Wednesday, January 01, 2025

Welcome

I study economics as a hobby. My interests lie in Post Keynesianism, (Old) Institutionalism, and related paradigms. These seem to me to be approaches for understanding actually existing economies.

The emphasis on this blog, however, is mainly critical of neoclassical and mainstream economics. I have been alternating numerical counter-examples with less mathematical posts. In any case, I have been documenting demonstrations of errors in mainstream economics. My chief inspiration here is the Cambridge-Italian economist Piero Sraffa.

In general, this blog is abstract, and I think I steer clear of commenting on practical politics of the day.

I've also started posting recipes for my own purposes. When I just follow a recipe in a cookbook, I'll only post a reminder that I like the recipe.

Comments Policy: I'm quite lax on enforcing any comments policy. I prefer those who post as anonymous (that is, without logging in) to sign their posts at least with a pseudonym. This will make conversations easier to conduct.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granduncle Babbitt Murdered a Native-American

The Babbitt family started in America with Edward Bobet, who died in 1675.

We have now come to that time of terror and disaster to the settlers the uprising of the Indians, known as King Phillip's War. It can easily be imagined how many anxious hours were passed by Edward and Sarah Bobet, so far removed from the garrison stockade, with their large family of children. Judging by the quantities of Indian relics found on his home farm it would seem that it was a peculiarly favorite haunt of the Indians before Bobet bought it. Finally their position became too dangerous to admit of further delay and being warned of the commencement of hostilities, on June 25, 1675, they took refuge in the garrison at Taunton, leaving behind the home which had been the fruit of so much labor in the wilderness. We must depend upon tradition for the account of Edward Bobet's last hours. This tradition has been so faithfully handed down from generation to generation and seems so fully confirmed by his place of burial that there is no reason to disbelieve it. According to this tradition Bobet returned to his house to secure some necessary article—perhaps the cheese hoop, as the story says: he was accompanied by his dog in the thought that perhaps warning of prowling savages would be given by it. He secured the needed article and was on his way back to the fort when he became aware of his pursuit by Indians; he climbed a tree and was effectually hidden, but his faithful dog disclosed his presence and his life was the forfeit of his hazardous adventure. His grave is in a private yard, near Berkley Bridge, and is thought to be the spot where he was killed. The spot was marked by a bronze Memorial Tablet in 1911 - its cost being defrayed by small contributions from his descendants, from all over the United States and Canada. (p. 23)

The family history has this bit about his son, also Edward Bobet (1655-1732):

He was a member of the 'train band' of Taunton and tradition relates that on one training day there appeared among the spectators one of the Indians who had killed Edward Bobet. This Indian who was perhaps intoxicated, boasted of this fact to Edward Bobet, Jr., who at a later date avenged his father's death. The Proprietors' records contain numerous entries concerning parcels of land which Edward added to his estate, and at the time of his death he owned many acres in both Taunton and the North Purchase…. (p. 27)

There is no suggestion of any arrest or any consequences.

Reference
  • Willliam Bradford Brown. 1912. The Babbitt Family History, 1643-1900. Taunton, Massachsetts.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

On Sraffian Methodology

I do not know if I will keep on, but I thought I might present a series of posts expanding on this one. By the way, I should have said there that the maximum rate of profits is the reciprocal of the organic composition of capital in Sraffa's standard system, not the actual system.

Sraffa's model is descriptive, based on objective data that can be observed for one production period. This data, at least through the first three chapters of The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, consists of:

  • The gross quantities produced over the production period, in physical units.
  • The proportion of labor employed in each industry.
  • The commodities that are used as inputs in each industry.
  • The wage, expressed as a proportion of the value of the net output produced in the period.

Assume that the same rate of profits is made in each industry. Evidently, this model is of a more or less competitive capitalist economy. Then, assuming a viable economy, prices of production are determined by the data.

Sraffa extends this approach to consider joint production, including fixed capital and rent. He often does not explicitly state assumptions or, if so, not in any detail. Furthermore, how this approach fits with a more thorough analysis of capitalist economies, at least, has been a subject of debate ever since the publication of his book.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

George Babbitt's Neighbor Is A Yale Economist

"On the other side of Babbitt lived Howard Littlefield, Ph.D., in a strictly modern house whereof the lower part was dark red tapestry brick, with a leaded oriel, the upper part of pale stucco like spattered clay, and the roof red-tiled. Littlefield was the Great Scholar of the neighborhood; the authority on everything in the world except babies, cooking, and motors. He was a Bachelor of Arts of Blodgett College, and a Doctor of Philosophy in economics of Yale. He was the employment-manager and publicity-counsel of the Zenith Street Traction Company. He could, on ten hours' notice, appear before the board of aldermen or the state legislature and prove, absolutely, with figures all in rows and with precedents from Poland and New Zealand, that the street-car company loved the Public and yearned over its employees; that all its stock was owned by Widows and Orphans; and that whatever it desired to do would benefit property-owners by increasing rental values, and help the poor by lowering rents. All his acquaintances turned to Littlefield when they desired to know the date of the battle of Saragossa, the definition of the word 'sabotage,' the future of the German mark, the translation of 'hinc illae lachrimae,' or the number of products of coal tar. He awed Babbitt by confessing that he often sat up till midnight reading the figures and footnotes in Government reports, or skimming (with amusement at the author's mistakes) the latest volumes of chemistry, archeology, and ichthyology.

But Littlefield's great value was as a spiritual example. Despite his strange learnings he was as strict a Presbyterian and as firm a Republican as George F. Babbitt. He confirmed the business men in the faith. Where they knew only by passionate instinct that their system of industry and manners was perfect, Dr. Howard Littlefield proved it to them, out of history, economics, and the confessions of reformed radicals." -- Sinclair Lewis. 1922. Babbitt pp. 21-22

Edward Erasmus Bobbit (1626-1675) has many descendants in America named Babbit(t). I do not know how Sinclair Lewis decided on the name of his protangonist.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Elsewhere

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Selective Bibliography For The TSSI

is there a book with a focus exclusively on the TSSI more recent than the 2015 one in this list?

  • Armstrong, Phil (2020). Can Heterodox Economics Make a Difference? Conversations with Key Thinkers Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Potts, Nick and Andrew Kliman (eds.) (2015). Is Marx's Theory of Profit Right? The Simultaneous-Temporalist Debate. Lanham: Lexington Books.
  • Kliman, Andrew (2007). Reclaiming Marx's "Capital": A Refutation of the Myth of Inconsistency. Lanham: Lexington Books.
  • Freeman, Alan, Andrew Kliman, and Julian Wells (eds.) (2004). The New Value Controversy and the Foundation of Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Freeman, Alan and Gulielmo Carchedi (eds.) (1996). Marx and Non-Equilibrium Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

I am not sure the first should be in this list. It is a collection of interviews with economists, including Kliman and Potts. The second has articles by such critics as Simon Mohun, Roberto Veneziani, and Robert Paul Wolff. The third includes articles by David Laibman and Paul Cockshott & Allin Cottrell, among many others. None have anything by Gary Mongiovi, as far as I can see. In general, I oppose the TSSI.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Textbooks for Post-Sraffian Price Theory

This post provides a list of textbooks:

  • Syed Ahmad (1991). Capital in Economic Theory: Neo-classical, Cambridge, and Chaos, Edward Elgar.
  • Christian Bidard (2004). Prices, Reproduction, Scarcity, Cambridge University Press.
  • Duncan K. Foley, Thomas R. Michl, and Daniele Tavani.(2019). Growth and Distribution (2nd edition), Harvard University Press.
  • Richard M. Goodwin (1970). Elementary Economics from the Higher Standpoint, Cambridge University Press.
  • Steve Keen (2011). Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor Dethroned? (Second edition). Zed Books.
  • Heinz D. Kurz and Neri Salvadori (1995). Theory of Production: A Long-Period Analysis, Cambridge University Press
  • Arrigo Opocher and Ian Steedman (2015). Full Industry Equilibrium: A Theory of the Industrial Long Run, Cambridge University Press.
  • Luigi L. Pasinetti (1977). Lectures on the Theory of Production, Columbia University Press
  • Fabio Petri (2021). Microeconomics for the Critical Mind, Springer.
  • Joan Robinson and John Eatwell (1973). An Introduction to Modern Economics, McGraw-Hill.
  • Alessandro Roncaglia (2006) The Wealth of Ideas: A History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press.
  • Ernesto Screpanti and Stefano Zamagni (2005) An Outline of the History of Economic Thought (Second edition). Oxford University Press.
  • Eric Sheppard and Trevor J. Barnes (1990) The Capitalist Space Economy: Geographical Analysis After Ricardo, Marx, and Sraffa. Routledge.
  • Yanis Varoufakis (1998). Foundations of Economics: A Beginner's Companion. Routledge.
  • Vivian Walsh and Harvey Gram (1980). Classical and Neoclassical Theory of General Equilibrium: Historical Origins and Mathematical Structure, Oxford University Press.
  • J. E. Woods (1990). The Production of Commodities: An Introduction to Sraffa, Humanities Press International.

Some of the above are out of print. I assume a reader who knows that one needs to read with paper and pen in hand. I deliberately do not include books by Christopher Bliss, Edwin Burmeister, or Avinash Dixit on growth theory, since I want to emphasize critics of mainstream economics. Nothing against them, and I could probably extend the above list with some thought. I have provided related lists before:

I suppose one might have other lists more Marxist than any of the above, a list for Leontief input-output analysis, a list for ecological economics, and a list with more emphasis on the history of economics.

Textbooks have been available for half a century that teach correct price theory.