nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2022‒01‒03
six papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. Pragmatic Behavior: grounding behavioral economics on pragmatism By Pablo Garcés
  2. The Capitalist Degree of Immortality By Bichler, Shimshon; Nitzan, Jonathan
  3. Revisiting C.S.Peirce's Experiment: 150 Years Later By Deep Mukhopadhyay
  4. An Institutional Perspective on the Economics of the Family By Siwan Anderson; Chris Bidner
  5. Modeling to Inform Economy-Wide Pandemic Policy: Bringing Epidemiologists and Economists Together By Michael Darden; David Dowdy; Lauren Gardner; Barton Hamilton; Karen A. Kopecky; Melissa Marx; Nicholas Papageorge; Daniel Polsky; Kimberly Powers; Elizabeth Stuart; Matthew Zahn
  6. Income Inequality and Happiness: Which Inequalities Matter n China? By John Knight; Ramani Gunatilaka

  1. By: Pablo Garcés (Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador)
    Abstract: Behavioral economics offers an account of actual human behavior. Contrasting with the conventional normative approach to rationality, rational choice theory, describes the deviations from optimal decision making. These are attributed to failures in two systems, one in charge of automatic behavior (System 1) and the other responsible for reflective one (System 2). As important as this is, an elaboration of the interaction between them seems to be lacking. Philosophical pragmatism can contribute to address this want. It provides an evolutionary explanation of how people act accounting for the continuity of behavior including habitual and reflective action. The former is captured by habits and the latter directed towards objects. Additionally, it proposes a dialogical self, consisting of an interaction between the 'I', denoting impulse, and the 'me', referring to reflective action. As such, pragmatism can provide fertile ground on which to cultivate behavioral insights.
    Keywords: behavioral economics,pragmatism,rationality,agency,transaction
    Date: 2021
  2. By: Bichler, Shimshon; Nitzan, Jonathan
    Abstract: This note offers some speculative ideas worth considering. One of the key features of all hierarchical civilizations is their rulers’ fear of death. This fear was famously narrated in the ancient myth of Gilgamesh – the Sumerian king who realized that, like all other humans, he too was destined to die and embarked on a desperate quest to annul his mortality. According to Lewis Mumford, this quest for immortality is the main reason why society’s rulers are forever obsessed with building and fortifying power hierarchies – or ‘megamachines’, as he called them. Controlling these megamachines, Mumford argued, is the rulers’ way of playing God, a futile yet all-possessive effort to conquer the future and live forever. In capitalism, the rulers finally figured out how to do it – sort of.
    Keywords: capital,capitalization,future,immortality,power
    JEL: P16 G
    Date: 2021
  3. By: Deep Mukhopadhyay
    Abstract: An iconoclastic philosopher and polymath, Charles Sanders Peirce (1837-1914) is among the greatest of American minds. In 1872, Peirce conducted a series of experiments to determine the distribution of response times to an auditory stimulus, which is widely regarded as one of the most significant statistical investigations in the history of nineteenth-century American mathematical research (Stigler, 1978). On the 150th anniversary of this historic experiment, we look back at Peirce's view on empirical modeling through a modern statistical lens.
    Date: 2021–11
  4. By: Siwan Anderson (University of British Columbia); Chris Bidner (Simon Fraser University)
    Abstract: An institutional perspective emphasizes the fact that behaviour is shaped by rules that humans superimpose on their economic environment. In the context of the family, such rules govern vital processes such as family formation, dissolution, and inter-generational property transmission. Here we outline such a perspective, showing that it has important implications for policy and represents a relatively under-explored area of research in the economics of the family. We first document the extensive and systematic variation in family rules that exists both contemporaneously and historically. We then show that understanding this variation is important, yet under-appreciated, by drawing together a broad range of research that studies the far reaching consequences of family rules. We proceed with a structured review of existing research that attempts to understand the origins of various family rules. The institutional perspective makes clear that much impor- tant and exciting work remains to be done in terms of understanding the origin of the rules that govern family-related behaviour.
    Date: 2021–11
  5. By: Michael Darden; David Dowdy; Lauren Gardner; Barton Hamilton; Karen A. Kopecky; Melissa Marx; Nicholas Papageorge; Daniel Polsky; Kimberly Powers; Elizabeth Stuart; Matthew Zahn
    Abstract: Facing unprecedented uncertainty and drastic trade-offs between public health and other forms of human well-being, policymakers during the Covid-19 pandemic have sought the guidance of epidemiologists and economists. Unfortunately, while both groups of scientists use many of the same basic mathematical tools, the models they develop to inform policy tend to rely on different sets of assumptions and, thus, often lead to different policy conclusions. This divergence in policy recommendations can lead to uncertainty and confusion, opening the door to disinformation, distrust of institutions, and politicization of scientific facts. Unfortunately, to date, there have not been widespread efforts to build bridges and find consensus or even to clarify sources of differences across these fields, members of whom often continue to work within their traditional academic silos. In response to this "crisis of communication," we convened a group of scholars from epidemiology, economics, and related fields (such as statistics, engineering, and health policy) to discuss approaches to modeling economy-wide pandemics. We summarize these conversations by providing a consensus view of disciplinary differences (including critiques) and working through a specific policy example. Thereafter, we chart a path forward for more effective synergy among disciplines, which we hope will lead to better policies as the current pandemic evolves and future pandemics emerge.
    Keywords: economics; epidemiology; public health; Covid-19; behavior modeling; health outcomes; health-wealth tradeoffs
    JEL: C8 H0 I1 J0
    Date: 2021–11–16
  6. By: John Knight; Ramani Gunatilaka
    Abstract: The effect of inequality on happiness should intrigue social scientists. Of the many dimensions of income inequality, we explore four, analysing a rich data set for China. Does actual or perceived inequality have a greater effect on happiness? We find that perceptions of inequality are the more important. How broad is the reference group with which people compare themselves? They report that it is narrow; and indeed narrowly defined inequality has the greater effect on happiness. Do perceptions of the degree of fairness of inequality matter? They do, as they ameliorate the adverse effect of inequality on happiness, especially for the poorest. Is it self-centred or community-based inequality which affects happiness? Both measures have significant effects, but in opposite directions. The research and policy implications are discussed.
    Keywords: China; Happiness; Inequality; Reference group; Relative
    JEL: D03 D63 I31 Z13
    Date: 2021

This nep-hpe issue is ©2022 by Erik Thomson. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.