Friday, August 15, 2008

Traitors to the Cause

by the Sandwichman

The phrase, cited by Michael, "traitors to the cause of economics as a whole" has a farcical ring to it -- like "traitors to the cause of the phone company billing department" or "traitors to the noble cause of bureaucracy". No doubt the note of laconic derision was intentional on Card's part. But it captures the peculiarly regimental loyalty and zeal that clings to the latter-day proponents of price doctrine.

If the contemporary exorcism of labor from economics seems tragic, it needs to be remembered that it isn't the first time. Setting aside Marx as beyond-the-neoclassical-pale, there is the case of William Thomas Thornton's On Labour: it's wrongful claims and rightful dues its actual present and possible future. Thornton's critique of price doctrine hinged on the phenomenon of 'higgling' or what we might today call negotiation. As Michael V. White explained in "'That God-forgotten Thornton', Exorcising Higgling after On Labour." "With equilibrium thus assumed rather than explained, Thornton's critique was dissolved by exorcising higgling from the domain of the 'science of political economy'." (page 151)

Depending on one's theological vantage point (or cynicism), the liquidation of Thornton's critique looms as either the Original Sin or the Immaculate Conception of marginalist thought.

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