Sufficient Reason: Volitional Pragmatism and the Meaning of Economic Institutions by Daniel W. BromleySufficient Reason: Volitional Pragmatism and the Meaning of Economic Institutions by Daniel W. Bromley

Sufficient Reason: Volitional Pragmatism and the Meaning of Economic Institutions

byDaniel W. Bromley

Paperback | July 26, 2009

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In the standard analysis of economic institutions--which include social conventions, the working rules of an economy, and entitlement regimes (property relations)--economists invoke the same theories they use when analyzing individual behavior. In this profoundly innovative book, Daniel Bromley challenges these theories, arguing instead for "volitional pragmatism" as a plausible way of thinking about the evolution of economic institutions. Economies are always in the process of becoming. Here is a theory of how they become.

Bromley argues that standard economic accounts see institutions as mere constraints on otherwise autonomous individual action. Some approaches to institutional economics--particularly the "new" institutional economics--suggest that economic institutions emerge spontaneously from the voluntary interaction of economic agents as they go about pursuing their best advantage. He suggests that this approach misses the central fact that economic institutions are the explicit and intended result of authoritative agents--legislators, judges, administrative officers, heads of states, village leaders--who volitionally decide upon working rules and entitlement regimes whose very purpose is to induce behaviors (and hence plausible outcomes) that constitute the sufficient reasons for the institutional arrangements they create.

Bromley's approach avoids the prescriptive consequentialism of contemporary economics and asks, instead, that we see these emergent and evolving institutions as the reasons for the individual and aggregate behavior their very adoption anticipates. These hoped-for outcomes comprise sufficient reasons for new laws, judicial decrees, and administrative rulings, which then become instrumental to the realization of desired individual behaviors and thus aggregate outcomes.

Daniel W. Bromley is Anderson-Bascom Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Title:Sufficient Reason: Volitional Pragmatism and the Meaning of Economic InstitutionsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pagesPublished:July 26, 2009Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691144397

ISBN - 13:9780691144399


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Preface ix


CHAPTER ON: Prospective Volition 3

CHAPTER TWO: The Task at Hand 20

PART ONE: On Economic Institutions 29

CHAPTER THREE: Understanding Institutions 31

CHAPTER FOUR: The Content of Institutions 43

CHAPTER FIVE: Institutional Change 67

PART TWO: Volitional Pragmatism 85

CHAPTER SIX: Fixing Belief 87

CHAPTER SEVEN: Explaining 103

CHAPTER EIGHT: Prescribing and Predicting 115

CHAPTER NINE: Volitional Pragmatism 129

PART THREE: Volitional Pragmatism at Work 153

CHAPTER TEN: Thinking as a Pragmatist 155

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Volitional Pragmatism and Explanation 166

CHAPTER TWELVE: Volitional Pragmatism and the Evolution of Institutions 180

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Volitional Pragmatism and Economic Regulations 199

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Sufficient Reason 212

Bibliography 225

Index 235

Editorial Reviews

"We all know that welfare economics is far more than cost-benefit analysis; but few economists have ventured beyond. Dan Bromley's new book, Sufficient Reason, does so, and shows how pragmatism can help us in applying economics to policy. The result is a challenging and insightful foundation for a new institutional welfare economics."-David Colander, Middlebury College