Monday, May 30, 2022

Course/discussion: A very short Introduction to the theory of value and distribution


A few years back in Colombia, we discussed with a group of students about a possible reading group of Sraffa's Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities (PCMC).  After the pandemic I thought that the experience with Zoom perhaps created the conditions for that. But I also have a concern expressed here several times (see here and here) about the lack of understanding of the theory of value and distribution and its importance for policy analysis, and not just among mainstream economists.

At any rate, I decided to give 6 Lectures online (that I will record and post eventually) on the theory of value and distribution. It will cover from before Adam Smith to modern times. Authors discussed will include Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Marginalist ones (Clark, Marshall, Wicksell), Sraffa, Samuelson and Garegnani.  The Capital Debates, and the Modern Intertemporal Marginalist approach will also be discussed. 

This will not be an advanced seminar for graduate students that already know quite a bit about these topics, but for advanced undergraduates and perhaps masters students in mainstream programs (or heterodox ones that do not cover these issues), which have limited understanding of the theory of value and distribution. Readings will include the relevant chapters or papers by the main authors in the original (not a textbook, even though I will suggest a few; and yes, some chapters of PCMC too). I intend to have a discussion session after each lecture (which will not be posted online). If you are interested email me with a brief explanation of your background and why this would be relevant for you to mv587062@gmail.com.

Dates, Zoom links and a syllabus will be provided for those that participate (yes, it is free).

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The economic and social consequences of the war on Europe and Italy

By Sergio Cesaratto

With a certain pride I remember having already mentioned for some years, within the framework of my economic courses, political realism in international relations and International Political Economy. I did so in academic contexts in which an uncritical Europeanism based on liberal thinking prevailed (and prevails) according to which the world is divided into good and bad. The book, which I suggested for reading to my students (Sorensen 2005), published in Italian by Bocconi University Press (Egea), had some pages dedicated to the enlargement of NATO to the East, dutifully presenting the opposite thesis. In particular, an important letter addressed in 1997 to President Clinton by 50 eminent personalities opposed to such an enlargement was cited (McGuire 1998). Since those years the signs of growing Western aggression and mounting Russian anger have been evident. I had approached Political Realism at the suggestion of a book in which a profound Italian jurist and philosopher of law, the late Danilo Zolo (see e.g. Zolo 2009) expressed his scepticism about humanitarian wars. My interest as an economist was naturally directed towards the debate in the field of International Political Economy between, on the one hand, liberal and Marxists supporters of cosmopolitanism (albeit for different reasons) and, on the other, supporters of economic nationalism à la Robert Gilpin. A scholar, the latter, of liberal faith, but who did not confuse ideals with crude economic reality. As I find myself teaching International Economics again next year, I will not fail to make students think about these issues.

Read rest here.

Friday, May 6, 2022

What is heterodox economics? Some clarifications

Long ago I wrote on the meaning of heterodox economics. I suggested that it should be defined in its own terms, not as a reaction to the mainstream or orthodox approach, and as a unified set of propositions.[1] In other words, heterodox economics would be a set of principles that would be backed by a certain community. Of course, the sociology of that community would lead to some degree of debate and dissent within heterodoxy, as it is in fact the case within the mainstream. There is, one might add, significant confusion about the meaning of marginalist and neoclassical economics, and also there is no monolithic and consensual approach within the orthodoxy. The mainstream is somewhat fragmented, and there are more than a few neoclassical or marginalist schools. Some, like the Austrians, tend to think of themselves as heterodox, and evident confusion.

My preoccupation when I first wrote about this topic had been related to the argument by Colander, Holt and Rosser that heterodox economics should be abandoned, or that the labels orthodox/heterodox themselves meant little or nothing. For them, the mainstream itself was moving on, and that the best within the mainstream, the cutting edge as they called them, were breaking away with traditional neoclassical views. In my reply to them, I suggested that the mainstream was doing fine, and that it was not being abandoned by the best and the brightest. I argued that the mainstream had for a while a dual strategy. It maintained certain principles that purported to show that markets produce efficient outcomes, even if a significant part of the profession does not believe it is true in practice, and then proceeded to discuss a series of imperfections that are better suited for the complexities of the real world.

Read rest here.

Thinking about Inflation: A conversation with Marc Lavoie

The conversation on inflation with Marc Lavoie at the Fields Institute in Toronto. I think that there was an agreement, between us, and most...