Anderson-Bascom Professor of Applied Economics (Emeritus)

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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 Welcome to my home page.  Below are links to a brief bio-sketch and to a partial C.V.  Following that you will find links to a few of my recent papers.


My research concerns the institutional foundations of an economy.  Economic institutions constitute the legal architecture of markets and of market processes.  All economies are constituted by their legal structures that give content to market processes and existing property regimes.  I am interested in the existing institutional arrangements in an economy, and I am interested in the process of institutional change.  My current research has two dominant threads--one of them philosophical and one of them empirical. 


The philosophical aspect, in which I develop the concept of volitional pragmatism, is spelled out my book:  SUFFICIENT REASON: Volitional Pragmatism and the Meaning of Economic Institutions (Princeton University Press, 2006).  The Amazon link is:  SUFFICIENT REASON . There is a Chinese version available from Shanghai People's Publishing House, No. 193 Fujian Zhong Rd., Shanghai 200001, China.


Volitional pragmatism offers a new approach to human action--one that challenges standard rational choice models central to economics.  In volitional pragmatism individuals "work out" what they want in the way of choice and action as they come to understand the choices available to them.  Volitional pragmatism builds on the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, John R. Commons, Thorstein Veblen, and Richard Rorty.


The empirical aspect of my current research concerns two general themes: (1) the on-going problem of development in much of Africa and the Middle East; and (2) environmental policy. 


On the development theme, I am concerned with the variety of economic pathologies that can be traced to what I call institutional incoherence.  Institutional incoherence refers to a situation in which the legal foundations of economic transactions are degraded and dysfunctional.  Most economic activity is stifled by low net returns.  It is often assumed that governments smother economic initiative and that therefore development assistance must be focused on NGOs and other "unofficial" parties.  I suggest that this development strategy is perverse.  If social and economic development is to occur it can only happen with a re-vitalized state leading the way.  The history of success in development is clear that markets only flourish when the state takes an active role in providing necessary infrastructure, in promoting particular sectors, and in securing the legal foundation for entrepreneurial activity.  These ideas are spelled out in a recent book: VULNERABLE PEOPLE, VULNERABLE STATES: Redefining the Development Challenge (Routledge, 2012). (with Glen D. Anderson).


On the environmental front, I bring pragmatist insights to continual struggles over environmental policy. A new book systematically deconstructs the pervasive and counter-productive discourse surrounding environmental policy. My co-author (Juha Hiedanpäa) and I argue that environmental policy problems are always framed such that conflict is inevitable—a particular project or policy must be accepted versus a specific environmental asset that must be protected. Over the course of 12 chapters, we demonstrate that confident yet contradictory assertions by contending interests preclude necessary deliberation and reason giving. We show that deliberation is an important social process of reflecting upon the reasons for doing something. Our innovative approach allows discourse and collaboration to continue, until—after honest and informed deliberation—the better way forward is arrived at. This approach to environmental policy illustrates just how very constructive and enabling the quest for the reasonable can be.

Pragmatism insists that human progress is advanced by the asking for and giving of reasons—and all reasons must survive the test of reasonableness. After all, the reason people reason is to arrive at reasonable reasons for action. We show how the concept of arriving at settled belief about policy choices is best understood through the lens of negotiational psychology in which all parties to environmental disputes are required to consider their own fixed beliefs to make sure they are coherent and instrumental to the task at hand. Our book is “heretical” because it challenges the role of assured convictions about what is “best” to do with respect to nature.


ENVIRONMENTAL HERESIES: THE QUEST FOR REASONABLE (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). (with Juha Hiedanpää).




Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif  BIO-SKETCH   

Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif  PARTIAL C.V. 


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    (click on the button at left for a pdf version)


Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “Volitional Pragmatism: The Collective Construction of Rules to Live By,” The Pluralist, 10(1):6-22. 2015.


Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif”Institutional Economics,” Journal of Economic Issues, 50(2):309-25, June 2016.


Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif”Rights-Based Fisheries and Contested Claims of Ownership: Some Necessary Clarifications,” Marine Policy, 72 (October, 2016):231-36.


Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “The ‘Arab Spring’ Stress Test: Diagnosing Reasons for Revolt.”

Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “Correcting the Whimsies of U.S. Fisheries Policy,” Choices, 30(4), 2015.

Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “The French Revolution and German Industrialization: Dubious Models and Doubtful Causality,” Journal of Institutional Economics, March 2016 (with Michael Kopsidis).


  Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif   “Where is the Backward Russian Peasant? Evidence Against the Superiority of Private Farming, 1883–1913,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 42(2):425-47, 2015 (with Michael Kopsidis and Katja Bruish).

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “Payments for Ecosystem Services: Durable Habits, Dubious Nudges, and Doubtful Efficacy,” Journal of Institutional Economics, 10(2):175-95, 2014. (with Juha Heidanpää).

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “The Stakeholder Game: Pleadings and Reasons in Environmental Philosophy,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 27(4): 425-41, 2013. (with Juha Hiedanpää).

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “Environmental Governance as Stochastic Belief Updating: Crafting Rules to Live By,” Ecology and Society, 17(3):14, 2012.

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif  “Abdicating Responsibility: The Deceits of Fisheries Policy,” Fisheries 34(6):280-302, 2009.

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif “On the Origins and Evolving Role of Money,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 164:624-51, 2008 (with Jean-Paul Chavas).

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif  “Volitional Pragmatism,” Ecological Economics, 68:1-13, 2008.

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif Editorial on South Africa's failed land reform program, in: Business Day, August 7, 2007.

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif   “Resource Degradation in the African Commons: Accounting for Institutional Decay,” Environment and Development Economics, 13:539-63, 2008.


 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif  “Formalising Property Relations in the Developing World: The Wrong Prescription for the Wrong Malady,” Land Use Policy, 26:20-27, 2008.

 Description: C:\Users\dbromley\Documents\HOME PAGE\index_files\bd10263_.gif   “Modeling Population and Resource Scarcity in 14th Century England,” Journal of Agricultural Economics 56(2):217-37, 2005 (with Jean-Paul Chavas)     





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