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By Michael C. Carroll (auth.)

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Extra resources for A Future of Capitalism: The Economic Vision of Robert Heilbroner

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Furthermore, they increasingly limit themselves by stating that scarcity is a necessary but not sufficient condition. For something to have economic significance it must also be exchangeable. Lord Robbins states in his 1932 classic An Essay on The Nature and Significance of Economic Science that: The Manna which fell from heaven may have been scarce, but if it was impossible to exchange it for something else or to postpone its use, it was not the object of any activity with an economic aspect. (Robbins [1935] 1949, 13) In other words, society must economize 1 its scarce resources through the exchange mechanism of the market with the accompanying limitations of such restraints as relative prices, income and time.

As I said earlier, market analysis is not of much use in examining premarket societies. Therefore, economics must be constructed so as to explain the economic behaviour during evolution of the social order. In Heilbroner's words, 'Once it is recognized that the research object of economics is intrinsically historical in its nature, any attempt to describe its fundamental elements shorn of this historical awareness can only obscure, rather than illuminate, its essential properties' (Heilbroner 1987, 116).

Heilbroner 1992a, 247) 28 A Future of Capitalism This quotation highlights two distinct criticisms Heilbroner makes of traditional economics. To him, traditional economic science does not address the essential social dimension or the historical nature of true economic systems. For this reason, he has little use for general equilibrium models which can only be solved by assuming instantaneous adjustments. The market mechanism is a social construct which contains a collection of cultural and institutional elements such as social and political organization.

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