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Game Theory and Institutional Economics

Game Theory and Institutional Economics

Game Theory and Institutional Economics

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Pages:126 pages
Size:11.82 MB


Classical economists from Adam Smith to Thomas Malthus and to Karl Marx have considered the importance of direct interdependence and direct interactions for the economy. This was even more the case for original institutionalist thinkers such as Thorstein Veblen, John Commons, and Clarence Ayres. In their writings, direct interdependence, interactions (or transactions) among agents, with all beneficial and with all problematic consequences, took center stage in economic analysis. Why, for instance, do people adhere to a particular new fashion or trend? Because others do, after eminent people, wealthy people, the “leisure class” (T. Veblen), have made it a symbol for status. The new fashion, however, ceases to serve as such a symbol once too many people follow it. The constant effort put into following trends and adopting fashion turns out to be a social dilemma, driven by Veblenian instincts, such as invidious distinction in predatory societies, conspicuous consumption and emulation.


The study of institutions is not a new subject in economics at all. But it has attracted a continuing scholarly interest for decades, and many conceptual, theoretical, and methodological breakthroughs have been accomplished in this field, particularly since the dawn of modern game theory and the use of computers for simulation and economic experiments. The seminal works by Robert Axelrod and Elinor Ostrom are merely two examples. These too were centered on the evolution of institutions in a context of social dilemma situations—a research project that is vigorously continued by the first two papers in this issue. Of course, these efforts must always be accompanied by an equally firm resolution to work on other questions of evolutionary and institutional economics (and beyond); further on methodology and, finally, to critically question the institutional history of both game theory formal methods and evolutionary and institutional economics (on which this issue also contains one paper each).



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