Welcome to my home
page. Below are links to a brief bio-sketch and to a partial C.V.
Following that you will find links to a few of my recent papers.
My research concerns the
institutional foundations of an economy. Economic institutions constitute
the legal architecture of markets and of market processes. All economies
are constituted by their legal structures that give content to market processes
and existing property regimes. I am interested in the existing
institutional arrangements in an economy, and I am interested in the process of
institutional change. My current research has two dominant threads--one
of them philosophical and one of them empirical.
The philosophical aspect, in which
I develop the concept of volitional pragmatism, is spelled out my book: SUFFICIENT
REASON: Volitional Pragmatism and the Meaning of Economic Institutions
(Princeton University Press, 2006). The Amazon link is:
SUFFICIENT REASON . There
is a Chinese version available from Shanghai People's Publishing House, No. 193
Fujian Zhong Rd., Shanghai 200001, China.
pragmatism offers a new approach to human action--one that challenges standard rational
choice models central to economics. In volitional pragmatism individuals
"work out" what they want in the way of choice and action as they
come to understand the choices available to them. Volitional pragmatism
builds on the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Sanders
Peirce, John Dewey, John R. Commons, Thorstein
Veblen, and Richard Rorty.
The empirical aspect of my current
research concerns two general themes: (1) the on-going problem of development in
much of Africa and the Middle East; and (2) environmental policy.
On the development theme, I am
concerned with the variety of economic pathologies that can be traced to what I
call institutional incoherence. Institutional incoherence refers
to a situation in which the legal foundations of economic transactions are
degraded and dysfunctional. Most economic activity is stifled by low net
returns. It is often assumed that governments smother economic initiative
and that therefore development assistance must be focused on NGOs and other
"unofficial" parties. I suggest that this development strategy
is perverse. If social and economic development is to occur
it can only happen with a re-vitalized state leading the way. The history
of success in development is clear that markets only flourish when the state
takes an active role in providing necessary infrastructure, in promoting
particular sectors, and in securing the legal foundation for entrepreneurial
activity. These ideas are spelled out in a recent book: VULNERABLE PEOPLE, VULNERABLE STATES:
Redefining the Development Challenge (Routledge, 2012). (with Glen D.
On the environmental front, I bring
pragmatist insights to continual struggles over environmental policy. A new book
systematically deconstructs the pervasive and counter-productive discourse
surrounding environmental policy. My co-author (Juha Hiedanpäa)
and I argue that environmental policy problems are always framed such that
conflict is inevitable—a particular project or policy must be accepted versus a
specific environmental asset that must be protected. Over the course of 12
chapters, we demonstrate that confident yet contradictory assertions by
contending interests preclude necessary deliberation and reason giving. We show
that deliberation is an important social process of reflecting upon the reasons
for doing something. Our innovative approach allows discourse and collaboration
to continue, until—after honest and informed deliberation—the better way
forward is arrived at. This approach to environmental policy illustrates just
how very constructive and enabling the quest for the reasonable can
Pragmatism insists that human
progress is advanced by the asking for and giving of reasons—and all reasons
must survive the test of reasonableness. After all, the reason people reason is
to arrive at reasonable reasons for action. We show how the concept of arriving
at settled belief about policy choices is best understood through the lens
of negotiational psychology in which all parties to environmental disputes are
required to consider their own fixed beliefs to make sure they are coherent and
instrumental to the task at hand. Our book is “heretical” because it challenges
the role of assured convictions about what is “best” to do with respect to
ENVIRONMENTAL HERESIES: THE QUEST FOR REASONABLE (Palgrave
Macmillan, 2016). (with Juha Hiedanpää).
RECENT PAPERS AND
(click on the button at left for a pdf version)
Fisheries and Contested Claims of Ownership: Some Necessary Clarifications,” Marine
Policy, 72 (October):231-36.
“The ‘Arab Spring’ Stress Test: Diagnosing
Reasons for Revolt.”
“Correcting the Whimsies of U.S. Fisheries
Policy,” Choices, 30(4), 2015.
“The French Revolution and German
Industrialization: Dubious Models and Doubtful Causality,” Journal of
Institutional Economics, March 2016 (with Michael Kopsidis).
is the Backward Russian Peasant? Evidence Against the Superiority of Private
Farming, 1883–1913,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(2):425-47, 2015
(with Michael Kopsidis and Katja Bruish).
“Payments for Ecosystem Services:
Durable Habits, Dubious Nudges, and Doubtful Efficacy,” Journal of
Institutional Economics, 10(2):175-95, 2014. (with Juha Heidanpää).
“The Stakeholder Game: Pleadings and
Reasons in Environmental Philosophy,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy,
27(4): 425-41, 2013. (with Juha Hiedanpää).
“Environmental Governance as Stochastic
Belief Updating: Crafting Rules to Live By,” Ecology and Society,
“Abdicating Responsibility: The Deceits of Fisheries Policy,” Fisheries
the Origins and Evolving Role of Money,” Journal of Institutional and
Theoretical Economics, 164:624-51, 2008 (with Jean-Paul Chavas).
“Volitional Pragmatism,” Ecological Economics, 68:1-13, 2008.
Editorial on South Africa's failed land reform program, in: Business Day,
August 7, 2007.
Degradation in the African Commons: Accounting for Institutional Decay,” Environment
and Development Economics, 13:539-63, 2008.
“Formalising Property Relations in
the Developing World: The Wrong Prescription for the Wrong Malady,” Land Use
Policy, 26:20-27, 2008.
“Modeling Population and Resource Scarcity in 14th Century England,” Journal
of Agricultural Economics 56(2):217-37,
2005 (with Jean-Paul Chavas)