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The neoclassical production function as a relic of anti-George politics: Implications for ecological economics

  • Czech, Brian

Widespread support for Henry George's land tax proposal prompted a backlash from wealthy landowners, who focused their political efforts on tax policy. The backlash corresponded chronologically with the development of neoclassical economics, and land barons became active in the establishment of academic economics institutions in the United States. Whereas the classical economists frequently referred to the factors of production as land, labor, and capital, neoclassical textbooks appearing in the 20th century increasingly ignored land and provided a production function, "YÂ =Â f(K,L)," in which capital and labor were the only factors explicitly identified. Neoclassical authors had several possible reasons for using a two-factor production function, but the political influence on neoclassical economics during its formative stages was conducive to avoiding reference to land when discussing factors of production. An emphasis on land would have invited scrutiny of land rents for tax purposes. Ecological economics has evolved as a response to the shortcomings of neoclassical economics in dealing with the environmental perils of economic growth. One of those shortcomings is the capital/labor production function which hides the importance of land and natural resources. Ecological economists have developed production functions that are more ecologically oriented, and one of them is explained herein.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
Issue (Month): 8-9 (June)
Pages: 2193-2197

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:8-9:p:2193-2197
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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  1. John K. Whitaker, 1997. "Enemies or Allies? Henry George and Francis Amasa Walker One Century Later," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 1891-1915, December.
  2. Nicolaus Tideman & Florenz Plassmann, 2004. "Knight: Nemesis from the Chicago School," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 381-409, 04.
  3. Christopher K. Ryan, 2002. "Chapter 2: Land as a Factor of Production," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(5), pages 7-25, November.
  4. Fridolin Krausmann & Heinz Schandl & Rolf Peter Sieferle, 2007. "Socio-Ecological Regime Transitions in Austria and the United Kingdom," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2007-05, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
  5. Ropke, Inge, 2004. "The early history of modern ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3-4), pages 293-314, October.
  6. Martin van Ittersum & Ada Wossink, 2006. "Integrating Agronomic Principles into Production Function Specification: A Dichotomy of Growth Inputs and Facilitating Inputs," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 88(1), pages 203-214.
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