Frederic Jennings Jr. - Economic essays (part two): toward a realistic concept of choice

jpe:10734 - Journal of Philosophical Economics, November 20, 2020, Volume XIII Issue 2 -
Economic essays (part two): toward a realistic concept of choice

Authors: Frederic Jennings Jr.

    The previous three essays (Jennings 2019) and the first in this second series were originally drafted 30 years ago in 1988-1990. They aimed to present a more realistic concept of choice in economics. These four essays serve as a precursor to my subsequent work. The first three essays (Jennings 2019) addressed these issues. Essay One started with the notion of ‘opportunity cost’ and the ‘problem of invisibility’ as a case for open discourse. The second essay introduced two metaphors for economic behavior: the ‘neighborhood store’ and the ‘chessboard’, to raise issues of incomplete knowledge, time and social process. The third essay focused on interdependence: a ‘transport’ metaphor shows a balance of substitution and complementarity, opening institutional questions of competition and cooperation. These three essays set up an ethical theory of planning horizons. The fourth essay outlines a theory of ethics based on rational bounds. The endless interdependence of choice makes rational limits essential; surprises show the border of prior awareness of radiant outcomes. Our ethics align private with social incentives; wherever relations show affinity, competition is self-defeating: cooperation is more efficient, especially in education. Learning extends horizons, suggesting the failure of rivalrous systems. How incentives shape planning horizons is central to social well-being. The fifth essay develops this view with regard to institutions. Where substitution is not the basic character of our relations, competition fails. We see rivalry as productive and think ‘collusion’ is suspect, on an assumption of opposition with no room for consilient aims. But am I discomfited by your success or enriched thereby? Substitution may not be so general, if cooperation expands our horizons in a complementary way. The sixth essay poses a horizonal research agenda. How incentives shape behavior is central to well-being. Substitution and competition lead to fragmentation, when nothing complete can be understood through isolated design. Everything connects, so we must approach understanding thus. Economics – severed from honor, ethics, civilization, climate and ecological loss – cannot grasp these horizonal issues. Our short attention spans bring harm; competitive frames support a myopic culture in self-destruct mode. This is where substitution has failed; a cultural evolution is needed, starting with realistic concepts of choice.

    Volume: Volume XIII Issue 2
    Section: Articles
    Published on: November 20, 2020
    Imported on: December 28, 2022
    Keywords: realism,choice,competition,cooperation,substitution,complementarity,planning horizons,institutions,ethics,conscience,bounded rationality,[SHS]Humanities and Social Sciences


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