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Ethics, Engineering, and Natural Monopoly: The "Modern Debate" between Leon Walras and Jules Dupuit

Ethics, Engineering, and Natural Monopoly: The "Modern Debate" between Leon Walras and Jules Dupuit In the 1986 Royer Lectures delivered at the University of California at Berkeley, Amartya Sen (1987) argued that economics sprang from two different origins, both related to politics, but in different ways. The first origin, which Sen calls the ethical approach, goes back at least to Aristotle. It relates economics to human ends and social achievement. The second, which he calls the engineering approach, is concerned primarily with logistical issues. It derives in part from technique-oriented analyses of statecraft, and in part from analyses of technical problems connected with the functioning of markets. Sen claims that Adam Smith was a major protagonist of the first approach, and Léon Walras was a major protagonist of the second. This historical representation reflects a popular misconception about Walras, who is linked to the engineering approach to economics by virtue of his technical contributions to equilibrium theory. This popular view is flawed on two accounts. One, it underestimates the complexity of Walras’s views on economics and thereby obscures his dominant interest Correspondence may be addressed to Robert B. Ekelund Jr., Department of Economics, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are ours. We are grateful to an anonymous referee http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png History of Political Economy Duke University Press

Ethics, Engineering, and Natural Monopoly: The "Modern Debate" between Leon Walras and Jules Dupuit

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2003 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0018-2702
eISSN
1527-1919
DOI
10.1215/00182702-35-4-655
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In the 1986 Royer Lectures delivered at the University of California at Berkeley, Amartya Sen (1987) argued that economics sprang from two different origins, both related to politics, but in different ways. The first origin, which Sen calls the ethical approach, goes back at least to Aristotle. It relates economics to human ends and social achievement. The second, which he calls the engineering approach, is concerned primarily with logistical issues. It derives in part from technique-oriented analyses of statecraft, and in part from analyses of technical problems connected with the functioning of markets. Sen claims that Adam Smith was a major protagonist of the first approach, and Léon Walras was a major protagonist of the second. This historical representation reflects a popular misconception about Walras, who is linked to the engineering approach to economics by virtue of his technical contributions to equilibrium theory. This popular view is flawed on two accounts. One, it underestimates the complexity of Walras’s views on economics and thereby obscures his dominant interest Correspondence may be addressed to Robert B. Ekelund Jr., Department of Economics, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are ours. We are grateful to an anonymous referee

Journal

History of Political EconomyDuke University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2003

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