nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2023‒05‒08
four papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. A Progressive Critique of the Law and Political Economy Movement By Woodcock, Ramsi
  2. Cheminement d’un économiste dans l’œuvre de John Rawls By Claude Gamel
  3. Should History Change The Way We Think About Populism? By Alan de Bromhead; Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
  4. Redeeming Falsifiability? By Mark Whitmeyer; Kun Zhang

  1. By: Woodcock, Ramsi
    Abstract: The emerging law and political economy movement (LPE) in the United States is characterized by an anti-economism that has prevented it from drawing upon a rich tradition of left-wing law and economic scholarship to achieve progressive goals. That tradition began with the first law and economics movement a century ago. It rejected the division of wealth implied by competitive markets. And it showed that neoclassical economics supports the redistribution of wealth in either of two basic ways. One is to reallocate endowments, broadly defined to include all aspects of value that are influenced by legal rules. The other is to manipulate the prices at which inframarginal buyers and sellers transact. The first law and economics movement focused on price manipulation and its alter ego, taxation. The critical legal studies movement that eventually succeeded the first law and economics movement focused on endowments. It sought to redistribute them by changing background rules of private law. In rejecting neoclassical economics as enemy propaganda, LPE has been unable to make progress along either of these two policy dimensions. The movement has treated as new the now century-old proposition that endowments influence market outcomes—in other words, that law determines the market. The movement seems unaware that conservative law and economics long ago accepted this proposition and parried by arguing that the market also determines the law. LPE has also constituted itself around the vague concept of “concentrations of economic power” and placed antitrust at the center of its policy agenda. That is a poor choice because antitrust generates the distribution of wealth that prevails in competitive markets, which is precisely the outcome that progressives have been trying for a century to avoid.
    Date: 2023–03–31
  2. By: Claude Gamel (LEST - Laboratoire d'Economie et de Sociologie du Travail - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: Tout au long de plus de trente ans de recherches en « philosophie économique », l'œuvre de John Rawls fut pour moi non seulement un précieux réservoir de concepts très bien ordonnés, mais aussi un constant point de repère, jusqu'à me risquer à quelques audaces personnelles que Rawls lui-même n'aurait pas acceptées. Je comparerais volontiers la théorie rawlsienne à un chef d'œuvre de l'art gothique au temps des cathédrales, qui, avant même d'impressionner par son allure d'ensemble, interpelle d'abord par l'originalité des techniques utilisées et donne envie, bien plus tard, d'innover à partir de la structure initiale. D'où trois étapes dans mon cheminement : d'abord le temps de la découverte d'idées très fécondes, puis celui de la comparaison avec les œuvres de deux autres architectes de la justice en société (les économistes Friedrich Hayek et Amartya Sen) et enfin le temps de la manipulation de concepts rawlsiens pour tenter une esquisse plus personnelle d'un libéralisme soutenable.
    Date: 2022–06–01
  3. By: Alan de Bromhead; Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
    Abstract: This paper asks whether history should change the way in which economists and economic historians think about populism. We use Müller’s definition, according to which populism is ‘an exclusionary form of identity politics, which is why it poses a threat to democracy’. We make three historical arguments. First, late 19th century US Populists were not populist. Second, there is no necessary relationship between populism and anti-globalization sentiment. Third, economists have sometimes been on the wrong side of important policy debates involving opponents rightly or wrongly described as populist. History encourages us to avoid an overly simplistic view of populism and its correlates.
    JEL: D72 N40 N70
    Date: 2023–04
  4. By: Mark Whitmeyer; Kun Zhang
    Abstract: We revisit Popper's falsifiability criterion. A tester hires a potential expert to produce a theory, offering payments contingent on the observed performance of the theory. We argue that if the informed expert can acquire additional information, falsifiability does have the power to identify worthless theories.
    Date: 2023–03

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