nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2008‒12‒01
nine papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. Learning, Rationality and Identity Building By David Cayla
  2. A Note on Ronald Meek's 'Studies in the Labour Theory of Value' By Hagendorf, Klaus
  3. Professor Yunus on “social business” and the conquest of poverty: a dissenting view By Roy Grieve
  4. Making Monetary Policy by Committee By Alan S. Blinder
  5. Weber, Work Ethic And Well-Being By André van Hoorn; Robbert Maseland
  6. The Power of Reasoning: Experimental Evidence By Subhasish Dugar; Haimanti Bhattacharya
  7. Civilization and the evolution of short sighted agents By Basuchoudhary, Atin; Allen, Sam; Siemers, Troy
  8. Deconstructing the Hedonic Treadmill By Perez Truglia, Ricardo; Bottan, Luis
  9. The Cultural Roots of Institutions By Mariko Klasing

  1. By: David Cayla (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - CNRS : UMR8174 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I, IMRI - Institut pour le Management de la Recherche et de l'Innovation - Université Paris Dauphine - Paris IX)
    Abstract: This paper focuses on the link between the economic conceptions of rationality and learning. Traditionally, most economists believe that learning is just a way for agents to become fully rational. But being fully rational cannot describe a process, for there is only one way to be rational in the economic sense of the term. Therefore, what economists have in mind is not the process of learning, but the result of learning: ‘a fully rational agent’. Heterodox rationality conceptions such as the Simonian model of bounded rationality seem more compatible with the idea of learning. Bounded rationality implies that agents may act differently to the same stimulus; it is therefore compatible with the idea of diversity, one of the foundations of the evolutionary logic. But following Simon, learning should not be considered as a creative process that allows a lot of diverse answers. If diversity exists in the agents’ behaviors, the way they learn appears to be unique. As a consequence, learning should decrease the strength of the selection forces, both processes being contradictory (Dosi et al. 2003). Our paper aims to overcome this contradiction by showing how intentionality and identity, and more broadly Fransisco Varela’s ‘enaction’ theory, can help to invent a concept of ‘rational learning’ that is compatible with the evolutionary logic.
    Keywords: learning; rationality; identity; cognitive sciences; enaction; evolutionary theory
    Date: 2008–10–01
  2. By: Hagendorf, Klaus
    Abstract: Ronald Meek has (deliberately) ignored a very important discovery of Jevons. When labour is measured in terms of marginal labour values prices are proportional to these values and commodities exchange accordingly. This has been rediscovered by Soviet economists and that has been published in the JEL in the 70ies. Furthermore it is shown that under neoclassical assumptions the vector of marginal labour values is equal to the Sraffian vector of quantities of dated labour.
    Keywords: labour theory of value; Marxism; value theory; Ronald Meek; Jevons; Soviet economics; marginalism
    JEL: B10 B51 D46 B14 D24 B24
    Date: 2006–09–18
  3. By: Roy Grieve (Department of Economics, University of Strathclyde)
    Abstract: In his new book Professor Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, proposes a novel strategy for the elimination of poverty worldwide. This strategy relies on the presumed effectiveness of what he calls “social business” in transforming the nature of the capitalist system, which thus (he supposes) will become capable of achieving all desired social improvements. We take the view however that the concept of “social business” is empty and irrelevant, and that Yunus’s thesis in fact implies the untenable proposition that (apparently) all social problems could be resolved by cost-covering interventions – thus denying that a significant role exists for charitable or governmental actions, which, in reality, are indispensable.
    Keywords: social business; not-for-profit sector; Yunus
    JEL: D21 D64 G21 I39
    Date: 2008–11
  4. By: Alan S. Blinder (Princeton University)
    Abstract: I was Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board while I was preparing my Marshall Lectures for delivery at Cambridge in 1995. So I asked the Board staff to research what had been written about making monetary policy by committees—as opposed to by individuals. Although they were (and remain) a knowledgeable and thorough bunch, they unearthed almost nothing. So when I delivered the Robbins Lectures at the London School of Economics the following year,1 this is what I concluded on the subject: My own hunch is that, on balance, the additional monetary policy inertia imparted by group decisionmaking provides a net benefit to society… But my main point is simpler: My experience as a member of the FOMC left me with a strong feeling that the theoretical fiction that monetary policy is made by a single individual maximizing a well-defined preference function misses something important. In my view, monetary theorists should start paying some attention to the nature of decisionmaking by committee, which is rarely mentioned in the academic literature. (Blinder (1998), p. 22) I made reference in that lecture to only one paper on the subject, Faust’s (1996) clever model of the seemingly-odd construction of the FOMC, though I should have cited Waller’s (1992) earlier work as well. (Mea culpa.) My point is that, up to then, there had been hardly any research on committee decisionmaking. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. By the time of my three Okun lectures at Yale in 2002 (Blinder (2004)), the subject merited a whole lecture, including references to about ten papers on the subject—and I missed some. (Mea culpa again.) The literature has continued to grow since then, including seven papers at a Netherlands Central Bank conference in 2005 and eleven papers at a Bank of Norway conference last year. The study of central banking by committee thus appears to be a growth industry, albeit a small one.
    Date: 2008–06
  5. By: André van Hoorn (Radboud University Nijmegen, Department of Economics); Robbert Maseland (Radboud University Nijmegen, Department of Political Science. Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne)
    Abstract: Following Max Weber’s seminal work, much recent work has turned to religious values to explain socio-economic developments. We present a test of Weber’s original thesis that addresses fundamental limitations of previous research. A novel method that builds on happiness research is used to measure a religious work ethic in terms of the psychic costs of unemployment. The resulting ‘experienced preferences’ provide strong support for Weber’s original thesis: for both Protestants and Protestant countries, not having a job has substantially larger negative happiness effects than for other religious denominations. This provides a Weber-type channel relating religion to socio-economic outcomes.
    Keywords: values, religion, happiness, preferences, outcomes, culture
    JEL: J20 J60 P50 Z12
    Date: 2008–10–28
  6. By: Subhasish Dugar; Haimanti Bhattacharya
    Abstract: This paper presents an experimental investigation of how a systematic variation in the cognitive demands on subjects affects the optimal play. The innovation of this paper is the choice of a game, which we call the Game of Position. This is a two-player zero-sum game characterized by a dominant-strategy solution that involves iterative steps of reasoning. The equilibrium play is independent of mutual beliefs of players; hence inability of a subject to play the dominant-strategy unambiguously implies the failure of human reasoning prowess. We alter the two parameters of the game to vary the cognitive constraints, as represented by these steps of reasoning, on players. Our main substantive conclusion is that the frequency of the dominant-strategy play sharply increases as we limit the cognitive demands on players.
    Keywords: Non-cooperative game theory, cognition, laboratory experiment
    JEL: C72 D83 C91
    Date: 2008
  7. By: Basuchoudhary, Atin; Allen, Sam; Siemers, Troy
    Abstract: We model an assurance game played within a population with two types of individuals -- short-sighted and foresighted. Foresighted people have a lower discount rate than short sighted people. These phenotypes interact with each other. We define the persistent interaction of foresighted people with other foresighted people as a critical element of civilization while the interaction of short sighted people with other short sighted people as critical to the failure of civilization. We show that whether the short sighted phenotype will be an evolutionary stable strategy (and thus lead to the collapse of civilization) depends on the initial proportion of short sighted people relative to people with foresight as well as their relative discount rates. Further we explore some comparative static results that connect the probability of the game continuing and the relative size of the two discount rates to the likelihood that civilization will collapse.
    Keywords: society; breakdown; evolution; replicator; dynamic; process; civilization; conflict; institution
    JEL: D02 N3 D83 C73
    Date: 2008–11–19
  8. By: Perez Truglia, Ricardo; Bottan, Luis
    Abstract: There is consent among psychologists and some economists that satisfaction from some events, like income and marriage, is adaptive. We propose a subtle but critical difference: happiness may itself be adaptive. We introduce a theoretical model to explain the emergence of adaptive stimuli. Then we test our hypotheses running dynamic happiness regressions based on panel data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, the British Household Panel Survey and the Swiss Household Panel. Surprisingly, the autoregressive component in the simplest models is positive and significant. We propose that the hedonic treadmill may be mixed with what we call the “scale treadmill”.
    Keywords: happiness; hedonic adaptation; dynamic panel.
    JEL: I31 C23 I00
    Date: 2008–06
  9. By: Mariko Klasing
    Abstract: Do political institutions have cultural roots? Using a novel data set of cultural values we show that culture, defined as a society's collective beliefs and values, is an important determinant of institutions. We argue that the traditional proxies for culture used in the existing literature suffer from conceptual problems and find that they do not survive several robustness checks. Our results suggest, that individualist societies and societies with preference for a more equal distribution of power set up institutions that better protect individual property rights, place more constraints on governments and have more effective governments. We find that our measures of culture are robust to the inclusion of other control variables and across different samples and that they always dominate the effects of the traditional proxies.
    Keywords: Institutions, political institutions, culture, cultural values
    JEL: D02 O17 P00 P51
    Date: 2008–11

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