By Michael C. Carroll (auth.)
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Extra resources for A Future of Capitalism: The Economic Vision of Robert Heilbroner
By that I mean to remove the inconsistent (irrational) behavioural patterns and replace them with a more predictable and therefore modellable 'ideal human'. This ideal human has come to be known as homo economicus or rational economic man. Fundamentally: 26 A Future of Capitalism Economic man (homo economicus) is an abstraction that defines the behaviour of humans in terms of an ideal type of rationality and thus of rational choice. The economic man always optimizes through rational choice and is never deflected from his goal by interests other than his own.
Lowe points to the role of expectations as a possible source of conflict. 3 He believes it is possible for individuals to operate in a maximizing manner (completely consistent with neoclassical assumptions) and still generate disorder in the macrosystem if expectations of the future differ from expected. He credits much ofthe conflict to what he calls changes in the 'economic time horizon'. He suggests that there are times when it may be rational for suppliers to withhold goods or services from the market.
Conventional economists use these terms in their timeless and 'value-free' analysis and never acknowledge the social baggage this entails. A good example of this is the construction of the Robinson Crusoe economy to explain the 'rational' and 'maximizing' individual. As we saw earlier in this chapter, it is the term individual which Heilbroner finds to be lacking. In the Robinson Crusoe economy an individual cannot maximize their income as defined in the assumption of economic man. There is no income in 36 A Future of Capitalism this type of economy because income is essentially a social term.
A Future of Capitalism: The Economic Vision of Robert Heilbroner by Michael C. Carroll (auth.)