First Call for Papers

Submission of Papers

Those intending to present should send me an abstract of their paper by May 1 2012.

Full papers will need to be in by June 20, 2012. We would be hoping to have 35 presentations.

After Dinner talk - Economics – A Moral Science [Word Document - 49 KB]

 

Abstracts

Marx's Commodity and Labour as the Substance of Value [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 433.81 KB]

Pablo Ahumada
La Trobe University

Abstract

This paper reinterprets Marx's theory of value in the context of his theory of the commodity. The labour theory of value is derived from the analysis of the immediate form of appearance of the commodity as an exchangeable good. The subject matter of neoclassical economics is thereby critically appropriated and used to motivate the transition to the concept of labour value. The neoclassical theory of the commodity, in turn, is transcended and subsumed under the theoretical framework of Classical Political Economy. This shows that production is the organisation of the labour of society for its own material reproduction, or the unity-in-difference of a labour process and a social relation. This breaks the false immediate identification of supply with production and of means of labour with capital. It thus becomes evident that the labour theory of value considers all inputs to production and that it can accommodate neoclassical economics' marginal principle.

Torrens and Malthus' Challenge [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 171.5 KB]

Rogério Arthmar
Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo

Abstract

This paper examines Colonel Torrens' arguments against the hypothetical prospect that rising corn prices might result in higher farmers' profits by reducing the real costs of manufactured articles used in the crop growing activity. Firstly, it shows how this idea evolved through time in Malthus' writings on rent, and also the difficulties faced by Ricardo in denying this possibility. Next, it scrutinizes Torrens' approach to value, from its origins to the more elaborated version built up in some of his early inquiries on political economy. The outcome of this effort was a simplified image of the reciprocal interaction among the productive sectors, similar to modern input-output models, composed of an interdependent system with prices and a uniform profit rate determined simultaneously. Finally, a few applications of this path-breaking analytical device are presented, such as in the case for free trade, but with an emphasis on the refutation of Malthus' proposition. The concluding remarks stress Torrens' ability to devise a proper quantitative answer to the parson's theoretical challenge despite the scanty technical resources available to classical economists at that time.

Keynes's General Theory After 75 Years: Chapter 24 and the Character of 'Keynesian' Policy [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 174.16 KB]

Tony Aspromourgos
University of Sydney

The Great Financial Crisis led to a revival of interest in 'Keynesian' economic policy, understood as temporary, debt-financed fiscal activism in response to a short-run, albeit particularly deep, macroeconomic contraction. But Keynes's theory led him to diagnose involuntary unemployment as a long-run problem, and one for which competition (via wage and price flexibility) was not a solution. Consequently, his policy proposals were more far-reaching than short-run fiscal activism. The final chapter of the General Theory provides the appropriate point of departure for reflecting on the difference between Keynes's policy position and what later came to be regarded as Keynesian policy. The paper explores these issues, particularly in relation to Keynes's views on the size and role of public expenditures, and the question of public debt trajectories, by recourse to Keynes policy documents from the 1940s.

West Germany’s postwar social market economy [Word Document - 27 KB]

John Ballantyne
News Weekly, Melbourne

Abstract

German economists Wilhelm Röpke, Walter Eucken, Alfred Müller-Armack and Ludwig Erhard founded the postwar Federal Republic of Germany's highly successful “social market” model of capitalism, which was based on promoting both free enterprise and a widespread ownership of capital and property. The founders of this school of thought rejected both state socialism and old-fashioned laissez-faire capitalism. Before and during the war they had been trenchantly anti-Nazi and formed an underground intellectual resistance group. (Röpke was forced to flee abroad in 1933 after he publicly denounced Hitler and all his works). Their ideas, which have been sadly neglected in the English-speaking world, differ in many respects from the better-known Austrian and Chicago approaches to free-market economics.

Price Theory and Oligopoly [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 126.56 KB]

Harry Bloch, Curtin University and Mita Bhattacharya, Monash University

Abstract

In his seminal article, 'Price theory and oligopoly' (Rothschild 1947), Kurt Rothschild critically reviews recent developments in the theory of imperfect competition and puts forward several ideas on how the theory might develop in the future. Subsequent developments in the theory of imperfect competition have shown the fruitfulness of his ideas. In this paper we review these developments and discuss the correspondence to Rothschild's original propositions. We examine, in order, research on the topics of price rigidity and other pricing practices, non-price competition and barriers to entry, internal organisation of the firm, and the political and economic power exerted by large firms. We discuss Rothschild’s views on these topics in his 1947 article and in his later writings. We then conclude by reviewing Rothschild's writings for guidance on considerations that might fruitfully be explored in future research related to price theory.

Economic Historians and the Causes of Modern Economic Growth

Geoffrey Brooke
Auckland University of Technology

Abstract

This paper is a survey of the methods economic historians have employed to explain the causes of modern economic growth. Economic history developed out of a tradition of empirically grounded opposition to abstract theorizing. The Cliometric revolution of the late 1950s saw the adoption of abstract theory, in the form of neoclassical price theory, by economic historians. Arguments based on neoclassical price theory failed to offer a positive explanation for the causes of modern economic growth. This failure has resulted in an increase in the diversity of methods employed and types of data analysed. The changes in method are accompanied by a return to the questions that preoccupied pre-Cliometric economic historians.

Analysing Discontinuous Innovation: Some Implications of Schumpeter's The Theory Of Economic Development [Word 2007 Document - 38.27 KB]

Jerry Courvisanos, The Business School, University of Ballarat and Stuart Mackenzie, The Business School, University of Ballarat

Abstract

A century ago Schumpeter’s The Theory of Economic Developmentbuilt on the concept of strong agency motivation from his Austrian School teachers to conceptualise the entrepreneur as a major economic force, driving innovation and economic development. Despite this prominent role, Baumol sees the entrepreneur hovering in the vast literature of economics as “a shadowy entity without clearly defined form and function”, like some ‘phantom of the economic growth opera’. Due to the nature of the neoclassical model itself, Baumol’s oft-cited quotation has not led to a formal endogenisation of the productive entrepreneurial function. Baumol’s three attempts in full-sized books to try and incorporate entrepreneurial behaviour into the economics mainstream speaks volumes for the difficulty of taking a dynamic role and fitting it into a static neoclassical apparatus. Despite the explosion of interest and literature on the role of the entrepreneur there remains no generally accepted definition of the phenomenon, yet regardless of this lack of ontology, researchers in economics and in entrepreneurship, persist with a positivist research paradigm in trying to analyse an improperly defined concept. Thus there is no generally accepted theory of the entrepreneur. This paper re-assesses the ontology of the entrepreneur in Schumpeter’s work, including recent English translations of some lesser-known German writings, in the context of economic development and innovation. In the process of this analysis, a clear picture emerges about the nature of discontinuous innovation which is the central role that the entrepreneur plays in capitalism. Some implications of the findings for competing theories of entrepreneurship are discussed.

A Virtuous Circle: Richard Whately, the Oriel Noetics and the Whatelian ‘virtue synthesis’  in political economy. [Word 2007 Document - 104.71 KB]

Elena Douglas
University of Western Australia

Abstract

If 'the past is a foreign country' and history is a dialogue between generations, then a sensitive translation of the different languages spoken by each age, is essential to historical scholarship. In the conduct of intellectual history - which examines concepts, ideas, beliefs and moral systems - an ear for the language of the times under study is essential. My purpose in this paper is to use the contextualist methods favoured by the 'Sussex three' (Winch, Collini and Burrows), to 'eavesdrop' on the protagonists in situ in the high period of Christian Political Economy (between the publication of Malthus Essay on Population (1798) and the fall of the ancien regime of 'Anglican aristocratic hegemony' with the passage of the Reform Act (1832)). I argue that Richard Whately, intellectual leader of the Noetics of Oriel College, Oxford, defender of the study of Aristotelian logic and promoter of political economy at Oxford, was the last mainstream political economist in the virtue-ethics tradition. As the lead spokesman of the Oriel Noetics, Whately proposed a synthesis of moral philosophy and formal economic analysis in the development of economic policy.  This latter contribution, which I have labelled the Whatelian 'virtue synthesis' in political economy, was a unique and important moment in intellectual history.

Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow from the Standpoint of Old Behavioural Economics [Word Document - 276.5 KB]

Peter E. Earl
University of Queensland

Abstract

Daniel Kahneman's recent bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow presents an account of his life's work on decision-making (much of it conducted with Amos Tversky) that has been instrumental in the rise of what Sent (2004) calls 'new behavioural economics'. In this paper, I will consider the relationship between Kahneman's work and some key contributions within the 'old behavioural' literature that Kahneman fails to discuss. In the process I will show just how closely aligned he is to economic orthodoxy. In particular, I will consider his selective use of Herbert Simon's work in relation to his 'two systems' view of decision making, and I will consider the extent to which George Shackle's critique of probabilistic models of decision making under uncertainty helps explain what Kahneman observes as shortcomings of actual decision makers in the face of uncertainty. I will also show how Shackle's model of choice under uncertainty provided an alternative way of dealing with some of the issues that Kahneman and Tversky sought to address, three decades after Shackle worked out his model, via their Prospect Theory. Aside from not including 'loss aversion', it was Shackle's model that was the more original and potentially revolutionary.

'Marshall and Turgot' [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 63.9 KB]

Peter Groenewegen
University of Sydney

Abstract

Turgot, the great French eighteenth century statesman-economist-philosopher was greatly admired by Marshall.  This paper looks at the reasons Marshall gave for this admiration in his correspondence and published work.  Section I looks at some of the general remarks Marshall made on specific aspects of Turgot's economics.  Section II raises wider issues discussed by Marshall in relation to Turgot's economics, that is, the Smith-Turgot controversy; Bohm-Bawerk's interpretation of Turgot's interest theory; and the proposition that Turgot ranked with many of the great mathematical thinkers in economics.  Section III offers some conclusions.

The Uses of Biography and History in Economics

Sue Howson
University of Toronto

Abstract

In my talk I shall relate some of my experiences in writing the biography of the English economist Lionel Robbins (1898-1984) with particular reference to the rich archival sources I have used and their utility for the history of economics in the 21st century.

What were the issues of the land-bank controversy? [Word Document - 89.5 KB]

Seiichiro Ito
Ohtsuki City College, Japan

Abstract

In 1694, the year of the foundation of the Bank of England, John Briscoe presented his idea of a land-bank in his well-known pamphlet, A discourse on the late funds, which turned out to be the announcement of the launch of the so-called land-bank controversy lasting several years producing literally uncountable numbers of pamphlets. The realisation of Briscoe's idea came in the next year with the project of the National Land Bank, though it would end up a failure. Examining the controversy this land-bank project triggered may lead to the conclusion that as a fund of credit land was unrealistic and impractical in comparison with money and that this controversy revealed the difficulty and incoherence of the idea of a land-bank itself. This was how land-bank projects in this period have been understood by historians such as J. K. Horsefield (1960), even though he illustrated in great detail what significant roles those land bank projects played in the British Monetary Experiments for increasing money-supply with support of various newly designed credit institutions. However, re-examining the pamphlets and reconsidering the arguments in them make it possible to find another story. Now that we know the reality of credit relation in sixteenth to seventeenth century England was based on a vulnerable socio-moral nexus, such as reputation and opinion, which C. Muldrew elucidated as the Economy of Obligation, we never fail to see the fact that the land-bank projectors at the end of the seventeenth century still strived to acquire safe and reliable institutional credit being free from vulnerability and scepticism. What projectors struggled for was not just profitability or other economic advantages, but also verification of their own honours and honesty, which were supposed to prove the reliability of their projects and then benefit as its result. This is explained by the projectors’ persistence in claiming their authorship of the idea of project. The question about whose project was original has been referred to but just as an episode in the premature stage of the controversy concerning banking. But, in fact, this was the issue about which projectors, such as Briscoe, J. Asgill, N. Barbon, and H. Chamberlen, were strongly concerned.  The rivalry between 'monied-men' and 'landed-men' was the framework which was exploited by the Briscoe side, who insisted that the fund of the bank should be mainly land, to blame the plagiarism and distortion of the original design done by 'monied men', who argued that the principal content of the fund must be money. This rivalry was not the one between two economic interests, that is, so-called landed interest and so-called moneyed interest, which D. Rubini (1970) tried to overlap with the political conflict, such as country and court. The social framework in which the land-bank projectors were struggling was not necessarily fit for the post-Financial Revolution picture, where the nation was split into those two economic interests over who should pay the interest of public debt. What was at the top of the list for the land-bank projectors was neither the simply economic benefit nor the political interest but the reliability and feasibility of the project.

Mill’s Fourth Proposition on Capital and Say's Law: Why the Demand for Commodities is Not Demand for Labour

Steven Kates
RMIT
University

Abstract

John Stuart Mill's Fourth Proposition on Capital, that the demand for labour is not demand for commodities, first stated in 1848 had become an enigma well before the end of the nineteenth century. Described in 1876 as 'the best test of a sound economist' and never challenged in Mill’s own lifetime, it is now a statement that not only fails to find others in agreement but fails even to find an internally consistent interpretation that would allow this proposition to make coherent sense. This paper, however, demonstrates that the four propositions on capital are easily understood as a continuation of the General Glut debate. Economists led by Malthus had argued contra Say's Law that demand deficiency was the cause of recession and that therefore a body of unproductive consumers was needed to raise the level of demand if everyone who wished to work was to find employment. It was to deny the relevance of increased demand as a stimulus to employment that was the purpose of Mill's statement. It will be further argued that the reason this proposition became incomprehensible amongst economists was firstly due to the marginal revolution in the 1870s which turned the orientation of economists towards microeconomic issues and then, from the commencement of the Keynesian Revolution in the 1930s, Mill's very premise was absolutely denied by the macroeconomic theory that became embedded in the mainstream.

Ten Editions of Ricardo's Principles, 1846-2005 [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 124.7 KB]

J.E. King
Latrobe University

Abstract

There have been at least ten editions of Ricardo's Principles in English since his death in 1823. In this paper I summarise the editorial introductions by J.R. McCulloch (1846), E.C.K. Gonner (1891), W.J. Ashley (1895), F.W. Kolthammer (1911), Piero Sraffa (1951), William J. Fellner (1963), Michael P. Fogarty (1965), Max Hartwell (1971), Donald Winch (1973) and Robert E. Wright (2005). The very different appraisals of the book and its author offer a fascinating insight into the reception of a great work in economics in the course of a century and a half.

The elusive Arthur Pigou: Discussion Paper

Karen Knight and Michael McLure
University of Western Australia

Abstract

This paper reconstructs Arthur Cecil Pigou’s life using the available, rather fragmented, archival records and the existing, but rather limited, secondary literature. It is a draft of the opening biographical chapter for a forthcoming book on A.C. Pigou that Robert Leeson is editing for Palgrave. The biography covers three broad themes: Pigou’s family history and heritage; a broadly chronological sequence of Pigou’s academic life at Cambridge – focusing on his Fellowship at King’s College and the activities of the ‘Prof’, as he was affectionately known; and an ad hoc thematic presentation of personal aspects of Pigou’s adult life –
considering issues such as the general nature of his relationships with women and men; his passion for mountaineering; and his ordeals resulting from his commitment to pacifism. Arthur Pigou was a shy and extremely private man whose papers were largely destroyed after his death, so his true character remains elusive; nevertheless, this paper has still managed to enhance our historical perspective on this important scholar and unusual
man.

The Shackle Collection at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge [Word 2007 Document - 34.54 KB]

Dr Bruce Littleboy
University of Queensland

Abstract

A collection of George Shackle's books is held in the library of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. Some are by him and some are about him. Some have his annotations in the margin, and this may be a resource for Shackle scholars.

One Hundred Years From Today: A. C. Pigou's Wealth and Welfare [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 102.83 KB]

Michael McLure
University of Western Australia

Abstract

This paper marks the centenary of A. C. Pigou's Wealth and Welfare, published by Macmillan in 1912.  The two main themes of the paper are ‘Wealth and Welfare and Cambridge' and ‘Pigou and the broader economics profession'.  In regard to the first theme, consideration is given to the relationship between Wealth and Welfare and: Marshall's approach to economics; Pigou's earlier articles (published in the economic journal following his election as a Fellow of King's College Cambridge); and Pigou's subsequent approach to welfare in The Economics of Welfare.  The provisional finding related to this first theme is that, contrary to the conclusion of a recent study, Pigou's approach to welfare remained firmly within the Marshallian tradition.  In regard to the second theme, consideration is given to: the influence of Paretian welfare theory on the development of Pigou's Wealth and Welfare; and the use of Pigou's work on welfare by subsequent scholars when criticising the ‘old' welfare economics and the general relevance of externalities.  In regard to this second theme the study tentatively finds that, with the exception of issues related to the minutia of practical detail, Pigou selectively differentiated his welfare theory from that of Pareto, similar to the way that some subsequent economists differentiated their approach to theory from that of Pigou.

The Transformation in the Thought of Ronald Coase around the 1970s [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 104.22 KB]

Masahiro Mikami
Hokkaido University

Abstract

This paper investigates the transformation in the thought of Ronald Coase, one of the founders of the economic perspective of new institutional economics (NIE). Mainstream economists assimilated the ideas presented in Coase's two seminal articles - 'The Nature of the Firm' (1937) and ‘The Problem of Social Cost’ (1960) - to a remarkable extent. However, Coase, in his main book, The Firm, the Market, and the Law (1988), criticised them for failing to understand his true meaning. The present paper attempts to understand the reasons for this misunderstanding. Further, it attempts to explain why Coase's work on economic thoughts and methodologies, which is collated mostly in Essays on Economics and Economists (1994), has been given relatively less attention. For this purpose, the present paper analyses the development of Coasean economics in relation to mainstream economics and examines the transformation in Coase's thought that occurred around the 1970s. At that time, concurrent with the establishment of NIE as a field, Coase focused on the dynamic factors of institutional structure and the human nature of economic agents. A critical reading of Coase's works reveals that a possible cause of the aforementioned misunderstanding and lack of attention is his excessive emphasis on the consistency of his research history and on its compatibility with mainstream economics. The present paper shows that Coase, in the process of persuading mainstream economists to incorporate his ideas, actually had to reject the core of neoclassical theory in order to pursue his initial goal of institutional analysis.

Prefatory Remarks for The Open Society and Its Enemies in East Asia [Word Document - 232 KB]

Gregory C. G. Moore
University of Notre Dame Australia

Abstract

This paper constitutes the rather lengthy prefatory remarks for a forthcoming edited book entitled The Open Society and its Enemies in East Asia, which is itself the product of a conference with the same title that was held at the University of Notre Dame Australia in July 2011. I seek to demonstrate that the ideas contained in Karl Popper's Open Society and its Enemies (1945) are both a product of a specific European context (namely Viennese culture in the first half of the twentieth century) and relevant to anyone seeking to understand the recent history of the East Asian economies.


The risk-uncertainty distinction: are there precursors to Keynes and Knight?

Rod O'Donnell
University of Technology

Abstract

The risk-uncertainty distinction was introduced into economics by Keynes and Knight in the early 20th century, with Keynes in 1907 preceding Knight in 1916 by nine years. This paper investigates the much larger and more difficult question of whether there are any precursors to Keynes and Knight in this area.  Six candidates, spanning two centuries and several European countries, are considered - Richard Cantillon, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Johann von Thunen, Hans von Mangoldt, Thomas Cliffe Leslie and Frederick Lavington. Based on an investigation of the thought of this small but likely sample, the working hypothesis is advanced that Keynes and Knight have no known precursors. The claims by some commentators in the 1980s, that Thunen, and perhaps Cantillon and Mangoldt, have priority are discussed and found wanting. Obviously, only non-conclusive, probabilistic answers can be given to the question, but the analysis provided here, while recognising that further research may overturn it, invests the hypothesis with relatively high probability.

Contextual History, Practitioner History and Classic Status: Reading Jacob Viner's The Customs Union Issue [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 145.19 KB]

Paul Oslington
Australian Catholic University

Abstract

Jacob Viner's The Customs Union Issue published in 1950 is the one undeniable classic in its field. The first part of the paper traces the development of Viner's thinking on preferential trading arrangements, places his work in context, and clarifies his position on disputed issues.  The second part considers the reception of his work, from the enthusiastic early reviewers to the international economists who further developed the theory of customs unions, to contemporary practitioners.  While practitioners consistently misread Viner, these misreadings were scientifically fruitful, and there are reasons why fruitful science might flow from poor contextual history. Among contemporary international economists it has become a classic, marking off and justifying a field of enquiry.

The Economics of Bernard Lonergan S.J.
Context, Modeling and Assessment
[Adobe Acrobat PDF - 147.83 KB]

Paul Oslington
Australian Catholic University

Abstract

Bernard Lonergan (1904-84) is usual among major theologians in engaging deeply with economic theory and devoting substantial time in the 1940s to developing his own dynamic multisectoral macroeconomic model. His work is little known because the manuscripts were never published, and only known through circulation among a small group of associates, some interaction with post-Keynesians in the 1970s, and through a graduate seminar Lonergan taught at Boston College in the last years of his life.  This paper places Lonergan's economic work in the context of his overall philosophical project, in context of the economics problems of the 1930s, and economists who stimulated his work such as Marx, Keynes, Hayek and Schumpeter.   After describing his macro model and associated theory of the business cycle, Lonergan's contribution is evaluated in relation to mid-twentieth century macroeconomics.  I also consider whether it has anything to offer contemporary economics.

A note on financial stability and sovereign risk

Susan K. Schroeder
University of Sydney

Abstract

The recent instability caused by changes to sovereign credit ratings has caught many by surprise.  This begs the question as to whether sovereign risk is being adequately captured by financial stability assessments performed by central banks. It would appear not.  This suggests that the current scope of financial stability analysis needs to be modified if it were to better account for sovereign debt.  As it turns out, the IMF would prefer to change the scope of sovereign risk instead, shifting it towards a definition that resembles some approaches to country risk assessment.  This note explores the interface between financial stability analysis and sovereign risk assessment from a history of thought perspective. By examining the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the approaches to financial stability analysis it is possible to explain, in part, why sovereign risk is not being captured well.  This analysis also contributes to the discussion as to whether the scope of sovereign risk ought to be re-cast by comparing selected proxies, based on OECD data, for sovereign and country risk with respect to the timing of their changes prior to bouts of financial instability.  The discussion sums up with a review of the insights that Post Keynesian and heterodox approaches to financial stability assessment offer, especially in terms of their ability to integrate sovereign debt into their analyses.   

Ricardo versus Tooke: On the enduring value of their respective monetary theories to classical economics
 
Matthew Smith
University of Sydney

Abstract

This paper considers the enduring value of the monetary theory of Ricardo the quantity theorist with that of Tooke the anti-quantity theorist in the classical tradition.  It is argued that the great merit of Ricardo's monetary theory is its consistency with his theoretical ‘system', at the heart of which is his theory of value and distribution. However, while Ricardo's contribution toward the development of the core theory of value and distribution in the classical tradition is enormous, it is argued that his monetary theory is not appealing. By contrast, it is argued that from the standpoint of classical economics as reconstructed after Sraffa (1960), Tooke's banking school theory is of more enduring value in the development of monetary theory.

The Legacy of Irving Fisher’s Conception of Interest for Contemporary Social Quality Theory

Toomas Truuvert
Macquarie University


Abstract

Irving Fisher's theory of interest is referred to in literature in the singular form. Yet it is a composite of three issues extending over nearly quarter of a century including its 1907 publication, and subsequent restatements in 1911 and 1930. The final restatement is known as the Impatience and Opportunity theory of interest. In this paper I propose that principal influences for its inception may have included Fisher's early life experiences and subsequent altruistic pursuits in seeking to improve the human condition. Two life events in particular cast aside Fisher's doubts about the efficacy of philanthropy in improving quality of life, and promoted a much increased sense of urgency about the timing of societal reform. Quality of life is a precondition for social quality which is a theoretical construct that in our time seeks to explain economic and social progress. Social quality serves as an indicator of distributive justice for members of society, ranging from the micro-collective to supra-national collectives. To this end, I adopt a Janusian perspective in sketching Fisher's conception of interest and its legacy for contemporary social quality theory.

Unnatural Selection: On Hayek, Georgescu-Roegen and the Historical Dematerialisation of Bioeconomics

Jeremy Walker
University of Technology Sydney

Abstract

The paper will contrast the fortunes of two diametrically opposed versions of 'bioeconomics': the eco-thermodynamics of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994), who as the author of the most profound critique of neoclassical economics to date, can be counted as founder of the biophysical school of ecological economics, and the late work of his contemporary, the supreme philosopher of neoliberalism, Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992).

While systematically ignored by the orthodox profession, Georgescu-Roegen's (1971) rigourous critique of infinite growth in equilibrium conditions remains a lucid and coherent framework that speaks to the contemporary policy paralysis in the face of climate change, peak minerals, and biodiversity loss. If Hayek shared the characteristic hostility of the Chicago School economists to environmentalism, he increasingly opposed the neoclassical social physics of equilibrium, appealing rather to the sciences of biological complexity to provide ontological ground for his vision of a radically decentralised 'spontaneous' market order, which he sought to immunise against the 'counter-evolutionary' impulses of the democratic state.

In the wake of the financial crisis, Hayek's neoliberal bioeconomics is only increasing in influence, as bankers question computable equilibrium models and adopt terminology drawn from complex systems ecology to theorise financial 'resilience'. Meanwhile, ecologists seeking to avert the mass extinction crisis find themselves advocating for a baroque suite of markets to attract investment in a dwindling stock of biodiversity and 'ecosystem services'. The contemporary habit of conflating living ecosystems and abstract credit money as interchangeable  forms of 'capital' can be traced to Hayek's radically subjectivist concept of capital, and his metaphorical appropriation of the life sciences of complexity.

Whether they study the catastrophic financialisation of the economy, or the financialisation of the catastrophe of the biosphere, future historians of bioeconomics may yet appreciate that the triumph of Hayek’s bioeconomics over Georgescu-Roegen's in the era of the ‘knowledge economy’ was not unrelated to the former's capacity to effect, through its radical ambiguity, an 'ideological disarmament of disaster'.

Postwar British Socialism and the Fabian Society (chapter 7 of The Clash of Economic Ideas)

Lawrence H. White
George Mason University, USA

Abstact:

Following the electoral victory of the Labour Party in 1945, the British government nationalized a number of large industries, together employing about one-fifth of the workforce. The program of nationalization was the fruit of many decades of intellectual activism by the Fabian Society, a non-revolutionary democratic-socialist movement long led by Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, and George Bernard Shaw. Where Marx and Engels had derived the exploitation of the working class from the Ricardian labor theory of value, the Fabians derived the exploitation of all nonlanded classes alike from the Ricardian theory of rent. The thinker who converted Shaw to socialism and most influenced the Fabians by developing the policy implications of Ricardian rent theory was, somewhat ironically given that he was a free-trader, the popular American economist Henry George. Fabian thought was grounded in utilitarianism. It extrapolated the trend among British utilitarians, exemplified by contrasting the later John Stuart Mill to the earlier JS Mill, James Mill, and Jeremy Bentham, toward endorsing an ever larger role for government in the economy.

A Peculiar Archaeology: Searching for Mr. Giffen’s Behaviour [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 250.49 KB]

Michael V. White
Monash University

Abstract

It has been claimed that references to ‘Giffen behaviour’ constituted a single research project, driven by attempts to establish whether an initial ‘conjecture’ by Alfred Marshall had empirical validity. There is, however, no stable basis for that claim, in part because Marshall produced contradictory accounts of Giffen behaviour and, while he referred to the statistician Robert Giffen as the source for his different accounts, Giffen rejected a key assumption made by Marshall. Moreover, by the mid-1920s, discussion of an upward-sloping demand curve attached no particular significance to an illustration referenced by Marshall because other and quite different explanations were regarded as equally important. The formulation of the Irish famine Giffen exemplar in P.A. Samuelson’s Economics textbook illustrates how Giffen behaviour was stabilised as the single possible exception to ‘the law of demand’ in the 1960s.

A theological analysis into an economic mind

Yong-Sun Yang
Alphacrucis College

Abstract

Human activity in the market is more than just the matter of an economic behavior based on self-interest. It may have a theological dimension in it in the sense that the desire of pursuing one's self-interest rationally or emotionally is actually a matter of faith rather than just a rational choice. In this paper, a theological dimension of self-interest is discussed mentioning Smith and Hegel. By showing a close interrelationship between economic ideas and theological thought, it may contribute in understanding philosophical foundations of modern economic thought in connection with theology.