Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Me, Elsewhere

At NEP-DGE Blog, I commented on some post about some dynamic general equilibrium model explaining the distributions of wealth and income:
"Chapter 13 of Cockshott, Cottrell, Michaelson, Wright, and Yakovenko’s Classical Econophysics (Routledge, 2009) explains the distribution of income and wealth to some extent. They have social classes and are interested in statistical equilibrium, as in thermodynamics. I don’t know why one should care about what [one] can do in the failed neoclassical paradigm."
Over at Crooked Timber, I mentioned some books that I think were influential for me:
"I guess the Lord of the Rings is the book I’ve read the most times.

I read the Bible from cover to cover once at an early age.

One friend in college had a couple of serious books of physics. So, if I was going to spout off on politics, I ought to read some serious books on economics. The two I found in a used book store were Keynes’ General Theory (which I reread several times) and Von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games. Part of the influence of these is to show me I can read original research, whether I understand it or not. I’ve read a number of books others have listed, but one can say that that’s a consequence of this lesson.

Somewhere I came across a reference to Joan Robinson as “the english Galbraith”. I had liked Galbraith, so I read her. I read a lot of her collections and then Sraffa’s Production of Commodities, as well as secondary literature such as Geoff Harcourt’s book, Some Cambridge Controversies. The lesson here is that almost everything economics professors were teaching me as an undergraduate had been shown to be mostly nonsense decades before.

Somewhere in here I read Schumpeter’s History and Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order. Basically, I read Hayek before I found out right-wingers cite him without reading him. Why wouldn’t a leftist who has also read Orwell accept that Stalinist central planning couldn’t be expected to work well?

I had read a lot of commentary – I particularly like Harrington’s The Twilight of Capitalism – before reading Marx with understanding. I actually read Theories of Surplus Value before the first volume of Capital.

I found some works of economic history eye-opening – maybe Braudel’s Capitalism and Material Life, Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, or Polanyi’s The Great Transformation.

I’m not sure about what were the earliest works in philosophy that I think I might have understood somewhat – probably some Russell, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, or Popper’s The Open Society and It’s Enemies. Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations is on my list of books I’ve read multiple times."
With this exercise, you will see books on others lists that you maybe should have put on yours. Then there are all the books I haven't yet read, have unjustly forgot, or never understood in the first place. I'll refrain from commenting on any other comments on Crooked Timber, but I will note that young Matt Zeitlin includes Rorty's Achieving Our Country - a good book - on his list.


Anonymous said...

"Why wouldn’t a leftist who has also read Orwell accept that Stalinist central planning couldn’t be expected to work well?"

How very true! Particularly as anarchists and other libertarian socialists were arguing long before Stalin that central planning would not work. In fact, before von Hayek and von Mises:

I.1.2 Is libertarian communism impossible?

Nor does socialism mean, as von Mises asserted, the end of markets. After all, Proudhon was an early market socialist who objected to the Jacobin socialism of Louis Blanc partly because state monopolies meant that prices could not provide useful information:

“How much does [a product] sold by the [state] administration cost? How much is it worth? You can answer the first of these questions: you need only call at the first . . . shop you see. But you can tell me nothing about the second, because you have no standard of comparison and are forbidden to verify by experiment the . . . cost . . . Therefore . . . business, made into a monopoly, necessarily costs society more than it brings in.” (System of Economic Contradictions, pp. 232-3)

I'm hoping that my Proudhon anthology (Property is Theft!) will show that there is some benefit to be had from reading Proudhon. I've sketched this in the introduction to the book and I hope people will agree.

An Anarchist FAQ

Robert Vienneau said...

Thanks for the comments. As far as my political philosophy reading, I'm currently finishing Hobbes' Leviathan. Many of the lists at Crooked Timber were interesting. I like the english radicals Alex Burgess found influential (although I haven't read Winstanley).