Journal of Economic Methodology 11 (3):341-357 (2004)
|Abstract||To understand the work of economic theorists it is often helpful to situate it in the context of the rhetorical strategy they were pursuing. Two ontologically distinct rhetorical strategies of laissez-faire may be distinguished by the way they articulate the individual interest with the general interest. A reductionist approach, exemplified by Friedman and Lucas, suggests that the properties and behaviour of an entity can be understood in terms of the properties and behaviour of the constituent lower-level components, taken in isolation. The contrary – holistic – stance, viewing the qualities of phenomena as products of the inter-relations between their component parts, is characteristic of Smith and Hayek. While the reductionist approach naturally issues in a laissez- faire policy prescription, the holistic account is more problematic. Reconciling a holistic ontology with a reductionist policy prescription requires the intercalation of a black box, such as an evolutionary process or the invisible hand of a deity.|
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