Advertisement

Journal of Cultural Economics

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 527–544 | Cite as

Economics and novels: good, evil and becoming better people

  • Dwight R. Lee
  • Cecil BohanonEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

This paper considers differences in how economists and novelists view the importance of good and evil in determining social outcomes. As opposed to novelists, economists see the possibility of achieving desirable outcomes through the pursuit of self-interest in markets with good and evil having little influence on that achievement. However, the paper also considers problems with relying on self-interest alone to generate publicly desirable outcomes through markets and points out limits to self-interest in markets. It is argued that novels and literature are a time-tested way of promoting the moral education necessary for well-functioning markets. Attention is turned to the similarities between Adam Smith’s theory of moral sentiments and the novels of Jane Austen on the means by which people are able to transcend narrow self-interest in ways that improve both economic and social outcomes.

Keywords

Economics and literature Economics and novels Economics and morality Limits of self-interest Price signals Economics and information Coordination problems Public choice Cultural economics Adam Smith Jane Austen 

Notes

Funding

No external funding was received by the authors for this work.

References

  1. Ashraf, N., Camerer, C. F., & Loewenstein, G. (2005). Adam Smith, behavioral economist. The Journal of Economic Perspectives,19(3), 131–145.Google Scholar
  2. Austen, J. (1983). The complete novels of Jane Austen. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  3. Axelrod, R. (1981). The emergence of cooperation among egoists. The American Political Science Review,75, 306–318.Google Scholar
  4. Axelrod, R. (1984). The evolution of cooperation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  5. Bloom, P. (2013). Just babies: The origins of good and evil. New York: Crown.Google Scholar
  6. Bohanon, C., & Vachris, M. A. (2015). Pride and profit: The intersection of Jane Austen and Adam Smith. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  7. Boulding, K. E. (1969). Economic as a moral science. The American Economic Review,59(1), 1–12.Google Scholar
  8. Brennan, G., & Buchanan, J. M. (1988). Is public choice immoral? The case for the ‘nobel’ lie. Virginia Law Review,74(2), 179–189.Google Scholar
  9. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Buchanan, J. M. (1979). What should economists do?. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.Google Scholar
  11. Buchanan, J. M. (1999). The constitution of economic policy. In G. Brennan, H. Kliemt, & R. D. Tollison (Eds.), The collected works of James M. Buchanan: Volume I—The logical foundations of constitutional liberty (pp. 455–468). Indianapolis: Liberty Press.Google Scholar
  12. Caplan, B. (2008). Externalities. In D. R. Henderson (Ed.), The concise encyclopedia of economics (pp. 169–172). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  13. Chamberlain, S. (2014). The economics of Jane Austen. The Atlantic (August 3). https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/the-economics-of-jane-austen/375486/. Accessed 21 Aug 2019.
  14. Chetty, R. (2015). Behavioral economics and public policy: A pragmatic perspective. American Economic Review,105(5), 1–33.Google Scholar
  15. Coase, R. H. (1976). Adam Smith’s view of man. Journal of Law and Economics,19(3), 529–546.Google Scholar
  16. Cowen, T. (2007). Public Goods. In D. R. Henderson (Ed.), The concise encyclopedia of economics (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: The Library of Economics and Liberty.Google Scholar
  17. Davies, C. (2010). Jokes as the truth about Soviet socialism. Folklore,46, 9–32.Google Scholar
  18. Dixit, A., & Nalebuff, B. (2007). Prisoners’ dilemma. In D. R. Henderson (Ed.), The concise encyclopedia of economics (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: The Library of Economics and Liberty.Google Scholar
  19. Dollar, D. (1990). Economic reform and allocative efficiency in China’s state owned industry. Economic Development and Cultural Change,39(1), 89–105.Google Scholar
  20. Flanders, J. (2011). The invention of murder: How the Victorian revelled in death and detection and created modern crime. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.Google Scholar
  21. Fricke, C. (2014). The challenges of pride and prejudice: Adam Smith and Jane Austen on moral education. Revue Internationale de Philosophie,269(3), 343–372.Google Scholar
  22. Griswold, C. L. (1999). Adam Smith and the virtues of the enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science,162(3859), 1243–1248.Google Scholar
  24. Hayek, F. A. (1944). The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  25. Heyne, P. (1994). The economic way of thinking. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Johansen, L. (1977). The theory of public goods: Misplaced emphasis. Journal of Public Economics,7, 147–152.Google Scholar
  27. Johnson, D. G. (1988). Economic reform in the People’s Republic of China. Economic Development and Cultural Change,36(3), S225–S245.Google Scholar
  28. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast and slow. New York: Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  29. Keynes, J. M. (1922). Introduction to the Cambridge economic handbooks series. In D. H. Robertson (Ed.), Money. Cambridge, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.Google Scholar
  30. Knox-Shaw, P. (2004). Jane Austen and the enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kuhn, S. (2017). Prisoner’s dilemma. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/prisoner-dilemma. Accessed 21 Aug 2019.
  32. Landsburg, S. E. (2004). What I like about Scrooge. Slate (December 9). http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2004/12/what_i_like_about_scrooge.html. Accessed 21 Aug 2019.
  33. Levin, M. (1998). Scrooge defended. Mises Institute (December 14). http://mises.org/daily/573. Accessed 21 Aug 2019.
  34. Marshall, A. (1920). Principles of economics. London: Macmillan and Company Limited.Google Scholar
  35. Marx, K. (1875). Critique of the Gotha Programme. In Marx/Engels selected works (Vol. 3). Moscow: Progress Publishers (1970). https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_Critque_of_the_Gotha_Programme.pdf.
  36. McCloskey, D. (2006). The Bourgeois virtues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Mohler, K. L. (1967). The bennet girls on pride and vanity. Philological Quarterly,46(4), 567.Google Scholar
  38. Morson, G. S., & Schapiro, M. (2018). Cents and sensibility: What economics can learn from the humanities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Muller, J. Z. (1993). Adam Smith in his time and ours. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Oatley, K. (2012). The passionate muse: Exploring emotions in stories. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Ostrom, E. (2005). Understanding institutional diversity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Otis, J. (2018). ‘We loot or we die of hunger’: Food shortages fuel unrest in Venezuela. Guardian- U.S. online edition (January 21). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/21/venezuela-looting-violence-food-shortages. Accessed 21 Aug 2019.
  43. Otteson, J. (2002). Adam Smith’s marketplace of life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Perkins, D. H. (1988). Reforming China’s economic system. Journal of Economic Literature,26(2), 601–645.Google Scholar
  45. Poundstone, W. (1992). Prisoner’s dilemma. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  46. Prentice, Jr., S. (1959). Our first thanksgiving. The Freeman (November) (pp. 3–11).Google Scholar
  47. Raphael, D. D. (1985). Adam Smith. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Read, L. (1958). I, Pencil. The Freeman (December) (pp. 32–37).Google Scholar
  49. Robbins, L. (1932). An essay on the nature and significance of economic science. London: Macmillan & Co.Google Scholar
  50. Roberts, R. (2001). The invisible heart: An economic romance. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  51. Sen, A. (1977). Rational fools: A critique of the behavioral foundations of economic theory. Philosophy & Public Affairs,6(4), 317–344.Google Scholar
  52. Simons, H. C. (1951). Economic policy for a free society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  53. Smith, A. (1759). The theory of moral sentiments. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Reprinted in (1982).Google Scholar
  54. Smith, A. ([1776] 1981). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. (Reprinted in 1981).Google Scholar
  55. Smith, V. L. (1998). The two faces of Adam Smith. Southern Economic Journal,65(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
  56. Smith, V. L., & Wilson, B. (2019). Humanomics: Moral sentiments and the wealth of nations for the twenty-first century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Solzhenitsyn, A. (1981). As breathing and consciousness return. In Solzhenitsyn, et al. (Eds.), From under the rubble (pp. 3–25). Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway.Google Scholar
  58. Stigler, G. J. (1982). The economist as preacher and other essays. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  59. Valihora, K. (2007). Impartial spectator meets picturesque tourist: The framing of Mansfield Park. Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 20(1). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/230662. Accessed 21 Aug 2019.Google Scholar
  60. Weisbrod, B. (1977). Comparing utility functions in efficiency terms or, what kind of utility functions do we want? American Economic Review,67(5), 91–95.Google Scholar
  61. West, E. G. (1969). Adam Smith. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.Google Scholar
  62. Wicksteed, P. H. (1910). The common sense of political economy, including a study of the human basis of economic law. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Political Economy, Department of Economics, Miller College of BusinessBall State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Miller College of BusinessBall State UniversityMuncieUSA

Personalised recommendations