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By Massimo Pivetti

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But science, as pursued in the physical sciences and in economics, will not allow all people full freedom (or even limited freedom) of choice, nor consider any and all empirical, real-world observations. Stories of realworld happenings and anecdotal evidence, which can be subject to observers’ biases, are generally unacceptable for hypothesis testing within the ranks of those who consider themselves scientists. Hypotheses testing, generally, demands very exacting standards for the types of data considered, how the data are collected, and how the data are used and manipulated in tests, with all such dictates generally eliminating simple comparisons of total and average values for key variables.

People were not allowed (for the most part) to use their localized information to find and exploit opportunities and to change the societal pattern of outcomes not dictated by the Soviet planning authorities. Although the issue of people’s level of rationality is a lesser concern to economists seeking to do science, it is crucial to economists who seek to design institutional/constitutional settings within which people are encouraged to find and exploit unexploited economic opportunities. F. Skinner believed and all too often behave much like “goslings,” as one behavioral economist has suggested), then institutional/constitutional design is irrelevant and a waste.

If supply and demand emerge as people interact in markets, then it is hardly possible for people to know and order their wants and consistently choose among their wants in some perfect way before or outside the information-revealing process. But then neoclassical economists in Friedman’s camp want to understand the end-result – or more accurately, the directional changes in the equilibrium outcomes (given, for example, an imposed minimum wage) – of market processes while those in Hayek’s camp want to understand the patterns of outcomes in the market process (for example, undirected “spontaneous order” that yields welfare improvements with minimum wages being a contrived intrusion) and not the detailed content of the patterns.

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An essay on the monetary theory of distribution by Massimo Pivetti


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