IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Should the financial crisis inspire normative revision?


  • Don Ross


The paper evaluates the claim, made by a range of commentators but most prominently by Akerlof and Shiller in Animal Spirits, that the recent financial crisis illustrates gaps in the normative picture incorporated into standard macroeconomics that are plugged by insights due to behavioral economics. It is argued that Akerlof and Shiller's contention that we cannot understand what happened unless we supplement macroeconomic theory with social-psychological theory is convincing only after being so heavily qualified that most of the surface excitement drains out of it. However, this is argued to be compatible with the idea that each recession or depression is a unique historical episode from which specific lessons can be learned; rejection of calls for paradigm shifts does not imply that each business cycle merely offers another observation to confirm a settled and stable understanding of macroeconomic dynamics. Discussion of factors that made the recent crisis unusually dangerous - the extreme global savings imbalance and the very rapid shifts occurring in the composition of the global labor force - leads to identification of a quite specific normative recommendation. This recommendation, that wealthy and middle-income people who care about efficiency, growth and prosperity should be willing to be taxed at higher levels to fund investments in human capital development, is certainly far from novel. However, I contend that the recent events have provided a new and newly specific reason to urge it. The reasoning in question owes nothing to behavioral economics or to any new advances in empirical psychology, which are indeed argued to obscure the most important implications of the recent crisis, and of recessions in general.

Suggested Citation

  • Don Ross, 2010. "Should the financial crisis inspire normative revision?," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(4), pages 399-418.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:17:y:2010:i:4:p:399-418 DOI: 10.1080/1350178X.2010.525038

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Metin Cosgel & Lanse Minkler, 2004. "Religious Identity and Consumption," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(3), pages 339-350.
    2. Basu, Kaushik, 2006. "Identity, Trust and Altruism: Sociological Clues to Economic Development," Working Papers 06-05, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    3. Wilfred Dolfsma, 2004. "Consuming Symbolic Goods: Identity & Commitment - Introduction," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(3), pages 275-276.
    4. Hanming Fang & Glenn C. Loury, 2005. ""Dysfunctional Identities" Can Be Rational," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 104-111, May.
    5. John B. Davis, 2007. "Akerlof and Kranton on identity in economics: inverting the analysis," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 31(3), pages 349-362, May.
    6. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162.
    7. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    8. Güth, Werner & Levati, M. Vittoria & Ploner, Matteo, 2008. "Social identity and trust--An experimental investigation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 1293-1308, August.
    9. John Davis, 2006. "Social identity strategies in recent economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(3), pages 371-390.
    10. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2007. "Identity, Dignity and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," CEPR Discussion Papers 6123, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Prabirendra Chatterjee & Sudipta, Sarangi, "undated". "Social Identity and Group Lending," Working Papers UWEC-2005-06-R, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
    12. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
    13. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
    14. Darity, William Jr. & Mason, Patrick L. & Stewart, James B., 2006. "The economics of identity: The origin and persistence of racial identity norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 283-305, July.
    15. Daniel J. Benjamin & James J. Choi & A. Joshua Strickland, 2010. "Social Identity and Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1913-1928, September.
    16. Kaushik Basu, 2005. "Racial conflict and the malignancy of identity," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 3(3), pages 221-241, December.
    17. Avner Ben-Ner & Brian McCall & Massoud Stephane & Hua Wang, "undated". "Identity and Self-Other Differentiation in Work and Giving Behaviors: Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 0805, Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus).
    18. Martha Starr, 2004. "Consumption, Identity, and the Sociocultural Constitution of "Preferences": Reading Women's Magazines," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 62(3), pages 291-305.
    19. Akerlof, George A, 1983. "Loyalty Filters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 54-63, March.
    20. Bazin, Damien & Ballet, Jerome, 2006. "A basic model for multiple self," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 1050-1060, December.
    21. David Austen-Smith & Ronald G. Fryer, 2005. "An Economic Analysis of 'Acting White'," Discussion Papers 1399, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    22. Fernando Aguiar & Pablo Brañas-Garza & Luis M. Miller, 2008. "Moral distance in dictator games," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 344-354, April.
    23. Ulrich Horst & Alan Kirman & Miriam Teschl, 2006. "Changing Identity: The Emergence of Social Groups," Working Papers halshs-00410853, HAL.
    24. Patrick L. Mason, 2001. "Annual Income and Identity Formation among Persons of Mexican Descent," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 178-183, May.
    25. Sen, Amartya, 1985. "Goals, Commitment, and Identity," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(2), pages 341-355, Fall.
    26. Howard Bodenhorn & Christopher S. Ruebeck, 2003. "The Economics of Identity and the Endogeneity of Race," NBER Working Papers 9962, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    27. Kenneth J. Arrow, 1998. "What Has Economics to Say about Racial Discrimination?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 91-100, Spring.
    28. David Austen-Smith & Roland G. Fryer, 2005. "An Economic Analysis of "Acting White"," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 551-583.
    29. Wichardt, Philipp C., 2007. "Why and How Identity Should Influence Utility," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 193, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Fredrik Hansen, 2013. "The efficient-markets hypothesis after the crisis: a methodological analysis of the evidence," Chapters,in: Before and Beyond the Global Economic Crisis, chapter 3, pages 55-71 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Andreas A. Papandreou, 2015. "The Great Recession and the transition to a low-carbon economy," Working papers wpaper88, Financialisation, Economy, Society & Sustainable Development (FESSUD) Project.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:17:y:2010:i:4:p:399-418. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.