Friday, August 20, 2010
Posted by dkuehn at 5:30 AM
"Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist" - JMK
This is more of post to share an acquisition and ask a question, rather than providing any insightful citation or reflection on these two.
- First, I'm continuing to explore this idea of how Hayek and Bastiat would have done econometrics if either ever had such an inclination, and I'm trying to make sure I'm addressing this right. I'm sure I there are volumes and volumes from Hayek on the "aggregation fallacy", but I want to keep this concise so I just want to speak to the representative high-points. I have Reflections on the Pure Theory of Money of Mr. J. M. Keynes (1931), which I take to be pretty important and an early engagement with Keynes, which is nice too. What else addresses the "aggregation fallacy", specifically, in a canonical way. I'm thinking of looking at three or four pieces. I suppose the same goes for Bastiat. I'm looking at "What is Seen and What is Not Seen" in Selected Essays on Political Economy, and "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" in Economic Sophisms. Is there anything else of his that might inform the question of what Bastiatian econometrics would look like? In other words, that would speak to "if we look at the world for evidence of economic processes, what is important to look at"? If you have any thoughts on either of them, I'd appreciate it!
- Second, we just finished a multi-million dollar proposal that has been consuming many of my mornings, nights, and weekends for the last two weeks, so I celebrated the conclusion of the proposal like any normal person would: with a trip to the used bookstore during my lunch hour to treat myself in celebration of a job well done! I snagged two really good ones - two volumes from the seven volume set of The Writings of Thorstein Veblen, from the Reprints of Economic Classics series. I picked up What Veblen Taught, which was edited by W.C. Mitchell, and Essays on Our Changing Order. Both are a collection of essays and chapters. In What Veblen Taught I'm especially excited to get to "The Cultural Incidence of the Machine Process" and "The Captains of Finance and the Engineers", and "The Savage State of the Industrial Arts". In Essays on Our Changing Order I'm looking forward to reading "The Overproduction Fallacy" and "The Beginnings of Ownership". Veblen is an interesting figure in general that I don't know much about, but would like to. More immediately speaking, I'm interested in him as a window on the economic thought of H.P. Lovecraft and the whole world of non-classical, non-neo-classical, institutionalist economic thought in the U.S. in the late 19th century and early 20th century. A lot of the issues that Lovecraft talks about - technological development, the consumption of the wealthy, overproduction, governance by engineers (i.e. - technocracy), etc. are taken up by Veblen (hopefully in a somewhat more sophisticated way!). These issues and explanations were put forward by a lot of people in pre-WWII America, but with the rise of the "American Keynesians" in the late thirties and forties a lot of this disappeared. Thorstein Veblen is also, as far as I can tell, the only economist that Lovecraft was actually familiar with and cited (he mentions Jevons in one of his stories but doesn't appear to be influenced by him at all). How much Veblen was actually read by Lovecraft is obviously dubious. But Veblen was in the air in the teens and twenties and Lovecraft certainly picked up on it.
The Journal of Economic Issues is a prominent institutional economics journal that often has material on Veblen.
Finally, a note on used bookstores for people interested in history of economic thought that should have been obvious to me: don't just look in the section that they've labeled "economics". I wandered over to their "politics" section today and I was amazed at how many classic economics texts they had there: Nassau Senior, Gottfried Haberler (I actually may go back tomorrow for him), and a couple others. Used bookstores do their best, but they can't be experts in everything - look beyond economics!
Labels: some defunct economist