Killing ‘Homo Economicus’ (Jeremy Bentham) Is Much, Much, Much, More Easier Said Than Done: Only the Smith – Keynes Inexact Measurement Approach Can Neutralize the Strong Attraction of Bentham’s Mathematical Rational Utility Maximization Model
31 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 27, 2019
The tremendous attraction and allure of Bentham’s original rational, utility maximizing, calculator model, which Bentham wrote out in plain English so as to capture as large an audience as possible, to economists has been greatly underestimated by the opponents of the ‘Homo Economicus’ model, which was the creation of Jeremy Bentham in 1787, the same year that he launched his attacks on both Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776). Benthamite Utilitarian ethics allows a practitioner to appear to be a hard scientist because he/she will be using a lot of equations and numbers, what can be called mathematical benefit – cost analysis, in his/her argument, as opposed to the user of duty ethics or virtue ethics, who will not be using any such mathematical approach.
Bentham‘s shrewd, in depth understanding and grasp of the desire for approbation, recognition, and applause on the part of economists, who wanted to be held in the same regard as physicists, leads directly to the neoclassical economics of Max U, which is simply a mathematical translation of Bentham’s already completely worked out concept of a rational calculator, adding marginal utility and diminishing marginal utility to utility maximization. New neoclassical economists then added the rational expectations-real business cycle-Dynamic stochastic General Equilibrium approach, based on the Normal and Log Normal probability distributions, which extends Bentham’s basic static pendulum-oscillation, external, exogenous shock model to intertemporal analysis.
Bentham recognized that Smith’s emphasis on an inexact, interval valued, imprecise approach to probability, due to the fact of uncertain evidence (1776,pp.105-113,228-245,419-423,714), had to be undermined if his utilitarian ethics approach, based on precise and exact utility maximization, was to succeed in replacing Smith’s Virtue ethics approach.
Bentham similarly recognized that he had to attack and neutralize Smith’s emphasis on the internal, endogenous threat to the macro economy that came from a certain segment of the upper income class that Smith labelled as prodigals, imprudent risk takers and projectors, in order to replace Smith’s virtue ethics emphasis on the virtues of prudence and temperance, which directly conflicted with Bentham’s emphasis on utility maximization and claim that the love of money was an insatiable desire of all men. The virtues of prudence and temperance require the complete total rejection of any insatiability assumption.
J. M Keynes, following Smith’s approach, put forth a nearly identical version of Smith’s original inexact approach to measurement that was based on Boole’s upper – lower probabilities approach. Keynes’s inexact approach to probability in Part II of the A Treatise on Probability, and statistics in part V, which he used in the General Theory as the foundation for his liquidity preference theory of the rate of Interest, which he called approximation in chapter 4 of the General Theory, directly challenged the neoclassical followers of Bentham (Jevons, Marshall, Pareto, Cournot, Walras, Frisch, Tinbergen), who relied on an exact, precise approach to probability and statistics.
Killing ‘Homo Economicus’ (Jeremy Bentham) can only be accomplished by adopting the Smith- Keynes inexact approach to measurement in order to challenge the Classical-Neo Classical-New Neo Classical exact approach to measurement. Max U collapses if the probabilities are not precise and exact, so that they sum to one, where the whole is the linear, additive sum of all of the individual parts.
Currently, there is no credible, intellectual threat from any heterodox school of economics to Bentham, a genius with an IQ estimated to be in the 180-200 range, who could be compared to Lord Sauron of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Keywords: Bentham, Smith, Keynes, Homo economicus, interval valued probability, weight of the argument
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation