Philosophy of Economics

Edited by Anna Alexandrova (Cambridge University)
Assistant editor: Jack Wright (Cambridge University)
About this topic
Summary Philosophy of economics is a study of any philosophical issue that arises in connection with the discipline of economics. Currently it has three core areas: foundations, methodology and ethics. Foundations of economics encompass conceptual and metaphysical questions such as the nature of rationality and social ontology, seeking to clarify what we study when we study economics (preferences, individuals, institutions, societies etc?) and their properties and relations to each other. Methodology of economics, following on the traditional questions in philosophy of science, is concerned with the nature of knowledge that can be attained about the economy and its sources.  The ethical side of philosophy of economics is a study of normative issues such as justice, efficiency, equality, welfare, paternalism, coercion and such, that arise at the intersection of political philosophy and welfare economics.
Key works Daniel Hausman is responsible for kickstarting much of contemporary philosophy of economics. Hausman 2008 is a comprehensive encyclopedia article. Hausman 2007 is an anthology of classic essays from to J.S Mill and Marx to the present day. Hausman et al 2006 is a seminal study of normative assumptions in economics and their critical study. Hausman 1992 started and still informs many discussions in methodology of economics. Reiss 2009 presents an updated agenda. Mäki 2001 is a collection on the ontology of economics.
Introductions There is now a textbook in philosophy of economics: Reiss 2013. Other good introductions to philosophy of economics are just introductions to philosophy of social science: for example, Rosenberg 1995, Risjord 2014, and Elster 2007.
Related categories
Subcategories:
See also:History/traditions: Philosophy of Economics

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  1. Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Economics.Conrad Heilmann & Julian Reiss (eds.) - 2022
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  2. Rationality: What It is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.Enrico Petracca - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-5.
    Periodically, by a rough estimate twice per decade, a new popular book aspires to shake our common understanding of rationality. Since this concept is not only the backbone of normative analysis in...
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  3. Introduction to the INEM 2019 Special Issue.Luis Mireles-Flores, Magdalena Małecka & Caterina Marchionni - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-2.
    The 14th Conference of the International Network for Economic Method was held in Finland at the University of Helsinki, from 18th to 21st of August 2019. It was the second time the biannual...
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  4. The Problem of Low Expectations and the Principled Politician.Sam Schmitt - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-22.
    Nobel laureate James Buchanan downplays any theory of ethical politicians, focusing instead on rules which economize personal restraint, setting lower moral expectations. Through a constructive critique of James Buchanan’s work, I argue these lowered expectations come at a cost: degraded character in politicians, leading to constitutional decay. Buchanan lacks a theory to address choices between action which furthers the politician’s self-interest and action which protects some already accepted, good rule, but which does not further their self-interest. I generate a theory (...)
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  5. Does Utilitarianism Need a Rethink? Review of Louis Narens and Brian Skyrms' The Pursuit of Happiness.Heather Browning & Walter Veit - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-5.
    Philosophers have typically shown high confidence in their evaluations of Utilitarianism, whether as an endorsement or a disparagement. Rarely, however, has much effort been spent on investigating...
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  6. What’s (Successful) Extrapolation?Donal Khosrowi - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
    Extrapolating causal effects is becoming an increasingly important kind of inference in Evidence-Based Policy, development economics, and microeconometrics more generally. While several strategies...
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  7. Three Accounts of Intrinsic Motivation in Economics: A Pragmatic Choice?Blaž Remic - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-16.
    This paper argues that the concept of intrinsic motivation has been used by economists in inconsistent ways because the underlying theories of intrinsic motivation, imported into economics from psy...
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  8. It Takes a Model to Beat a Model.Hsiang-Ke Chao - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-5.
    When the methodology of economics first emerged as a distinct field of economics in the 1970s, historians of economic thought contributed greatly to its development. This is visible in the publicat...
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  9. A Deeper Struggle for the Soul of Economics.Sheila Dow - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-4.
    Kevin Hoover explores retroduction as a means of theorizing in macro-economics, rather than exclusive reliance on deductivism or inductivism. Retroduction is discussed as involving conceptualizatio...
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  10. Transparent Players: The Use of Narrative Voices in Game Theory.William C. Grant - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-12.
    This paper examines methods for narrating consciousness in game theory. In order to represent how players process their environment, posture towards one another, and hold themselves accountable to...
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  11. Interdisciplinary Influences in Behavioral Economics: A Bibliometric Analysis of Cross-Disciplinary Citations.Alexandre Truc - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-35.
    Interdisciplinarity in behavioral economics has often been described as limited or decreasing since the 1980s. In this article, we investigate the interdisciplinary influences of behavioral ec...
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  12. Darwinian Rational Expectations.Kobi Finestone - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-11.
    The rational expectations hypothesis holds that agents should be modeled as not making systematic forecasting errors and has become a central model-building principle of modern economics. The hypot...
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  13. Review of an Advanced Introduction to Feminist Economics. [REVIEW]Julie A. Nelson - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-3.
    In fewer than 200 pages, Joyce P. Jacobsen, a long-time feminist economist and current President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, skillfully summarizes feminist contributions to economics acro...
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  14. Economics is Converging with Sociology but Not with Psychology.Don Ross - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-22.
    The rise of behavioral economics since the 1980s led to richer mutual influence between economic and psychological theory and experimentation. However, as behavioral economics has become increasing...
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  15. What Preferences for Behavioral Welfare Economics?Till Grüne-Yanoff - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
    Behavioral welfare economics assigns different roles to preferences than either non-behavioral forms of welfare economics or theories outside of the domain of welfare economics. In particular...
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  16. Unifying Theories of Institutions: A Critique of Pettit’s Virtual Control Theory.Frank Hindriks - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-12.
    To unify rival theories is to combine their key insights into a single coherent framework. It is often achieved by integrating the theories and forging new connections between their explanatory fac...
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  17. Nash Meets Samuelson: The Comparative-Statics Interpretation of Nash Equilibrium.Marek Hudik - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
    This paper suggests that Nash equilibrium can be interpreted as a conceptual tool for addressing comparative-statics issues on an aggregate level. Together with additional assumptions, Nash equilib...
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  18. Philosophy of Economics: A Heterodox Introduction.Oliver Schlaudt & Adrian Wilding - 2021 - Routledge.
    Philosophy of Economics: A Heterodox Introduction provides an introduction to the philosophy of economics through the prism of heterodoxy. Heterodox economics covers a range of approaches and schools of thought but what they have as a common denominator is the conviction that economic phenomena cannot be understood, and thus must not be studied, in isolation from their relevant context. Conversely, the current form of neoclassical economics emerged from the conviction that there is something like economic rationality sui generis which can (...)
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  19. Nash Meets Samuelson: The Comparative-Statics Interpretation of Nash Equilibrium.Marek Hudik - forthcoming - Tandf: Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
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  20. Interpersonal Comparisons of What?Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    I examine the once popular claim according to which interpersonal comparisons of welfare are necessary for social choice. I side with current social choice theorists in emphasizing that, on a narrow construal, this necessity claim is refuted beyond appeal. However, I depart from the opinion presently prevailing in social choice theory in highlighting that on a broader construal, this claim proves not only compatible with, but even comforted by, the current state of the field. I submit that all in all, (...)
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  21. Expected Utility in 3D.Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - In Reflections on the Foundations of Statistics: Essays in Honor of Teddy Seidenfeld.
    Consider a subjective expected utility preference relation. It is usually held that the representations which this relation admits differ only in one respect, namely, the possible scales for the measurement of utility. In this paper, I discuss the fact that there are, metaphorically speaking, two additional dimensions along which infinitely many more admissible representations can be found. The first additional dimension is that of state-dependence. The second—and, in this context, much lesser-known—additional dimension is that of act-dependence. The simplest implication of (...)
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  22. Economists, University Rankings, and Leaving the European Union, by M*L*N K*Nder*.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In this paper, I present some responses to an argument made by an economist in an online video: that when Britain leaves the European Union, it will be taking many high ranking universities with it, which will lead to an innovation deficit in the union. I present some responses by means of a pastiche of a widely read European fiction writer.
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  23. L’analyse axiomatique et l’attitude par rapport au risque.Jean Baccelli - 2016 - Revue Economique 2 (67):355-366.
    Cette note épistémologique porte sur le statut, en théorie de la décision, des concepts d’attitude par rapport au risque. A première vue, l’analyse axiomatique ne les exploite pas, ce qui reflète une certaine neutralité des modèles de décision au sujet de l’attitude par rapport au risque. Mais un examen plus poussé met en valeur la variation conditionnelle et le renforcement de l’attitude par rapport au risque, qui rattachent les concepts d’attitude par rapport au risque à l’analyse axiomatique.
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  24. Which Choices Merit Deference? A Comparison of Three Behavioural Proxies of Subjective Welfare.João V. Ferreira - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-28.
    Recently several authors have proposed proxies of welfare that equate some choices with welfare. In this paper, I first distinguish between two prominent proxies: one based on context-independent choices and the other based on reason-based choices. I then propose an original proxy based on choices that individuals state they would want themselves to repeat at the time of the welfare/policy evaluation. I articulate three complementary arguments that, I claim, support confirmed choices as a more reliable proxy of welfare than context-independent (...)
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  25. The Economics of Immense Risk, Urgent Action and Radical Change: Towards New Approaches to the Economics of Climate Change.Nicholas Stern & Joseph Stiglitz - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-36.
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  26. Philosophy of Economics: A Retrospective Reflection.Daniel M. Hausman - 2018 - Revue de Philosophie Économique 2:185-202.
  27. What Preferences for Behavioral Welfare Economics?Till Grüne-Yanoff - forthcoming - Tandf: Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
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  28. The Marketplace of Rationalizations.Daniel Williams - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-25.
    Recent work in economics has rediscovered the importance of belief-based utility for understanding human behaviour. Belief ‘choice’ is subject to an important constraint, however: people can only bring themselves to believe things for which they can find rationalizations. When preferences for similar beliefs are widespread, this constraint generates rationalization markets, social structures in which agents compete to produce rationalizations in exchange for money and social rewards. I explore the nature of such markets, I draw on political media to illustrate their (...)
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  29. Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values: Revisiting the History of Welfare Economics, Roger E. Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard and Tamotsu Nishizawa (Eds). Cambridge University Press, 2021, Ix + 338 Pages. [REVIEW]Cyril Hédoin - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-7.
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  30. Comparing Rubin and Pearl’s Causal Modelling Frameworks: A Commentary on Markus.Naftali Weinberger - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-9.
    Markus argues that the causal modelling frameworks of Pearl and Rubin are not ‘strongly equivalent’, in the sense of saying ‘the same thing in different ways’. Here I rebut Markus’ arguments against strong equivalence. The differences between the frameworks are best illuminated not by appeal to their causal semantics, but rather reflect pragmatic modelling choices.
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  31. A New Puzzle in the Social Evaluation of Risk.Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-16.
    We highlight a new paradox for the social evaluation of risk that bears on the evaluation of individual well-being rather than social welfare, but has serious implications for social evaluation. The paradox consists in a tension between rationality, respect for individual preferences, and a principle of informational parsimony that excludes individual risk attitudes from the assessment of riskless situations. No evaluation criterion can satisfy these three principles. This impossibility result has implications for the evaluation of social welfare under risk, especially (...)
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  32. Rational Powers in Action: Instrumental Rationality and Extended Agency, Sergio Tenenbaum. Oxford University Press, 2020, Xii + 245 Pages. [REVIEW]Seamus Bradley - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):164-169.
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  33. Global Health Impact: Extending Access to Essential Medicines, Nicole Hassoun. Oxford University Press, 2020, Xv + 301 Pages. [REVIEW]Erik Malmqvist - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):158-164.
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  34. Moral Uncertainty, by William MacAskill, Krister Bykvist and Toby Ord. Oxford University Press, 2020, Viii + 226 Pages. [REVIEW]Marcus Pivato - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):152-158.
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  35. The Samaritan’s Curse: Moral Individuals and Immoral Groups.Kaushik Basu - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):132-151.
    In this paper, I revisit the question of how and in what sense can individuals comprising a group be held responsible for morally reprehensible behaviour by that group. The question is tackled by posing a counterfactual: what would happen if selfish individuals became moral creatures? A game called the Samaritan’s Curse is developed, which sheds light on the dilemma of group moral responsibility, and raises new questions concerning ‘conferred morality’ and self-fulfilling morals, and also forces us to question some implicit (...)
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  36. Good Reasons for Losers: Lottery Justification and Social Risk.Kai Spiekermann - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):108-131.
    Many goods are distributed by processes that involve randomness. In lotteries, randomness is used to promote fairness. When taking social risks, randomness is a feature of the process. The losers of such decisions ought to be given a reason why they should accept the outcome. Surprisingly, good reasons demand more than merely equal ex ante chances. What is also required is a true statement of the form: ‘the result could easily have gone the other way and you could have been (...)
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  37. The Half Life of Economic Injustice.David Miles - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):71-107.
    This paper addresses a question which is fundamental to the perceived legitimacy of the distribution of resources today: to what extent does unfairness in how assets came to be acquired in the past affect incomes and wealth now? To answer that question requires two things: first, a principle to determine what is, and what is not, a just acquisition of wealth or a just source of income; second, a means of using that principle to estimate what fraction of wealth and (...)
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  38. What’s in, What’s Out? Towards a Rigorous Definition of the Boundaries of Benefit-Cost Analysis.Daniel Acland - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):34-50.
    Benefit-cost analysis is typically defined as an implementation of the potential Pareto criterion, which requires inclusion of any impact for which individuals have willingness to pay. This definition is incompatible with the exclusion of impacts such as rights and distributional concerns, for which individuals do have WTP. I propose a new definition: BCA should include only impacts for which consumer sovereignty should govern. This is because WTP implicitly preserves consumer sovereignty, and is thus only appropriate for ‘sovereignty-warranting’ impacts. I compare (...)
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  39. Biased Preferences Equilibrium.Ariel Rubinstein & Asher Wolinksy - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):24-33.
    We model economic environments in which individual choice sets are fixed and the level of a specific parameter that systematically modifies the preferences of all agents is determined endogenously to achieve equilibrium. The equilibrium concept, Biased Preferences Equilibrium, is reminiscent of competitive equilibrium: agents’ choice sets and their preferences are independent of the behaviour of other agents, the combined choices must satisfy overall feasibility constraints and the endogenous adjustment of the equilibrating preference parameter is analogous to equilibrating price adjustment. The (...)
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  40. Social Choice Problems with Public Reason Proceduralism.Henrik D. Kugelberg - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):51-70.
    Most political liberals argue that only rules, policies and institutions that are part of society’s basic structure need to be justified with so-called public reasons. Laws enacted outside this set are legitimate if and when public reasons can justify the procedure that selects them. I argue that this view is susceptible to known problems from social choice theory. However, there are resources within political liberalism that could address them. If the scope of public reason is extended beyond the basic structure (...)
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  41. A Core Ontology for Economic Exchanges.Daniele Porello, Giancarlo Guizzardi, Tiago Prince Sales & Glenda C. M. Amaral - 2020 - In Gillian Dobbie, Ulrich Frank, Gerti Kappel, Stephen W. Liddle & Heinrich C. Mayr (eds.), Conceptual Modeling - 39th International Conference, {ER} 2020, Vienna, Austria, November 3-6, 2020, Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 12400. pp. 364-374.
    In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the development of well-founded conceptual models for Service Management, Accounting Information Systems and Financial Reporting. Economic ex- changes are a central notion in these areas and they occupy a prominent position in frameworks such as the Resource-Event Action (REA) ISO Standard, service core ontologies (e.g., UFO-S) as well as financial stan- dards (e.g. OMG’s Financial Industry Business Ontology - FIBO). We present a core ontology for economic exchanges inspired by a (...)
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  42. Rejecting Animal Exploitation: A Case for Interspecies Solidarity.Yvette Wijnandts - 2021 - Krisis 41 (2):148-151.
    Review of Katerina Kolozova Capitalism’s Holocaust of Animals: A non-Marxist critique of capital, philosophy and patriarchy. Bloomsbury Publishing.
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  43. The Dark Underbelly of Capitalism: Exploring the Capitalism-War Connection.Marius Nijenhuis - 2021 - Krisis 41 (2):138-142.
    Review of Maurizio Lazzarato Capital Hates Everyone. Fascism or Revolution. Los Angeles: Semiotext Interventions.
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  44. Sources of Transitivity.Daniel Muñoz - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy.
    Why should be ‘better than’ be transitive? The leading answer in ethics is that values do not change with context. But this cannot be the entire source of transitivity, I argue, since transitivity can fail even if values never change, so long as they are complex, with multiple dimensions combined non-additively. I conclude by exploring a new hypothesis: that all alleged cases of nontransitive betterness, such as Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion, can and should be modeled as the result of complexity, not (...)
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  45. Unifying Theories of Institutions: A Critique of Pettit’s Virtual Control Theory.Frank Hindriks - forthcoming - Tandf: Journal of Economic Methodology:1-12.
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  46. Economics is Converging with Sociology but Not with Psychology.Don Ross - forthcoming - Tandf: Journal of Economic Methodology:1-22.
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  47. A Review on Katzner’s Models, Mathematics and Methodology in Economic Explanation, Cambridge University Press 2018.Aki Lehtinen - 2021 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (1):105-109.
    A review of Donald Katzner's book on economic modelling is provided. In addition to characterising the book, I give critical comments on the distinction between primary and secondary assumptions.
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  48. Dispersed Information and the Non-Neutrality of Money: Fifty Years After Lucas, 1972.Pierrick Clerc & Rodolphe Dos Santos Ferreira - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (1):86-104.
    This paper highlights the renewed interest in Lucas’s explanation of the non-neutrality of money put forward in his 1972 article – explanation based on information dispersion and signal extraction...
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  49. Lucas’ Expectational Equilibrium, Price Rigidity, and Descriptive Realism.Mauro Boianovsky - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (1):66-85.
    Robert Lucas' article on the neutrality of money represented the first effective challenge to Samuelson’s neoclassical synthesis methodological separation between static microeconom...
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  50. The Lasting Influence of Robert E. Lucas on Chicago Economics.Harald Uhlig - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (1):48-65.
    This paper is an overview from a personal perspective on the various ways Lucas has shaped today’s economics in general and in terms of ‘Chicago economics’ in particular. In honor of the 50th anniv...
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