nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2008‒09‒29
nine papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Chicago

  1. Field Experiments in Economics: The Past, The Present, and The Future By Steven D. Levitt; John A. List
  2. The great inflation: did the shadow know better? By William Poole; Robert H. Rasche; David C. Wheelock
  3. Adolph Wagner und sein "Gesetz": einige spaete Anmerkungen By Dluhosch, Barbara; Zimmermann, Klaus W.
  4. Pour une critique de l’économie de la connaissance comme vecteur du développement By Mickaël Clévenot; David Douyère
  5. Free Banking, the Real-Balance Effect, and Walras´ Law By van den Hauwe, Ludwig
  6. Fighting Through Britain. The “Gift Dimension” of Keynes's Quest for a New Global Order By Mario A. Cedrini;
  7. Keynes, Keynesians and contemporary monetary theory and policy: an assessment By Colin Rogers
  8. Interest Groups and Economic Performance: Some New Evidence By Zimmermann, Klaus W.; Horgos, Daniel
  9. Resorting to Statism to Find Meaning:Conservatism and Leftism By Klein, Daniel B.

  1. By: Steven D. Levitt; John A. List
    Abstract: This study presents an overview of modern field experiments and their usage in economics. Our discussion focuses on three distinct periods of field experimentation that have influenced the economics literature. The first might well be thought of as the dawn of "field" experimentation: the work of Neyman and Fisher, who laid the experimental foundation in the 1920s and 1930s by conceptualizing randomization as an instrument to achieve identification via experimentation with agricultural plots. The second, the large-scale social experiments conducted by government agencies in the mid-twentieth century, moved the exploration from plots of land to groups of individuals. More recently, the nature and range of field experiments has expanded, with a diverse set of controlled experiments being completed outside of the typical laboratory environment. With this growth, the number and types of questions that can be explored using field experiments has grown tremendously. After discussing these three distinct phases, we speculate on the future of field experimental methods, a future that we envision including a strong collaborative effort with outside parties, most importantly private entities.
    JEL: C9 C93 D0 H0
    Date: 2008–09
  2. By: William Poole; Robert H. Rasche; David C. Wheelock
    Abstract: The Shadow Open Market Committee was formed in 1973 in response to rising inflation and the apparent unwillingness of U.S. policymakers to implement policies necessary to maintain price stability. This paper describes how the Committee's policy views differed from those of most Federal Reserve officials and many academic economists at the time. The Shadow argued that price stability should be the primary goal of monetary policy, and favored gradual adjustment of monetary growth to a rate consistent with price stability. The paper evaluates the Shadow's policy rule in the context of the New Keynesian macroeconomic model of Clarida, Gali and Gertler (1999). Simulations of the model suggest that the gradual stabilization of monetary growth favored by the Shadow would have lowered inflation with less impact on output growth, and with less variability in output and inflation, than a one-time reduction in monetary growth. We conclude that the Shadow articulated a sensible policy that would have outperformed the policies actually implemented by the Federal Reserve during the Great Inflation era.
    Keywords: Inflation (Finance) ; Monetary policy
    Date: 2008
  3. By: Dluhosch, Barbara (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg); Zimmermann, Klaus W. (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg)
    Abstract: Starting from the secular fact of an increasing government's share, a retrospective on Adolph Wagner's writings seems worthwhile. A leading German economist of the Bismarck era, he first formulated the famous "law of increasing state activity" for industrializing nations. After analyzing his way of making his case, a couple of flaws inherent to the theoretical interpretations and empirical verifications of his law are discussed. Basically, these flaws are attributable to the neglect of three important factors in Wagner's rationale, namely that his law was destined for industrializing rather than industrialized nations and the growing importance of public enterprises and of the prevention principle instead of repressive actions of the state in case of violation of rules. On the other hand, very modern interpretations of Wagner suggesting that he had the growing excess burden of taxation in mind when discussing the limits of government's share do not seem justified.
    Keywords: Wagner's Law; public expenditure; government's share
    JEL: B13 H11 N13
    Date: 2008–08
  4. By: Mickaël Clévenot (CEPN - Centre d'économie de l'Université de Paris Nord - CNRS : UMR7115 - Université Paris-Nord - Paris XIII); David Douyère (Labsic - Laboratoire des sciences de l'information et de la communication - MSH Paris Nord)
    Abstract: L’économie de la connaissance est aujourd’hui envisagée comme voie de sortie du sous-développement pour les pays qui ne sont pas encore entrés dans un processus d’émergence. Il apparaît toutefois que de nombreuses conditions doivent être réunies pour atteindre cet objectif. Elles sont relatives notamment au degré de développement institutionnel, à la qualité de l’environnement technique et éducatif, alors même qu’elles dépendent largement du niveau de développement économique. Par conséquent, souhaiter voir émerger une économie fondée sur la connaissance dans les PVD revient à faire abstraction des conditions matérielles de la production de celle-ci. Le concept d’économie de la connaissance apparaît en effet très incertain, qui semble procéder d’une réduction du travail et de la production à la seule dimension cognitive, oubliant, là encore, sa dimension matérielle. Apparue comme relais et prolongement de la notion de société de l’information, cette approche s’inscrit historiquement dans le souci d’un « dépassement » des idéologies marqué par l’extension du capitalisme des pays développés et se réduit à un déterminisme technologique oubliant l’importance de l’Histoire.
    Keywords: développement, économie de la connaissance, institutions, TIC, rapports Nord-Sud
    Date: 2008–05–20
  5. By: van den Hauwe, Ludwig
    Abstract: The author of this article draws special attention to two particular claims of the free bankers concerning the supposed working characteristics of a fractional-reserve free banking system which may strike the reader as questionable. The first of these relates to the alleged absence of a real-balance effect under free banking. The second relates to the free bankers´ reference to Walras´ Law as providing a rationale for the free banking system´s “offsetting” actions when confronted with changes in the public´ s demand to hold bank liabilities. This rationale is defective since it is based on an erroneous interpretation of Walras´ Law. The author´s conclusion does not imply that it is not at all possible, from a rational viewpoint, to make a plausible case for this variant of free banking, only that the argument should be freed from certain questionable tenets.
    Keywords: E0; E32; E42; E5; E51; E52
    JEL: E32 E42 E31 E51 E52 E50 E00
    Date: 2008–09–17
  6. By: Mario A. Cedrini; (SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont)
    Abstract: Dissatisfied with both Skidelsky's “Fighting for Britain” approach to Keynes's quest for a new global order and its specular competitor, the “Figthing despite Britain” view, we explore the possibility of a “Fighting through Britain” approach to the issue. We claim that though Keynes was fighting for the whole world rather than for Britain only, his (unsuccessful) fighting for Britain was a major component of his overall reform project and the true telltale sign of his defeat. As a consequence, the paper focuses in particular on the American Gift asked for by Keynes in 1945. The Gift is regarded as the last and a relevant episode of the economist's lifelong search for a global system efficiently coping with the dilemmas it necessarily gives life to. With the help of the anthropological and sociological literature on gift-giving, we move beyond the strategic dimension of Keynes's diplomacy to show that the request for an American Gift to revive multilateralism at the end of WWII embodies in full - and helps to understand - Keynes's attempt to construct a new system happily combining international discipline and national freedom to choose, the former being the instrument to promote the latter.
    Keywords: Keynes, International economic relations, Gift-giving
    JEL: B31 F02 F5 Z13
    Date: 2008–07
  7. By: Colin Rogers (School of Economics, University of Adelaide)
    Abstract: There has been no Keynesian Revolution in economic theory but there has been an unacknowledged Keynes's Revolution in economic policy. Keynes's theoretical revolution rested on the adoption of monetary analysis and the application of the principle of effective demand to demonstrate the existence of multiple long-period equilibria. Keynes's policies –creating a role for `Big Government' and the ‘Big Bank'- follow from his theory and have changed the structure of the laissez faire economy. Many Keynesians fail to acknowledge either of these issues and continue the classical tradition of real analysis and the assumption of unique long-period equilibrium. Real analysis, as a special case of Keynes's monetary analysis, provides a distorted perspective of the responsibilities of monetary policy which largely accounts for the increasing fragility and volatility exhibited by financial markets over the past two decades.
    Date: 2008–09
  8. By: Zimmermann, Klaus W. (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg); Horgos, Daniel (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg)
    Abstract: Mancur Olson's theory of the decline of nations is path-breaking in political economics. It has been tested cross-sectionally in numerous empirical studies. We survey the existing results briefly, with a special focus on studies using the number of lobbies as an exogenous variable. Using data from the period 1973-2006, we then present the field's first time-series analysis of the effects of the number of interest groups on the German lobby list and macroeconomic performance, gauged in terms of economic growth and inflation. The number of interest groups (as a proxy for their influence) is shown to have an important impact on macrovariables: Interest group activity significantly leads to a decline in the growth rate and a rise in the inflation rate.
    Keywords: Interest groups; economic performance; growth rate; inflation rate
    JEL: D61 D72 D78
    Date: 2008–08
  9. By: Klein, Daniel B. (George Mason University)
    Abstract: The paper develops the idea of configuration of ownership to distinguish three primary political ideologies: (classical) liberalism, conservatism, and leftism. The liberal configuration is atomistic in its recognition of owners and ownership claims; it conforms closely to Adam Smith’s “commutative justice,” which Smith represented as a sort of social grammar. The conservative configuration also strives for a social grammar, but it counts among the set of owners certain spirit-lords such as God and Patria. The liberal and conservative configurations become isomorphic if and only if the ownership claims of the conservative spirit-lords are reduced to nothing. The left configuration ascribes fundamental ownership of resources to the people, the state, and sees laws as organizational house-rules into which one enters voluntary by choosing to remain within the polity; the type of justice that pertains is parallel to Smith’s “distributive justice,” which Smith associated with aspirational rules for achieving beauty in composition. The scheme illuminates why the left’s conception of liberty consists in civil liberties. The formulation of configurations is used to interpret the semantics of the three primary ideologies. Meanwhile, it is noted that actually existing parties and movements are admixtures of the three primary ideologies. For example, what makes Republicanism “conservative” is that it is relatively conservative; it by no means thoroughly or consistently rejects the precept of collective ownership by the polity.
    Keywords: ownership; justice; liberalism; statism; conservatism; leftism;
    JEL: A10 A13
    Date: 2008–09–22

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