The ethics of pure entrepreneurship: An Austrian economics perspective

THE REVIEW OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS

ISRAEL M. KIRZNER

Abstract: This paper focuses on the justice of income distribution in a system of private property rights. Milton Friedman argued that the “ethical principle that would directly justify the distribution of income in a free society is ‘to each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces’” (1962: 161–2). In this paper we (a) show that the winning of pure entrepreneurial profit cannot be justified on the basis of Friedman’s ethical principle, and (b) argue that a fuller understanding of the meaning of “pure entrepreneurial profit” reveals that Friedman’s universal ethic is of little relevance to capitalism, properly understood as a free enterprise system. To pass ethical judgment on pure entrepreneurial profit, it is necessary to supplement Friedman’s ethical principle with additional ethical insights. This paper does not argue directly in favor of any one such possible additional insight; it will simply demonstrate how one such additional insight might, if it passes final ethical screening, serve as the ethical defense of pure capitalism, which, we argue, Friedman’s ethical principle is unable to do.

Barriers to prosperity: the harmful impact of entry regulations on income inequality

DUSTIN CHAMBERS, PATRICK A. MCLAUGHLIN, LAURA STANLEY

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: Entry regulations, including fees, permits and licenses, can make it prohibitively difficult for low-income individuals to establish footholds in many industries, even at the entry-level. As such, these regulations increase income inequality by either preventing access to higher paying professions or imposing costs on individuals choosing to enter illegally and provide unlicensed services. To estimate this relationship empirically, we combine entry regulations data from the World Bank’s Doing Business Index with various measures of income inequality, including Gini coefficients and income shares to form a panel of 115 countries. We find that countries with more stringent entry regulations tend to experience more income inequality. In countries with average inequality, increasing the number of procedures required to start a new business by one standard deviation is associated with a 7.2% increase in the share of income accruing to the top decile of earners, and a 12.9% increase in the overall Gini coefficient. This result is robust to the measure of inequality, startup regulations, and potential endogeneity. We conclude by offering several policy recommendations designed to minimize the adverse effects of entry regulations.

Individualism, Collectivism, and Trade

AIDIN HAJIKHAMENEH, ERIK O. KIMBROUGH

EXPERIMENTAL ECONOMICS

Abstract: While economists recognize the important role of formal institutions in the promotion of trade, there is increasing agreement that institutions are typically endogenous to culture, making it difficult to disentangle their separate contributions. Lab experiments that assign institutions exogenously and measure and control individual cultural characteristics can allow for clean identification of the effects of institutions, conditional on culture, and help us understand the relationship between behavior and culture, under a given institutional framework. We focus on cultural tendencies toward individualism/collectivism, which social psychologists highlight as an important determinant of many behavioral differences across groups and people. We design an experiment to explore the relationship between subjects’ degree of individualism/collectivism and their willingness to abandon a repeated, bilateral exchange relationship in order to seek potentially more lucrative trade with a stranger, under enforcement institutions of varying strength. Overall, we find that individualists tend to seek out trade more often than collectivists. A diagnostic treatment and additional analysis suggests that this difference may reflect both differential altruism/favoritism to in-group members and different reactions to having been cheated in the past. This difference is mitigated somewhat as the effectiveness of enforcement institutions increases. Nevertheless we see that cultural dispositions are associated with willingness to seek out trade, regardless of institutional environment.

Trust, Trade and Moral Progress: How Market Exchange Promotes Trustworthiness

JONATHAN ANOMALY

SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY AND POLICY, Volume 34, Issue 2

Abstract: Trust is important for a variety of social relationships. Trust facilitates trade, which increases prosperity and induces us to interact with people of different backgrounds on terms that benefit all parties. Trade promotes trustworthiness, which enables us to form meaningful as well as mutually beneficial relationships. In what follows, I argue that when we erect institutions that enhance trust and reward people who are worthy of trust, we create the conditions for a certain kind of moral progress.

Socialized View of Man vs. Rational Choice Theory: What Does Smith’s Sympathy Have to Say?

JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION

ELIAS L. KHALIL

Abstract: To explain the anomaly of cooperation in finitely repeated games, some economists advance a socialized view of man as an antidote to rational choice theory. This paper confronts these economists insofar as they trace the socialized view to Smith’s theory of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). TMS rather advances a view that anticipates rational choice theory. These economists misinterpret TMS because they fail to realize that Smith’s sympathy actually involves two functions of sympathy: one that determines the optimal decision and another that determines the command of that decision. The dual function of sympathy parallels the two senses of rational choice: rationality as making the optimal decision and rationality as commanding that decision. Thus Smith’s sympathy does not support the socialized view of man.

Ludwig Lachmann’s peculiar status within Austrian economics

VIRGIL HENRY STORR

THE REVIEW OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS

Abstract: Lachmann occupies a strange position within modern Austrian economics. He is viewed as something of an outsider and his views are often regarded as outside the mainline of modern Austrian thought. But, on several key issues – especially subjectivism and institutions – Lachmann’s positions are the dominant positions within the school. This article argues that, with little fanfare but in several important respects, Austrian economics has moved in a decidedly Lachmannian direction.

How do federal regulations affect consumer prices? An analysis of the regressive effects of regulation

DUSTIN CHAMBERS, COURTNEY A. COLLINS, ALAN KRAUSE

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: This study is the first to measure the impact of federal regulations on consumer prices. By combining consumer expenditure and pricing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industry supply-chain data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and industry-specific regulation information from the Mercatus Center’s RegData database, we determine that regulations promote higher consumer prices, and that these price increases have a disproportionately negative effect on low-income households. Specifically, we find that the poorest households spend larger proportions of their incomes on heavily regulated goods and services prone to sharp price increases. While the literature explores other specific costs of regulation, noting that higher consumer prices are a probable consequence of heavy regulation, this study is the first to provide a thorough empirical analysis of that relationship across industries. Irrespective of the reasons for imposing new regulations, these results demonstrate that in the aggregate, the negative consequences are significant, especially for the most vulnerable households.