The Association for Institutional Thought

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April 8-11, 2015


Conference Theme:
Institutionalism: History, Theory, and Futures

Coordinator: Zdravka Todorova, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
In Alphabetical Order of last name of lead author

Richard V. Adkisson
New Mexico State University

Garrey E. Carruthers
New Mexico State University

Katherine T. Carruthers
New Mexico State University

“Institutionalist Development Theory and Local and Regional Development”
In the Forward to his 1962 edition of The Theory of Economic Progress, Clarence Ayres proposed four principles of economic development. These principles were foundational to James Street’s 1987 Journal of Economic Issues article, “The Institutionalist Theory of Economic Development.” Others have also built on this intellectual foundation to explore issues of economic development. With a few exceptions the main focus has been on developing nations with little attention to domestic, local and regional economic development. This paper proposes to explore the extent to which institutional economic development theories can be applied to local and regional economic development in the context of the United States.


Aqdas Afzal
University of Missouri - Kansas City

“What the Glorious Revolution Really Tells us about Economic Institutions?”

This paper critically examines the relative merits of New Institutional Economics (NIE, hereafter) versus the “critical institutionalist” method of institutional analysis. I sketch how the Glorious Revolution, a seminal event in British economic and political history, has been analyzed by NIE. I argue that the examination, in general, and that of the Glorious Revolution, in particular, shows a considerable amount of theoretical weakness. Instead, I use the critical institutionalist method (Tauheed, 2013), to present a comprehensive institutional analysis of the Glorious Revolution. I forward the changing nature of resource distribution and culture in Britain as key variables. I also highlight the role of the “Whigs” as key agents in bringing about the necessary events of the Glorious Revolution. 


Jean Arment
University of Utah

“An Investigation into the Nature of Dependency on Imported Food Stuffs in Sub Saharan Africa”

Within the context of several evolving global factors, including climate change, increasing price volatility in the food and energy sectors of the global economy, and increasing use of food crops devoted to fuel production, the security of future food supplies shows indications of becoming increasingly fragile, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa where, despite the still-high percentage of labor in the agricultural sector of most economies, food production per capita (in contrast to the rest of the world) has declined over the past few decades as dependency on world markets increased.  In light of indications that a “conventional” development model in which the source of food supplies adapt to industrialization has not been followed, this paper, by evaluating a panel of 47 SSA countries for 51 years (1961-2011), seeks to investigate the nature of the policy choices and institutional features that have contributed to a potentially serious vulnerability in SSA.


Rojhat B. Avsar
Columbia College Chicago

“A Case for a Higher Minimum Wage: ‘Basic Needs’ Approach”

This paper intends to expose the inadequacy of the standard economic and the conservative political approach to minimum wages laws. In conventional economics, with reference to the notion of efficiency, minimum wage laws are presented to be a “friction.” We propose an alternative reframing of the purpose that minimum wage is supposed to serve in society. Most societies (e.g. hunters/gatherers) develop various institutions to meet the basic needs of their members subject to the technological/resource constraints they face. In the absence of proper minimum wage arrangements, the basic needs do not simply go away. Society, in some form, “pays” for them. The debate surrounding a higher minimum was in essence is a debate about who should be held responsible to provide for the basic needs. The argument that a higher minimum wage translates into higher business costs misses the most relevant point: somebody inevitably bears the cost of meeting the basic (biological) needs. The political argument in favor of individual responsibility is premised on the outdated Lockean notion of deservingness and overlooks the very positive externalities from living in a cooperative society.


Stephen C. Bannister
University of Utah

“The Rise and Fall (?) of (Industrial) Capitalism”

As social scientists, if we hope to help bend the curve of history toward positive institutional
change, we must understand the roots of the pervasive institution we call industrial
capitalism, which continues to influence our personal and collective lives in many ways.
My conclusion is that it is possible to eliminate much of the “bad” of industrial capitalism,
but doing so will require a specific development path following historical materialism
precepts: we need a radical change in the means of production, the technologies we build to
meet our material needs and the institutions they imply. Such change must cause a dramatic
reduction in the need for accumulated capital; in the language of economics, we must reduce
the demand for capital, to overcome its negative effects or externalities on “the non-invidious
recreation of community” (Marc R. Tool). Describing a technological development path that honours revealed economic fundamentals while meeting material needs with reduced capital demand is feasible. To do so without understanding the paths that led to our present state makes that task unnecessarily difficult. I hope to contribute to making the rise of industrial capitalism usefully understandable, and thus the probability of diminishing it feasible.


Avraham Izhar Baranes
University of Missouri – Kansas City

“Differential Advantages in the Global Pharmaceutical Industry: The Role of Intangible Assets”

This paper seeks to examine the role of intangible assets within the business enterprise, and how such assets influence the enterprises evolution. This is done within the context of the global pharmaceutical industry by examining the core of the industry and the activities of the Pfizer Corporation. This industry has managed to obtain higher-than-normal profit rates for the nearly 50 years, and the heavy reliance upon intangible assets in the form of patents is likely the key to understanding why. The findings here suggest that not only are intangible assets indeed the reason why this industry has been dominant for so long, but that the accumulation of such assets is the driving force behind changes in industry structure through mergers and acquisitions.


Douglas Bowles
University of Missouri - Kansas City

“The Social Ontology of Institutional Economics”

Over the years, interest has waxed and waned among institutionalists in the role of innate human propensity in Veblen’s analysis.  There is some recent evidence (Hodgson 2004, Waller 2013) that such interest may be, once again, on the rise.  At the same time, critical realists have shown an interest in Veblen as the source of a project in ‘realist social theorizing’ (Lawson 2003).  Taking these two sets of coincident circumstances as the point of departure, this paper will present a view of Veblen’s analysis of ‘instinct’ and ‘human nature’ as the basis for articulating a social ontology of institutional economics.  The significance of this articulation for the capacity of critical social theory to successfully compete with the neoliberal consensus view which dominates our public discourse will be considered.


Natalia Bracarense
North Central Colleg

Karol Gil-Vasquez
Nichols College

“Ethnic-Class Consciousness in Bolivia: El Buen Vivir, Historic Specificity, and Cultural Resistance”

The roots and nature of the “development” and “underdevelopment” dyad calls for an approach that questions the notion that capitalism has evolved teleologically. The proposed approach replaces the linear evolution of economic development. How can one formulate a theoretical framework that incorporates history as a non-linear process? Mary Louise Pratt’s contact zones concept analyzes the interaction between socioeconomic structures and agency’s everyday life as daily negotiations of social spaces where culture and class meet and negotiate with each other, quite often in a context of asymmetrical relations. Such paradigm accounts for the complexities that are involved in the development process as well as for the resilient institutions that continuously play a role in constructing an embedded economy (Polanyi 1944). By applying this approach to Bolivia, the present paper aims to address the historical interaction of Bolivians with the post-WWII development policies to show how this contact prompted Bolivia to contest the Western concept of development through its engrained Aymara and Quechua culture by developing an ‘ethnic-class consciousness.’ Based on El Buen Vivir—an ‘indigenous’ notion of development and a class consciousness based on ethnicity—Bolivia begins to build an alternative platform to the neoliberal policies in the South American region.


W. Robert Brazelton
University of Missouri-Kansas City

“The Rationality Concept and Modern Sociology, Psychology and Neuro-Science”
The paper deals with the problem of "Rationality" as assumed by much of Economic Analysis by bringing in problems with such a concept from the fields of Psychology, Sociology and recent studies in terms of the operation of the brain itself - neuro-science.  The paper will also involve studies by recent Federal Reserve publications that add substance to the analysis presented therein and above.


Christopher Brown
Arkansas State University

Kalpana Khanal
Arkansas State University

“Household Deleveraging and the Great Recession: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances”

In the context of an economy wherein the growth of output and employment is heavily dependent on the growth of consumption, and where the growth of consumption is achieved largely through the expansion of household debt liabilities, an episode of household deleveraging can have devastating macroeconomic repercussions. Several economists affiliated with the Post Keynesian project warned of an unsustainable buildup of household debt in the years leading up to the Great Recession of 2007-2009. This paper will use microdata from the Survey of Consumer Finances to investigate, at a disaggregated level, the extent of household deleveraging in the United States in the 2007-2013 period. Among the issues addressed: Do the data provide empirical confirmation for Minsky’s debt deflation theory of cyclical contractions? Also, after years of household deleveraging, is the economy poised for another debt-financed boom in consumer spending?


Iris Buder
University of Utah

“Political Economy Aspects of Obesity”

The goal of this paper is to analyze whether or not there are are penalties for overweight and obese women in terms of lost productivity in the household using data from the American Time Use Survey. This paper focuses on women, and will also analyze by race and ethnicity and incorporate cultural and socioeconomic factors. Then, I will discuss the institutional factors and policies that have caused a rise in obesity. Specifically, I will discuss the political economy of obesity for I believe that in this stage of capitalism, this has enormous consequences that should be addressed in the literature. I focus my analysis on women for they are at the vortex of the household and thus have large influences on other members. Also, women face higher consequences in terms of the workplace, which can be seen in reduced wages and higher discrimination.


Laura Cardwell
University of Missouri – Kansas City

“The Greek Oikos and the Capitalist Family”

This paper examines the role of the household in the ancient Greek economy, and compares this with the role of the modern household in the capitalist economic system. Oikos is the term used in ancient Greek for household. The oikos was generally seen as the basic unit of society. Individuals were identified by their role within the oikos. The oikos was the center of economic production and distribution. In a capitalist economic system the individual is generally considered to be the basic unit in society, not the household. In a capitalist system, the aggregate of individual workers carry out most of the production in exchange for a wage in the economy. The goods and services produced in the economy are distributed according to the income earned by individuals. The household is a significant institution in any socio-economic order. This paper determines the unique significance of the household within two specific economic systems.


S. Charusheela
University of Washington, Bothell

Colin Danby
University of Washington, Bothell

Jennifer Olmsted
Drew University

Eiman Zein-Elabdin
Franklin and Marshall College

“A Decade since Postcolonialism Met Economics: Round Table on Postcolonialism Meets Economics” 

Postcolonial critique, as developed by scholars like Homi Bhabha, Edward Said, and Gayatri Spivak, has shown the foundational role of colonial encounters even in forms of knowledge that are not obviously about colonialism, colonies, or former colonies.  It is a critique of the “West’s” self-understanding as “West.”  A decade ago, Postcolonialism Meets Economics (Routledge, 2003) turned this critique on economics, and asked how a nonmodernist economics might work.  It drew attention to the “non-economic content of economics,” foundational social-ontological assumptions that passed un-noticed even among heterodox schools.  In this roundtable, the editors of the volume (Zein-Elabdin and Charusheela) and two of the contributors (Olmsted and Danby) examine how the terrain has shifted over the last decade, in economics (orthodox and heterodox) on the one side, and in postcolonial studies on the other.  In their work over the last decade the participants have extended the arguments of Postcolonialism Meets Economics with particular attention to the ways concepts of culture, gender, and sexuality inform work in economics.


Timothy Clark
University of Missouri – Kansas City

“What is Value?”

The purpose of this paper is to examine “what is value”.  Fagg Foster claims that each thinker’s concept of value reveals the implicit bias of its author because “value” cannot be differentiated from the purpose a given theory serves for its author.  All theories are ultimately the result of some human purpose in the efforts to explain a given phenomena or to justify and decry the social relationships existing between human beings as a result of the phenomena. Thus, the central argument of this paper is that there is no such thing as a universal determinant or standard of value – the concept of “value” itself takes on many different forms depending on the individual who expresses that something has “value” and the perspective or object of interest to the individual. Economists seek to understand the monetary form of value. However, with its many contradictions and lack of universality is it really possible to possess a clear and distinct concept of value - or do we merely impose our own mental images of “value” into our analysis, and then proceed as if this isn’t the result of our own conscious act?


Stefanie Cole
University of Missouri-Kansas City

“Women, Race, Workers, and Ecology in Oklahoma: A Radical History and Analysis of Political Economy”

Oklahoma  was  born  in  social  conflict,  and  despite the  current  political  hegemony,  the  state  is  still  far  from  the  perfectly  predictable  political  landscape  that  its  recent  electoral  record  suggests.  Oklahoma's  political  and  economic  history  reveals  a  regularly  shifting  social  climate  and  a  frequently  erupting  tendency  for  dissident  struggles;  Oklahoman’s  have  often  adopted  radical  political  and  economic  actions  to  protect  or  to  demand  recognition  of  the  rights  of  Indians,  blacks,  women  and  workers.  Pundits  are  too  quick  to  call  Oklahoma  the  “most  red  state”;  it  is  more  accurate  to  say  that  politics  in  Oklahoma  are  as  unpredictable  as  the  weather on  the  Great  Plains.  This  paper  approaches radical  political  economy  in  Oklahoma  through  five  events:  The  Constitutional  Convention,  The  Green  Corn  Rebellion,  The  Tulsa  Race  Riot,  The  Dust  Bowl  and  the  Oklahoma  City  Sit-Ins;  and focuses on the historical  progression  of  power  dynamics  that  eventually  culminate  in  these  famous  episodes. 


James M. Cypher
Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Mexico

“Latin America, Path Dependency and the Staples Trap: The Commodity Booms of the 19th and 21st Centuries Compared”

Latin America’s post-colonial economic structure was cast during Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1910).  A Kondratiev expansionary wave drove the accumulation process in the center nations from 1896, fed by Latin America’s raw materials. Even during the Great Depression (1873-95), Latin American exports had soared.  From Independence through the 1850s the net barter terms of trade rose, encouraging export led growth. In the 1920s, with a nascent depression emerging in Europe, Latin America began to question its Hecksher-Ohlin “destiny”.  Subsequent attempts to consolidate national industrialization policies (1930-1980) were thwarted by intermittent oligarchic resistance, external debt crises and neoliberal ideology in the 1980s. In spite of structuralist critiques of resource-based exports, particularly Prebisch’s, the commodity boom (2002-2012) reinvigorated embedded free trade ideology and staples legacies.  This research analyzes the forces behind the latest commodity boom, and how (and why) the theory of institutional change best explains such circular metamorphoses and path-dependent processes.


Richard Dadzie
University of Hawai
West O‘ahu

Erik Dean
Portland Community College

“The Higher Learning in the Modern Property Regime”

This paper draws on the ideas of Thorstein Veblen as well as more contemporary research to argue that there exist two divergent ways in which the community relates to its joint stock of knowledge: the predatory relationship, based on restrictions of access to that knowledge in pursuit of profitable sales of that access; and the human relationship, based on open access and use of the community's instrumental knowledge in furtherance of individual and social development. The paper proceeds to discuss the corporatization of higher education in the US, with particular focus on the role of educational publishers in provisioning proprietary educational resources. Finally, open educational resources are discussed as a potential alternative to these contemporary trends in organizing higher education.


Shakuntala Das
SUNY, Potsdam

“Social Provisioning, Informal Institutions and Gender Equality: The Case of a Public Employment Program in India”

This paper focuses on the role of informal institution in achieving a more gender equitable social provisioning outcome of a public employment program in India. Specific expressions of gender norms are mediated through both formal and informal institutions and a more nuanced understanding of the evolution of informal institution is crucial as it can either subvert or facilitate the anticipated formal institutional change and outcome. Informed by feminist institutionalist scholarship the paper argues that analytical frameworks that can successfully incorporate the linkages and interactions between formal and informal institutions have the potential to transform power relations and advance a more gender equitable institutional change.


Ryan A. Dodd
Gettysburg College

“Notes towards a Heterodox Theory of Pay”

The purpose of this paper is to provide a broad synthesis of the existing heterodox literature on pay determination. In so doing, it follows the sustained efforts of the late Fred Lee in his attempts integrate a number of non-neoclassical schools of thought—in particular, the institutionalist and post-Keynesian traditions (including Sraffians and Kaleckians)—into a coherent and viable alternative. A significant lacuna in those efforts, one which he was trying to correct in the last few months of his life, was the absence of an analysis of pay determination that might compliment his own pioneering work on prices and pricing. While making no pretense to speak on his behalf, this paper seeks to fill a similar gap.


William M. Dugger
University of Tulsa

“Technology and Property: Knowledge and the Commons”

The application of scarcity and private property to technology is misguided because technology is a special kind of commons, particularly ill-suited for conversion to private property and market pricing. Emphasizing the de-centering of technology, the article explores technology’s communal aspects, Ostrom’s commons, and the dialectical process involved in the social construction of technology. An appendix adds institutional context.


Quentin Duroy
Denison University

“Hyper-individualism and Ultra-sociality in a Veblenian Framework”

Using multi-level selection, recent economics work has framed the process of cumulative social change as a co-development of hyper-individualism and ultra-sociality. At the macro level the ‘global economic system’ behaves as a super-organism which has co-opted the cooperative propensity of human beings in order to continuously expand its surplus product, appropriating an ever-larger share of natural resources. At the micro level, the neoliberal era has legitimized increased competition among individual members of the group and has led to a hyper focus on the maximization of individual consumption. In their interactions as social agents individuals appear to be largely oblivious or dismissive of the growing super-organism as is evidenced by public unwillingness to significantly address situations of growing inequality or of environmental stress. In the context of Veblen’s evolutionary thinking, two potential institutional solutions will be discussed: de-growth and post-nationalism. It will be argued that the former will be a solution only as a result of a severe (most likely ecological) collapse scenario. If the social desire to intentionally modify the nature of the super-organism exists it will have a greater chance to succeed as a post-national project that would provide a structural scaffolding to place the super-organism within human control.


Nina Quinn Eichacker
Bentley University

“Finance, European Power Asymmetries, and Responses to the Eurozone Crisis”

In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, the response by the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the IMF, the so-called ‘Troika’, has revealed significant power asymmetries between the periphery and core of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The actions of the Troika have supported the private financial interests of banks in countries such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands, at the expense of taxpayers in countries such as Ireland and Portugal. This paper explores how the EU protects core, elite and financial interests at the expense of peripheral, non-elite and non-financial interests within the Eurozone, using historical analysis of the EMU’s financial, monetary, and fiscal architecture, and the events following the global financial crisis. 


Justin Elardo
Portland Community College

Chace Steihl
Bellevue College

“Money Theory and Contemporary Public Banking: The Children of Inanna”

Modern Money Theory (MMT) asserts that money is a public monopoly such that sovereign governments have monopoly power to issue fiat currency.  The public monopoly has power, as is the case for any monopolist.   For example, the sovereign issuer of money has the power to direct money toward whatever ends the government deems worthwhile.  Critically, and much to the detriment of larger public welfare, MMTer’s are apt to note that sovereign governments have deferred utilizing their monopoly power in favor of ceding power to private financial interests.  Consistent with the theoretical and public policy conclusions of MMT, and with an eye toward public banking in Oregon, this paper suggests that, in general, Public Banking is a potentially transformative institutional structure and movement.   In particular, Public Banks provide a possible avenue to redirect government money monopoly power toward more socially responsible ends, i.e. in the larger public interests’.


Will Fisher
Humboldt State University

“Rational Irrationality: an Institutional Analysis of the Unsustainable Nature of Capitalism”             

This paper draws from the radicalism and the desire for a just social system that Fred Lee embodied in his life and his work. The idea of rational irrationality is based on the fundamental institutional relationships in capitalist economies that virtually ensure ecological destruction.  This paper will draw from important contributions by Marx, Veblen and Keynes, to highlight that rational decisions made from a capitalist, or capitalism’s, perspective are irrational from an ecological and social sustainability perspective.  Specifically, the crisis of over production, the lack of effective demand, and the mechanisms used to curtail these systemic problems require ever-increasing extraction and consumption of natural resources. Because of these systemic problems, society must transition from a capitalist economy to one that allows for zero growth or degrowth.


April Fleming
Portland Community College

“Credit Default Swaps: Risk Management Tools or Fuel for the Fire?”

One of the most innovative creations in modern finance, the credit default swap, made its debut in the bull market of the 1990s under the watchful eyes of the world and under the supervision of none. To properly understand the issues with credit default swaps and their role in modern finance, it is necessary to first understand the financial world of the past. 


Scott T. Fullwiler
Wartburg College

“The Social Fabric Matrix, Modern Money, and the Ecological Rate of Discount”

This paper uses the Social Fabric Matrix Approach (SFM-A) to integrate ecosystem valuation and the monetary system.  The differing patterns of component deliveries in ecological systems mean that attempts to evaluate them via traditional financial discounting techniques are problematic.  However, the approach is also problematic when one considers how the monetary system works, as well.  This calls for a new approach that appropriate considers each system and how they might better be integrated for the purpose of ecological resilience. 


Alejandro Garay-Huaman
University of Missouri - Kansas City

“A (Re)encounter of Two Worlds? The "Agrarian Question" and the Extractive Industry: Peasants and Miners in Northern Peru”

The non-capitalist areas of the modern world are constantly struggling with the capitalist impetus to expand capitalist relations of production. This was the case, in southern and east-central Africa where the British imperialism, during the second half of the nineteenth century, reshaped the socio-economic structure of rural Africa through the appropriation and transformation of previous agricultural lands into lands for mining use (Bagchi, 2009). Similarly, the emergence of the mining industry, in Latin America, is tied to the Spanish conquest, and the dispossession of the indigenous people from their lands (Dore, 1988).  Nevertheless, it is argued here that capitalist development assumes different forms in different historical periods. Thus, depending on its specific form, both its articulation with the non-capitalist social formations will be different, and the response of the non-capitalist social formation to this articulation will also be different. The aim of this paper is to explain this relationship from a historical perspective for the case of northern Peru.


Mitch Green
Franklin & Marshall College

Avraham Baranes
University of Missouri – Kansas City

“Toward a Network Theory of Institutional Adjustment”

We argue that network analysis enhances our understanding of the process of institutional adjustment. Foster's principles of institutional adjustment and Bush's theory of institutional change emphasize the interconnectedness between the constituent threads of the social fabric. Our approach examines interdependence through the vantage of network analysis. The paper begins by tracing the network tradition from Francois Quesnay through modern institutional economics, while showing that networks emerge in the history of thought in other discourses in the social sciences. Next, we elaborate on the network metaphors used in the development of institutional economics, with particular attention paid to the imagery invoked by Veblen's "institutional fabric." We then develop a network model that illustrates how the structure of interdependence conditions ongoing reproduction of the value structure of institutions. In doing we connect metaphor with theory in a coherent network analysis approach, and contribute to the project of policymaking for a good society. 


Mitch Green
Franklin & Marshall College

“The Emergence of Qualitative Change in the Social Provisioning Process”

The paper develops a surplus approach model of the economy as a whole centered upon the business enterprise. While variations of the surplus approach have furthered our understanding of capitalism as a process of reproduction, most analyses focus on the macro implications of insights into value and distribution. It is shown that by taking the social relationship as the unit of analysis, one may construct a model that illustrates the extent to which the business enterprise, or social actor, affects the emergence of a qualitatively distinct social provisioning process, as it seeks to reproduce the conditions for its own existence. Doing so develops a more contingent and nuanced understanding of social reproduction embedded in the social fabric. To this end, the paper makes a contribution toward one of the many intellectual projects to which Fred Lee has contributed to the discipline: developing a coherent alternative to neoclassical microeconomics.


Mitch Green
Franklin & Marshall College

Electrification in the Pacific Northwest and the Problem of Embeddedness.

Fred Lee's heterodox surplus approach is applied to the problem of qualitative change in the social provisioning as concerns the Pacific Northwest. Two features of the surplus approach, 1) emphasis on structural interdependence and 2) the Sraffian notion of 'viability,' allow for the economic history of the Pacific Northwest to be recast as a problem of embeddness. It is argued that two distinct provisioning processes were embedded in two societies, and viability of each is mutually inconsistent with the other. That is, capitalist use of the Columbia River watershed undermined the viability of the non-capitalist provisioning process that precedes it, in which indigenous groups were central. Taking the social relation as the unit of analysis qualitative change is examined with reference to the electrification of the region, and the subsequent rendering of the watershed as an ‘organic machine.’ The paper concludes by discussing the political ecology of the Columbia basin.


Daphne T. Greenwood
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

“A Pluralist Approach to Work and Pay: Escaping the Tyranny of Increasingly Neoclassical Texts”

The paper outlines how to replace a formal text with pluralist and institutionalist readings, online videos and data collection.  This allows an approach centered on identifying problems/issues and enlisting various tools (theories) enlisted only when and where useful. The economic problem is framed as provisioning a high, broadly-based and sustainable standard of living (quality-of-life + income). Sustainability raises issues of child health, education.  I start with the widening income gap and shrinking middle class before getting into wage determination. And through early discussion of ‘jobless recoveries,’ the centrality of demand (vs skill-deficiency and other supply side arguments) to unemployment and wage setting becomes clear. The ‘economics toolbox’ used goes beyond demand and supply. Rather than taking institutions/preferences as given with wages/prices/costs operating within them, we focus on institutions evolving in response to other changes. Discrimination and intergenerational mobility provide examples of path dependence, while worker safety illustrates labor market externalities.


Winston Griffith
Bucknell University

“Is The Low Level of Development in Caricom Countries due to Government Policies?”

The neoclassical counter-revolution that broke out in the early 1980s contended that the low level of development and high level of poverty prevalent in less developed countries were due to their governments pursuing “bad” economic policies that have always resulted in the distortion market prices. If governments in these countries were to adopt laissez-faire policies, it has been argued, their economies would experience rapid economic growth and their citizens would rise out of poverty. This paper contends that, contrary to the neoclassical counter-revolution argument, it has been the active intervention of Caricom Governments that has significantly reduced the level of poverty and that has contributed to the economic transformation of Caricom countries in the post-World War II period.


John Hall
Portland State University

Svetlana Kirdina
Russian Academy of Sciences

“Peter Kropotkin’s Contributions to Social and Economic Evolution”

Our paper advances the idea that author Peter Kropotkin offers an approach to social and economic evolution that emphasizes the importance of cooperation over competition.  What we stress is that no other thinker in the evolutionary tradition has so boldly advanced and developed this thesis as an integral dimension of evolutionary thinking.  Key ideas in Kropotkin’s approach appear in book form with the title: Mutual Aid (1902), published by William Heinemann of London.   Over the eight chapters, Kropotkin considers the ways in which mutual aid (cooperation) has contributed to the survival not just of organisms and species, but also the societies in the harsh environment of Siberia, and even institutions like the Medieval City. Unlike Veblen, Kropotkin borrows his initial understanding of evolution from the French Philosopher Auguste Comte, and not Charles Darwin.  This paper will emphasize the unique character of Kropotkin’s contribution toward our understanding of social and economic evolution, and also relate our findings back to Veblen and American Institutionalism.


F. Gregory Hayden
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Where are People in the Social Fabric Matrix?”

As analysts are learning about values, technological criteria, component deliveries, and so forth in the social fabric matrix; they sometimes inquire about people fit. This paper clarifies the role of people in the SFM. The first part of the paper is devoted to a review of what has traditionally been meant by people, to include individuals, agents, agency, decision makers, etc. The paper then explains what people are in the SFM representation of reality, with the use of a former report that demonstrates the roles of different particular persons and people as outlined by the SFM. 


John F. Henry
California State University, Sacramento and University of Missouri Kansas City

“Does “Morality” Deserve a Place in Economic Theory?: A Neoliberal and Institutionalist Debate”

18th and early 19th centuries economic theory was replete with issues surrounding morality. With the rise and eventual domination of neoclassical theory in the 19th century, overt attention to moral concerns seems to have disappeared. “Scientific” economic theory (seemingly) appeared to leave no room for ethical positions. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, however, there was something of a revival in this issue. In particular, Walton Hamilton, representing the institutionalist position, and Michael Polanyi, the “neoliberal” position, raised the question of the relationship of morality to economic theory in direct fashions. While this paper will focus on the different positions taken by Hamilton and Polanyi, the broader issue to be addressed will be that of the relationship between economic theories (in general) and the usually covert ethical arguments contained therein. It will be argued that all such theories (with the possible exception of that of Marx) contain ethical standards that inform the theories themselves.


John F. Henry
California State University, Sacramento and University of Missouri Kansas City

“Brazelton on Keyserling: An Overview”   

Robert Brazelton is largely responsible for rescuing Leon Keyserling from obscurity. As first Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, an active advisor to government, and a once-noted figure in the discipline, Keyserling should be a well-recognized figure among institutionalists. This presentation will provide an overview of Bob's work on Keyserling, largely based on his interviews with the man and archival work at both the Truman and Eisenhower libraries.


Arturo Hermann
Italian National Institute of Statistics

“The Decline of Institutional Economics in the Post-World War II Period and the Perspectives of Today”

In the opinion of many scholars, one main reason that triggered the decline of institutional economics in the post-World War II period was the eruption of the Great Crisis in 1929.
In fact — notwithstanding institutional economists had been heavily involved in the New Deal and produced on that account many valuable theoretical and applied contributions — it had gained ground the (non convincing) opinion that their policy prescriptions were not so path-breaking as those promoted by the Keynesian exponents. However, also a number of “endogenous factors” may have caused the decline of institutionalism. We will analyse these aspects along three headings: (i) the relations of institutional economics with other heterodox theories; (ii) the links between theoretical and empirical analysis; (iii) the interdisciplinary orientation. Then we will consider the recent developments of institutional economics (in its “old” tradition), with particular attention to policy proposals for addressing the recent economic and social crisis.


Adam Hilton
York University

“Interests and Institutions: The Construction of Political Projects in American History”

From the days of Sombart to the bestselling book that asked What’s the Matter with Kansas, a long legacy of political analysis has focused on explaining US voting patterns within a framework of distinct and divergent interests. My paper will critically examine the theoretical underpinnings of the interest group paradigm and offer an alternative framework centered on the institutionally enriched concept of political projects. Rethinking the American political landscape through the lens of political projects, painstakingly constructed by purposive political actors through historical time, presents us with a notion of politics as continually subject to its own making and remaking. Such a framework avoids the dilemma of positing clashes between “objective” and “subjective” interests or notions of “false consciousness” while integrating the insights of discourse theory as a substantive element in the construction of political identities.


P. Sai-wing Ho
University of Denver

“Hirschman on Structural and Institutional Changes in the Process of Development”

Albert Hirschman is often credited for introducing the concept of production linkages into the study of development processes in the late 1950s. However, less attention has been accorded to how he subsequently broadened his discussion beyond these supply-side mechanisms. He thus strengthened the cumulative character of his analysis by adding consumption linkages, which amounted to some demand-side considerations. He examined fiscal, and touched upon banking, linkages. These can be interpreted as institutional linkages as they relate to the emergence and functioning of state and financial institutions in contexts of producing different commodities. Last but not least, he contrasted inside with outside linkages, which are concerned with whether the direct producers of such commodities would be dependent upon ‘outsiders’ to activate various linkages. All this add up to a rich analytical framework that facilitates the understanding of structural and institutional changes, or the lack thereof, in the process of development.


Barbara E. Hopkins
Wright State University

“Evolutionary Liberation: An Interogation of the Intersection of Feminist, Institutionalist, and Comparative Economics”

It has been argued that feminists have been drawn to the writings of Marx more so than the writings of Veblen despite Veblen’s superior analysis of women’s subordination because Marx offers a mechanism for liberation. However, women’s experience with Marxian revolutions in particular and the failure of these projects more broadly highlight the limitations of a Marxian approach to women’s liberation. In this essay I consider the application of institutional economics to the project of reforming economic and social institutions to weaken patriarchial elements and strengthen women’s liberation and I discuss the challenges of evaluating economic systems on the degree of gender subordination. 


Dorene Isenberg
University of Redlands

“Institutional Praxis: The Development of Women’s Creditworthiness”

In the 1970’s women made a huge leap forward in emerging from their perceived position as an economic dependent.  Along with barriers to employment, impediments to credit were challenged and changed as different groups struggled to reconstruct the socioeconomic structure.  This paper is an investigation of the discriminatory lending practices that women faced in the United States and the institutional changes that were attempted and achieved in the movement to make women legitimate borrowers.  The primary paths for change were legal and economic: the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 and the establishment of women’s financial institutions. Other authors have viewed this transition as an either/or change: either the market or the law would erase discrimination.  My analysis shows that one institutional change relied on the other, so both developments were important in re-configuring the perception and practices that lead to women being creditworthy.


Jake Jennings
University of Utah

“The Evolving Composition and Importance of Household Net Worth for Credit”

This paper analyzes the changing composition of net wealth for US households, from that driven by saving to that dominated by financial price gains. This is a shift in the function of capitalism and has important implications for credit. Our discussion begins with historic perspectives, emphasizing the nature of asset prices and financial sentiment over the cycle from that of Minsky and Keynes’s Treatise. The paper then outlines how these institutional changes have occurred and their effect on financial cycles. The remarkable growth in household net worth is one pathway where output has been sustained, investment and other macro variables to remain in spite of declining US residual (volume) saving.  Using simple social accounting matrices as an abstract of data in the Integrated Macro Accounts (IMA’s) an altered composition of household balance sheets can be demonstrated throughout the business cycle. A simple model can then be shown where the macro economy is driven by capital gains. The IMA’s provides a clear picture of this behavior and its amplification within the era for financial deregulation. They also outline the positive change in household net worth to nominal holding gains and that of a negative response to growth in residual net saving.


Tae-Hee Jo      
SUNY Buffalo State

Zdravka Todorova
Wright State University

“Social Provisioning Process and the Development of Heterodox Economics”

Instead of having a narrow definition of what constitutes economics, such as the mainstream has with its “allocation of scarce resources among competing ends via the price mechanism,” heterodox economists have opted for a much more expansive definition that permit different theoretical explanations for ways in which the provisioning process can take place in different types of economies in different historical contexts. In this paper, we will first introduce the social provisioning process as the way to define economics; and then secondly engage it with the mainstream definition of economics. The third section of the paper will elaborate on the social provisioning process and show its deep roots in various heterodox approaches. In the final section, we will argue that the social provisioning process ties the various heterodox approaches into a single integrated theoretical framework and hence provides the foundation for the theoretical, empirical, and policy development of heterodox economics.


Marianne Johnson
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

“Harold Groves, Public Finance and the Legacy of Wisconsin Institutionalism”

Institutionalist public finance represented the dominant approach prior to World War II, after which it was eclipsed by Pigouvianism and Keynesianism. This transition defined the career of Wisconsin’s Harold M. Groves (1897 – 1969). Groves was a notable public finance economist, leading textbook author, and drafter of significant tax and labor legislation. In this paper, I examine Groves and postwar public finance as a test case for the legacy of Wisconsin Institutionalism, identifying the particularly institutional characteristics of the postwar program for tax reform. While the institutional legacy of labor economics and business cycle theory has been well documented, as has the institutional response to the macroeconomic policies of Keynes, the evolution of institutional public finance remains largely unconsidered. I attempt to rectify this, considering Groves contributions to postwar tax policy, his interactions with Henry Simons and Richard Musgrave, and his view on Keynesian public finance. Wisconsin Institutionalist contributions to modern public finance are identified.


Tabitha Knight
Willamette University

“A Cross-Country Evaluation of Public Spending and Gendered Employment”

The relationship between government spending and employment is complicated by the interaction of such spending and economic growth, and further by the correlation between growth and employment. While this relationship is even more complex when we disaggregate employment by gender, little work has been done to evaluate it from a gendered perspective. In this paper we provide a world-wide analysis of the effects of government spending, specifically, public spending on social infrastructure, on gendered employment by estimating gendered employment as a function of social infrastructure spending controlling for demand, structural change, and human capabilities using multiple econometric techniques. We find that public spending on healthcare and education are positively related to women's relative employment via upward harmonization. In this paper we aim to increase the understanding of the relationship between public sector spending and women's relative welfare and encourage future evaluations of other development policies through a gendered lens.


Yan Liang
Willamette University

“Shadow Banking in China: Implications for Financial Stability and Economic Rebalancing”

Off-balance-sheet bank lending and lending by non-bank financial institutions have seen rapid growth in China since 2010 and have contributed to an increasing share of the total social financing. Some scholars and policy makers believe that shadow banks are a natural product of financial development and benign supplement to the formal commercial banks while others consider them a source of financial instability. This paper illustrates the development of shadow banks and analyzes their financial and “real” impacts. It shows that shadow lending not only incurs tremendous risks at the institutional level but may undermine systemic stability due to their tight connections to the formal banking sector. However, given the current configurations of the banking sector and effective policy control, a systemic financial crisis is highly unlikely. Conversely, the negative impacts of shadow banks are mainly manifested in the misallocation of credit and a worsening of the debt burden of small- and medium sized enterprises. In addition, the oft-cited benefits of shadow banks in stimulating consumption are not well supported. All together, it is dubious that shadow banks play a positive role in rebalancing China’s economy.


Stephen Maher
York University

“The Theoretical Core of Critical Institutionalism: Ontology and Method in Social Science”

This paper seeks to address a central theoretical concern of contemporary social science: how to understand capitalism as a historically specific form of social relations that is nonetheless institutionalized in particular ways in different places and times. It argues that this task requires ‘bringing the social back in,’ and locating the role of the structural pressures of capital accumulation in shaping struggles within and against existing institutional arrangements. It suggests that one way to accomplish this task is by constructing a research paradigm—‘critical institutionalism’—rooted not in the search for highly abstract and a-historical economic laws, but in one that seeks to understand historical eventuation as a process through an analysis that integrates relations at the levels of individual agency, class structure, institutional formations, and the world market.


John Marangos
University of Macedonia

“The State of the Washington Consensus: From ‘After’ to the ‘Amended’ Washington Consensus”

The Washington Consensus was formed, in 1989, by John Williamson to describe the consensus, initially for Latin America and then for international development by international institutions in Washington. However, the Washington Consensus was identified as a neoliberal manifesto and received a vast amount of criticism. In response, lately, Williamson has offered a new set of policies the “After the Washington Consensus” and what I name the “Amended Washington Consensus”, as updated versions of the consensus. The aim of this paper is to determine whether there has been any substantial change in policies by comparing the two set of controversial policies the “After the Washington Consensus” and the “Amended Washington Consensus” with the original consensus. 


Juniours Marire
Rhodes University

“Political Economy of South African Trout Fisheries”

I analyze the evolution of trout recreational fisheries with the objective of identifying possible factors that might be driving current controversies in biodiversity policy reforms on the governance of alien and invasive species. Results suggested that a process of leisure-augmentation through environmental greed underpinned the introduction and present-day continued spreading of trout. With this process came also the development of a complex set of institutions that protected trout since they served an honorific role. My findings also suggested that the Ayresian thesis that all ceremonial systems are past-binding could be relaxed because ceremonial interests also envision alternative futures that can entrench and further protect ceremonial systems. To that end, these ceremonial interests facilitate path-breaking, but harmful institutional change. I extend Paul Dale Bush’s concept of institutional spaces by assigning faces to the concept, resulting in expansion of possible institutional adjustment configurations.
Keywords: Veblenian leisure class theory, institutional adjustment, trout species


Scott L.B. McConnell
Eastern Oregon University

“Veblen’s “Higher Learning” and On-Line Education”

In The Higher Learning in America, Thorstein Veblen outlines an approach for understanding the tendencies and dynamics of higher education and the evolution of this institution from its initiation for the advancement and dissemination of knowledge related to “idle curiosity,” to where pecuniary considerations begin to dominate the evolutionary tendencies. This paper will attempt to extend Veblen’s seminal analysis to include the modality and delivery of knowledge. The traditional notion that knowledge is best disseminated in an inter-personal manner, and traditionally in a classroom setting, is currently being usurped by the growing aspiration of the educational industry to reach additional educational clientele through technological capabilities associated with the internet, causing the emergence of  “Online Education” that seems to be taking root. This inquiry considers and also questions the degree to which the emerging “online platform” should be understood as an extension of what spells the ruin of the traditional approach to higher education.


Suranjana Nabar-Bhaduri
Bucknell University

Matías Vernengo
Bucknell University

“China and India in the Global Economy: A Comparative Study”

For more than three decades now both China and India have grown at a fast pace. However, the development strategies pursued by both countries are considerably different, with China relying on a vigorous process of industrialization, which until the global crisis was clearly oriented towards exports, while India has relied, at least since the early 1990s on the expansion of the service sector. The paper suggests that while manufacturing growth was the motor of productivity growth in China, the absence of an equivalent process of industrialization in India implies that the prospects for sustainable process of capital accumulation are more limited. The basis of the empirical analysis estimates Kaldor’s Second Law and the so-called Kaldor-Verdoorn Law for both countries


Berhanu Nega
Bucknell University

Geoff Schneider
Bucknell University

“History and the Model of Development that Prevailed in Africa: Can Africa Break the Vicious Cycle?”

Research on development has moved away from short term performance to long term determinants of success. This paper identifies historical factors that shaped the development of key institutions, the degree to which these institutions affected past economic outcomes and, more importantly, which ones are influencing contemporary performance. We first look at the trend in long term economic performance for the continent compared with other regions of the world. The paper then evaluates the various explanations provided by the standard development model to explain this performance for Africa. The paper shows that the most important long term determinant of economic and social performance in the continent has been the nature of the distribution of power, which shaped the distribution of economic resources. Furthermore, the paper argues that the distribution of power and the institutions that ensure this distribution were shaped by a number of historical events whose impact still endures.


Reynold F. Nesiba
Augustana College

“Payday Lending on the Prairie: Deregulation, Predation, and a Potential Populist Response”

Paul Volcker, Governor Bill Janklow, and Citibank all played prominent roles in the dismantling of usury ceilings in South Dakota in 1980 and 1981.  Three decades later, the wake of those policy decisions continues to influence both the banking and fringe banking industries.  According to the Center for Responsible Lending in 2010, South Dakota was home to 118 payday lenders originating over $150 million in short-term high interest rate loans.  A recent Pew study confirms that South Dakota—because of its unregulated interest rates—is one of the most expensive places in the nation take out a payday loan.  Lenders there charge an average annual rate of interest of 575%.  That rate is almost four-and-half-times higher than Colorado’s 129%.  Drawing on historical documents, interviews, loan application documents, and court records, the authors explain the history, economic impact, and adverse effect payday lending has had on South Dakota borrowers, charitable agencies, and the broader community.
Opponents of predatory lending have proposed an initiated measure for the 2016 election cycle to cap payday loan rates at 35%. 


Reynold F. Nesiba
Augustana College

Scott Carson
University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Christopher Erickson
New Mexico State University

Jim Peach
New Mexico State University

John P. Watkins
Westminster College

“Thomas Piketty’s, Capital in the 21st Century – Round Table Discussion” (AFIT/GE)

Thomas Piketty’s, Capital in the 21st Century has provoked a renewed discussion of wealth inequality around the world.  His book has received widespread attention, praise, and criticism in both the mainstream media and in academic journals and online settings.  In this session we will discuss the author’s approach to understanding inequality, his discussion of long-term trends, and assess his proposal to directly tax global wealth.



Nathanael David Peach
George Fox University

Tom Head
George Fox University

Donald D. Hackney
Gonzaga University

Emma Newman
George Fox University

Grace Friberg
George Fox University

Panel Discussion of How Adam Smith can Change Your Life: an Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness

The panel will discuss Russell Roberts’ How Adam Smith can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness. In this work Roberts applies insights from The Theory of Moral Sentiments to modern life. In doing so he offers a strong criticism of neoclassical utility theory. Roberts exposes the theory’s limitations by comparing its limited insights to the depths of Smith’s into human behavior. In the work Roberts explores notions such as the good life, the role of conscience, and Smith’s impartial spectator. The panel will discuss the merit and limitations of Roberts’ work from the perspective of undergraduate students studying economics and faculty in teaching positions. Special attention will be paid to ways Roberts and Smith could be used to provide a more robust understanding of human motivations and decisions and what place Smith has, or should have, in the contemporary economics curriculum.


Jim Peach
New Mexico State University

“The National Collegiate Athletic Association: A Case Study of Change and Resistance to Change”

The NCAA is a major player in the multi-billion dollar game of college athletics.  The NCAA is a very complex institution with more than 1,100 colleges, universities, and conferences as members.  The governing structure of the organization is exceedingly complex and meaningful change is often difficult to implement.  In 2014 the NCAA governance structure changed in very dramatic fashion.  In particular, the Big 5 conferences (ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, and PAC 12) were given autonomy to set their own rules on a variety of issues including how much universities could pay their players (a.k.a. ‘full cost-of-attendance’).  The proposed changes were greeted with less than enthusiasm by conferences and institutions that were not members of the Big 5.  While the outcome of the new governance rules was never in serious doubt, the changes in the NCAA and the resistance to change may provide lessons for other slow-moving institutions.  


Janice Peterson
California State University, Fresno

“Contemporary Work-Time Policy Debates: A Framework for Analysis”

Institutionalist, social, and feminist economists have contributed to a broader understanding of wages through examinations of the implicit wage theories in historical and contemporary policy debates (for example, Living Wages, Equal Wages by D. Figart, E. Mutari, and M. Power).  This paper applies a similar approach to identifying the implicit theories of labor supply that underlie different positions in contemporary discussions on work time and flexibility policy issues.  For example, in a March 2014 New York Times “Room for Debate” discussion on the desirability of the 40 hour work week (, the views expressed ranged from a condemnation of “the cult of endless work” to a call for lower taxes to encourage individuals to work more.  This paper seeks to draw on the insights of institutionalist, social, and feminist economics to identify the underlying understandings of labor supply in such debates to develop a framework for examining different policy proposals.


Janice Peterson
California State University, Fresno

The Political Economy of Work

This paper will discuss a course – The Political Economy of Work – that is currently in development with the goal of providing a supplement and/or alternative to a more traditional labor economics course (with an applied microeconomics focus). The course will utilize David Weil's recent book The Fissured Work Place: Why Work Became So Bad For So Many and What Can Be Done To Improve It to provide the overall structure of the course, drawing on economic theory, economic history, industry analyses, descriptive statistics, and the stories and experiences of individual workers to describe and analyze the changing structure of labor markets and their outcomes.  Further readings and activities will incorporate more extensive and explicit explorations of institutionalist and feminist theoretical arguments and policy concerns. The course will include a substantial experiential component, involving students in action research concerning labor issues and problems in California’s Central Valley.


Dennis Pilon
York University

“Critical Institutionalism: Recovering the Lost Social Core of Institutionalism”

What makes institutions operate as they do?  What holds them together as strategic sites of social power?  What factors or forces lead them (or force them) to change?  For over three decades different varieties of new ‘institutionalists’ have struggled to answer such questions, unhappy with privileging either the structural (determinant) or individual (agency) level of analysis.  Critical institutionalism seeks to add a new and much needed social focus to the literature on institutionalism, arguing that much existing work lacks an explicit theory of society and its social relations.  Where many institutionalists see society on the one hand and institutions on the other, critical institutionalism maps institutions themselves as sites of social struggle, and, at best, temporary manifestations of social power.  The paper will review the inter-disciplinary development of the various new institutionalisms to help situate how and why critical institutionalism will advance our understanding of institutions, both in terms of their maintenance and reform, as well as utilize a concrete case study – the reform of western national voting systems – to demonstrate its concrete efficacy as an approach.


Jan Priewe
HTW Berlin – University of Applied Sciences

“Global Foreign Exchange Markets and Institution Building – the Case for Global Monetary Reform”


Foreign exchange markets are the biggest and most rapidly growing financial markets. Until the early 1970s foreign exchange markets had been most the time embedded in a global order, i.e. a multilateral system. Since then market driven exchange markets became predominant, in combination with unilateral “managed floating” for many currencies or the usage of a common currency, both often incorporating a host of problems. As the performance of the euro/dollar market shows, market exchange rates often follow a pattern of roller-coaster super cycles with huge swings and long-standing deviation from fundamental equilibrium. Most emerging markets’ currencies are on the verge to shifting towards financial liberalisation and full-fledged floating regimes. Disequilibrium exchange rates have vast negative consequences (distortion of trade and capital flows, balance of payments). The paper argues that a globalized economy needs fundamentally justified exchange rates that are embedded in a multilateral institutional order. After reviewing several proposals for global monetary reform, a new proposal is made based on the stabilisation of the euro/dollar exchange rates with currency cooperation of the Fed and the ECB. This could be the nucleus for prudential global monetary reform.


Bastiaan Philip Reydon
Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Roberto Resende Simiqueli
Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Vitor Bukvar Fernandes
Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Ana Paula da Silva
Universidade Estadual de Campinas

“Institutional History and Brazilian Land Ownership Issues”

Since its colonial origins, Brazilian agricultural property has remained immersed in deregulation. Attempts of institutional reform - such as the Lei de Terras of 1850 - have been largely unsuccessful, whilst providing legal grounds for land grab by large estates and narrowing the scope of possibilities open for legitimate reevaluations of the first institutional landmark on land use and ownership in the country - the Sesmarias. Understanding that the solution to the dilemmas present in modern Brazil rests on the study of the specifics of Brazilian history, we aim to present a panoramic view of the turning points of land regulation in the country. With this case in mind, we assess that institutional reforms can only be effectively planned and implemented by taking into account the historical determinants present in the shaping of a given institutional setting - thus reaffirming Skocpol's classic postulate of 'Institutions matter, History matters'.


Felipe Carvalho de Rezende
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

“Why does Brazil’s Banking Sector Need Public Banks? What Should BNDES do?”

The 2007-2008 global financial crisis has shown the failure of private finance to efficiently allocate capital to finance real capital development. The resilience and stability of Brazil’s financial system has received attention as it navigated relatively smoothly through the Great Recession and the collapse of the shadow banking system. This raises the question if it is possible that alternative approaches followed by some developing countries might provide an indication of more stable regulatory approaches. There has been much discussion about how to support private long-term finance to meet Brazil’s growing infrastructure and investment needs. One of the essential functions of the financial system is to provide long term funding needed for long-lived and expensive capital assets. However, one of the main difficulties of the current private financial system is its failure to provide long term financing, in which the short termism in Brazil’s financial market is a major obstacle to financing long-term assets. In its current form, the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) is the main source of long-term funding in the country. However, BNDES has been subject to a range of criticisms such as crowding out private-sector banks from and is hampering the development of the local capital market. On this paper, rather than following the traditional approach to justify the existence of public banks, and BNDES in particular, based on market failures, an effective answer to this question requires a theory of financial instability.


Felipe Carvalho de Rezende
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

William Waller
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

“Change in The Policy Regime in Brazil in The New Millennium: An Institutionalist Approach”

Since the 2007-2008 global crisis, Brazil implemented policies to boost domestic demand. However, in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown, policy makers misdiagnosed the crisis and ended up withdrawing stimulus policies too early. The withdrawal of stimulus measures opened up space for critics to claim Roussef’s administration was being excessively interventionist causing the poor economic performance of the past four years. Policy should have changed to deal with changing circumstances of the crisis. With the stimulus perceived as a failure, opponents argue that state intervention is the problem, fueling the opposition presidential candidate’s embracing a return to failed pro-market and austerity policies of the past. This paper applies Veblen’s insights about the process of cumulative change to analyze policy shifts in Brazil.


Raphael Sassower
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

“From Individuals to Institutions: The Moral Dimension of Political Economy”

While Classical Economics anchored the marketplace in a socio-moral context (Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759), by the time Neoclassical Economics (with its mathematical turn) and more recent developments (Efficient Markets Theory) have become dominant, traces of moral concerns or political and legal complicity have disappeared. Revisiting classical Institutional Thought (C. E. Ayres 1827, 1929, and 1944) may hold the key to unlock the failures of contemporary capitalism. A Fresh and critical look at market-capitalism as a whole can shift the cavalier “blame game” from the maleficence of  captains of (financial) industry to the structural fault-lines and deceptive incentive mechanisms. The inevitable disastrous consequences of such systematic institutional behavior have been foretold by the likes of Karl Marx a long time ago. Recent practices, such as the “knockoff” and “shared” economy critically question the presuppositions of market-capitalism in ways that mutually inform Institutional Economics.


Ted P. Schmidt
SUNY Buffalo State

“Financialization: There and Back Again”

Financialization has become a popular topic of analysis for heterodox economists. While there is no single definition of the term, analysis of financialization has focused on how it has influenced corporate behavior, markets, accumulation, and the political process. Financialization has been described as a pernicious force that allows the financial sector to extract a greater share of surplus income from capital and labor, and it has led to slower growth and rising inequality. 
Interestingly, financialization was also an important topic of discussion over one hundred years ago. The growing influence of finance was discussed by Veblen in The Theory of Business Enterprise and Hilferding in Finance Capital.  Why did discussions of financialization disappear then reemerge almost a century later?  In this paper we review the concepts of financialization established by Veblen and Hilferding, and look at the reasons for its disappearance and subsequent reemergence as an economic construct. 


Geoff Schneider, Bucknell University
Berhanu Nega, Bucknell University

“Towards a More Equitable Social Provisioning Process in South Africa”

South Africa has experienced substantial economic growth since 2000, appearing to have reversed the problems of the 1980s and 1990s. Recent economic growth masks deep structural problems in the economy. Historically, the most important long term determinant of economic performance and social provisioning in Africa has been the nature of the distribution of power, which shapes key institutions and the distribution of economic resources. In South Africa the distribution of power and the institutions that ensure this distribution were established under apartheid, and many of them remain largely in place today. Thus, the institutional structure is preventing the establishment of a more broad-based distribution of power and a more equitable provisioning process. This paper documents the extent to which the maintenance of key apartheid-era institutions is undermining the prospects for long-term economic and human development in South Africa. Breaking the cycle of uneven development in South Africa will require fundamental changes in institutions, including changes in democracy, ownership structures and the very nature of the economic system, as well as innovative theorizing about the social provisioning process under contemporary capitalism.           

Dmitry Shishkin
Georgia Gwinnett College

“How Rational and Logical Mainstream Economists Really Are: What Can We Learn from one Confusion in the Mainstream Introductory Economics Courses?”

The theme of this paper might not seem to be directly related to Institutionalism as it is focusing on a very narrow and technical topic of elasticity: namely, the flaws that can be found in the way this concept is presented in the mainstream introductory courses and even in its theoretical roots. The findings presented in this work are relevant to Institutionalism in three ways. First, institutionalism is a part of unorthodox economics which criticizes mainstream economics and strives to present a more meaningful alternative of studying economic systems. The paper strengthens the position of Institutionalism as a viable alternative to mainstream economics. Second, as the arguments presented in this work are very basic it is hard to see how those basic arguments could be missed by so many people for such a long time. It appears that here we have an evidence of an established routine dominating reasoning and critical thinking. Third, as straightforward as the concept of elasticity might seem, it is quite amazing to see how much intellectual effort was spent on setting things straight when it came to so-called arc elasticity. Thus, these findings contribute to the common unorthodox criticism of mainstream economics being over-formalized.


Roberto Resende Simiqueli
Universidade Estadual de Campinas

“Empire and Industry - Thorstein Veblen's Theses on the Contrast between German and British Paths to Modernity”

In the pages of Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution, Veblen discusses Prussia's rise to the status of industrial power, contrasting these determinants to the path taken by the British. Our aims with this paper are not limited to revisiting this passage of Veblen's collected works, but, from its review, to discuss (a) the relationship between the first attempts at Comparative History made by the author and his criticism of the epistemological references employed by his contemporaries; (b) the impact of these thesis on Barrington Moore Jr.'s classic on the Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, a work that is both clearly indebted to Veblen's first foray on this field and an example of the advantages and limitations of the comparative method; and (c) to assess, in the light of the positions defended by one of the founders of economic institutionalism, the course taken by contemporary strands of institutional thought.


Eric Tymoigne
Lewis and Clark College

“A Financial Analysis of Monetary Systems”

This paper develops the framework of analysis of monetary systems put together by authors such as Macleod, Keynes, Innes, and Knapp. This framework does not focus on the functions performed by an object but rather on its financial characteristics. Anything issued by anybody can be a monetary instrument and any type of material can be used to make a monetary instrument, as these are unimportant determinants of what a monetary instrument is. What matters is the existence of specific financial characteristics. These characteristics lead to a stable nominal value (parity) in the proper financial environment. This framework of analysis leads the researcher to study how the fair value of a monetary instrument changes and how that change differs from changes in the value of the unit of account. It also provides a road map to understanding monetary history and why monetary instruments are held.


Daniel Underwood
Peninsula College and University of Washington

Donald D. Hackney
Gonzaga University

Dan Friesner
North Dakota State University

“Diversity, Solidarism and Sustainable Community Economic Development”

Fundamental to social provisioning is ensuring community members have access to employment opportunities that pay living wages and sustain the environment.  Underwood, Friesner and Cross (2014) presented a three-fold test to comparatively assess economic development policies: ecological holism, community centeredness, and institutional legitimacy.  Applying this test generates an iterative, evolutionary process of economic development.  Absent from these criteria is the concept of intention; policy options are not “given” but rather are designed by self-interested groups who manipulate interpretations of these test criteria to advance vested interests.    This paper integrates two additional principles: economic diversity and solidarity.  Economic diversity emphasizes living wages in numerous industries to stabilize exogenous economic shocks.  Solidarity, as a unit of socio-economic interdependence, stresses commonality of wellbeing within communities.  Integrating solidarism and economic diversity into Underwood et al.’s test facilitates improved policy design and outcomes that sustain the environment while providing living wage employment for community members.


BJ Unti
Bellevue College

“Good for the Economy, Bad for People”

This paper explores the purpose and significance of adopting social provisioning as the starting point for economic analysis. It is argued that the alternative presented by mainstream theory contributes to the creation of a fetishized entity “The Economy” imbued with autonomous powers independent of human agency.  The result is a set of policies, objectives, and metrics for success that in many cases contradict basic human needs.


Daniel Urban
Willamette University

“Social Stratification and the Surplus”

This paper seeks to illuminate the connection between the surplus and the process of social stratification.  In doing this, we borrow primarily from the works of Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen.  That is, we rely upon Marx’s concepts of surplus, the distinction between productive and unproductive labor, and reproduction, while from Veblen we take the relation of the surplus to the processes within stratification.  We also rely upon conceptions of class as provided by both scholars.  Our efforts will examine how the very production of a surplus leads to the formation of a class structured society, and within such a society the production and appropriation serves to reproduce the stratified social order. 


Hendrik Van den Berg
University of Nebraska

“Mainstream Economics’ Aversion to Complexity”

The failures of mainstream economics are often blamed on its quest for mathematical precision, modeling elegance, and positive analysis, i.e., its tools and methodology.  This paper argues that the problem is the individual mindset of economists and the field’s group culture, not the tools and methodology per se.  Numerous examples are detailed to support this hypothesis, including the popularity of the Walrasian system of complete markets, macroeconomists’ faith in market-based microfoundations, econometrics’ preference for single equation estimation models and instrumental variables that isolate single relationships from their systemic connections, and growth theory’s use of equilibrium models to model inherently complex evolutionary processes.  Inter-disciplinary analysis suggests that the human tendency to discern patterns and the power of business and finance in our capitalist system combined to push economists towards a neoliberal group culture and an individualistic mindset.  A concluding discussion suggests how institutional economists can shift the mainstream mindset and culture.


Richard Wagner
Rockhurst University

“Lewis Mumford’s Ecological Regionalism: Insights for Institutional Thought

This paper explores the notion of an ecologically regionalist society as discussed throughout the works of Lewis Mumford (1895-1990). Mumford, responding to what he believed to be the declining economic, environmental, and social conditions associated with a capitalist social provisioning process, outlines a regionalist philosophy and approach to economic development which he believed would revive culture and invigorate a greater purpose and potential of human beings. With Mumford’s rich intellectual career, his regionalist approach has links to authors such as Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey, Patrick Geddes, and Peter Kropotkin among many other great intellectuals of his day. Given these connections, this theory can be shown to be directly related to the discipline of institutional economics. This paper defines and summarizes main points of ecological regionalism while also briefly exploring a possible synthesis of thought with the discipline of institutional economics.


Tonia Warnecke
Rollins College

“Applying Institutional Thought to Gender-Sensitive Program Design”

This paper discusses the ways that feminist-institutionalist thought can guide program design, focusing on entrepreneurship policy and programs.  It is well known that a variety of institutional factors shape gender outcomes and gender inequality within entrepreneurship, particularly with regard to necessity vs. opportunity entrepreneurship and informal vs. formal sector entrepreneurship.  Failure to understand the diversity of entrepreneurial activity among women, and the connection (or lack thereof) of such activity to human freedom, leads to biased entrepreneurial policy and programs.  How can feminist-institutionalist theory help us to remedy this problem, and formulate gender-sensitive interventions in this sphere?  Are there best practices to consider?  What can institutionalist conceptualizations of development theory and practice add to this conversation?


James Webb
University of Misouri – Kansas City

“Dewey’s Habits and the Process of Intelligent Inquiry”

Dewey’s concept of habit has a central role in his analysis of human nature and its environing social institutions and his subsequent attempts to foster intelligence. In furtherance of Dewey’s program habit is explicated in the context of other elements of Dewey’s analysis: impulses, routines, the pivotal character of problematic situations, character of ends-means, and the distinction between deliberative reasoning and calculation. If classical pragmatism is construed as primarily a method of inquiry then it is incumbent to take into account the existing relevant knowledge. Dewey’s analysis is complemented and extended by the work done in experimental psychology by Kahneman and associates and the results in contemporary neurophysiology such as those that Patricia Churchland applies to traditional debates on epistemology and the metaphysics of human nature. The work of Dewey is corroborated and extended, helping to provide a reasoned approach to the solution of inevitable social problems.     
Hyper-individualism and Ultra-sociality in a Veblenian Framework


Michael Weisdorf
Portland State University, Institute for Sustainable Solutions

Katie Conlon
Portland State University, Institute for Sustainable Solutions

Cody Evers
Portland State University, Institute for Sustainable Solutions

“Assessment of Ecosystem Services at Willamette Falls: Application of GPI Concept at Regional and Municipal Scales”

Willamette Falls, the second largest US waterfall by volume, lies on the Willamette River in the northwest corner of Clackamas County, Oregon. The site is currently in transition from a century of industrial use with limited or no public access, to a mixed-use “downtown” zone, with an easement planned for public access to the actual falls. We use two popular ecological accounting concepts to assess the past, present, and potential future level of ecosystem services rendered to the local community at this site, at multiple spatial scales. The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) was originally conceived to reliably indicate relative changes in the sustainable economic welfare of nation-states, as well as sub-national or regional areas. Meanwhile, the concept of ‘Ecosystem Services’ has been introduced to describe the economic benefits that human communities appropriate from Earth’s ecosystem processes and functions. Here we integrate these concepts in a case study of Willamette Falls.


Brian Werner
University of Missouri – Kansas City

Local Food Systems and Economic Development”

This paper examines the local food debate as it relates to theories of economic development. Should local food be rejected based on basic economic principles, as some critics have suggested or can it serve as a source of economic development? The paper uses historical evidence of development to assess the practical relevance of competing theories within economics. This discussion will be used to frame questions for future research into local food and local food policy.


Charles Whalen
Congressional Budget Office

“Pluralism: Lifeblood of Post-Keynesian Institutionalism”

The scholarship of W. Robert Brazelton underscores the vital role that pluralism plays in Post-Keynesian Institutionalism (PKI). In the early 1980s, Brazelton embraced pluralism within economics and drew attention to the compatibility of Post Keynesian economics and Institutionalism. More recently, he has highlighted the relevance to economics of research in other disciplines, including psychology and sociology. All the while, Brazelton has devoted special attention to the problem of business cycles, demonstrating how insight gleaned from a pluralist perspective toward economics advances our understanding of that problem. To be sure, PKI is an analytic framework, but pluralism is its lifeblood.


Neal Wilson
University of Missouri Kansas City

“Time Systems and Their Adoption”

The process of institutional economic adjustment involves understanding what problems face society and the development of actionable instrumental responses to those problems.  Central to this process is the existence of a time standard that is in accordance with the technological character of society.  The 1883 adoption of time zones is commonly understood as an example of private enterprise implementing instrumental adjustments without reference to outside pressure, the historical record however tells a more nuanced story. This paper considers examples of instrumental time with a special emphasis on the use of overlapping time standards. Case studies include an industrial setting (the baking industry), a failed attempt at institutional change (the French revolution and decimal time) and the successful adoption of a new standard.  This paper finds that we endeavor to adopt standards that are functional and flexible.  The best standards engender the open ended potentialities which human activity persistently uncovers. 


John P. Watkins
Westminster College

“Veblen’s System of Conspicuous Waste”

Veblen’s “system of conspicuous waste” refers to a “scheme of properties, decencies, and standards of living, the economic motive of which is competitive spending.” Competitive spending emerged in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century with the durable goods revolution. Spending was fostered by two innovations: modern selling and consumer credit, in addition to new institutions: the grocery store and the department store. The antecedents of conspicuous waste lie in the ideas of Mandeville, Hume, and others. Veblen used the system of conspicuous waste to compare English and German cultures prior to the emergence of World War I. The British have a habit of spending, the Germans a habit of saving. For Germany, militarism absorbed the excess production; presently, it is positive net exports. Cultural differences continue, which explains the continuing role of the US in the world economy: to absorb surplus production of much of the rest of the world.


Barbara Wiens-Tuers, Pennsylvania State University, Altoona

“Using Traditional Labor Economics to Develop Non-Traditional Approaches for Future Human Resource Managers”

Institutionalists always appreciate the role of context. I teach a course entitled “Labor Market Analysis” that is part of a human resources program at University Park. This gives a unique context to present both traditional and non-traditional models to help students think about the choices employers as well as future and current employees make. To appreciate institutional, feminist, and political economy approaches, juxtaposing them against the traditional model of economic analysis ends up being a compelling sell to students for the alternative constructions to wage formation, inequality, flexibility and lack of flexibility, non-standard labor, corporate culture, and other labor market topics. Activities and supporting materials are designed to build an understanding of both approaches to give future practitioners in the HR field a much more robust toolbox for analysis of labor market decisions.


Jon D. Wisman
American University

“What Drives Inequality?”

Over the past 40 years, inequality has exploded in the U.S. and significantly increased in virtually all nations. Why? The current debate typically identifies the causes as economic, due to some combination of technological change, globalization, inadequate education, demographics, and most recently, the rate of return on capital exceeding the growth rate. But to the extent true, these are proximate causes. They all take place within a political framework in which they could in principle be neutralized. Indeed, this mistake is itself political. It masks the true cause of inequality and presents it as if natural, due to the forces of progress, just as in pre-modern times it was the will of gods. This article demonstrates the dynamics by which inequality is a political phenomenon through and through. It places special emphasis on the various ways inequality has been legitimated or made to appear as necessary.