Judaism and Liberalism: Israel’s Economic Problem with its Haredim


ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, Volume 37, Issue 2

Abstract: This article argues that, in the arrangements for the public provision of welfare for the poor and a basic education for all in both biblical and post-biblical times, Judaism is more closely in accord with classical liberalism than it is with those variants of liberalism which favour no more than the minimal night-watchman state as well as those which favour the extensive welfare states of contemporary Western social democracies. To the extent that Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews (its Haredim) have been able to secure more by way of state subsidies (through exploiting the leverage their country’s national system of proportional representation has given them, which often leaves them holding the balance of power), not only are they endangering Israel’s viability as a vibrant, developed liberal democracy, they are also guilty of departing from the religious teachings and tradition of Jewish orthodoxy.

Adam Smith’s Philosophy of Science: Economics as Moral Imagination



Abstract: The paper takes a fresh look at two essays that Adam Smith wrote at the very beginning of his career. In these essays, Smith explains his philosophy of science, which is social constructivist. A social constructivist reading of Smith strengthens the scholarly consensus that The Wealth of Nations (WN) needs to be interpreted in light of the general moral theory he explicates in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS), as the two essays and TMS stress the importance of the same concepts: e.g., moral imagination, the socially embedded individual, and humility. The connecting tissue between all three works is made up of sentiments and values. Smith regards the socially embedded human as the agent in all three realms (knowledge creation, morality, economics), and humans are always driven by values. Smith not only conceives of economics as an applied moral philosophy, but also bases both research areas on a view of knowledge creation that stresses specific epistemic values. If mainstream economic theory (and business theory that is based on it) wants to have any claim to Adam Smith, it would have to change not only what it argues but also how it argues. Economists would have to replace the language of mathematics with the language and logic of moral philosophy and give values centre stage.

The limits of liberalism: Good boundaries must be discovered



Abstract: Determining good boundaries for governance jurisdictions is among the most difficult problems in political theory and political philosophy. But to whom the rules of a given jurisdiction applies is a problem that afflicts private as well as public governance. Clubs have boundaries no less than cities, states, or nations. This essay applies Hayek’s conception of competition as a discovery procedure to boundary problems, arguing that good jurisdictional boundaries are subject to a great deal of contingent variation according to particular the conditions of time and place. Philosophical speculation, therefore, cannot fully replace a trial and error process that facilitates social learning about where good boundaries fall. I outline the features of good boundaries that make them subject to such variation, then evaluate two criteria for evaluating whether existing jurisdictional boundaries are good: one that emphasizes ex ante consent to boundaries, and one that focuses on the ability of individuals to exit from jurisdictions ex post, arguing that the exit-focused approach is underappreciated.

Hume on Education



Abstract: Hume claims that education is ‘disclaimed by philosophy, as a fallacious ground of assent to any opinion’ (T and that it is ‘never . . . recogniz’d by philosophers’ (T He is usually taken to be referring here to indoctrination. I argue, however, that his main concern is with association and those philosophers who emphasize the epistemic dangers of the imagination. These include Locke, Hutcheson and Descartes, but not Hume himself. Hume praises education, highlighting its role in the formation of general rules, and in fostering social conditions that encourage the growth of knowledge and moral virtue.

Trade, Power, and Political Economy: Reason vs. Ideology in Edward Stringham’s Private Governance



Abstract: In Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life, Edward Stringham explains that private ordering is sufficient to secure full exploitation of gains from trade within a society. After describing the logic of Stringham’s claim on behalf of private ordering, the remainder of this essay examines an enigma that Stringham’s argument entails: private ordering is sufficient for social coordination and yet public ordering is ubiquitous. The exploitation of gains from trade might offer a useful ideology, but this provides but an incomplete basis for a theory of society. In this respect, societies are rife with antagonism and envy, though these often manifest themselves ideologically as claims about justice and fairness. Politics goes where the money is; private ordering reveals targets that public ordering subsequently exploits. The challenge for political economy is to integrate the autonomy of economizing action with the autonomy of political action, for these dual autonomies provide the crucible out of which emerges the material of political economy. Stringham has deepened our appreciation of what private governance can accomplish, but much unfinished analytical work confronts theorists of political economy.

Private Governance and the three biases of political philosophy



Abstract: Private Governance shows that philosophers, political and legal theorists, and social scientists mistakenly believe in legal centralism, the view that order in the world depends upon and is made possible by state law. In fact, most governance not only happens to be private, but must be private. This paper extends Edward Stringham’s argument by claiming that philosophers tend to suffer from three biases. Diffidence bias means they are overly pessimistic about people’s willingness and ability to cooperate without state enforcement. Statism bias means the overestimate the degree to which cooperation is secured by the state. Guarantee bias means they overestimate the value and need for legal guarantees.

Property and the Creation of Value


ECONOMICS & PHILOSOPHY, Volume 33, Issue 1

Abstract: Following Locke, philosophical discussion of private property has tended to focus on the acquisition of natural resources as central. In this paper I first pursue the idea that the resource paradigm doesn’t apply to most developed economies, and show how this creates problems for many accounts of property. My second ambition is to draw a normative conclusion by showing that redistribution of wealth generated in the context of services is more difficult to justify compared with the natural resource paradigm philosophers have often focused on.