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This chapter discusses the evolution of German views on public debt 1850–1920, referring to three strands of secondary literature: (1) German retrospectives on public…
This chapter discusses the evolution of German views on public debt 1850–1920, referring to three strands of secondary literature: (1) German retrospectives on public finance, (2) the historical literature with a public choice perspective, and (3) contributions to public/constitutional law, mainly referring to Lorenz von Stein. The skeptic view of public debt endorsed by authors of the second half of the period is shown to be related to politico-economic issues of state agency combined with new state functions, rather than to the rejection of Dietzel’s Proto-Keynesian macroeconomic reasoning.
This paper is a keynote address prepared for a conference on “Entangled Political Economy” sponsored by the Wirth Institute. In keeping with the conventions of such an…
This paper is a keynote address prepared for a conference on “Entangled Political Economy” sponsored by the Wirth Institute. In keeping with the conventions of such an address, I look both backward and forward, while placing more emphasis on looking forward. In looking backward, I compare and contrast two orientations toward political economy: additive and entangled. In looking forward, I explore some of the analytical challenges that confront efforts to pursue a vision of entangled political economy. While these challenges are substantive in character, those efforts necessarily rest on methodological presumptions. Accordingly, the paper opens by reviewing some of those methodological presumptions before turning to the substantive articulations and challenges.
Traditional public choice analysis implicitly views political outcomes as the intention of a single-minded person. This view is seriously misguided. Rather than viewing politics as being done by one person or a group of persons acting in concert, this chapter presents an Austrian economist’s thoughts on what an Austrian theory of public choice would look like. Particular attention is paid to the emergent, rather than additive, quality that political outcomes exhibit.
Traditional Austrian cycle theory starts from general equilibrium and explains how an expansion of bank credit unmatched by an expansion of saving can create a cycle of…
Traditional Austrian cycle theory starts from general equilibrium and explains how an expansion of bank credit unmatched by an expansion of saving can create a cycle of boom-and-bust, and with the bust followed by restoration of normality. In contrast, this paper offers a non-equilibrium reformulation of those earlier Austrian insights, which expands and refocuses the analytical agenda of macro theory. Our key analytical feature is the conceptualization of a macro economy as constituted through an open-ended ecology of plans. Within this framework, macro variables are not primitives but are derivative from micro-level interaction. In turn, the computation of optimizing actions is beset with undecidability. The theory of entrepreneurial choice that is suitable for this analytical framework is based on rule-following or algorithmic choice and not on computational maximization. What results is a macro ecology, the internal operation of which entails natural volatility. What are called policy actions, moreover, operate inside and not outside the ecology, and can create induce volatility within the ecology.
Political economy is a term in wide use and has been for centuries. Yet standard economic theory reduces politics to ethics or economics. This reduction is enabled by the…
Political economy is a term in wide use and has been for centuries. Yet standard economic theory reduces politics to ethics or economics. This reduction is enabled by the presumption of closed choice data or given utility and cost functions. In this conceptual framework, the political vanishes into an activity of preference satisfaction according to a welfare function (ethics) or into trade (economics). To bring the political back to life within a theory of political economy requires that closed schemes of thought be replaced by open schemes. The ways in which individuals react to the indeterminacy of their subjective choice data, in innocuous small-scale settings as well as in situations of dramatic exception to constitutional rules, separates them into leaders and followers. Followership creates an opportunity for political enterprise at the social level (enterprise in rules) and at the subjective level (enterprise in visions of options, and hence preferences). At both levels the political comes to the fore of political economy as an answer to the “challenge of exception.” Much of our inspiration for this argument traces to the work of Friedrich Wieser, Carl Schmitt, and Vincent Ostrom.
Standard macro theories have the same analytical structure as their micro counterparts. Where micro theories work with equilibrium between supply and demand for particular…
Standard macro theories have the same analytical structure as their micro counterparts. Where micro theories work with equilibrium between supply and demand for particular products, macro theories work with equilibrium applied to aggregates of products. This common approach treats the micro–macro relationship as scalable, with macro variables being aggregations over micro variables. In contrast, we pursue a systems-theoretic approach to the micro–macro relationship. This relationship is not scalable and rather entails a disjunction between micro- and macro-levels of theory. While micro phenomena are still susceptible to choice-theoretic analysis, macro phenomena are products of ecological interaction and so entail emergent phenomena. Our alternative approach treats macro theory as a form of systems theory where the behavior of the system has properties that are not reducible to properties of the individual elements within that system. Besides sketching this alternative approach, we examine some of the different insights this approach offers into such topics as unemployment and stabilization.
The logic of economic inquiry requires two distinct research programs. One program treats economic life in terms of invariant formal categories across time and place. The…
The logic of economic inquiry requires two distinct research programs. One program treats economic life in terms of invariant formal categories across time and place. The other program treats the continual generation of novelty and turbulence through time and human interaction. These programs are not commensurable: one cannot be reduced to the other. The former program must be conveyed by a theory of equilibrium; the latter program requires a process-based theory of emergent phenomena. Roy Weintraub articulated a neo-Walrasian research program in his General Equilibrium Analysis, and here I sketch a complementary neo-Mengerian program. In presenting this sketch, I also explain that needless analytical confusion and antagonism can result from a failure to recognize that economic analysis requires two distinct research programs. As a historical side-bar, Carl Menger probably recognized this situation, as evidenced by his correspondence with Léon Walras.
The Theory of Economic Equilibrium was written in the period of what George Shackle calls the “Years of High Theory”. Unlike the works that Shackle discusses, da Empoli’s…
The Theory of Economic Equilibrium was written in the period of what George Shackle calls the “Years of High Theory”. Unlike the works that Shackle discusses, da Empoli’s volume received little attention and played no part in shaping the analytical formulations of the time. The Theory of Economic Equilibrium offered an alternative to the then conventional approach to the treatment of competition as an adjective. For da Empoli, competition was a rivalrous process, a verb. It is arguable that had da Empoli’s formulations found their way into the literature of the time, the recent revival of interest in competition as a process would now be at a more advanced state.