Following are the contents (with abstracts) of Review of Social Economy (71/4, 2013).
Economics, Ethics and Thanatology: Lessons from the Ancients, Donald G. Richards
The normative presuppositions motivating rational choice decision-making based on optimizing objectives amount to a thin account of ethical economic behavior. Ancient thought offers insights that can provide a firmer basis both for personal, individual choice as well as for public policy. After a brief review of Epicurean and Stoic ethical principles, a comparison is made of modern economic and Hellenistic conceptions of rationality and rational behavior. These competing conceptions are then applied to an examination of a contemporary public policy problem, namely health care, particularly as this applies to “end-of-life” issues. The argument concludes that decision-making based on a eudaimonic conception of the good has the potential to provide us with a more efficient health care system as well as one that more satisfactorily addresses the needs of the chronically ill and dying patients who account for a highly disproportionate share of health care expenditures.
The Mystery of Capital or the Mystification of Capital?, Franklin Obeng-Odoom
In contemporary political economic analyses of development processes, Hernando De Soto's The Mystery of Capital, has been one of the most discussed, albeit controversial, books. Although well received by global development agencies such as the World Bank, a key exponent of De Soto's work, positing that the creation and institutionalisation of individual property in housing and land revives “dead capital” and creates the conditions that will enable the poor to emerge from abject poverty, has been widely criticised. These criticisms show that (1) the thesis is flawed, (2) the flaw is due to implementational problems and (3) the practical implications arising from the thesis are largely neutral and will neither improve nor worsen poverty. Although agreeing with the first criticism, this paper argues that the second critique must be nuanced, and the third is entirely mistaken. Utilising insights from Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Polanyi and Henry George, it makes the case that applying De Soto's ideas through policy would be ineffective in curbing urban poverty, and actually serve to simultaneously entrench and augment it. Moreover, while finding that De Soto's assumption that the poor possess some economic agency is sound and may, indeed, secure socially beneficial outcomes through pursuing innovative and entrepreneurial endeavours, De Soto's conception of such processes remains largely emasculated from broader political economic considerations.
Decomposing Racial and Ethnic Differences in Small Business Lending: Evidence of Discrimination, Naranchimeg Mijid & Alexandra Bernasek
In this paper, we use the Blinder–Oaxaca method for nonlinear models to decompose observed differences in credit rationing of small businesses between white- and minority-owned firms in the USA. We utilize a representative dataset of small businesses from the Survey of Small Business Finances between 1987 and 2003. Our results show that minority owners, on average, have about a 24 percentage points higher loan denial rate than white-owned firms and about three quarters of the difference is attributed to discrimination in bank lending. Although the difference in the probability of getting a smaller loan than requested is only 5 percentage points, this difference is almost entirely attributed to discrimination.
Starting Your Career With a Fixed-Term Job: Stepping-Stone or “Dead End”?, Dimitris Pavlopoulos
This paper uses panel data from the UK and Germany to investigate the difference in the learning effect between workers who enter the labour market with a fixed term and a permanent job. Our results verify the existence of a wage penalty for entering the labour market with a fixed-term contract for the British males (7.1%) and especially for the British females (21.2%). British females also have a very strong learning effect that is especially large for temporary starters. In Germany, the initial wage penalty for temporary starters is smaller than in the UK—4.5% for the males and 3% for the females—and is persistent only for the males. Although initial wage differences are mitigated through the accumulation of skills on the job, this process differs between temporary and permanent starters. This suggests that the type of the starting contract may be a feature of labour market segmentation.
Moral Sentiments, Institutions, and Civil Society: What Can Hegel Contribute to Sen's Theory of Justice?, Ivan Boldyrev & Carsten Herrmann-Pillath OPEN ACCESS
In his Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen compares the two basic approaches to evaluating institutions, transcendental institutionalism and realization-focused comparisons. Referring to Adam Smith's Impartial Spectator, he argues in favor of the latter and proposes the principle of open impartiality. However, this cannot solve the tension between universalism and contextualization of values that Sen has inherited from Smith. Based on recent Hegel scholarship, we argue that some of the difficulties can be resolved, considering the role Smith played in the development of Hegel's thinking. Hegel's concept of recognition plays an essential role in establishing the possibility of impartiality both on the level of consciousness and on the level of institutional intersubjectivity. Hegel's critique of Kant's formalist ethics (also considered as transcendental institutionalism by Sen) and his analysis of the civil society in the Philosophy of Right, especially his focus on associations and Estates, can serve as a model for making Sen's focus on public discourse theoretically more concise and pragmatically feasible. Hegel shows that universalistic attitudes can only emerge in specific institutional contexts.
Can We—and Should We—Measure Well-Being?, Mark D. White
In this article, I argue that recent criticisms of happiness research in economics can be extended to any conception of well-being used for scientific or policymaking purposes. These criticisms are both practical and ethical: well-being is not only impossible to define, measure, or implement, but its use also offends human dignity through unjust distribution of harm and value substitution. On this basis, I recommend the abandonment of welfare economics and urge social economists to propose new approaches to addressing social problems that are more focused and respect the dignity of persons.
The Pursuit of a Measure of Happiness, Mark D. White
A review of Happiness, Ethics and Economics, by Johannes Hirata; The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being, by Carol Graham; and Freedom and Happiness in Economic Thought and Philosophy: From Clash to Reconciliation, edited by Ragip Ege and Herrade Igersheim.
Kantian Ethics and Economics: Autonomy, Dignity, and Character, by Mark D. White (reviewed by Stefano Solari)
Individuals and Identity in Economics, by John B. Davis (reviewed by Béatrice Boulu-Reshef)
Durkheim and the Birth of Economic Sociology, by Philippe Steiner (reviewed by Alexander Ebner)