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May 2010 posts

Call for Papers: International Network for Economic Method (ASSA 2011) - REVISED DEADLINE

Mark D. White

Call for Session Proposals and Paper AbstractsThe International Network for Economic Method will organize two sessions at the American Economic Association meetings in Denver, January 7-9. Abstracts of 500 words for papers for consideration should be sent to Harold Kincaid at [email protected] by JUNE 23. Preference will be given to full session proposals and to proposals that will attract a broad audience.

UPDATE (6-3-10): Note the revised deadline above (June 23).

Call for papers: Economics Made Fun

Mark D. White

Symposium: Economics made fun in the face of the economic crisis
10-11 December 2010
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Organized by
Jack Vromen (Erasmus University Rotterdam,
[email protected]
N. Emrah Aydinonat (Ankara University & Bogazici University,
[email protected]

Call for papers

Best-selling books such as Freakonomics and The Undercover Economist have paved the way to a flourishing economics-made-fun genre. The economics-made-fun genre first and foremost  wants  to enlighten   the   general   public   about   the   breadth   and   power   of economic analysis in an accessible and entertaining way. It aims at boosting the public image of economics. Economics-made-fun books mostly focus on “outlandish” or “freakish” subjects, rather than the traditional subjects of economics. Given their popularity and success, these books not only reflect but also influence how young economists approach economics. The economics-made-fun genre has no monopoly on shaping the public image of economics, however. While the economics-made-fun books present economics as a strong and explanatory science, the latest economic crisis exposed the shortcomings of economics to the general public. In the face of the crisis, many people, including well-known economists such as Paul Krugman, started expressing their doubts concerning the success of economics as a science. Newspaper columns as well as academic papers discussed the predictive and explanatory failures of economics. The emerging picture is somewhat confusing: Economics is presented as a way of thinking that is successful in explaining everyday and “freaky” phenomena, but on the other hand it seems to fail in addressing and explaining the most pressing economic matters. Could a science that cannot answer its core questions explain the logic of life?

The aim of the present symposium is to get a handle on this confusing picture of economics. We invite papers that appraise, criticize, or evaluate the economics-made-fun genre from the perspective of the nature, scope and success (or failure) of economics as a science. Papers that focus on the methodology, philosophy and ideology behind the economics-made-fun genre, its impact on research and public image of economics, as well as papers that put the genre in a historical perspective are welcome. We are also open to papers that focus on yet other aspects of the economics-made-fun-genre.

Keynote speakers (confirmed) are:
•    Robert H. Frank
•    Ariel Rubinstein 
•    Diana Coyle

There will be room for six more paper presentations. These will be selected from Abstracts submitted. The symposium will be held at Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands on 10-11 December 2010. The papers presented at the symposium will be published in a special issue of Journal of Economic Methodology and will eventually turn into a book.

Extended abstracts (500-1000 words) have to be sent to
[email protected]
before 15 June 2010.

Important dates:
•    15 June 2010 deadline  for abstract submissions
•    15 July 2010 notification of accepted/rejected abstracts
•    1 December 2010 deadline for sending the first draft of symposium papers
•    10-11 December 2010 Symposium

Additional information:

Some of the books that belong to the economics-made-fun genre may be listed as follows:

Freakonomics & Superfreakeconomics by Levitt  & Dubner (2005, 2009)
The Undercover Economist & The Logic of Life by Harford (2005, 2008)
More sex is safer sex by Landsburg (2007)
Discover  Your  Inner  Economist by Cowen (2007)
The  Economic Naturalist by Frank (2007)
The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters by Coyle (2007/2010)

Background paper:
Vromen, J. J. (2009) “The booming economics-made-fun genre: more than having fun, but less than economics imperialism”, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 2 (1): 70-99. Online:

Jack Vromen
Professor in Philosophy of Science and Methodology,
in particular of Economics
Dean of International Affairs
Academic Director of EIPE
(Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics)
Faculty of Philosophy
Erasmus University Rotterdam
3000 DR Rotterdam

Call for Abstracts: Bowling Green Workshop in Applied Ethics and Public Policy

Mark D. White

Gee, this is appropriate given our recent discussions, Jonathan - this comes from PEA Soup:

“Freedom, Paternalism and Morality”

April 1-2, 2011

The Bowling Green Workshop in Applied Ethics and Public Policy will take place in Bowling Green, Ohio on April 1-2, 2011. Keynote speakers will be Gerald Dworkin (University of California at Davis) and Douglas Husak (Rutgers University).

Those interested in presenting a paper are invited to submit a 2-3 page abstract (double-spaced) by September 1, 2010. We welcome submissions in all areas in applied ethics and philosophical issues relevant to public policy.  Special consideration will be given to papers relevant to this year’s conference theme: Freedom, Paternalism, and Morality.  Only one submission per person is permitted. Abstracts will be evaluated by a program committee and decisions made in early October 2010. Please direct all abstracts and queries to:  [email protected]

Further information about the Workshop will be available soon on the workshop website.

Tunnel vision and wrongful convictions

Mark D. White

I haev a new post at Psychology Today reviewing a fantastic new book chapter titled "Tunnel Vision" by University of Wisconsin Law School professor Keith A. Findley, also the co-director of the Wisconsin innocence Project and president of the Innocence Network. The chapter is forthcoming in the book, Conviction of the Innocent: Lessons from Psychological Research (edited by B. Cutler; APA Press), and is based on an earlier and more detailed article in the Wisconsin Law Review titled "The Multiple Dimensions of Tunnel Vision in Criminal Cases" written with his UW colleague Michael S. Scott.

In the paper and chapter, Findley (with and without Scott) details the cognitive biases inherent in the decisions at every level of the criminal justice system, from apprehension and investigation to prosecution, sentencing, and parole. They provide examples of innocent persons wrongly convicted because (they argue) once they became the focus of their respective investigations, the various parties involved in the prosecution were subject to confirmation bias (which led them to interpret new evidence in such a way as to confirm their beliefs regarding the suspect's guilt) and hindsight bias (in which new evidence, selectively interpreted, makes their original suspicions seem inevitable).

To combat these biases, they recommend increased transparency in the system as well as institutional reforms (to change incentives that reinforce these biases, such as rewarding prosecutors for conviction rates). In the blog post, I discuss the difficulty with these institutional reforms, given the information and incentive problems with motivating actions based on "justice." My suggestion is to argue that defense counsel needs to take a more forceful role in bringing these biases to light, so their distortionary effect on the prosecution's case can be (to some extent) negated.

All in all, these are excellent and important pieces by Findley and Scott, and I hope they are widely read and appreciated.

Follow me on Twitter

Mark D. White

While I'm staying far away from Facebook, I have signed on to Twitter--you can follow me here. No frequent updates on my moods or meals, but I do tweet occasionally on new posts here and my blog at Psychology Today, as well as news about my publications and notable news items and cartoons.

Several recent tweets:

(The background is to promote one of my recent books:  http://amzn.to/96tErn.)

Same-Sex Marriage: The Irrelevance of the Economic Approach to Law

Mark D. White

My article on same-sex marriage and law-and-economics, "Same-Sex Marriage: The Irrelevance of the Economic Approach to Law," is now available at the International Journal of Law in Context; the abstract follows:

Several noted legal scholars, most prominently Richard Posner, have applied the economic analysis of law to the debate over same-sex marriage. In this note, I argue that the economic approach to law is ill-equipped to deal with the issues of principle, dignity and rights that are at the core of the debate, regardless of the position taken on the issue. Other scholars, such as Darren Bush, acknowledge the shortcomings of the economic approach, such as the importance of the assumptions on which cost-benefit analysis is made, but they do not appreciate that this is symptomatic of the economic approach as a whole, not merely the application of it by some scholars in some cases. My contention is that the economic approach to law is appropriate regarding issues of policy, where trade-offs are essential and necessary, but not regarding issues of principle, with which trade-offs are not so easily made.

Female genital mutilation and the "lesser harm" [UPDATED]

Mark D. White

From the New York Times, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that doctors be allowed to "nick" young girls from cultures that practice female circumcision/genital mutilation if that would prevent their parents from taking them overseas for the full procedure.

This is a disturbingly visceral example of commtting a lesser wrong to prevent a greater wrong, a key conflict between consequentialism and deontology, and never an easy issue to resolve.

UPDATE (May 23, 2010): Here's Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations, on the AAP's recommendation.

Adam Smith's System of Natural Liberty

Mark D. White

Just wanted to flag an interesting new article from the Journal of the History of Economic Thought:


Abstract: In this article, I argue that Adam Smith’s system of perfect liberty contains some of the seeds of perfect competition, but that the modern perfectly competitive model differs from Smith’s perfect liberty in some important respects—in particular, the role of active competition among firms and the role of the entrepreneur. The article examines the analytical linkages between Smith’s system of liberty and three strands of modern economic theory—neoclassical perfect competition, contestable market theory and the Austrian analysis of market process.