Economics and Philosophy

by Kieran Healy on November 20, 2004

Over at “Brian Leiter’s blog”: the Stanley brothers, “Jason”: and “Marcus”: are guest blogging about Philosophy and Economics. Marcus “writes”:

bq. I wonder if there are some commonalities between the desire to be “technical” or “scientific” that one sees in economics and some of the things Jason is posting about in philosophy.  It seems to me that the internal academic war between “continental” humanism and “Anglo-American” empiricism has impacted a lot of different disciplines …

The internal narratives of Anglo-American philosophy and modern economics see their paradigm emerging at almost the same time. In economics, it’s the “marginal revolution”: inaugurated by Jevons, Menger and Walras from 1871 or so. In philosophy, it’s the publication of Frege’s “Begriffsschrift”: in 1879 that ushers in the modern era.

Like the idea of the Industrial Revolution or the Enlightenment, transformative events like these are both immediately appealing (hence their status as canonical moments in the field) and hard to pin down definitively (hence the big literature by historians and sociologists of these disciplines arguing about them). But it’s interesting on its face that they occurred at similar times. These events also immediately show that the notion of an Anglo/Continental Science/Humanism split is a tricky one to defend, seeing as Frege was German and only 1/3 of the Marginal Revolutionaries were English. But the stereotypes are so strong that many people think, for example, that the French really never did much mathematical economics.

US and international productivity

by John Q on November 20, 2004

Over the fold, there’s a long (1500 word) piece on productivity in the US. It refers to this piece in The Economist, which was criticised by Brad DeLong. My analysis splits the difference between the two.

Anyway, I’d welcome comments and criticism.

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Further Analysis of Electronic Voting Patterns

by Kieran Healy on November 20, 2004

Mike Hout and some colleagues at Berkeley have a “working paper”: called “The Effect of Electronic Voting Machines on Change in Support for Bush in the 2004 Florida Elections”. A “summary”: is also available as well as the data itself. Hout is a well-respected sociologist, so if he thinks the data for Florida show some anomalies he’s worth listing to. Hout et al try to estimate whether the presence of touch-screen electronic voting made a difference to the number of votes cast for Bush, controlling for various demographic characteristics of the counties as well as the proportion of votes cast for the Republican Presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000. Here’s the punchline:

bq. As baseline support for Bush increases in Florida counties, the change in percent voting for Bush from 2000 to 2004 increases, but at a decreasing rate. Electronic voting has a main, positive effect on the dependent variable. Furthermore, there is an interaction effect between baseline support for Bush and electronic voting, and between baseline support for Bush squared and electronic voting. Support for Dole in 1996, county size, median income, and Hispanic population had no significant effect net of the other effects. Essentially, net of other effects, electronic voting had the greatest positive effect on changin percent voting for Bush from 2000 to 2004 in democratic counties. … Summing these effects for the fifteen counties with electronic voting yields the total estimated excess votes in favor of Bush associated with Electronic Voting; this figure is 130,733.

Hmm. I’m going to go mess around with the data for a while and see what we can see.

*Update*: OK, I’ve looked at the data, and so have others. I think the case is not proven. More below the fold.

*Update 2*: Mike Hout has added a comment below.

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