Animal Spirits

by Jerry O’Driscoll

In a previous post, Mario Rizzo reminds us that Keynes was concerned with the volatility of investment.  Keynes was not alone.  By the dawn of the 20th century, virtually every significant business cycle theorist viewed the volatility of investment as the central theoretical problem.

In the General Theory, Keynes (p. 149) posed the problem as follows: “The outstanding fact is the extreme precariousness of the basis of knowledge on which our estimates of prospective yield have to be made.” It quickly becomes clear that Keynes means “expectations,” not knowledge.  And investment is not governed by “the genuine expectations of the professional entrepreneur” (p.151). Continue reading

Kirznerian Alertness and Neuroscience

by Roger Koppl

Jake Young of Pure Pedantry has a nice post using the neuroscience of preconscious processing to address the issue of Kirznerian alertness.  He was responding to Sandy’s post, “Stumbling on Profit Opportunities.”  Jake gives a negative reply to Sandy’s conjecture that preconscious processing, whereby we leap away from a snake before processing that it was a snake, might be an example of Kirznerian entrepreneurship.

I think it’s a mistake to look for “the” neuroscience correlate to entrepreneurial alertness.  The praxeological categories of “entrepreneurship,” “alertness,” and “discovery” were constructed for use in social science, not neuroscience.  It would be a surprise if there were precisely one process identified in neuroscience that covers all and only cases of entrepreneurial alertness in social science.  More likely, several processes that are considered distinct and unrelated in neuroscience would all be examples of entrepreneurial alertness and discovery.  And the neurological processes generally corresponding to entrepreneurial discovery might sometimes be activated when there is no entrepreneurial discovery.  Why should social science and neuroscience carve up the world in the same way? Continue reading