Thomas Friedman an economist?
Source Jim Devine
Date 99/06/26/18:54

It's important to separate "neoclassical economics" (from Samuelson to Sen)
from the "liberal political world-view" (as seen in Clinton's and
Friedman's work). The former is infused with the latter ideology, so that
they are hard to separate in practice, but they are not the same.

Since it evolves over time, neoclassical economics is hard to pin down. But
I think that Phil Mirowski's general definition works. Modifying his
definition a bit, neoclassical economics:

1. employs mathematical modeling rather than institutional analysis or
historical evidence as its main tool for understanding the world (formalism);

2. claims to be "scientific" in a positivist or Cartesian way, in imitation
of idealized natural science (positivism);

3. utilizes constrained maximization, equilibrium, and comparative statics
as its main analytical pillars (equilibrium economics);

4. emphasizes individual utility-maximization (consistent goal-seeking) as
the determinant of human behavior (utilitarianism);

5. always seeks out microfoundations, i.e., solely individual explanations
of aggregate phenomena (reductionism, methodological individualism); and

6. leaves many of the most important variables, such as tastes and
technology, as exogenously determined by ature or other forces outside of
the economist's concern (naturalism).

To Mirowski's list, I would add a final tenet, hopefully as a friendly
amendment. To neoclassicals,

7. institutional forms in the economy are either to be explained as
exogenous impositions, from, say, the political sphere, or as explainable
in terms of individual preferences and technology, along with such
"natural" phenomena as incomplete information and transactions costs.

On the other hand, the broad vision of liberalism (which includes the
classical _laissez-faire_ liberalism or Mrs. Thatcher and Ronnie Raygun and
Milton Friedman and the technocratic liberalism of Bill Clinton or Lawrence
Summers) can be defined by can be defined by its primary question:

Given a large number of atomized and roughly equal self-interested
individuals (or households) and natural constraints, what institutions and
policies allow a society to attain the common good? Following
methodological individualism, the liberal view starts with the "private"
sphere of individuals (or households), presumed to be isolated and to exist
prior to the whole, and then develops or derives the "public" sphere of
collective activity.

The basic (constitutional) decision about institutions, aimed at solving
the problem of the conflict between individual interests and the public
interest, is made by a social contract (sometimes hypothetical or tacit, as
with John Rawls). The social contract involves an agreement among
individuals concerning the basic issues of the nature and distribution of
property and power. The basic assumption is that underlying the hurly-burly
of competition among the variety of viewpoints and interests is a basic
societal consensus, since otherwise liberals could not talk about the
"public interest" or the "common good." Typically, liberals follow John
Locke to assume that the preservation of pre-existing property rights is
part of this consensus. However, most do not go all the way with
_laissez-faire_ since property-owners can benefit from some restrictions on
their property rights.

Note also, that (following Locke), property does not simply include land,
stocks & bonds, means of production, etc., but also the individual's own
life and liberty.

Jim Devine

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