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During times of economic crises, the public policy response is to abandon basic economic thinking and engage in “emergency economic” policies. We explore how the current…
During times of economic crises, the public policy response is to abandon basic economic thinking and engage in “emergency economic” policies. We explore how the current financial crisis was in part caused by previous emergency economic measures. We then investigate the theoretical limitations of emergency economic responses. We argue that these responses fail to take into consideration the practical conditions of politics, thereby making them unsuitable to remedy the problems of a crisis. Lastly, we provide a preliminary analysis of the consequences resulting from emergency economic policies initiated in response to the 2008 financial crisis.
Nancy Maclean’s Democracy in Chains (2017) is an attempt to provide a narrative arc for the rise of free market ideas in political action during the second half of the…
Nancy Maclean’s Democracy in Chains (2017) is an attempt to provide a narrative arc for the rise of free market ideas in political action during the second half of the twentieth century and into the first decades of the twenty-first century. The central character in her narrative is neither F.A. Hayek nor Milton Friedman, let alone Adam Smith or Ludwig von Mises, but James M. Buchanan, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner in economics. MacLean argues that rather than extol the virtues of the market economy as Hayek and Friedman did before him, Buchanan focused on the dysfunctions of politics. Due to a series of argumentative fallacies and failures that follow from her ideological blinders, I argue that MacLean’s attempt is a missed opportunity to seriously engage some very pressing issues in public choice and political economy and understand how James Buchanan attempted to resolve them in a democratic manner. As such, Democracy in Chains is not only a mischaracterization of Buchanan and his project but also a poignant lesson to us all about how ideological blinders can subvert even the sincerest effort to unearth truth in the social sciences and the humanities.
Ludwig Lachmann’s Capital and Its Structure ( 1978) is a classic in the literature in Austrian economics. It is mainly discussed in relation to the Austrian…
Ludwig Lachmann’s Capital and Its Structure ( 1978) is a classic in the literature in Austrian economics. It is mainly discussed in relation to the Austrian contributions to the macroeconomics debates of that time – from Hayek’s dispute with Keynes to the capital controversies of Cambridge UK and Cambridge US. Among Lachmann’s many ideas developed in that work, critical is his idea that the capital structure of an economy consists of heterogeneous capital goods that have multiple specific uses. This fact of the world makes the intertemporal coordination of economic plans a complex phenomenon and not a simple phenomenon. In the standard macroeconomic account, the coordination failure results from a distortion to the interest rate which miscommunicates to economic actors the underlying savings and consumption pattern in the economy at that time. This results in a boom/bust cycle, as the malinvestments in production projects are revealed in time and must go through a costly correction. But this discussion is simply an illustration of a much broader set of problems of relative prices as guides to productive activity in an economy and the problem of economic calculation. Our chapter explores the capital theoretic side of the socialist calculation debate and highlights the importance that an understanding of the capital-using economy consisting of production plans made up of heterogeneous goods with multiple specific uses is to the argument about the calculation problem being the lynchpin argument against the feasibility of socialist economic planning.
Hayek’s “Use of knowledge in society” is often misunderstood. Hayek’s point is not just that prices aggregate dispersed knowledge, but also that the knowledge embedded in…
Hayek’s “Use of knowledge in society” is often misunderstood. Hayek’s point is not just that prices aggregate dispersed knowledge, but also that the knowledge embedded in prices would not exist absent the market process. Later, in The Constitution of Liberty, he argues that this same idea can also be applied to the study of political and collective choice phenomena. Democracy is not just about aggregating preferences. Absent the democratic process, the knowledge necessary to solve collective problems is not generated. We compare this perspective on democracy to Bryan Caplan’s and Helen Landemore’s theories, and we argue that Hayek’s account focused on “opinion falsification” is richer. Unlike Caplan or Landemore, who adopt a static perspective, Hayek is more interested in the long-term tendencies and feed-back mechanisms. For example, why do Western democracies seem to have gradually moved away from the most deleterious types of economic policies (such as price controls)? Hayek’s conjecture is that the democratic process itself is responsible for this. We connect Hayek’s conjecture about democracy to the broader argument made by Vincent Ostrom, who has claimed that public choice should study not just incentive structures, but also collective learning processes. We believe that this line of research, that is, comparative institutional analysis based on the collective learning capacities embedded in alternative institutional arrangements, merits a lot more attention than it has received so far. The question “Which collective choice arrangements have the best epistemic properties?” is one of the most important neglected questions in political economy.
Purpose – To comment on how The Sensory Order by F. A. Hayek is understood within the context of Hayek's broader research program.Methodology/approach – Earlier and…
Purpose – To comment on how The Sensory Order by F. A. Hayek is understood within the context of Hayek's broader research program.
Methodology/approach – Earlier and current perspectives on The Sensory Order are surveyed, quoted extensively, and commented upon. An alternative framework for understanding The Sensory Order is offered and compared to the existing perspectives. Some textual and archival evidence are combined with insights from the history of thought literature to present how Hayek himself may have viewed the role of The Sensory Order in his broader research project.
Findings – Earlier and current perspectives on The Sensory Order are found wanting. The available alternative hypothesis – that Hayek's economics is foundational to his theory of mind – is presented as a more fruitful approach to motivate modern Austrian economics as a progressive research program.
Research limitations/implications – There is limited archival and source material available on this topic and apparently competing versions circulating. Such a discussion has a relatively small and narrow field of interest among scholars intimately familiar with one another's work.
Originality/value of paper – If correct, this chapter offers a unique and original perspective on how to perceive the insights from Hayek's The Sensory Order. It also reaffirms the role of methodological pluralism in progressing contemporary political economy.
– The purpose of this paper is to consider the impact of Baumol’s work on entrepreneurship has had on framing the economic development puzzle.
The purpose of this paper is to consider the impact of Baumol’s work on entrepreneurship has had on framing the economic development puzzle.
In many ways, the intuition behind the paper is straightforward. Entrepreneurs allocate their time and attention based on the relative payoffs they face in any given social setting. If the institutional environment rewards productive entrepreneurship, then the time and attention of entrepreneurial actors in the economy will be directed toward realizing the gains from trade and the gains from innovation. If, on the other hand, there are greater returns from the allocation of that time and attention toward rent-seeking and even criminal activity, alert individuals will respond to those incentives accordingly. The simplicity of the point being made is part of the brilliance in Baumol’s article. As with other classics in economics, once stated the proposition seems to be so basic it is amazing that others did not put it that way beforehand.
It has been 25 years since Baumol published his paper in the Journal of Political Economy, and as pointed out, it has had a significant scientific impact. But to put things in perspective, James Buchanan’s “An economic theory of clubs” published in 1965 has accumulated roughly 3,500 citations, F.A. Hayek’s “The use of knowledge in society,” published in 1945 has over 12,000, and Ronald Coase’s “The problem of social cost” published in 1960 has over 28,000 citations. So Baumol’s paper would put him in rather elite company. The great strength of the paper is to focus the attention on the relative payoffs of productive, unproductive and destructive entrepreneurial activity. But one of the most significant disappointments of the subsequent history of this paper is a methodological one. The comparative case study approach that Baumol employed did not result in a renewed appreciation for narrative forms of empirical research in political economy. It could legitimately be argued that the sort of questions about the fundamental institutional causes of economic growth and development can only be captured with these more historical methods. Attempts to force fit this analysis into a set of methodological tools which have already revealed themselves to be inadequate to do justice of the role of institutions and disregard the underlying cultural norms and beliefs that characterize human sociability.
In this paper, the authors will focus on the contribution made by Baumol’s 1990 paper on the field of comparative political economy, and in particular on the literature on transitional political economy. Section 2 places Baumol’s argument in the context of the failure of neoclassical growth theory. Section 3, the authors argue that although the Baumol framing was an improvement over the old comparative economic systems literature, contemporary transitional political economists have failed to fully realize the implications of the institutional revolution. They have therefore been unable to understand the causes of the heterogeneity of outcomes among those countries that transitioned from communism to the market economy in the 1990s. In Section 4, the authors argue that the political economy of transition will gain from a more sophisticated view of the economic process of the market economy, an appreciation of the entrepreneurial function, and a deeper understanding of the role of formal and informal institutions and their effect on entrepreneurship. The authors will illustrate the point with some examples from the recent history of the Russian political and economic transition. Credible commitment problems and the deficiencies of the institutional reforms of the early 1990s were responsible for the failure of reallocating the entrepreneurial talent that existed in the Soviet economy to productive economic activities. The framework can therefore be used to solve the puzzle of why the announced liberalization of Russian markets and privatization of previously state-owned resources led to economic stagnation, the growth of black markets, and the rise of organized crime, instead of economic development through the operations of smoothly operating markets. Section 5 briefly concludes.