by Gene Callahan
After hearing good things about Kenneth Boulding for a number of years, I eagerly snapped up his A Reconstruction of Economics for a dollar at New York’s best used bookstore. (The original price? $1.95) Well, the book is interesting, but I’m sorely puzzled by some of the moves Boulding makes here. Is it really useful to consider cars as organisms with a “birth rate” and “death rate”? Are firms usefully viewed as organisms trying to keep their balance sheets in “homeostasis”? Do any firms really want to see static balance sheets rather than ever growing net worth? Boulding claims the homeostatic balance sheet approach can tell us a good deal about firms without introducing prices or profit maximizing. But don’t the entries for these balance sheet items depend on prices? And isn’t profit maximization the whole reason that a firm wants to balance them as much as it does?
Is this book representative of Boulding’s work? Did he continue with this line of thought later in his career? And did he always have that wacky hairdo?