nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2023‒06‒26
nine papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. On Herbert A. Simon and Jorge Luis Borges about Free Will By Crespo, Ricardo F.
  2. Franklin H. Giddings on Race and Eugenics: A Note By Fiorito, Luca; Erasmo, Valentina
  3. Solving Vincent Carret’s Puzzle: A Rebuttal of Carret’s Fallacies and Errors By Ginoux, Jean-Marc; Jovanovic, Franck
  5. Irving Fisher, Ragnar Frisch and the Elusive Quest for Measurable Utility By Dimand, Robert W.
  6. Dual Argument, Double Truth: On the continued importance of the state in neoliberal thought By Innset, Ola
  7. “Rise and Fall” of the Walrasian Program in Economics: A Social and Intellectual Dynamics of the General Equilibrium Theory By Kirtchik, Olessia; Boldyrev, Ivan
  8. L'impôt sur l'héritage : actualité d'un vieux débat par François Facchini By François Facchini
  9. Gender and the time cost of peer review By Diane Alexander; Olga Gorelkina; Erin Hengel; Richard S.J. Tol

  1. By: Crespo, Ricardo F.
    Abstract: In 1970 Herbert Simon had been invited by the Sociedad Argentina de Organización Industrial (Argentine Society of Industrial Organization, SADOI, by its initials in Spanish) to deliver some lectures on “Business Management in the Technological Era”. On this occasion, he asked for an audience with Jorge Luis Borges, who, at the time, served as Director of the Argentine National Library. Simon had read some of Borges’s stories and was particularly fascinated by La biblioteca de Babel (The Library of Babel), wherein he discovered that Borges, like him, conceived of life as a search through a labyrinth. In fact, during the interview, the roles got reversed: in order to understand Simon’s concerns, Borges ended up asking more questions to Simon than Simon to Borges. The Spanish translation of the interview was published in Primera Plana, an Argentine journal of the time. This paper will show that this brief interview sheds light on some of Simon’s ideas about determinism and free will. His critique on maximizing rationality and his suggested approach to decision-making have contributed to enlarge the concept of rationality as construed by standard economic theory, enabling psychological and sociological dimensions to come into play. Consequently, it may be argued that Simon is incorporating free will in economics. However, though Simon’s position implies an advancement for the role of free will, the whole context of his ideas conditioned it, thus resulting in a “weak” notion of it. During the course of his conversation with Borges, Simon clarified his personal stance, which is consistent with his ideas. The paper will reveal Borges´ and Simon’s understanding of free will. This paper also contains a part of the conversation between Simon and Borges that has not been published previously in English. Although not all of it deals with free will, I believe that introducing it in its entirety is a contribution to the knowledge on Borges’ and Simon’s thought.
    Date: 2023–05–17
  2. By: Fiorito, Luca; Erasmo, Valentina
    Abstract: "There is one aspect, however, where Giddings found himself aligned with many leading progressives of his time, and this is what most concerns us here. With people like Richard T. Ely, John R. Commons, Henry R. Seager, William Z. Ripley, just to name a few, Giddings shared a firm commitment to eugenics, scientific racism, and race-conscious imperialism—a biologically rooted impetus which Thomas Leonard (2016) has placed at the core of Progressive Era reform agenda, and which was particularly strong among the most sociologically inclined figures of the period. In the Principles of Sociology, for instance, Giddings described and classified races, physically and mentally, into natural hierarchies, combining biological “evidence” of racial inferiority with a focus on upward social mobility. Giddings’s support of eugenics and hereditarianism was equally explicit. In this connection, suffice it to say that from 1923 to 1930 he served as a charter member of the advisory council for the American Eugenics Society. These biologically deterministic elements in Giddings’s thought have received only passing attention in the literature (see for instance Williams 1989; Degler 1991; Wallace 1992; and Bonilla-Silva and Baiocchi 2007), and even Leonard, in his acclaimed analysis of the eugenic foundations of progressivism, mentions the name of Giddings only once. The aim of this note is to fill this gap and to present a more systematic discussion of Giddings views on race, immigration, eugenics, and American imperialism, and how these views evolved over time. What follows adds to our general understanding of the extent to which racial and eugenic considerations permeated American social thought during the first decades of the last century and how, in the specific case of Giddings, this influence found expression in an inherently ambiguous and often contradictory fashion."
    Date: 2023–05–15
  3. By: Ginoux, Jean-Marc; Jovanovic, Franck
    Abstract: In his article published in JHET in 2022, Vincent Carret (2022a) criticizes our work. In footnote 19 pages 630-1, he claims that our result “is based on a mistaken interpretation of the paragraph at the bottom of p. 191 of Frisch (1933).” He then states that we “take to mean that the coefficient of each cycle in the general sum of solutions is arbitrary, while […] these coefficients [depended] on initial conditions and the parameters of the system.” The present rejoinder aims at rebutting Carret’s allegation of mistaken interpretation in our work. We demonstrate that his statements are based on a misunderstanding of Frisch’s econometric model and approach. Then, we show that Carret’s results are not supported by the demonstration he claims to have made, and that he misrepresents our arguments.
    Date: 2023–05–15
  4. By: Sunna, Claudia; Ricciardo, Traci M.
    Abstract: This study deals with the debate which took place among Italian economists and statisticians at the turn of the 20th century on the economic effects of mass emigration. In particular, it is focused on a controversy between Vilfredo Pareto, Alberto Beneduce on the one side, and Francesco Coletti on the other. It analyzes the way these scholars struggled with: (i) the problem of properly elaborating a specific cost-benefit analysis referred to emigration and (ii), as a consequence, the problem of recognizing a clear set of economic policies designed to manage the complex economic and social processes connected to emigration. The paper demonstrates the enduring character of the problems encountered in the early Italian debates, by showing that these questions are similar to those debated in the vast literature developed from the 1950s on the subject of brain drain, and suggests an explanation for the lack of conclusive results in this literature. We think that it is possible to understand this impasse by highlighting that in the analyzed literature a problem of ‘fallacy of composition’ emerges between the microeconomics and macroeconomics of emigration.
    Date: 2023–05–17
  5. By: Dimand, Robert W.
    Abstract: Commitment to the behaviorist approach to utility theory, to the usefulness of mathematics in economic analysis and to equalization of the marginal utility of income as a principle of just taxation brought Irving Fisher and Ragnar Frisch to attempt to measure the marginal utility of income and led them to collaborate in forming the Econometric Society and sponsoring the establishment of the Cowles Commission, institutions advancing economic theory in connection to mathematics and statistics and led Frisch to pioneer an axiomatic approach to utility and microeconomic theory.
    Date: 2023–05–17
  6. By: Innset, Ola
    Abstract: It has been established that the neoliberal creed arising in the interwar- and early postwar years, despite its strong rejection of economic planning, also entailed a rejection of laissez-faire liberalism. This article argues that recent attempts at construing early neoliberalism as thus being a more nuanced or moderate creed than later iterations, are nonetheless flawed. The Dual Argument of early neoliberalism indicated a new approach to market liberalism in which the state was not seen as the market’s opposite, but rather its precondition. This important move is obscured by the language of moderation and nuance. In place of “the radicalization thesis”, the second part of the article considers Philip Mirowski’s concept of a “double truth-doctrine” and argues that the importance of the state for social and economic governance is a common feature of different neoliberalisms, which nonetheless differ in their preferred policy-suggestions for the use of state power.
    Date: 2023–05–17
  7. By: Kirtchik, Olessia; Boldyrev, Ivan
    Abstract: This paper aims at understanding social practices and institutions which ensured the transnational diffusion, recognition and renewal of the research program in General Equilibrium Theory, in spite of multiple critics and apparent theoretical dead ends. First, we are tracing the main conceptual developments of the Walrasian GET program since the 1950s and thus elaborate on its intellectual identity. Then, based on a systematic study of the educational and professional trajectories typical for several generations of GET scholars, we analyze a social form taken by this transnational and multidisciplinary “scientific community”: an institutional dynamics of the Walrasian GET program, most common career patterns, and the forms of international and intergenerational transmission. Finally, we apply to this dataset a technique of geometric analysis, a Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA), in order to investigate the relational patterns between attribution of scientific credit (symbolic capital) and biographical properties in a transnational space of the GET scholars.
    Date: 2023–05–17
  8. By: François Facchini (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: L'impôt sur l"héritage est un impôt sur le transfert de la fortune au moment de la mort du contribuable (taxes on transfers of wealth). Il s'agit d'un impôt sur la richesse du défunt. La succession imposable est égale à la valeur des actifs détenus par le contribuable au moment du décès, moins les legs au conjoint exonéré, les sommes qui font l'objet d'abattement et d'exonération, les dettes, les contributions à des organismes de bienfaisance, les frais funéraires et le coût de l'administration de la succession. Il est au cœur d'une importante actualité. Cet article se propose d'en résumer l'essentiel. Il focalise l'attention sur le biais égalitariste qui entoure l'ensemble des débats contemporains sur la taxation sur l'héritage dans une première section. Il rappelle à la suite de Robert Nozick (1974) qu'inégalité et injustice ne sont pas synonymes et que multiplier les statistiques sur les inégalités ne dit rien sur la justice ou l'injustice d'un ordre économique. Il présente dans une troisième section la littérature sur l'efficience de ce type d'impôt et constate que l'impôt sur l'héritage a plutôt un effet négatif sur l'épargne et la croissance de long terme d'un pays. Si l'impôt sur l'héritage n'est ni juste ni efficient, il devrait donc être aboli comme dans de nombreux pays. Cela répondrait aux attentes de l'opinion publique en la matière.
    Keywords: impôt sur l'héritage, justice, inégalités, efficience, libéralisme
    Date: 2023–03
  9. By: Diane Alexander (The Wharton School, Philadelphia, PA, USA); Olga Gorelkina (University of Liverpool, UK); Erin Hengel (London School of Economics); Richard S.J. Tol (Department of Economics, University of Sussex, BN1 9SL Falmer, United Kingdom)
    Abstract: In this paper, we investigate one factor that can directly contribute to—as well as indirectly shed light on the other causes of—the gender gap in academic publishing: length of peer review. Using detailed administrative data from an economics field journal, we find that, conditional on manuscript quality, referees spend longer reviewing female-authored papers, are slower to recommend accepting them, manuscripts by women go through more rounds of review and their authors spend longer revising them. Less disaggregated data from 32 economics and finance journals corroborate these results. We conclude by showing that all gender gaps decline—and eventually disappear—as the same referee reviews more papers. This pattern suggests novice referees initially statistically discriminate against female authors, but are less likely to do so as their information about and confidence in the peer review process improves. More generally, they also suggest that women may be particularly disadvantaged when evaluators are less familiar with the objectives and parameters of an assessment framework.
    Keywords: Gender Inequality, Statistical Discrimination, Research Productivity, Peer Review
    JEL: A11 D8 J16 J24 J7
    Date: 2023–06

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