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 themes--one of
them philosophical and one of them empirical.
The philosophical aspect, in which
I develop the concept of volitional pragmatism, is spelled out in a recent
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 the on-going problem of immiserization in much of Africa and
the Middle East. This empirical work connects with the philosophical
aspect above because I trace persistent development problems to a variety of
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. The growth
success of China over the past 20 years is clear evidence of what can happen
when the state takes a central role in creating the political and legal
underpinnings of the market.
This reconsideration of the
development problem is elaborated in my recent book (with Glen D. Anderson): VULNERABLE PEOPLE, VULNERABLE STATES:
Redefining the Development Challenge (Routledge, 2012).
My newest book, ENVIRONMENTAL HERESIES: The Quest For Reasonable (with Juha Hiedanpää) will be released in
October, 2016 by Palgrave Macmillan. In this book we suggest that environmental
policies become contentious because they are advanced by experts as imperatives
that seem to “rule down” on people. Ensuing debates and contestations are then
stifled by flawed reasons as both sides seek to press their advantage.
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 nature.
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, 17(3):14,
“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)