Expectations-based Processes – An Interventionist Account of Economic Practice
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The paper starts distinguishing between two kinds of economic practice: theoretical practice (TP) (model and theory building) and direct economic practice (DEP) (the practical operation upon real economies). Most of the epistemological and philosophical considerations have been directed to the first type of practice, one of whose main goals is the discovery of particular sorts of economic laws, mechanisms and other regularities which throw light on relevant economic patterns. We do not deny that in some restricted domains these kinds of regularities may be found. Rather, we claim that (in many domains) the realm of economics is best understood as consisting of processes whose regular structure (if they have it at all) is not guaranteed beforehand but may be crucially influenced and successfully enforced by what we call DEP.
We claim that (a) some economic processes are a particular type of social processes that will be referred to as Expectations-Based Processes (EBP); (b) in those cases in which EBP exhibit a regular behavior, they depend on agents’ expectations and, crucially, we argue, on interventions upon them.
Characteristically, an EBP shows a connection between the information that individuals receive from the relevant economic context, the expectations they form, and the activities they perform. More importantly, authorities’ interventions may change agents’ expectations (and therefore, their decisions), contributing to shape EBP and helping to produce the patterns that lead to some targeted economic phenomena.
The features of an EBP show that they are not shielded from external influences and they do not run autonomously once triggered; on the contrary, they are processes that require continuous prodding on the part of policy makers to keep them running in the intended way. So they cannot be conceived neither as mechanisms nor as economic machines.