Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology: Volume 29 Part 1


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

George Loewenstein, a prominent behavioral economist, recalls thatIn 1994, when Thaler, Camerer, Rabin, Prelec and I spent the year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, we had a meeting to make a kind of final decision about what to call what we were doing. Remarkably, at that time, the name behavioral economics was not yet well established. I actually advocated “psychological economics,” and Thaler was strong on behavioral economics. I'm kind of glad that he prevailed; I think it's a better, catchier, label, although it creates confusion due to association with Behaviorism. (G. Loewenstein, personal email to author, June 16, 2008)

The first Poor Laws date back to the 16th century. One would have to go back to 1495 and 1531 to locate the first legislation (displaying above all a repressive character), in which vagabonds were punished, all public begging was outlawed and the poor were required to participate in public works. But an initial 1535 provision stipulated that the local authorities were required to provide for the subsistence of the sick poor. The laws of 1572, 1575, 1597 and 1601 (Tawney & Power, 1924, Vol. 2, pp. 328–329, 346–354) marked a decisive step towards the extension of assistance to the ‘deserving poor’ within the context of the parish. Throughout the whole of the 17th century, the coercive aspect continued to dominate. The law on place of residence (the Act of Settlement and Removal) of 1662 added new constraints to the old provisions attaching the poor to their respective parishes. The creation of workhouses beginning in the mid-17th century (via parliamentary decrees in 1647 and 1649) represented the most important stage in the establishment of these repressive measures. The objective was to make the poor more useful and less costly to society; the 18th century would see an increase in the number of workhouses, reaching a total of approximately 200 by the end of the century. Beginning in 1722, the parish authorities were able to create workhouses and conclude agreements with the central government for the upkeep of the poor; those who refused to participate in these institutions lost all rights to assistance.

Professor Dewey's pragmatism always strikes me as fundamentally ambiguous, oscillating between a conception of knowledge as “technique,” essentially a biological function, and some vague mystical conception of it in terms of “shared life” or “shared experience.”(Knight, 1936, p. 230)

The notion that asset diversification reduces risk is ancient and can be traced as far back as the Talmud which states, “A man should always keep his wealth in three forms: one-third in real estate, another in merchandise, and the remainder in liquid assets” (Baba Metzia, verse 42a). Somewhat more recently, in 1738, Daniel Bernoulli observed, “it is advisable to divide goods which are exposed to some small danger into several small portions rather than to risk them all together” (1738/1954, p. 30). Arguably, however, it was not until 1935 that the future Nobel laureate J. R. Hicks offered some early direction for modern portfolio theory. Although his research was more concerned with explaining the demand for money, he points out two important considerations for modeling risk. Hicks writes, “The risk factor comes into our problem in two ways: First, as affecting the expected period of investment, and second, as affecting the expected net yield of investment” (Hicks, 1935, p. 7). Regarding Hicks' first point, both Markowitz (1952) and Roy (1952) emplace their analyses in a one-period investment horizon. Second, and even more relevant to modern portfolio theory, is Hicks' suggestion of using an expected value calculated with subjective probabilities. Hicks continues, “It is convenient to represent these probabilities to oneself, in statistical fashion, by a mean value, and some measure of dispersion” (1935, p. 8). Clearly, Hicks comes very close to articulating a mean–variance solution. Crucially, and unlike Roy or Markowitz, Hicks does not develop this line of reasoning nor does he suggest the particular use of variance or standard deviation as that measure of risk. Nonetheless, Hicks' suggestion anticipates the work of Markowitz and Roy.1

In a recent paper (Fiorito & Vernengo, 2009), the present writers have dealt with John Maurice Clark's contribution to macroeconomics in the 1930s with a special, but not exclusive, emphasis on its relationship to the Keynesian revolution. The general framework of Clark's aggregate analysis can be traced in a series of scattered contributions centering on the efficacy and consequences of countercyclical fiscal policy. Albeit offering a qualified support for a program of public works, Clark was concerned with the inflationary consequences of Keynesian policies, once the economy approached full employment. Clark was also dissatisfied with those interpretations of the income flow analysis, which came to be known as “Hydraulic Keynesianism” that led to the development of the so-called neoclassical synthesis.

In the original history of the socialist calculation debate (e.g., Bergson, 1948), Oscar Lange proved that bureaucrats can find the equivalent of equilibrium prices through trial and error. In the revised history of this debate (e.g., Caldwell, 1997; Lavoie, 1985), Lange proposed an erroneous solution to the calculation problem. Dynamic entrepreneurial rivalry moves prices toward equilibrium. Lange and other “Market Socialists” allies thought only in terms of a static competitive market equilibrium that excludes the role entrepreneurs play in adjusting prices.

In 1959, Al Schmid joined the faculty at Michigan State, where he taught in the Department of Agricultural Economics until his retirement as a University Distinguished Professor in 2007. Over the course of his long career, Schmid authored eight books and more than a hundred journal articles, monographs, and book chapters. He also lectured and consulted extensively, in Michigan, across the United States, and abroad (including Mali, Zimbabwe, France, and Romania).3

The memorial is an account of Smith's personality and work by a former and favored student. It is a sustained personal reminiscence backed by the reminiscences of others who admired Smith together with an account of Smith's working practices and of his main texts. It is in this sense subjective as well as objective. It is not a full-scale biography, rather a biographical sketch and it is necessarily limited by its very proximity to the subject. The principal and other informants knew Smith and liked him. However, given Stewart's own profession, the work is more than this. It was written in the context of the consequences for Smith's reputation in the light of the French Revolution. Stewart is anxious, given the sensitivities concerning the destructive radicalism in France and in the context of the conservative reaction in Britain, to distance Smith's ideas on liberty and on policy from those ideas as they were being expressed in revolutionary France. In this way, Stewart's biographical work is both an account of Smith's life and works and a politicized interpretation of his principle economic ideas.

The relationship between the economy and wider social structures and the extent to which these could be studied independently were important issues for both Marshall and Schumpeter. Marshall had clear views on the issue. As noted in the chapters by Arena, Hodgson, and Nishizawa, for Marshall, economics was concerned with the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life. Marshall warned against the separation of the study of economics from other social phenomena although he remained skeptical about the extent to which a comprehensive social science was possible.

Review essay on Muller, J. Z. (2010). Capitalism and the Jews, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 9781400834365. $24.95.

Review essay on Lal, D. (2006). Reviving the invisible hand: The case for classical liberalism in the 21st century, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN: 9780691136387. $27.95 (paper).

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Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology
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