Essays on the History of Political Economy and Methodology

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Benzecry, Gabriel Frank
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation delves into a series of lost knowledge in economics. In Chapter 1, it is established that modern graduate education in economics has largely overlooked the artistic aspects of political economy. This chapter argues that reintroducing classical works in political economy can offer valuable insights that are crucial for policy-relevant research. Building on the idea that we ought to study past ideas, Chapter 2 addresses the arguments presented by José Osvaldo de Meira Penna regarding the origins of the Brazilian paternalistic state. Meira Penna’s book, O dinossauro, is influenced by various schools of thought, particularly the Austrian tradition, and attributes Brazil’s paternalistic mentality to the importation of constructivist ideas. His critique aligns closely with Friedrich Hayek’s perspective, thereby presenting a noteworthy Austrian critique of the Brazilian Leviathan. Moving forward, Chapter 3 delves into Friedrich List’s critique of the Methuen Treaty, which was believed to have negatively impacted Portugal’s textile industry and overall economic growth. Although List’s critique appears disconnected from his theoretical framework, it reveals his opposition to the ideas put forth by Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say. The lack of local data further complicates a precise policy analysis, leaving room for normative interpretations. In conclusion, this dissertation highlights the significance of studying the history of ideas and argues that neglecting the classical political economy in modern graduate education in economics comes at a considerable cost. By reintroducing the classics and examining influential critiques like Meira Penna’s and List’s, valuable insights can be gained for a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of human action.