nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2023‒07‒17
five papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. Piero Sraffa – Doing ‘History in Reverse' By Eric Rahim
  2. Peter Howitt - A Keynesian Still in Recovery By David Laidler
  3. Value Judgements, Positivism and Utility Comparisons in Economics By Drakopoulos, Stavros A.
  4. Book review "Making Commercial Law Through Practice" By Jérôme Sgard
  5. “Value in exchange”: Pufendorf’s moral quantities in Smith’s quantities of labour By Michele Bee; Ivan Sternick

  1. By: Eric Rahim (University of Strathclyde)
    Abstract: This paper follows a suggestion made by Piero Sraffa in the late 1920s about the writing of his book that was finally published in 1960 – a suggestion he did not follow. The suggestion consisted in the writing of a history of political economy, starting with the ideas of the French Physiocrats, and its further development by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. This history was intended as an introduction to the 1960 book. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the ‘central propositions’ of the 1960 book, seen as a rigorous theoretical statement of the political economy of these ‘old’ economists.
    Keywords: Sraffa, Physiocrats, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx
    JEL: J12
  2. By: David Laidler
    Abstract: Peter Howitt is best known for his contributions to growth theory, but his work in short-run economics, which began with his Ph.D thesis and still continues, is important and deserves attention. It lies firmly in the Keynesian macro-disequilibrium tradition of Robert Clower and Axel Leijonhufvud, and for a long time has been overshadowed by New-classical and New-Keynesian orthodoxy. However, the development of agent based modelling and behavioural economics is perhaps giving disequilibrium macroeconomics a new lease on life.
    Keywords: equilibrium, disequilibrium, money, New classical Economics, New Keynesian Economics, Keynes, Lucas, Howitt, Clower, Leijonhufvud, Phelps
    JEL: B22 B59 E12 E13 E31 E32
    Date: 2023–06
  3. By: Drakopoulos, Stavros A.
    Abstract: The issue of interpersonal comparisons of utility is about the possibility (or not) of comparing the utility or welfare or the mental states in general, of different individuals. Embedded in the conceptual framework of utilitarianism, interpersonal comparisons were admissible in economics as part of the theoretical justification of welfare policies until the first decades of the twentieth century. Under the strong influence of the scientific philosophy of positivism as reflected in the works of early neoclassical economists and as epitomized by Lionel Robbins, utility comparisons were subsequently rejected as a value judgement. Robbins’ methodological stance is still prevalent among mainstream economists. Despite the explicit rejection of comparability by the majority of economists, interpersonal comparisons are necessary for many key policy issues, such as progressive taxation, social welfare policies, GDP based welfare comparisons, cost-benefit analysis, and public goods provision. In this paper, the case of interpersonal utility comparisons is discussed as an illustrative example of the usefulness of the study of the role of value judgements, and generally of the interrelationship between ethics and economics. It is also argued that the current tension between theory and policy practice might be resolved through the efforts of prominent economists and philosophers to challenge positivism, and especially its problematic treatment of value judgements and of ethical assumptions in general.
    Keywords: Value Judgements; Utility Comparisons; Positivism and Economics; Ethics and Economic Policy
    JEL: A12 B00 B40 D60
    Date: 2022–12
  4. By: Jérôme Sgard (CERI - Centre de recherches internationales (Sciences Po, CNRS) - Sciences Po - Sciences Po - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: Book review - Making Commercial Law Through Practice, 1830–1970. By Ross Cranston. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. Pp. 483.
    Keywords: economic history, commercial law
    Date: 2022–12
  5. By: Michele Bee (Cedeplar/UFMG); Ivan Sternick (Cedeplar/UFMG)
    Abstract: This paper aims to show that the “quantities of labor” on which Smith bases his theory of the real measure of exchange value are not objective quantities that can be established prior to the exchange, but that their value is determined by the proportion established in exchange. Contrary to what is often stated, this means that these quantities of labor are neither physical inputs “embodied” in commodities, nor given prices, nor an absolute “disutility”, but that they come close to what Samuel Pufendorf called “moral quantities”. This means they are prices established through common evaluation and agreement in exchange, taking into account different aspects associated with each labor and work. It is here claimed that the estimation of Smith’s wage-differentials should also be understood in this sense. The non-arbitrary character of this conception of value in exchange is explained through Smith’s understanding that, under conditions of equality and liberty, people are capable of and willing to evaluate each other’s labor impartially, since they usually desire to obtain the deserved esteem of others.
    Keywords: Adam Smith, Samuel Pufendorf, Quantities of Labor, Value, Exchange.
    JEL: B10 B11 B12
    Date: 2023–06

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