Herbert J. Davenport
|Born||10 August 1861|
|Died||15 June 1931 (age 69)|
|Contributions||Critique of the Austrian School and Neoclassical economics|
Herbert Joseph Davenport (August 10, 1861 – June 15, 1931) was an American economist and critic of the Austrian School, educator and author.
Born in Vermont, Davenport studied at the University of Chicago for a year or so under Thorstein Veblen, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. His studies were apparently motivated, like many other revolutionary political economists of his time, by a desire to find the flaws in socialism.
Following his degree at Chicago on 1898, Davenport became a high school principal before returning to Chicago as a faculty member. He began his formal career as assistant professor at the University of Chicago in 1902. During his previous 41 years, he had attended Harvard Law School, the University of Leipzig, Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Chicago. He moved to the University of Missouri to become department head and first dean of the College of Business in 1908. In 1916, he transferred to Cornell, where he finished his academic career. He also made and lost a fortune in business, largely in land speculation.
The Herbert J. Davenport Society is the University of Missouri College of Business's alumni organization.
An admirer of Thorstein Veblen, Davenport carved a unique niche in the world of academic economics, avoiding the Institutionalist approach inspired by Veblen, and incorporating insights from the Austrian and Lausanne economists. For Davenport, the entrepreneur was central to market activity. He accepted the Austrian concept of opportunity cost (found in the work of Friedrich von Wieser) but rejected the neoclassical conception of marginal utility. He was a relentless critic of Alfred Marshall, his last book being a critique of The Economics of Alfred Marshall (1935). In that book, he criticized Marshall as a classical economist who subscribed to the real cost doctrine and his assumption of homogeneity of different costs.
Davenport, along with Frank A. Fetter, comprised, as Fetter put it, a distinct, if small, school of economics: the American Psychological School. Frank Knight, a student and admirer of Davenport's, did not succeed in imprinting many of Davenport's ideas onto the Chicago School neoclassical tradition.
Davenport wrote numerous articles which were published in such prestigious economic journals as the Journal of Political Economy, the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the American Economic Review .
He also wrote several major books. His first article, written while an undergraduate in South Dakota, was "The Formula of Sacrifice" (1894), an exploration of the concept of subjective opportunity cost. Viewed in retrospect, his "Outlines of Economic Theory" was a preliminary version of his 1908 Value and Distribution (1908). The latter was a full-fledged critical examination of the major economic doctrines of classical and early neoclassical thought. Among other things, it contained critiques of marginal utility, of the contemporary Austrian theories of capital and cost, and of Frank Fetter's theory of market interest.
While he had a penchant for criticizing the emerging neoclassical economics, most of his criticism was leveled at vestiges of classical economics, such as the doctrine of real cost and the tripartite division of factors of production, which had led some classical economists to advocate a tax on land value. Although one biographer and student saw him as a reformer (Homan), another lamented the absence of real reformist ideas and even of the awareness of the need to follow criticism with clear statements about what was right and how it could be achieved (Frank Knight). His relentless criticism is probably the main reason that his works have, in general, been neglected by historians of economic thought.
The extensive citations and treatment of economic others ideas in this book were omitted in his later book The Economics of Enterprise (1914). This book was a tightly-knit theory of price from the entrepreneur point of view (to be contrasted with the "social" point of view). In that book, he worked out an image of economic interaction in which all phenomena was interpreted through the eyes and minds of entrepreneurs. This theory was complemented by a theory of credit and money for the era of free enterprise in banking ("loan fund theory of capital").
As a teacher, he was an artist. "He never lectured in any conservative way. He pitted his students against one another. He subjected them to grilling cross-examination capped by the decisive point and apt illustration, punctuated by satirical amusement toward the inept and the unprepared."Perhaps the best reflection on Davenport as a person comes from the fact that for many years, he used his savings to pay friends in South Dakota who had made real estate investments through him in the early 1890s.
Articles, a selection:
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Joseph Alois Schumpeter was an Austrian-born political economist. He served briefly as Finance Minister of German-Austria in 1919. In 1932, he emigrated to the United States to become a professor at Harvard University, where he remained until the end of his career, and in 1939 obtained American citizenship.
Neoclassical economics is an approach to economics in which the production, consumption and valuation (pricing) of goods and services are observed as driven by the supply and demand model. According to this line of thought, the value of a good or service is determined through a hypothetical maximization of utility by income-constrained individuals and of profits by firms facing production costs and employing available information and factors of production. This approach has often been justified by appealing to rational choice theory, a theory that has come under considerable question in recent years.
Piero Sraffa was an influential Italian economist who served as lecturer of economics at the University of Cambridge. His book Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is taken as founding the neo-Ricardian school of economics.
Thorstein Bunde Veblen was a Norwegian-American economist and sociologist who, during his lifetime, emerged as a well-known critic of capitalism.
Evolutionary economics is part of mainstream economics as well as a heterodox school of economic thought that is inspired by evolutionary biology. Much like mainstream economics, it stresses complex interdependencies, competition, growth, structural change, and resource constraints but differs in the approaches which are used to analyze these phenomena. Some scholars prefer to call their evolutionary theory by a different names. Samuel Bowles named it "evolutionary social science" and Joachim Rennstich called it "evolutionary systems theory".
Marginalism is a theory of economics that attempts to explain the discrepancy in the value of goods and services by reference to their secondary, or marginal, utility. It states that the reason why the price of diamonds is higher than that of water, for example, owes to the greater additional satisfaction of the diamonds over the water. Thus, while the water has greater total utility, the diamond has greater marginal utility.
Classical economics, classical political economy, or Smithian economics is a school of thought in political economy that flourished, primarily in Britain, in the late 18th and early-to-mid 19th century. Its main thinkers are held to be Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus, and John Stuart Mill. These economists produced a theory of market economies as largely self-regulating systems, governed by natural laws of production and exchange.
In the social sciences, methodological individualism is the principle that subjective individual motivation explains social phenomena, rather than class or group dynamics which are illusory or artificial and therefore cannot truly explain market or social phenomena. This concept was introduced as an assumption in the social sciences by Max Weber, and discussed in his book Economy and Society.
Steve Keen is an Australian economist and author. He considers himself a post-Keynesian, criticising neoclassical economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported. The major influences on Keen's thinking about economics include John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Hyman Minsky, Piero Sraffa, Augusto Graziani, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, Thorstein Veblen, and François Quesnay. Hyman Minsky's financial instability hypothesis forms the main basis of his major contribution to economics which mainly concentrates on mathematical modelling and simulation of financial instability. He is a notable critic of the Australian property bubble, as he sees it.
George Joseph Stigler was an American economist. He was the 1982 laureate in Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and is considered a key leader of the Chicago school of economics.
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Heterodox economics is any economics thought or theory that contrasts with orthodox schools of economic thought, or that may be beyond neoclassical economics. These include institutional, evolutionary, feminist, social, post-Keynesian, ecological, Austrian, Marxian, socialist, and anarchist economics.
Gottfried von Haberler was an Austrian-American economist. He worked in particular on international trade. One of his major contributions was reformulating the Ricardian idea of comparative advantage in a neoclassical framework, abandoning the labor theory of value for an opportunity cost concept.
Frank Albert Fetter was an American economist of the Austrian School. Fetter's treatise, The Principles of Economics, contributed to an increased American interest in the Austrian School, including the theories of Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Friedrich von Wieser, and Ludwig von Mises.
The history of economic thought is the study of the philosophies of the different thinkers and theories in the subjects that later became political economy and economics, from the ancient world to the present day in the 21st century. This field encompasses many disparate schools of economic thought. Ancient Greek writers such as the philosopher Aristotle examined ideas about the art of wealth acquisition, and questioned whether property is best left in private or public hands. In the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas argued that it was a moral obligation of businesses to sell goods at a just price.
In the history of economic thought, a school of economic thought is a group of economic thinkers who share or shared a common perspective on the way economies work. While economists do not always fit into particular schools, particularly in modern times, classifying economists into schools of thought is common. Economic thought may be roughly divided into three phases: premodern, early modern and modern. Systematic economic theory has been developed mainly since the beginning of what is termed the modern era.
In economics, utility is the satisfaction or benefit derived by consuming a product. The marginal utility of a good or service describes how much pleasure or satisfaction is gained by consumers as a result of the increase or decrease in consumption by one unit. There are three types of marginal utility. They are positive, negative, or zero marginal utility. For instance, you like eating pizza, the second piece of pizza brings you more satisfaction than only eating one piece of pizza. It means your marginal utility from purchasing pizza is positive. However, after eating the second piece you feel full, and you would not feel any better from eating the third piece. This means your marginal utility from eating pizza is zero. Moreover, you might feel sick if you eat more than three pieces of pizza. At this time, your marginal utility is negative. In other words, a negative marginal utility indicates that every unit of goods or service consumed will do more harm than good, which will lead to the decrease of overall utility level, while the positive marginal utility indicates that every unit of goods or services consumed will increase the overall utility level.