Subjectivist Political Economy


During my graduate studies I specialised in the field of Public Choice. I took classes with Charles Rowley and Gordon Tullock, and attended James Buchanan‘s seminar. However I felt there was a tension between the “Virginia” school and “Chicago”  school. I’ve argued that the latter approach reached a dead end, and advocated a distinctly subjectivist approach to political economy based on the core insight of the “Epistemic Primacy Thesis”. An example of this is the difference between radical and rational ignorance – if people acquire information through “browse” rather than “search” there is scope for a genuine theory of error.

I’ve attempted to apply a subjectivist approach to public choice theory to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. I’ve utilised the concepts of operational codes, epistemic communities and the structure patterns of ideas to argue that “constitutional moments” show how ideas can can underpin and direct the formation of interest groups.

As part of the Mercatus Center‘s “Global Prosperity Initiative” I undertook fieldwork in Liverpool’s Chinatown to understand the economic organisation of ethnic communities. In particular I used interviews, surveys and observation to show how the availability of regeneration funds can create incentives for voluntary community associations (i.e. “clubs”) to switch into predatory rent-seeking collectives.

I have also done fieldwork in Romania to understand the spread of the flat tax. I utilised the “economic theology” literature to claim that whilst ideas are usually adopted for their empirical and operational content, if this is lacking, due to the novelty of the idea, or the uncertainty of the political environment (for example when following regime change), their normative content can generate a crucial carrying capacity. I have also introduced and applied a synthetic comparative method to study its spread in nine Eastern Europe countries.

My 2009 book, The Neoliberal Revolution in Eastern Europe, (co-authored with Paul Dragos Aligicadevelops two research agendas: the study of the spread of ‘neoliberalism’ – as seen from the perspective of Eastern European post-communist evolutions; and the study of Eastern European transition – as seen from an ideas-centred perspective.

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