Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The poverty of economic rationality (as in egoistic agent models)

In another great Crooked Timber thread, John Quiggin criticizes a review of his work, Zombie Economics (truly great, I'm reading it a second time now), by economist Steve Williamson, in order to point out the fallacies of "rational" (purely egoistic) agent models in economics.

And right near the top, he links to a great work by the hugely underappreciated philosopher and essayist William Hazlitt, who more than two centuries ago skewered then (even) then popular notion that self-love was the basis of all desirable human actions, including benevolence.

A pity that William Hazlitt * is now mostly out-of-print.  His posthumously compiled book Sketches and Essays can actually be obtained from several sources, but all merely printed on demand from photographs of one original edition that landed at Harvard, full of typos and blotches, which you can also read free at Google Books (as in the link above).

(* Not to be confused with the 20th century libertarian Henry Hazlitt.)

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