Jose Edwards, HES, Toronto, 2008

Back from Toronto after an orgy of papers and sessions. First HES meeting I attended, it was a very good experience. I will try to make it next year.  Several researchers delivered their expected good papers: Judy Klein presenting the last chapter of her forthcoming book on the war-origins of economic analysis, or Tim Leonard on the nexus of social science / religion / evolutionary thinking in the late 19th century.

For me, the good surprise came from a young researcher: Jose Edwards on the relationship between economics and psychology. Among other things, he hinted that the divide in psychology between introspection and behaviorism had some echo among economists – who tried to devise a third way. I should read more of this stuff, because I am more and more convinced that psychology is a science acting as a go-between with many fields (eg, biology, management science, political science), a bit like statistics in some respect. It suggests that psychology would be a good starting point for whom is interested in drawing an integrated story of (social) science in the twentieth century.

Oh, and I have some pictures! Just follow the link:


3 thoughts on “Toronto

  1. Why is picture 38 so noisy around you and Yann?

    Is it video noise, due to low light conditions?

    Oh, I remember now, it’s your wonderful H2S style shirts.

  2. Yes, psychology is a good starting point for examining most every question in the social sciences. By definition, politics and economics deal with individual human behavior, so they must be heavily influenced by psychology–indeed, economic concepts such as supply and demand, the elasticity of demand, and the marginal propensity to consume are nothing more than attempts to generalize about human conduct. Because we know that all constructive activity creating successful societies comes from individual human action, we must recognize human motivation as the fundamental engine of progress. My examination of history shows that such progress occurred most notably in societies where the citizenry were free to pursue their dreams. Economic freedom, combined with secure property rights, creates two empowering situations: First, the citizenry are able without restriction to engage in productive activity, and Second, they are motivated to do so because they can retain the fruit of their labor. Recognition of these basic human desires leads one to support free enterprise whether they’re within a democratic or authoritarian regime. One of the tragedies of history is that so many of the best and brightest minds keep wanting to ignore this human psychology and create “better” institutions based on what mankind might become. Instead of accepting and working with actual human behavior they seek idealized states, even if it means re-shaping their people, by regulations, laws and, if necessary, even force. Fortunately, humans are stubborn as well as imaginative and acquisitive, so to date, all attempts to socialize economies and coerce “model behavior” have consistently failed.

  3. Clement, I find your remarks concerning psychology very interesting, can’t we organize a session on this sometime, somewhere? To my mind there are at least three issue related to this. First is the fact that economists and historians of economics always make distinctions between different types of economics, but for some reason talk about psychology as if it is one homogenous field. In fact, one could I think easily agrue psychology to be much more diverse than economics – for instance, currently there are about 60.000 psychologists registered at the APA as active, scientific psychologists, more than professional economists registered at the AEA I think. Secondly, your point draws our attention to the question how to think about the relation between different scientific disciplines. I have some tentative answer, but I’m sure there’s much to explore here. Thirdly, what would you mean exactly by ‘go-between’? If you look at contemporary behavioral economics you see that indeed the increasing use of psychology has led behavioral economists to also turn to anthropology, neuroscience, sociology, biology (? – you’re the expert here). Is that what you mean by a go-between?

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