Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Why of EE

I'm hesitant to speak for others who work with the EE concept (particularly its creator). So I won't. I shall speak (write, actually) instead for myself. And speaking (writing) for myself, I can say that every now and again I peer back at what attracted me to this project in the first place. In the peering, I like what I see.

I see an adjunct to economics, philosophy, and public policy alike, severally. I see a bridge between academic disciplines, jointly. I see a set of easy-to-understand conditions as easily available to the professorate as to the pedestrian. I see a safe zone, where regardless of politics, all can agree on elementary considerations of justice, peace, and cooperation. 

Euvoluntary exchange analysis replaces none of the existing analytical tools of economics, political science, epistemology, or ethical philosophy. Rather, it encourages folks to think about these disciplines ecologically, how they interact and reinforce each other. It's a suture appending limbs and lights to the desolate simulacrum that is homo economicus, binding the muscle of practical commonplace morality to the skeleton of rational individual behavior in an ecosystem of relative prices and institutions.

And as Shughart and Thomas have shown, it's a light that can be shone on the institutions themselves. If "islands of conscious power in this ocean of unconscious co-operation like lumps of butter coagulating in a pail of buttermilk" (D.H. Robertson, via Coase) describe organizations, and if the seeds around which institutions cluster are indeed moral intuitions, it strikes me as eminently reasonable to scrutinize basic moral intuitions and their impact on the rich, creamy, farm-fresh butter folks lube themselves up with to conduct their everyday affairs.

Why EE? Because people act. "Methodological individualism" isn't just a tongue twister for toddlers, it's the foundation of contract theory. EE combs the hair that stick up on the back of people's necks when economists gawp at ordinary folks' resistance to markets, markets everywhere. EE is the woolen mouse on the end of a string that coaxes the kitty-cat of Exploitation and Workers' Rights from its comfy windowsill perch into the Washbasin of Meaningful Consequences. Weird metaphors aside, the EE conditions are a handy, easy-to-use guide that allows us (well, me anyway, I hope you too) to move from the close, private world of moral heuristics all the way up to the many perplexing rules that govern the hedgerow humanity has hewn from Hobbes's Jungle.

Maybe that's useful, maybe it isn't. I like the idea, and I'm grateful to be able to share some of my thoughts on it with you, warts and all.


Robertson, D.H. (1923) The Control of Industry. Hitchin, Herts: Nisbet

1 comment:

  1. Many corporates have regional or international operations; they use cross currency swaps as net investment hedges for foreign currency exchange risk of international operations.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?