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Uncertainty: A diagrammatic treatment

Listed author(s):
  • Dow, Sheila

The purpose of this paper is to clarify the difference between the mainstream and Keynesian understandings of uncertainty which persists in spite of superficial similarities. It is argued that the difference stems from the mainstream habit of thinking in terms of a full-information benchmark, where uncertainty arises from incomplete information. Degrees of uncertainty (or ambiguity) refer to the quantifiable extent of incompleteness. In contrast, Keynesian uncertainty cannot, even in principle, be eliminated. By treating uncertain knowledge as the norm, Keynesian uncertainty theory analyses differing degrees of uncertainty in relation to grounds for belief and thus considers the cognitive role of institutions and conventions in influencing the degree of uncertainty. The paper offers a simple diagrammatic representation of these differences, and illustrates its use with different depictions of the crisis, its aftermath and the policy response appropriate to each understanding.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2016-3
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File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/126570/1/84708633X.pdf
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Article provided by Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) in its journal Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal.

Volume (Year): 10 (2016)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 1-25

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Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:20163
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  1. Dow Alexander & Dow Sheila C., 2011. "Animal Spirits Revisited," Capitalism and Society, De Gruyter, vol. 6(2), pages 1-25, December.
  2. Boyarchenko, Nina, 2012. "Ambiguity shifts and the 2007–2008 financial crisis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(5), pages 493-507.
  3. Hansen, Lars-Peter & Sargent, Thomas-J, 2001. "Acknowledgement Misspecification in Macroeconomic Theory," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 19(S1), pages 213-227, February.
  4. Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel & Edouard Schaal & Pablo Fajgelbaum, 2013. "Uncertainty Traps," 2013 Meeting Papers 677, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Dow, Sheila C, 1990. "Beyond Dualism," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 143-157, June.
  6. Coddington, Alan, 1982. "Deficient Foresight: A Troublesome Theme in Keynesian Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 480-487, June.
  7. Orlik, Anna & Veldkamp, Laura, 2014. "Understanding Uncertainty Shocks and the Role of Black Swans," CEPR Discussion Papers 10147, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Victoria Chick & Sheila Dow, 2005. "The meaning of open systems," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 363-381.
  9. Camerer, Colin & Weber, Martin, 1992. "Recent Developments in Modeling Preferences: Uncertainty and Ambiguity," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 325-370, October.
  10. Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas J. Sargent, 2001. "Acknowledging Misspecification in Macroeconomic Theory," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 4(3), pages 519-535, July.
  11. David Dequech, 2000. "Fundamental Uncertainty and Ambiguity," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 41-60, Winter.
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