Human Agency and Material Welfare: Revisions in Microeconomics and their Implications for Public Policy

Human Agency and Material Welfare: Revisions in Microeconomics and their Implications for Public Policy

By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 4 business days
When will my order arrive?


Some of the fundamental tenets of conventional economic wisdom, which have had a profound impact on public policy, are challenged in this book. These precepts include the affirmation that low wages are more beneficial that high wages to the process of growth and development; convergence in terms of output per person is just a matter of time; minimum wage laws and trade unions negatively impact on the economy as a whole; pay inequality due to labor market discrimination cannot persist over time; larger firms are typically more efficient than smaller firms; and culture is of little consequence to the course of economic development. Such predictions, the author argues, are a product of unrealistic behavioral assumptions about the economic agent.
In this book, the author offers a more inclusive theoretical framework and a more reasonable modeling of the economic agent. This new approach is built upon conventional neoclassical theory while incorporating the most recent research in behavioral economics. The case is made that individuals have some choice over the quantity and quality of effort which they can supply in the process of production. Even under the constraints of severe product market competition and the assumption of `utility maximizing' individuals, effort need not be maximized, especially in firms characterized by antagonistic management-labor relations. This is especially true when relatively inefficient firms can remain competitive by keeping wages relatively low - low wages serve to protect such firms from more efficient firms. Alternatively, relatively high wage firms can remain competitive only if they become more productive. Under these assumptions, higher wages and factors contributing to higher wages can advance the performance of an economy while lower wages can have the opposite effect and cultural and institutional variables, by themselves, can affect the long run productivity and even the long run competitiveness of firms and economies.
In summary, this book calls for a revised approach to the study of economics from a behavioral and socio-economic perspective, with significant consequences for public policy.
show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 133 pages
  • 160 x 238.8 x 15.2mm | 430.92g
  • Dordrecht, Netherlands
  • English
  • 1996 ed.
  • XV, 133 p.
  • 0792398181
  • 9780792398189

Back cover copy

Human agency means the ability and desire of individuals to choose how well they work and how they work. The central role of agency can be traced to the work of the late Harvey Leibenstein, inventor of x-efficiency theory and contributor to principal-agent theory. In this book, the author extends the basic agency model where choice of effort affects productivity and efficiency to one in which choice of effort also affects choice of technology. Further, the author argues that higher wages do not necessarily mean lower profits - for instance, higher wages may "shock" a firm into becoming more x-efficient, thus raising its marginal-product-of-labor curve. The book argues against traditional neoclassical beliefs including such ideas as competitive markets erode discrimination and that the integration of firms through mergers and acquisitions can save substantial transaction costs. In summary, this book calls for a new approach to the study of economics from a socio-economic and behavioral perspective.
show more

Table of contents

Preface; Shlomo Maital. I. Introduction: Wrestling with the Neoclassical Colossus. II. Human Agency as a Determinant of Material Welfare. III. Interfirm, Interregional, and International Differences in Labor Productivity: Variations in the Levels of X-Inefficiency as a Function of Differential Labor Costs. IV. High and Low Wage Paths to Economic Growth: A Behavioral Model of Endogenous Economic Growth. V. The Economics of Exogenous Increases in Wage Rates in a Behavioral/X-Efficiency Model of the Firm. VI. Labor Market Discrimination, Pay Inequality and Effort Variability: An Alternative to the Neoclassical Model. VII. A Critical Appraisal of Corporate Size and the Transaction Cost-Economizing Paradigm. References. Index.
show more