Senior Seminar Study Guide Sixteen: Thorstein Veblen April 14, 2014




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Senior Seminar

Study Guide Sixteen: Thorstein Veblen

April 14, 2014


  1. Veblen founded which school of thought?

  2. What is “Institutional Thought”? When did this school dominate economics in the U.S.? Why did it decline?

  3. According to Veblen, what governed society prior to Adam Smith?What governed society after Adam Smith?

  4. According to Veblen, is "orthodox theory" (i.e. classical economics) a normative or positive discipline? Why?

  5. From the following quote, what is the link between the individual and society in classical economics (according to Veblen? Is the decision-making powers of the individual described in classical economics (according to Veblen) consistent with behavioral economics? “... In all the received formulations of economic theory... the human material with which the inquiry is concerned in conceived in hedonistic terms.... The psychological and anthropological preconceptions of the economists have been those which were accepted by the psychological and social sciences some generations ago. The hedonistic conception of man is that of a lightening calculator of pleasures and pains, who oscillates like a homogenous globule of desire of happiness under the impulse of stimuli that shift him about the area, but leave him intact. He has neither antecedent or consequent. He is an isolated, definitive human datum, in stable equilibrium expect for the buffets of the impinging forces that displace him in one direction or another....

  6. Define “deductive” and “inductive” reasoning. What approach did classical economics employ? Which approach did Veblen advocate?

  7. Define and explain conspicuous consumption.

  8. The wealthy in America are compared to which group by Veblen?

  9. Marx argues the proletariat will rise up and overthrow the capitalist. Why does Veblen think this won't happen?

  10. How are leisure and work regarded by industrialized and pre-industrialized societies?

  11. Who are the “captains of erudition”?

  12. What is the purpose of sports according to Veblen?

  13. How is the capitalist regarded by classical and neoclassical economics? How does Veblen regard capitalists?

  14. How does Veblen describe the role of the businessman and the engineer? How does this related to Dilbert (the cartoon)?

  15. What are “institutions”? What are “instincts”?

  16. Classical and neoclassic theory begins with the individual and eventually get to society? Where do Marx and Veblen begin?

  17. What is “illfare” and “advised idleness”?

  18. How do the monopolists undermine society from the perspective of Veblen? Is this perspective still taught in microeconomics today?

  19. What is the "conflict" in society according to Veblen? Contrast this with Marx. How does Veblen see the "conflict" he identified being resolved?

  20. Who said: “Economic theory of the speculative kind is as cheap and easy to produce as higher mathematics or poetry, provided one has the gift”?

  21. What were the contributions of Wesley Claire Mitchell?

  22. According to Galbraith, why are resources not allocated inefficiently in a world of imperfect competition?

  23. What is “conventional wisdom”?

  24. According to Galbraith, why are public goods under-supplied in a capitalist economy?

  25. According to Galbraith, why doesn’t “consumer sovereignty” dictate what firms produce?


Chapter Seven: The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen

  1. Who said “You have undertaken to ruin me. I will not sue you for law takes too long. I will ruin you.”

  2. Who said "What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the power?"

2. Who said "Well, I don't know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do."?

3. Which two people tried to resolve a dispute over the Albany-Susquehanna railroad by crashing two train engines

into each other?

4. Which company used dynamite to eliminate a competitor?

5. How did Henry Rogers and William Rockefeller purchase the Anaconda Copper Company without spending any of

their own money?

6. Who said "I owe the public nothing."?

7. According to lecture, how does the years 1860 to 1946 and 1946 to the present compare with respect to economic growth and macroeconomic stability? In which era was the government more involved in the economy?



8. How did mainstream American economists -- like John Bates Clark, F.H. Taussig, and Professor Laughlin -- view

the economy of the latter 19th century?


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