Robert Sugden

18 December 2009 at 7:09 am 1 comment

| Nicolai Foss |

I have become a huge fan of Robert Sugden, an economics Professor at the University of East Anglia and one of the most cited UK economists. Readers of this blog may know Sugden’s work from, for example, his excellent 1986 book, The Economics of Rights, Co-operation, and Welfare, as well as his papers on spontaneous order (e.g., here or here). Much of Sugden’s research lies in the zone of overlap between game theory (mainly experimental game theory and coordination games) and moral and political philosophy, and he is engaged in a constant dialogue with scholars in, or associated with, the classical-liberal tradition, such as Hume, Mill, and Hayek. He is the rare economist who, like Frank Knight, manages to publish in American Economic Review as well as in Ethics.

I am reading through Sugden’s recent publications and recommend the following as being of particular interest to the O&M readership:

  • Can Economics Be Founded on “Indisputable Facts of Experience”?  Lionel Robbins and the Pioneers of Neoclassical Economics” — An attack on Robbins’ Essay that may also challenge followers of praxeology.
  • Fraternity: Why the Market Need Not Be a Morally Free Zone“(with Luigino Bruni) — Drawing on the work of a contemporary of Adam Smith, Antonio Genovesi, Sugden and Bruni criticize the idea (reflected in, e.g., Williamson’s distinction between “trust as calculative risk” and “trust proper”) that one can make a distinction between market relationships and genuinely social relationships. Market relationships also have elements of joint intentions for mutual assistance.
  • The basis for the latter point can be found in “The Logic of Team Reasoning” which is a case for placing agency at the level of teams, specifically those teams that make use of team reasoning. The basic idea is that when team members reason in this way, they consider which combinations of actions will best promote the team objectives, and choose actions accordingly.
  • If the above sounds at variance with classical liberalism (which I don’t think it necessarily is), check out Sugden’s criticism of Thaler and Sunstein (here) or his various critical discussions of the notion of “opportunity” in welfare economics (Sen, Cohen, Roemer) (e.g., here) which are all in the mainstream of classical-liberal thought.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Classical Liberalism, Institutions, Recommended Reading.

Disney Organizational Chart, circa 1943 Andrew Gelman’s Meta-Lesson

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Adam Knott  |  18 December 2009 at 4:36 pm


    Is it possible to read this article online without purchasing it, or only by purchasing it ?

    “Can Economics Be Founded on “Indisputable Facts of Experience”? Lionel Robbins and the Pioneers of Neoclassical Economics

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