nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2023‒02‒27
seven papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. From the 1931 sterling devaluation to the breakdown of Bretton Woods: Robert Triffin’s analysis of international monetary crises By Ivo Maes; Ilaria Pasotti
  2. Thorstein Veblen, The Meaning of Work, and its Humanization By Jon D. Wisman
  3. Climate justice for persons with disability: Few harmed much, fewer still harmed too much By Gindo Tampubolon
  4. The Optimum: from Theology to Science and Fiction By Laurent Loty
  5. Responsabilité, crises et globalisation : la sanction du marché By Laurent Bazin
  6. The path of economics research production: Insights into the seesaw between theory and empirics By Faria, João Ricardo; Goel, Rajeev K.; Manage, Neela D.
  7. Social preferences or sacred values? Theory and evidence of deontological motivations By Daniel L. Chen; Martin Schonger

  1. By: Ivo Maes (Chaire Robert Triffin, Université catholique de Louvain & ICHEC Brussels Management School); Ilaria Pasotti (Consultant at Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo)
    Abstract: Robert Triffin (1911-1993) was one of the main protagonists in the international monetary debates in the postwar period. He became famous with his book Gold and the Dollar Crisis, published in 1960, in which he predicted the end of the Bretton Woods system. In his analysis there, Triffin was very much marked by the breakdown of the gold exchange standard in the early 1930s. In his view, the growth of foreign exchange reserves after World War Two repeated, but on a much larger scale, their similar expansion after the First World War. Triffin argued that the gold exchange standard had been a highly fragile construction as funds could move in and out due to changes in relative interest rates and/or changes in exchange rate expectations. The focus of this paper is on Triffin’s analysis of the sterling devaluation of 1931 throughout his writings, from his early articles on the 1935 devaluation of the Belgian franc to his writings after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system. The aim is twofold: to provide an assessment of Triffin’s view of the interwar period and assess the significance of his analysis of the interwar period for his view on the Bretton Woods system.
    Keywords: : Robert Triffin, Bretton Woods system, gold exchange standard, pound sterling, Triffin dilemma
    JEL: A11 B22 B31 E30 E50 F02 F32
    Date: 2023–01
  2. By: Jon D. Wisman
    Abstract: Thorstein Veblen gave special attention to work. He claimed that an instinct of workmanship " present in all men, and asserts itself even under very adverse circumstances... [It] is the court of final appeal in any question of economic truth or adequacy." Although many scholars have examined Veblen's claim, this article differs by examining his conception of work in light of findings from anthropology, evolutionary psychology, and happiness research. The questions explored are: Why and how did Veblen understand work as instinctual and did his understanding conform to Charles Darwin's concept of instincts? Is it an instinct that evolved to be pleasurable or to gain respect and status to motivate provisioning? If evidence supports the claim that work did indeed evolve to be pleasurable, and today much of it is not, then its restructuring should be a top social priority. Although Veblen's understanding of work provides inadequate guidance as to how it should be restructured, he was pathbreaking in insisting that our understanding of this question, and of human behavior and society more generally, must be grounded in the evolutionary biology launched by Darwin. Accordingly, a second aim of this article is to offer support for Veblen's attempt to do so.
    Keywords: instinct of workmanship; Darwinism; institutions; anthropology of work; happiness; research
    JEL: A13 B15 Z10
    Date: 2023
  3. By: Gindo Tampubolon
    Abstract: Building on Rawls' theory of justice and Sen's theory of capabilities, I present an outline of social justice under climate shocks, illustrating it with the experiences of persons with disability. Social justice holds when inequality is responded to by rules that afford more primary goods, such as rights and incomes, to those who have less—the maximin principle of the Rawlsian social welfare function. Climate injustice consists in putting more climate bads, not primary goods, on those with slender shoulders—a maximin social ill-fare function.
    Keywords: Justice, Capabilities, Climate justice, People with disabilities, Environmental justice
    Date: 2023
  4. By: Laurent Loty (CELLF - Centre d’étude de la langue et des littératures françaises - SU - Sorbonne Université - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: The idea of the optimum plays a major role in many scientific and political domains, while fiction tends to confront it. I examine it here in light of its historical origins in theological optimism (God created "the best of all possible worlds"), the subject of my 1995 dissertation in the history of optimism from its emergence in the early eighteenth century to its seeming disappearance during the French Revolution. If the theme of the omnipresent optimum is difficult to perceive now, it is because the history of optimism, one of the most consequential ideologies ever to have existed, is also the history of its occultation. This ideology, all the more powerful in being embedded in a blind spot, is disseminated through apparently secular discourses and fields of knowledge. Optimism is a fatalism. It also takes the form of an economic fatalism : society or nature function providentially or naturally at their optimum, or reach their optimum in historical time. Yet the idea of the optimum can also inspire powerful heuristic hypotheses in sciences emancipated from theology, or progressive political actions seeking an optimum. As for fictions they either corroborate optimism (or pessimism, the inverted double of optimisme), or they invent instead, as in Diderot's Jacques le Fataliste, forms of writing and thought that escape this ideology. Investigation into the optimum will permit discovery of a vast continent of our culture along with its major investments. It could constitute a multi-disciplinary research program covering the modern period from the eighteenth century to today.
    Abstract: L'idée d'optimum joue un rôle majeur dans de nombreux domaines scientifiques et politiques, tandis que les fictions s'en saisissent pour s'y confronter. Je l'examine ici à partir de l'optimisme théologique qui est à son origine (Dieu a créé le monde à l'optimum), grâce à l'enquête que j'ai menée, dans une thèse de 1995, depuis l'émergence de cette doctrine au début du XVIIIe siècle, jusqu'à son apparente disparition pendant la Révolution française. Si le thème de l'optimum, omniprésent depuis, est si difficile à déceler aujourd'hui, c'est que l'histoire de l'optimisme, une des plus importantes idéologies qui ait existé, est aussi l'histoire de son occultation. Cette idéologie, d'autant plus puissante qu'elle est une idéologie en angle mort, s'est transférée dans des discours et savoirs apparemment sécularisés. L'optimisme est un fatalisme, une incitation à se soumettre au meilleur des mondes. Il prend aussi la forme d'un fatalisme économique : la nature ou la société fonctionnent providentiellement ou naturellement à l'optimum, ou s'optimisent historiquement. Or, l'idée d'optimum peut aussi inspirer de puissantes hypothèses heuristiques à des sciences émancipées de la théologie, ou à des actions politiques en vue d'une optimisation. Quant aux fictions, elles confirment l'optimisme (ou son double, le pessimisme), ou inventent au contraire, comme Jacques le Fataliste de Diderot, des formes d'écriture et de pensée qui échappent à cette idéologie. Enquêter sur l'optimum permet ainsi de découvrir un continent immense de notre culture ainsi que des enjeux majeurs, et pourrait constituer un vaste programme de recherche pluridisciplinaire du XVIIIe siècle à aujourd'hui.
    Date: 2023–01–07
  5. By: Laurent Bazin (CLERSÉ - Centre Lillois d’Études et de Recherches Sociologiques et Économiques - UMR 8019 - Université de Lille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CESSMA UMRD 245 - Centre d'études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques - IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - Inalco - Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales - UPCité - Université Paris Cité)
    Abstract: Responsibility (or accountability) is a key notion of the contemporary discourse on development. It is a basis of the neoliberal ideology that dominates the world economics since the structural adjustment plans in the 1980s, in particular in the conception of both the global norm of ‘governance' and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. This article undertakes to demonstrate that the notions of responsibility and acountability are the other side of a mode of domination based on market as a technique of power : a system in which the financial markets exercise the power of sanction. Finally, responsibility appears as the operator of a triple transfer of riches, risks and morality.
    Abstract: La notion de responsabilité est un terme clé du lexique contemporain sur le développement. Elle est inscrite au cœur des diverses notions qui le composent, en particulier dans l'élaboration de la norme de gouvernance et des politiques mondiales de lutte contre la pauvreté qui ont marqué la première décennie du XXIe siècle. Cet article s'efforce de montrer que si la responsabilisation semble le mot d'ordre du discours néolibéral actuel, c'est que la responsabilité est l'envers de la domination par les marchés financiers, qui exercent le pouvoir de sanction. La responsabilité est l'opérateur d'un triple transfert de richesses, de risques et de moralité.
    Keywords: Responsibility, accountability, governance, empowerment, poverty, financialisation, globalisation, World Bank, responsabilité, imputabilité, gouvernance, pauvreté, financiarisation, Banque mondiale
    Date: 2022
  6. By: Faria, João Ricardo; Goel, Rajeev K.; Manage, Neela D.
    Abstract: This paper provides insights into the apparent seesaw between the generation of theoretical versus empirical economics research over time. A dynamic model considers the incentives of researchers to focus on empirical versus theoretical papers. It yields the main characteristics of the path-changing of economics research, from theoretical-intensive to empirical-focused. The model has two equilibria, one with a higher proportion of theoretical papers and another with a higher proportion of empirical papers. Curiously, the equilibrium with greater theoretical papers is stable, while the one with more empirical papers is a saddle point. This suggests that the current trend of increasing empirical research is unlikely to last.
    Keywords: economic research, theory, empirics, publications, journals
    JEL: A11 A19
    Date: 2023
  7. By: Daniel L. Chen (TSE-R - Toulouse School of Economics - UT1 - Université Toulouse 1 Capitole - Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Martin Schonger (ETH Zürich - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology [Zürich])
    Abstract: Recent advances in economic theory, largely motivated by experimental findings, have led to the adoption of models of human behavior where decision-makers take into consideration not only their own payoff but also others' payoffs and any potential consequences of these payoffs. Investigations of deontological motivations, where decision-makers make their choice based on not only the consequences of a decision but also the decision per se, have been rare. We provide a formal interpretation of major moral philosophies and a revealed preference method to distinguish the presence of deontological motivations from a purely consequentialist decision-maker whose preferences satisfy first-order stochastic dominance.
    Date: 2022–05

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