Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Risk, uncertainty and profit

I'm just about to launch into this book, which has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of months now. The edition that I have includes four prefaces (three for subsequent re-issues) and if these are any guide to the content of the book I think I'm going to enjoy it.

What's particularly interesting about them is the very sceptical views he advances about some classical economic assumptions. I say surprising as I thought he was a 'Chicago school' economist (in the policy sense), whereas some of the ideas he expresses don't seem to fit very will with that sort of framework. Get a load of this:
"[T]here is an undeniable natural tendency toward increasing inequality and concentration of power under free enterprise itself, which political action seems the only way of counteracting."

There are also some interesting comments about consumer behaviour, like:
In the great bulk of wants satisfied through the market, a desire for 'goods and services' because of any intrinsic quality is a minimal element. Any realistic treatment of economic life, especially with reference to its problems, calls for recognition of a fairly clear scale of motivation, the strata of which range away from the purely economic level where physical means are used to realise ends which are quantitavely a function of the means employed...

Compared with subsistence and comfort, a much larger element in wants is aesthetic... Largely overlapping with the aesthetic element in wants are the purely 'social' wants merely symbolised by certain economic goods, as the desire to win in a game centres on points and prizes..."

And this is before we get into the real meat of the book which is famously about the distinction between risk and uncertainty. Looks like it will be an absorbing read.

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