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This paper is an exploration of the genesis of Paul Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947) from the perspective of his commitment to Edwin B. Wilson’s mathematics. The paper sheds new light on Samuelson’s Foundations at two levels. First, Wilson’s foundational ideas, embodied in maxims that abound in Samuelson’s book, such as “Mathematics is a Language” or “operationally meaningful theorems,” unified the chapters of Foundations and gave a sense of unity to Samuelson’s economics. Second, Wilson influenced certain theoretical concerns of Samuelson’s economics. Particularly, Samuelson adopted Wilson’s definition of a stable equilibrium position of a system in terms of discrete inequalities. Following Wilson, Samuelson developed correspondences between the continuous and the discrete in order to translate the mathematics of the continuous of neoclassical economics into formulas of discrete magnitudes. In Foundations, the local and the discrete provided the best way of operationalizing marginal and differential calculus. The discrete resonated intuitively with data; the continuous did not.
Environmentalism in the United States historically has been divided into its utilitarian and preservationist impulses, represented by Gifford Pinchot and John Muir, respectively. Pinchot advocated conservation of natural resources to be used for human purposes; Muir advocated protection from humans, for nature’s own sake. In the first half of the twentieth century, natural resource economics was firmly in Pinchot’s side of that schism. That position began to change as the postwar environmental movement gained momentum. In particular, John Krutilla, an economist at Resources for the Future, pushed economics to the point that it could embrace Muir’s vision as well as Pinchot’s. Krutilla argued that if humans preferred a preserved state to a developed one, then such preferences were every bit as “economic.” Either way, there were opportunity costs and an economic choice to be made.
The paper analyzes the rise of the Latin American-based inertial inflation theory. Starting in the 1950s, various traditions in economics purported to explain the concept of “inflation inertia.” Contributions ranging from Celso Furtado and Mário Henrique Simonsen to James Tobin anticipated key aspects of what later became the inertial inflation hypothesis, building it into either mathematical or conceptual frameworks compatible with the then contemporaneous macroeconomic theory. In doing so, they bridged the analytical gap with the North American developments while maintaining the key features of the CEPAL (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) approach, such as distributional conflicts and local institutional details. These contributions eventually influenced the second moment of the monetarist–structuralist controversy that unraveled in the 1980s. The paper also highlights how later works by structuralist economists gradually stripped the inertial inflation approach of its previous substance and form, thereby unearthing tensions among Latin American structuralists that led to the eventual decline of this research program.
This paper sheds light on Albion Small’s views on the inequalities resulting from capital concentration. As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, Small sought ways to reduce social injustice, which in his view was key to avoiding class conflict and preserving democracy. He emphasized the need to devise social policies with a view to ensuring the equality of opportunities for all to realize what Small termed their “interests”—through the combination of their labor with “tool-capital.” Small entrusted the State with the central role of fighting capital inequalities through social policies, the treatment of inequalities dealing with morals. He embraced the then-fashionable idea of reasonable capitalism, as expounded by fellow progressive scholars, the likes of Richard T. Ely, John Dewey, or John R. Commons, who all sensed that such an economic system would survive only if it improves the social well-being as well as the self-development of all individuals.
The discussions of the Bullionist Controversy were closely related to the effects of inconvertibility on prices and exchange rates. However, during their discussions, economists had a need to address other important questions such as the convenience of free banking. In this paper, we will study the perspective of the different schools involved in the debate on this issue: we will show that their positions were wholly coherent with their underlying assumptions on the nature of monetary assets. The economists who viewed gold and banknotes as perfect substitutes, such as the radical bullionists, tended to favor a ban on free banking. On the contrary, the economists who viewed banknotes and gold as imperfect substitutes, such as the moderate bullionists and antibullionists, were inclined to favor free banking.
Nicholas Curott attempts to correct some misrepresentations of Adam Smith’s monetary and banking analyses. However, failing to recognize Smith’s adoption of David Hume’s quantity theory of price levels and the price-specie-flow mechanism, Smith’s distinction between money and credit and their sources, and Smith’s suggestion of real, rather than “fictitious,” bills as safer for private bank lending, Curott denigrates Smith’s theory of money and banking as inferior to some modern writers’. Curott also mischaracterizes Smith’s money demand function, which is best represented as a rectangular hyperbola. I draw from the Wealth of Nations to correct Curott’s misrepresentations of Smith’s analyses.