models; Social Explanation;Causal Depth; Scientific Realism; Political Economy; Neoclassical Economics; Structuralism; Social Science Theories.
    JEL: O11 C68 O17 A10 B41
    Date: 2008
  3. By: Colin Jennings; Iain McLean (Department of Economics, University of Strathclyde; Nuffield College, University of Oxford)
    Abstract: The approaches and opinions of economists often dominate public policy discussion. Economists have gained this privileged position partly (or perhaps mainly) because of the obvious relevance of their subject matter, but also because of the unified methodology (neo-classical economics) that the vast majority of modern economists bring to their analysis of policy problems and proposed solutions. The idea of Pareto efficiency and its potential trade-off with equity is a central idea that is understood by all economists and this common language provides the economics profession with a powerful voice in public affairs. The purpose of this paper is to review and reflect upon the way in which economists find themselves analysing and providing suggestions for social improvements and how this role has changed over roughly the last 60 years. We focus on the fundamental split in the public economics tradition between those that adhere to public finance and those that adhere to public choice. A pure public finance perspective views failures in society as failures of the market. The solutions are technical, as might be enacted by a benevolent dictator. The pure public choice view accepts (sometimes grudgingly) that markets may fail, but so, it insists, does politics. This signals institutional reforms to constrain the potential for political failure. Certain policy recommendations may be viewed as compatible with both traditions, but other policy proposals will be the opposite of that proposed within the other tradition. In recent years a political economics synthesis emerged. This accepts that institutions are very important and governments require constraints, but that some degree of benevolence on the part of policy makers should not be assumed non-existent. The implications for public policy from this approach are, however, much less clear and perhaps more piecemeal. We also discuss analyses of systematic failure, not so much on the part of markets or politicians, but by voters. Most clearly this could lead to populism and relaxing the idea that voters necessarily choose their interests. The implications for public policy are addressed. Throughout the paper we will relate the discussion to the experience of UK government policy-making.
    Keywords: public finance; public choice; political economics; normative analysis
    JEL: D6 D7
    Date: 2008–03
  4. By: Luca Fiorito; Matías Vernengo
    Abstract: This paper suggests that Clark’s views regarding the Keynesian Revolution illuminate some of the limitations of the Keynesian orthodoxy that developed after the war, bringing more institutional detail and a greater preocupation with dynamic analysis. Clark developed the multiplier in dynamic terms and coupled it with the accelerator to provide the framework for business cycle theory. His analysis was not formalized and emphasized time lags and non-linearities, similarly to Harrod. Also Clark was concerned with the inflationary consequences of Keynesian policies and he was dissatisfied with those mechanical interpretations of the income flow analysis, which came to be known as hydraulic Keynesianism. Clark’s policy conclusions emphasized the need of balance between employment creation and price stability, and the need of cooperation between social groups.
    Keywords: John Maurice Clark, Keynesians, Institutionalists
    JEL: B20 B22 B31
    Date: 2008–07
  5. By: Khan, Haider
    Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore briefly the role that a more phenomenological conception of dialectical development of consciousness plays in Hans-Georg Gadamer's work on hermeneutics. This is done with both an implicit understanding of the dialectical development of consciousness and self-consciousness in Gadamer and some explicit references to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and his Science of Logic in connection with Gadamer's work. However, the twentieth century departures from Hegelian logic by the phenomenological and existential philosophers are given crucial importance for the work of Gadamer which builds on both Heidegger's essays on art in particular and the much earlier Husserlian explorations of consciousness and intentionality. Special emphasis is given to Gadamer's concept of Spiel(play)* along with his ideas of Erfahrung( "lived experience" as opposed to Erlebnis or abstract experience),Geschehen (event) and Wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein ( Effectively historicized consciousness).
    Keywords: Hermeneutics; Method; Truth; Dialectics; Dialogue; Play; History; Effectively Historicized Consciousness; Event; Lived Experience; Phenomenology.
    JEL: B40 A12 B41
    Date: 2008
  6. By: Ludovic Renou; Ralph C. Bayer
    Abstract: Homo Strategicus populates the vast plains of Game Theory. He knows all logical implications of his knowledge (logical omniscience) and chooses optimal strategies given his knowledge and beliefs (rationality). This paper investigates the extent to which the logical capabilities of Homo Sapiens Sapiens resemble those possessed by Homo Strategicus. Controlling for other-regarding preferences and beliefs about the rationality of others, we show, in the laboratory, that the ability of Homo Sapiens Sapiens to perform complex chains of iterative reasoning is much better than previously thought. Subjects were able to perform about three iterations of reasoning on average.
    Keywords: iterative reasoning; depth of reasoning; logical omniscience; rationality; experiments; other-regarding preferences
    JEL: C70 C91
    Date: 2008–04
  7. By: Sebastiano Nerozzi (University of Palermo, Dipartimento di Studi su Politica, Diritto e Società); Pierluigi Nuti
    Abstract: This paper examines Adam Smith’s vision of family life and the role of the family in society as it stems from the Theory of Moral Sentiments. We first discuss textual evidences of Smith’s vision of gender differences and of the relationships between the sexes. Then we turn to TMS’s analysis of marriage and family life, exploring the importance of sentiments in strengthening family bonds and in fostering individuals’ moral education. Then we enlarge our perspective, considering Smith’s view on the role of the family within society, especially as market and non market relationships are concerned. Finally, we focus on Smith’s vision of the possible threats which life in Commercial societies may impose to family life, loosening parental ties and weakening those fellow-feelings which, according to Smith, play a paramount role in the moral education and proper behaviour of individuals in a free society. On the whole this paper acts as a first step in a wider project which includes the Wealth of Nations and focuses especially on economic issues regarding family life.
    Keywords: Adam Smith; Moral Philosophy; Family; Gender; Education.
    JEL: A B12 B31 I J16
    Date: 2008
  8. By: Colander, David C.
    Abstract: This paper asks the question: Why has the “general-to-specific” cointegrated VAR approach as developed in Europe had only limited success in the US as a tool for doing empirical macroeconomics, where what might be called a “theory comes first” approach dominates? The reason this paper highlights is the incompatibility of the European approach with the US focus on the journal publication metric for advancement. Specifically, the European “general-to specific” cointegrated VAR approach requires researcher judgment to be part of the analysis, and the US focus on a journal publication metric discourages such research methods. The US “theory comes first” approach fits much better with the journal publication metric.
    Keywords: Incentives, empirical work, econometrics, methodology, cointegration, VAR
    JEL: B4
    Date: 2008
  9. By: Iwasaki, Yoko
    Abstract: Since the middle of the twentieth century criticism towards quantitative research tools in social sciences has gradually led to attempts to find a new methodology, called 'qualitative research'. At the same time, qualitative research has called for a reconsideration of the usefulness of many of the beneficial tools and methodologies that were discarded during the move to research based on the employment of quantitative research tools. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the essential elements of the qualitative research approach, and then argue for the possibility of introducing the old-established methodology of historical science into qualitative research, in order to raise the accuracy of the qualitative data.
    Keywords: Qualitative research, Economics, Historical science, Field-work, Iran, Research and investigation
    Date: 2008–03
  10. By: Khalil, Elias
    Abstract: This paper distinguishes among four kinds of beliefs: conviction, confidence, perception, conception. Conviction concerns self-ability:“I can build these stairs.” Confidence also concerns the self—ut focuses on the assertion of will in the face of weakness of will. Perception is about the environment such as weather prediction. Conception is also about the environment—but usually couched with context. While convictions are noncognitive and nonevidential beliefs, the other beliefs are either cognitive, evidential, or both. This paper uses the terms “cognition” and “evidentiality” as axes to distinguish the four beliefs. While “cognitive beliefs” are about one’s environment, “noncognitive beliefs” are about one’s self. While the cognitive/noncognitive divide is unconventional, it generates a payoff in light of the evidentiality axis. While “evidential beliefs” are correctable via Bayes’s rule, “nonevidential beliefs” are not. However, when the nonevidential belief is about the environment, the evidence can at least make the belief more (or less) warranted—where “warrantability” is a weaker criterion than “correctability.” And when the nonevidential belief is about the self, i.e., a conviction, the evidence cannot even make the belief more (or less) warranted. The evidence itself develops when one tries to test a conviction. This paper highlights that convictions are the basis of tenacity—crucial for entrepreneurship and economic growth. This paper further demonstrates how three major theories of action—standard rationality, normative theory, and procedural rationality—fail to distinguish the four kinds of beliefs. They, hence, commit, although in different ways, a set of confusions called here the “Bayesian fallacy.”
    Keywords: Cognitive Dissonance; Internal Motivations (convictions); Normative Theory (embodied cognition); Other Beliefs (confidence; perception; conception); Procedural Rationality Theory (pragmatism); Self-Perception Theory; Standard Rationality Theory
    JEL: B49 B59
    Date: 2008–04–26
  11. By: Alberto Baccini; Lucio Barabesi
    Abstract: The exploratory analysis developed in this paper relies on the hypothesis that each editor possesses some power in the definition of the editorial policy of her journal. Consequently if the same scholar sits on the board of editors of two journals, those journals could have some common elements in their editorial policies. The proximity of the editorial policies of two scientific journals can be assessed by the number of common editors sitting on their boards. A database of all editors of ECONLIT journals is used. The structure of the network generated by interlocking editorship is explored by applying the instruments of network analysis. Evidences have been found of a compact network containing different components. This is interpreted as the result of a plurality of perspectives about the appropriate methods for the investigation of problems and the construction of theories within the domain of economics
    Keywords: Networks; Economic journals; Editorial boards; Interlocking editorship
    JEL: A
    Date: 2008–04
  12. By: Juan J. Dolado; Florentino Felgueroso; Miguel Almunia
    Abstract: This paper describes the gender distribution of research fields in economics by means of a new dataset about researchers working in the world top-50 Economics departments, according to the rankings of the website. We document that women are unevenly distributed across fields and test some behavioral implications from theories underlying such disparities. Our main findings are that the probability that a woman works in a given field is positively related to the share of women in that field (path-dependence), and that the share of women in a field decreases with their average quality. These patterns, however, are weaker for younger female researchers. Further, we document how gender segregation of fields has evolved over different Ph.D. cohorts.
    Date: 2008–04

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