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October 19, 2010


Justin Ross

How, I've often wondered, can these purveyors of neo-classical theories of consumer choice be quite so relaxed with so many non-market, illiberal institutions?

I think you are asking questions that pertain to ecological rationality, which is the domain in economics that addresses about how "humanly rational choosers" develop institutions that result in good outcomes. James Buchanan's more recent work fits in this area, as does Elinor Ostrom's lifetime of work (both have Nobel Prize's in Economics). I would also put Peter Leeson's work on Pirates, Gypsies, and Ordeal's in this literature as well. Larry Iannaccone's work in ecclesiastical economics discusses these institutions similarly, but perhaps with language that sounds more in the classical tradition.

Arguably, since firms are organizations that internally operate with "non-market and illiberal" directives, you could even back up all the way to Coase and Adam Smith.

Dick Pountain

non-market, illiberal institutions?

It always surprises me that the Catholic Church has been so unenterprising - indulgences would be far more suitable for today's rampant market economy than Protestant soul searching is - bring 'em back, and dispense 'em via slot machines.

Ian Christie

I love the way capitalism shamelessly provides so much evidence all the time of its amoral nature and its incompatibility with what Avner Offer calls the 'commitment devices' all societies need to provide constraints on the war of desires against the common good. And this system, subject to ever fewer regulations from neoliberalised government, is supposed to go hand in hand with the Big Society.

It would be an interesting project in economic sociology to recruit a sample of full-on neoliberal rational choosers and investigate their worldviews and way of life. One candidate is the hedge fund guru who lives on Jersey with his money, exiled from his wife and children in London on grounds of tax efficiency.


Will a faithful person simply be someone who hasn't (yet) decided to be unfaithful? Will monogamy soon be like a dial-up internet connection - perfectly normal a few years ago, but now somewhat eccentric and irritating to the liberated?

I'm sorry to break it to you, but true monogamy has been dead for ages, or at least on life support. If you don't believe that most people cheat on their partners, I'm sorry to tell you're unfortunately duped by naivité and probably being cheated on as you read this.

I'm not sure if it's gotten worse lately, but certainly having HIV out of the headlines, Craigslist at one's fingertips and busier than ever lifestyles, it's less taxing on the conscience and easier than ever to cheat and avoid detection.

Dick Pountain

> recruit a sample of full-on neoliberal rational > choosers and investigate their worldviews and
> way of life.

I've met plenty and they're mostly adulterous escort-hiring sleazebags...

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