The Empirical Evidence Against Neoclassical Utility Theory: A Review of the Literature,

Current Economics Textbooks and Economists justify a theory of consumer behavior based on utility maximization on a priori grounds. This methodology follows Lionel Robbins’ idea that economic theory is based on logical deduction from postulates which are ‘simple and indisputable facts of experience.’ Strong evidence has emerged from many different lines of research that these ‘simple and indisputable facts of experience’ are contradicted by human behavior. In this article, we summarize some of main contradictions between predictions of utility theory and actual human behavior. Efforts to resolve these contradictions continue to be made within orthodox frameworks, but it appears likely that a paradigm shift is required.

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Posted in behavioral economics, neoclassical theory, Neoliberalism, utility theory | Tagged , , ,

The Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation

Polanyi’s book on The Great Transformation provides an analysis of the emergence and significance of capitalist economic structures which differs radically from those currently universally taught in economic textbooks. This analysis is based on a methodological approach which is also radically different from existing methodologies for doing economics, and more generally social science. This methodology is used by Polanyi without explicit articulation. Our goal in this article is to articulate the methodology used in this book to bring out the several dimensions on which it differs from current approaches to social science. Among the key differences, Polanyi provides substantial scope for human agency and capabilities to change the course of history. He also shows that the social, political and economic spheres of human existence are deeply interlinked and cannot be analyzed in isolation, as current approaches assume.

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Read also: The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Posted in Capitalism, Economics, Polanyi, Political economy | Tagged , , ,

The Rise and Fall of the Market Economy

The core economic functions of production and distribution of goods can be handled by many different methods. After the fall of communism, the market mechanism has become nearly universal. Conventional economic theories argue that this is natural, because it is the best and the most efficient method for organizing economic affairs in a society. This paper, based on the analysis of Polanyi and Klein argues that the opposite is true. Market mechanisms conflict with natural mechanisms for production and exchange in traditional societies. Unregulated markets cause tremendous damage, as can be witnessed today in terms of countless economic crises, wars, environmental destruction, as well as damage to social networks. Because of this damage, market societies can only be maintained by force, as well as disinformation. To resolve crises on myriad fronts caused by the unregulated market, it is the need of the hour to find viable alternatives.

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Read also: Readings on Karl Polanyi

Posted in Capitalism, markets, Neoliberalism, Polanyi | Tagged , , ,

Does Capitalism Have a Future?

The Great Recession has prompted a reassessment of the specific mode of capitalist accumulation that achieved dominance in the era of globalization. Yet just about all of this literature has focused on one of two issues: why things went wrong, and what we need to do in order to return the system to stability. Outside of a contingent of radical socialists on the fringes of the debate, virtually no one questioned whether capitalism could continue. In Does Capitalism Have a Future?, the prominent theorist Georgi Derleugian has gathered together a quintet of eminent macrosociologists to assess whether the capitalist system can survive. The prevalent common wisdom, for all its current gloom, nevertheless safely assumes that capitalism cannot break down permanently because there is no alternative. The authors shatter this assumption, arguing that this generalization is not supported by theory but is rather an outgrowth of the optimistic nineteenth-century claim that human history ascends through stages to an enlightened equilibrium of liberal capitalism. Yet as they point out, just about all major historical systems have broken down in the end (e.g., the Roman empire). In the modern epoch there have been several cataclysmic events-notably the French revolution, World War I, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc—that came to pass mainly because contemporary political elites had spectacularly failed to calculate the consequences of the processes they presumed to govern. At present, none of our governing elites and very few of our intellectuals can fathom an ending to our current reigning system. Considering whether a collapse is possible is the task that the quintet—Derleugian, Michael Mann, Randall Collins, Craig Calhoun, and Immanuel Wallerstein—sets out to explore. While all of the contributors arrive at different conclusions, they are in constant dialogue with each other and therefore able to construct relatively seamless—if open-ended—whole. For instance, Wallerstein (who accurately predicted the collapse of the Soviet system in 1979) and Collins, identify fatal structural faults in twenty-first century capitalism. Mann, on the other hand, does not think that there is any serious alternative to the market dynamic, but he does identify other serious threats to the system, including environmental degradation. Calhoun and Derluguian are more circumspect and focus on the role of politics in steering the system toward either revival or collapse. This most ambitious of books, written by the highest caliber of sociologists, asks the biggest of questions: are we on the cusp of a radical world historical shift or not?

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Read also: Capitalist Systems are Societal Constructs

Posted in Capitalism | Tagged

Using Peer-To-Peer Lending Platforms

In just the past few years, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending has exploded from a potentially disruptive lending niche to a major segment of consumer borrowing responsible for a whopping $5B of loans in 2014, driven in large part by investor willingness to fund the loans given demand for fixed income alternatives that provide better yields in today’s low-interest-rate environment. Yet the reality is that P2P lending isn’t just about investment opportunities – for many, it’s a key source of borrowing potential, especially for those with healthy credit scores but limited borrowing collateral, and can be helpful to consolidate and refinance existing credit card and other debts at lower interest rates. In this “Financial Advisor’s Guide To Peer-To-Peer Borrowing”, we discuss the mechanics of how borrowing via Peer-to-Peer Lending actually works, the rules and requirements, the costs and the caveats, and the situations in which financial advisors should consider exploring a P2P loan as a financial planning strategy for clients to manage the liability side of their balance sheet!

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Posted in Lending, Loans, P2P, Platforms | Tagged , , ,

Managers’ Self-Interest, Greed, and Altruism

We explore the potential effects of managers’ greed and altruism on their behaviors and firm outcomes. Greed represents extreme self-interest whereas altruism reflects concern for others. We argue that managerial greed leads to a focus on short-term decisions and short-term firm performance. Alternatively, managerial altruism normally produces a focus on longer term decisions and long-term firm performance. Managerial greed is also more likely to produce wrongdoing, whereas managerial altruism produces greater corporate citizenship behaviors. Managerial greed is likely to lead to turnover for non-performance–related reasons whereas managerial altruism is more likely to produce managerial turnover for performance reasons. Overall, we conclude that measured self-interest keeps managers focused on the firm’s goals and measured altruism helps the firm to build and maintain strong human and social capital. The extremes of either greed or altruism likely will harm firm performance. Thus, balance between managerial self-interest and managerial altruism leads to the greatest success.

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Posted in Altruism, Greed, Leadership, Managers | Tagged , , ,

Business Culture and Dishonesty in the Banking Industry

Trust in others’ honesty is a key component of the long-term performance of firms, industries, and even whole countries. However, in recent years, numerous scandals involving fraud have undermined confidence in the financial industry. Contemporary commentators have attributed these scandals to the financial sector’s business culture, but no scientific evidence supports this claim. Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific to bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient. Our results thus suggest that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.

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Posted in Banks, Business culture, Dishonesty | Tagged , ,

The Elusive Costs of Sovereign Defaults

Few would dispute that sovereign defaults entail significant economic costs, including, most notably, important output losses. However, most of the evidence supporting this conventional wisdom, based on annual observations, suffers from serious measurement and identification problems. To address these drawbacks, we examine the impact of default on growth by looking at quarterly data for emerging economies. We find that, contrary to what is typically assumed, output contractions precede defaults. Moreover, we find that the trough of the contraction coincides with the quarter of default, and that output starts to grow thereafter, indicating that default episode seems to mark the beginning of the economic recovery rather than a further decline. This suggests that, whatever negative effects a default may have on output, those effects result from anticipation of a default rather than the default itself.

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Read also: The Costs of Sovereign Defaults

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Politics of Debt: Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry

Under the rubric of ‘financial inclusion’, lending to the poor –in both the global North and global South –has become a highly lucrative and rapidly expanding industry since the 1990s. A key inquiry of this book is what is ‘the financial’ in which the poor are asked to join. Instead of embracing the mainstream position that financial inclusion is a natural, inevitable and mutually beneficial arrangement, Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry suggests that the structural violence inherent to neoliberalism and credit-led accumulation have created and normalized a reality in which the working poor can no longer afford to live without expensive credit. The book further transcends economic treatments of credit and debt by revealing how the poverty industry is inextricably linked to the social power of money, the paradoxes in credit-led accumulation, and ‘debtfarism’. The latter refers to rhetorical and regulatory forms of governance that mediate and facilitate the expansion of the poverty industry and the reliance of the poor on credit to augment/replace their wages. Through a historically grounded analysis, the author examines various dimensions of the poverty industry ranging from the credit card, payday loan, and student loan industries in the United States to micro-lending and low-income housing finance industries in Mexico. Providing a much-needed theorization of the politics of debt, Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry has wider implications of the increasing dependence of the poor on consumer credit across the globe.

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Posted in Credit, Debt, Politics, Poverty | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Credit as Relationship and Practice: the Sociology of Credit

This paper aims to describe the social studies of credit developed in France over the past dozen years. We argue that this French sociology of credit, mostly centered on France, can be useful for researchers analyzing other countries, with other institutional particularities, because it proposes a specific method and a specific way to raise questions: credit is mostly understood as a result of social interactions embedded in organizational and legal structures. French researchers also deeply analyze the consequences of the organization of the credit market for inequalities, social stratification, and people’s life experiences. The first part of the paper focuses on works that have examined credit as a social test, looking at the institutional, technical, and social frameworks of money lending. Then, credit is understood as a sociological experiment: how is it integrated into household economies? How do people use forms of credit? Finally, the third part concentrates on credit failure, when a bank loan becomes a debt. This aspect is mostly framed in French sociology as “over-indebtedness,” which is an administrative and a social category. Throughout the paper, we address credit as both a relationship and a practice. This approach is heuristic, as we seek to demonstrate, because it enables us to show that credit is a social and political issue.

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Posted in Credit, Debt, Sociology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment