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“Bad” Decisions, Poverty, and Economic Theory: The Individualist and Social Perspectives in Light of “The American Myth”

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  • John Henry

Abstract

Social outcomes are analyzed either by placing responsibility for those outcomes on the individual or to locate the cause in a specific social factor -- discrimination. Here, I argue that individual decision-making cannot be the cause of poverty, illustrative of one outcome, and that commentary specifying a particular social factor is insufficient to address the fundamental, underlying cause of poverty. Rather, one must examine the nature of the economic system that lies at the root of such issues. In the process of developing the argument, it is shown that the individualist explanation of poverty is linked to the neoclassical framework, and that this individualist explanation is a product of the (capitalist) economic system itself which then induces an ideology both privileging such an explanation and preventing the development of satisfactory theory that would inform proper policy. An example of this point is drawn from the 1960’s “war on poverty” program.

Suggested Citation

  • John Henry, 2007. "“Bad” Decisions, Poverty, and Economic Theory: The Individualist and Social Perspectives in Light of “The American Myth”," Forum for Social Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(1), pages 17-27, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:fosoec:v:36:y:2007:i:1:p:17-27
    DOI: 10.1007/s12143-007-0005-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mathew Forstater, 1999. "Functional Finance and Full Employment: Lessons from Lerner for Today," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(2), pages 475-482, June.
    2. Mathew Forstater, 1999. "Functional Finance and Full Employment: Lessons from Lerner for Today," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_272, Levy Economics Institute.
    3. William F. Mitchell, 1998. "The Buffer Stock Employment Model and the NAIRU: The Path to Full Employment," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 547-555, June.
    4. Mathew Forstater, 1999. "Functional Finance and Full Employment: Lessons from Lerner for Today," Macroeconomics 9908002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. L. Randall Wray, 1998. "Zero Unemployment and Stable Prices," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 539-545, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tae-Hee Jo, 2011. "A Heterodox Microfoundation of Business Cycles," Chapters, in: Joëlle Leclaire & Tae-Hee Jo & Jane Knodell (ed.),Heterodox Analysis of Financial Crisis and Reform, chapter 9, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Jo, Tae-Hee, 2011. "Heterodox Critiques of Corporate Social Responsibility," MPRA Paper 35367, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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