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Building the Good Society: Challenges and Considerations

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Loews Philadelphia, Washington A
Hosted By: Association for Evolutionary Economics
  • Chair: Alicia Girón, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Reasserting Institutionalist Insights on the Good Society: Thirty Years After Petr’s Call for a Mixed Economy

Barbara E. Hopkins
Wright State University


In this paper, I revisit the issues raised by Jerry Petr in “The Nature and Necessity of the Mixed Economy” (JEI 20:4). I describe how the policy proposals by the Marxist ideological camp have evolved since the collapse of the centrally planned economies and point out that most incorporate markets to some degree. I explain that the Laissez-Faire ideological camp has been emboldened and becomes increasingly unrealistic in their policy proposals despite the fact that even mainstream comparative systems economists agree that all economies are mixed economies. I consider how this might provide guidance for policy debates in the current environment.

Culture and Macroeconomic Policy: A Post-Keynesian Institutionalist Perspective

David A. Zalewski
Providence College


Wilber and Jameson (1990, pp. 187) point out that unlike Conservative Economic Individualism and Keynesianism, PKI eschews general economic theory and laws, and instead grounds its fundamental approach in the fact that changes in cultures and institutions must be taken into consideration when formulating economic policy. This paper extends this perspective by arguing that in some circumstances (democratic states in the midst of socioeconomic upheaval), cultural change must precede effective policy choices. Evidence from historical (interwar France) and contemporary (Latvia and Greece) case studies support this proposition, and the paper concludes by suggesting social adjustments derived from this analysis that may help in the implementation of programs based on Modern Monetary Theory.

Household Debt Forgiveness

Timothy A. Wunder
University of Texas-Arlington


Total debt owed by U.S. households reached an all-time high in the third quarter of 2016 and the household debt to GDP ratio reached 97% in 2007 up from below 40% in 1960. The average family in the U.S. needs to take on debt to buy homes, get educations, and sometimes to even pay for normal daily expenditures. This outstanding pool of liabilities generates a stream of rents to creditors and has become a private sector tax on the simple act of living. A governmental policy of household debt forgiveness could increase both economic equality and individual liberty. Under what conditions might such a policy be socially acceptable and what would be the implications of such a policy? Institutional economics offers a unique platform to analyse the questions that arise when contemplating this action. For debt forgiveness to gain social acceptance the U.S. population would have to perceive the policy as fair and believe that such a program would treat all households equally. Further any such policy would be politically impossible to implement if it stripped asset owners of any moneys due or would not substantially lower household debt levels. This paper will explore some possible parameters a politically feasible policy would contain and offer a rough estimate of the costs of its implementation.

Rebuilding Labor Power From Rock Bottom

David Jacobs
Morgan State University


Piore (1979), Godard (2009), Salvatore and Cowie (2008), among others, have written of cultural obstacles to the robust institutionalization of unions in the US context. Many have insisted that "American individualism" has been a challenge to the collectivism underlying unions. However, Republican ideology, relying as it does on the consolidation of corporate power, the enhancement of the privileges of private equity, and the politicization of Evangelical Christianity, appears not be about individualism at all. Particular collective forms, from Am-Way to Wal-Mart, have stood behind an ersatz individualism. A network of right wing foundations and think tanks that emerged in the 1970s has deployed its economic power effectively, isolating moderate employers and politicians, and developing aggressive policies for governments and potent anti-union doctrines for the courts. It has substantially advanced a "union-free" agenda.
With possible enactment of a National Right to Work Law, a defunded NLRB, and gutting of labor protections, labor activists may be forced to return to older "voluntaristic" models of insurgency. These initiatives might be based upon rights guaranteed by the First and Thirteenth Amendments and ILO Conventions rather than New Deal statutes. Whether economic self-help will be effective is by no means certain, however. The alternative may be bottom-up activism centered in the cities. A local strategy would produce highly differentiated models for worker representation, ranging from worker councils or mandated unionism in industries with government contracts. Worker centers and other alternative labor formations would be key.

On Socialist Optimism

Paul Auerbach
Kingston University


We live in dispiriting, pessimistic, cynical times. Present-day capitalism has generated a level of instability and dysfunction not seen since the interwar period of the twentieth century, with growing inequality of income and wealth, persistent high levels of unemployment and ever-diminishing prospects for young people. Political activity is widely perceived to be a game performed by an elite for its own benefit. But in the absence of a positive vision of how society and the economy might develop in the future, the present trajectory of capitalism will never be derailed, no matter how acute the critique of present-day developments.
In the twentieth century, centrally planned socialism was a failed alternative, unable to replicate the dynamism and innovative energy of capitalism and identified with egregious violations of human and political rights. The revised socialist agenda described in this book will focus upon the education and upbringing of children in the context of social equality and household security. It yields a well-defined path to human development and liberation, as well as democratic control of working life and public affairs. Socialism as human development gives a unity and direction to progressive policies that are otherwise seen to be a form of pragmatic tinkering in the context of a pervasive capitalist reality.
Asimina Christoforou
Athens University of Economics and Business
JEL Classifications
  • H0 - General
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches