History of Economics
Thomas C. Leonard (2015) Progressive Era Origins of the Regulatory State and the Origins of the Economist as Expert. History of Political Economy 47 (annual suppl.): 49-76. DOI 10.1215/00182702-3130439.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2012) From The Progressives to The Institutionalists: What the First World War Did and Did Not Do to American Economics. Review essay on Rutherford, Malcolm (2011) The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918-1947. Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology 30: 177-190.
- Leonard, Thomas C (2012) The Wise Minority in the Saddle: When American Economics Became an Expert Discipline.
Abstract: The Progressive Era economic reformers we call the progressives permanently changed the relationship of the American state to the economy. In blueprinting and beginning construction of the regulatory state, the progressives faced a foundational tension: the expert-led administrative state the progressives imagined was at odds with other progressive goals for expanding and promoting democracy. Paradoxically, the progressives proposed to redeem American democracy via the undemocratic substitution of their own judgment for that of the people.
- Leonard, Thomas C. (2012) Religion and Evolution in Progressive Era Political Economy: Adversaries or Allies?" History of Political Economy 43(3): 429-469.
- Bernstein, David and Thomas C. Leonard (2009) Excluding Unfit Workers: Social Control versus Social Justice in the Age of Economic Reform, part of the "Show Me The Money: Making Markets in Forbidden Exchange" symposium in Law and Contemporary Problems 72: 177-207.
- Leonard,Thomas C. (2009) American Economic Reform in the Progressive Era: Its Foundational Beliefs and Their Relationship to Eugenics History of Political Economy 41(1): 109-141.
- Leonard,Thomas C. (2009) Origins of the Myth of Social Darwinism: The Ambiguous Legacy of Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American Thought. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 71: 37–51.
- Leonard, Thomas C. (2009) Review of Stephan A. Marglin, The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community. Journal of Economic Literature XLVII: 489-491.
- Leonard, Thomas C. (2009) "Redeemed by History" Review essay on Thomas K. McCraw, Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction History of Economic Ideas XVII (1): 189-195.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2008) "Increasing Happiness by Thinning the Herd," review essay of Sandy Peart and David Levy, The Vanity of The Philosopher: From Equality to Hierarchy in Post-Classical Economics, Journal of The History of Economic Thought 30(1): 117-126.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2005) Retrospectives: Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era. Journal of Economic Perspectives 19(4): 207-224.
Abstract: Eugenic ideas informed the labor and immigration reform that is the hallmark of the Progressive Era (1890-1920). Many reform-minded American economists promoted exclusionary labor and immigration legislation for its eugenic benefits: removing the biologically inferior from the labor force, went the argument, would reduce "race suicide" and raise the wages of superior, deserving workers. This essay considers the popularity of Progressive Era American eugenics, its appeal to leading progressive economists such as Irving Fisher, Francis A. Walker, Simon N. Patten, Henry W. Farnam, Edward A. Ross, Frank A. Fetter, Henry R. Seager, and John R. Commons (all AEA presidents), and its decline in the late-interwar period.
- Leonard, Thomas C. (2005) Mistaking Eugenics for Social Darwinism: Why Eugenics is Missing from the History of American Economics. History of Political Economy, 37 (Suppl.): 200-233.
Abstract: The influence of eugenics upon Progressive Era economics has been neglected in the history of economic thought. Why? Without rejecting other historiographic explanations, this essay argues that an influentual strand of Progressive-Era historiography -- one with its origins in Richard Hofstadter's Social Darwinism in American Thought -- has misled with respect to the influence of biological thought upon the Progressive-Era sciences of society. It has done so by treating eugenics as social Darwinism and by making "social Darwinism" into a synecdoche for what, in retrospect, progressivism is seen to oppose -- individualism, laissez-faire economics, racism and imperialism. Though neither social Darwinism nor eugenics are quite what this influential strand of historiography makes them out be, and though eugenics and social Darwinism are as different as they are alike, the influence of the Hofstaderian interpretation has, among its several consequences, obscured the influence of eugenics on Progressive Era American economics.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2005) Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 64(3): 757-791.
Abstract: In the Progressive Era, reform-minded economists argued that the labor force should be rid of unfit workers—whom they labeled “unemployables,” “parasites,” "low-wage races," and the “industrial residuum”—so as to uplift superior, deserving workers. Women were also frequently classified as unemployable. Leading progressives, including women at the forefront of labor reform, justified exclusionary labor legislation for women on grounds that it would (1) protect the biologically weaker sex from the hazards of market work; (2) protect working women from the temptation of prostitution; (3) protect male heads of household from the economic competition of women; and (4) ensure that women could better carry out their eugenic duties as “mothers of the race.” What united these heterogeneous rationales was the reformers’ aim of discouraging women’s labor-force participation.
Goldfarb, Robert S. and Thomas C. Leonard (2005) Inequality of What among Whom? Rival Conceptions of Distribution in the 20th Century. Research in The History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Volume 23a: pp. 75-118.
Abstract: Distribution concerns who gets what. But does “who” refer to the personal distribution of income among individuals or the functional distribution of income among suppliers of productive factors? For nearly 150 years, Anglophone distribution theory followed the Ricardian emphasis on functional distribution – the income shares of labor, land, and capital. Only beginning in the 1960s, and consolidated by a research outpouring in the early 1970s, does mainstream economics turn to the personal conception of distribution. This essay documents Anglophone (primarily American) economics’ move from functional to personal distribution, and tries to illuminate something of its causes and timing.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2003) 'More Merciful and Not Less Effective': Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era History of Political Economy 35(4): 709-734 (Winter).
- Leonard, Thomas C. (2003) 'A Certain Rude Honesty": John Bates Clark as a Pioneering Neoclassical Economist History of Political Economy 35(3): 521-558 (Fall).
Leonard, Thomas C. (2000) “The Very Idea of Applying Economics: The Modern Minimum-Wage Controversy and its Antecedents.” History of Political Economy, 32 (Supplement): 117-144.
Abstract: David Card and Alan Krueger’s influential 1995 book, Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage, created controversy when it argued, among other claims, that moderate increases in legal minimum wages do not lead to adverse employment outcomes for low-wage workers. An examination of the history of minimum-wage economics suggets that today's controversy is a modern-dress version of two old (and related) methodological quarrels within economics: (1) can a general theory of markets be applied to wage and employment determination, that is, is it the case, as Adam Smith said, that the market for men is like the market for goods, and (2) what should be the role of empirical evidence in testing theories and their implications? The disemployment effects of minimum wages are recognizable at least as early as John Stuart Mill's (1848) text, and the question of how labor-market structure determines the employment effects of wage floors is present in the century-old debate between H.B. Lees Smith and Beatrice & Sidney Webb. The occasion for the mid-20th century methodological dispute known as "marginalist controversy" was Richard Lester's evidence that firms do not profit maximize and that labor markets are not competitive.
Ethics and Economics
- Leonard, Thomas C. (2014) Trading with The Poor: Misdiagnosing Injustice and Exploitation as Coercion.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2004) The Price is Wrong: Causes and Consequences of Ethical Restraint of Trade. Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines 14(2): 133-150.
Abstract: Critics of commodification object to sales but not gifts of some goods, such as human blood or human organs, on grounds that such trade wrongly coerces, morally corrupts, and crowds out altruism. This essay takes issue with each of these claims. It disputes Michael Sandel’s claim that voluntary exchange coerces, arguing that he confuses what is unfair with what is unfree. It argues, where trade does create moral costs, that these costs should be weighed against the moral costs of trade bans, such as the loss of human life, and the harms endemic to illegal markets. The essay also quarrels with Richard Titmuss’s The Gift Relationship, arguing that compensation for blood need not crowd out blood donation, that compensation does not preclude a charitable impulse, and that some important gift relationships (e.g., philanthropy) possess elements of both altruism and exchange.
Leonard, Thomas C., Robert S. Goldfarb and Steven Suranovic (2000) Professor New on Paternalism and Public Policy. Economics and Philosophy 16(2): 323-331.
Abstract: Professor New rightly distinguishes paternalistic policies from policies that remedy market failures, but then argues that paternalism is justified when the state is better placed to know what is in the paternalized person's best interest. We argue that this is a necessary but not sufficient condition for paternalism. In addition, the state should be better placed than alternative interveners. Sophisticated actors (Ulysses) may already have made provisions that enable self-restraint or provide expertise. And, naive actors, those who do not know they will need self-restraint or expertise, will be very difficult to distinguish from others who do not require paternalistic intervention, but whose behavior is identical. As such, the benefits of a paternalistic policy must be weighed against the costs imposed on non-targeted persons, costs imposed on targeted persons, and enforcement costs.
Philosophy of Economics/Economic Methodology
Princeton Report on Knowledge (P-ROK) (2009) 3(2): Interdisciplinary forum on Magic
Leonard, Thomas C. (2008) Remarks in the plenary roundtable, “Why Do Historians of Economics Hate The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge?”, held at the History of Economics Society Meetings, York University, Toronto, on June 29, 2008.
Abstract: My remarks concern why it might be the case that some historians have been reluctant to embrace with open arms Sociology of Scientific Knowlegde approaches to the history of economics. Broadly speaking, I see four impediments. Call them (1) the what-is-it problem, (2) the bundling problem, (3) the problem of authority, and (4) the anti-realism problem.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2004) Making Betty Crocker Assume the Position. Review Essay of Philip Mirowski and Esther-Mirjam Sent (eds.) Science Bought and Sold: Essays in the Economics of Science. Journal of the History of Economic Thought 26(1): 115-122 (March).
Abstract: The economics of science treats the process by which scientific knowledge is created as a market process, that is, as one where scientists respond to incentives that promote (or hinder) the creation of scientific knowledge. Science retains its epistemological distinction, but economics depicts the process of producing scientific knowledge as no less partisan, grubby and shallow than the market processes that produce breakfast cereals or broadcast television. The sociology of science, especially Critical Science Studies, denies science its epistemological distinction by denying that empirical evidence plays any substantive role in science. Science-Studies epistemology -- the Position -- asserts that non-evidential considerations determine which among rival theories will prevail. In the history of economics, the radical skepticism of the Position arrived bundled with the wholesome injunction that historical writing in the history of economics should be thicker, richer . . . and creamier -- Betty Crocker historiography. But critical perspectives on the history and organization of science not only don’t require the Position—they cannot go forward when burdened with the Position.
Leonard, Thomas C. (2002) Reflection on Rules in Science: An Invisible-Hand Perspective. Journal of Economic Methodology 9(2): 141-168 (July).
Abstract: Can successful science accommodate a realistic view of scientific motivation? The Received View in philosophy of science has a theory of scientific success but no theory of scientific motivation. Critical Science Studies has a theory of scientific motivation but denies any prospect for (epistemologically meaningful) scientific success. Arguing from the premise that an adequate theory of science needs both a theory of scientific motivation, and a theory of scientific success, I make a case for seeing science as a kind of invisible-hand process. After distinguishing different and often confused conceptions of invisible-hand processes, I focus on scientific rules, treated as emergent responses to various coordination failures in the production and distribution of reliable knowledge. Scientific rules, and the means for their enforcement, constitute the invisible-hand mechanism, so that scientific rules (sometimes) induce interested scientific actors with worldly goals to make epistemically good choices.
Goldfarb, Robert S. and Thomas C. Leonard (2002) Economics at The Millennium. Social Science and Modern Society 40(1): 24-36
- Goldfarb, Robert S., Thomas C. Leonard and Steven Suranovic (2001) Are Rival Theories of Smoking Underdetermined? Journal of Economic Methodology 8(2): 229 - 251.
Abstract: Some empirically minded philosophers of science argue that the evidence should choose the best theory from among theoretical rivals. However, the evidence may not speak clearly, a problem of ‘underdetermination of theory by data’. We examine this problem in a concrete setting, rival theories of smoking behavior. We investigate whether several uncontested pieces of empirical evidence allow us to choose between two competing theoretical perspectives on smoking, rational choice and non-rational choice, respectively. Next, we develop a more refined taxonomy of smoking theories, and consider the consequences for theory testing. Finally, we examine some normative aspects of theory choice involving the appropriate scope of government action.
- Leonard, Thomas C. (1999) Private Vices, Scientific Virtues: Using Economics to Think about Science. Dept. of Economics, Princeton University. Manuscript.
Abstract: An economic theory of science accommodates both a realistic conception of scientific motivation and the possibility of genuine scientific success. It offers an intellectual means to address a central question in the theory of science: how do self-interested scientists, who have wordly goals, come to produce the socially beneficial outcome of reliable scientific knowledge.
- Klamer, Arjo and Thomas C. Leonard (1994) So What's an Economic Metaphor? In Philip Mirowski (ed.), Natural Images in Economics: Markets Read in Tooth and Claw.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 20-51.
- Cordes, Joseph, Arjo Klamer and Thomas C. Leonard (1993) Academic Rhetoric in The Policy Arena: The Case of Capital Gains Taxation. Eastern Economic Journal 19(4): 459-79).
Foundations of Rational Choice Theory & Addiction
Goldfarb, Robert, Thomas C. Leonard, Sara Markowitz and Steven Suranovic (2011) Can a Rational Choice Framework Make Sense of Anorexia Nervosa?
Slightly earlier version at NBER: http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/14838.
Goldfarb, Robert S., Thomas C. Leonard Steven Suranovic (2006) Modeling Alternative Motives for Dieting. Eastern Economic Journal 32(1): 115-131 (Winter).
Suranovic, Steven, Robert S. Goldfarb and Thomas C. Leonard (2003) An Economic Analysis of Weight Change, Overeating and Dieting.
Suranovic, Steven M., Robert S. Goldfarb and Thomas C. Leonard (1999) An Economic Theory of Cigarette Addiction. Journal of Health Economics 18(1): 1-29.
- Suranovic, Steven M., Robert S. Goldfarb and Thomas C. Leonard (1999) “Understanding Smoking Behavior: An Economics Perspective.” The Economics of Neuroscience 2(2): 32-34.
(2009) Review of Stephen A. Marglin, The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2008. Journal of Economic Literature XLVII (2): 489-91.
(2008) Review of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2008. Constitutional Political Economy 19(4): 356-360.
(2008) Review of Robert H. Frank, Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms The Middle Class. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 2007. Constitutional Political Economy 19(2): 158-162.
(2006) Review of Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill, The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. 2004. Constitutional Political Economy. 17(1): 63-66.
(2005) Review of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York: William Morrow. 2005. Constitutional Political Economy 16(2): 313-317 (September).
(2003) Review of John Laurent and John Nightingale (eds), Darwinism and Evolutionary Economics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. 2001. History of Political Economy 35(2): 350-5. (Summer).
(2003) Review of Michael I. Myerson, Political Numeracy: Mathematical Perspectives on Our Chaotic Constitution. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. Constitutional Political Economy 14(1): 71-74 (March).
(2001) Review of H. Peyton Young, Individual Strategy and Social Structure: An Evolutionary Theory of Institutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1998. Constitutional Political Economy 12(1): 81-84.
(2001) Review of Armando C. Ochangco, Rationality in Economic Thought. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. 1999. Journal of the History of Economic Thought 23(1): 115-117.
- (2000) Review of Steven Medema (ed.), Coasean Economics: Law and Economics and the New Institutional Economics. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 1998. Constitutional Political Economy 11(3): 285-288 (September).