Marshall’s factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

Now here is an area I don’t know much about.  Alfred Marshall is an amazing economist, Keynes said this about him – yes Keynes – so obviously he has a lot of respect.  He even has the typical microeconomics demand curve named after him (Marshallian demand).  However, it appears he had a distinct model of income distribution – one that was classicalist in its view of rent and factor supply (and its interest in secular changes such as population growth), but marginalist when it came to discussing demand for factors of production.  The model discussed in the essay comes solely from Principles, rather than other work by Marshall.

The description of the elements in Marshall’s theory, from the essay, are as follows: Read more

Neo-classical factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

Just as a starting point here, if anyone comes on and goes “those neo-classical neo-liberals, like Friedman, this is all ideology – I’ve read Klein”, I am not likely to reply.  The key reason for this is because you’ve already shown a complete unwillingness to debate on reasonable terms, and are trying to base the discussion on prejudiced definitions that aren’t appropriate for this definition of neo-classical economics.

In this context, neo-classical is a description of economists who applied a certain set of methods at a  point in time – economics is a discipline with “many models”, and the development of these tools is of huge value.  The start of this method came with the “marginalist revolution”.

The Marginalists in this case were Jevons, Walras, and Menger.  Those who work in certain areas will recognise some of the names (eg Walras law, Menger as a founder of the Austrian school of Economics).  Fundamentally, the purposefully use of the concept of “marginal” gains and losses (rather than average) allowed us to consider individual choice more directly.  More than that, value switched from having “objective” value in its labour time/cost of production to having “subjective” value (potentially on the basis of “satisfaction” or “utility”).  Note:  This is not to say classical economists didn’t think in this way as well, John S Mill was a student of Bentham and wrote a book called utilitarianism!  But the change in focus did help to “solve” many of the perceived paradox of classical economics (eg Giffen goods).

It is no coincidence that at this time sociology and psychology were ramping up as disciplines.  With the growing acceptance of the idea of a “science of society” a number of ways of discussing social facts were being described.  Within economics, the recognition that it may be useful to think about action stemming from individual choice had found its time, and the mechanistic tools of calculus had a place to help us consider certain assumptions about this choice (methodological individualism) – this compares to the classical use of factor shares, and some prices (wages) being set by social convention.

You will find me say critical things in here, and talk about this literature as a “starting point” to real analysis.  So let us consider it in this way. Read more

Marx’s factor share

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

Last time out we discussed some points on classical factor shares.  The next essay in this book is on Marx’s theory of income distribution – so what are some of the points here.

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Classical factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

As I have pointed out in the past factor shares are not an area of special interest for me, even though I’m spending a bit of time looking into the income distribution field.  This field is the child of Ricardo and his functional distribution of income over factors of production, my interest lies more in the field started by Pareto which involves starting from individual household units – these “macro” and “micro” fields inform each other but I had hoped not to go too far down the “rabbit hole” of what is essentially a different discipline.

However, (I’m assuming) the Piketty book is about factor shares, and as a result anyone talking about income distribution needs to at least be able to answer questions on this – hence why I’ve been doing some reading.

As a sidenote, this isn’t completely new stuff for me – given that factor share work is a large part of both macro and international economics, and given that as an employee I have spent a bit of time with GDP and household earning data.  So if I skip over ideas a bit quickly my apologies, these are sort of just reading notes I’ve written for myself that I hope you will also enjoy :) Read more

Economists and inequality: Is it true we’ve been ignoring it?

In a recent interview with Piketty about his book Capital, the interviewer had some questions I found … strange:

Your book fits oddly into the canon of contemporary economics. It focuses not on growth and its determinants, but on how the spoils of growth are divided.

For much of the last century, economists told us that we didn’t have to worry about income inequality. The market economy would naturally spread riches fairly, lifting all boats.

Now Piketty does not suggest that economists haven’t been looking at the issue, his answers pretty clear and on point.  My problem is with the myth being pushed by the interviewer.

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Before railing against economics, read this

I had trouble getting out of bed this morning, so to help get me going I decided to read an essay about economics.  And I ran back into a treat of an essay I think we should all read.  This is Modern Economics and its Critics, 1:  by Partha Dasgupta.

His focus is explicitly on what economists actually “do”, noting that economists tend to focus on small questions we can actually go someway to answering – and that economists through economics, in no way, try to derive sweeping universal rules for society.  Furthermore, the focus of economists, and the assumptions economists make, are a product of their times and the questions that “matter”.

My favourite quote though:

I said earlier that modern economics treats people with respect; it does not regard them as mere dupes and foils of Business and Government.

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