O'Donnell, R. 2014, 'A critique of the ergodic/nonergodic approach to uncertainty', Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 187-209.
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Although uncertainty is widely viewed as an essential element of post Keynesianism, two contrasting perspectives on its nature and foundations compete for attention-the ontologically oriented ergodic/nonergodic (ENE) approach, and the epistemologically oriented human abilities and characteristics (HAC) approach. Since little or no direct debate has previously occurred between the two perspectives, this paper presents an extended critique of the ENE approach in both general and Keynes-specific terms. The critique argues, inter alia, that the ENE approach is untenable because it makes it impossible for agents to obtain knowledge of the relevant state of reality; it employs two conflicting definitions of ergodicity; its accounts of agent learning are incoherent or internally inconsistent; it commits the excluded middle fallacy; its view of causality is oversimplified; and its treatment of Keynes's philosophical work is inaccurate and tendentious. General aspects of the critique also apply to other schools employing the ENE approach.
O'Donnell, R. 2012, 'A macroeconomics forecasting game: Description and evaluation', Australasian Journal of Economics Education, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 21-39.
macroeconomic games, large class learning, forecasting and risk.
O'Donnell, R. 2011, 'Keynes and the general theory after seventy-five years', History of Economics Review, vol. Summer, no. 54.
On the 75Th anniversary of the publication of The General Theory, this paper explores the framework of Keynes's thought as a whole, his development of a realistic and insightful analysis of a monetary production economy, and the practical conclusions that these entail. Ranging across philosophy, economics and politics, it comments on the approach needed to understand his distinctive thinking, some of the central elements of his analytical framework, the fate of the Keynesian revolution, his emphasis on reason and humanity, and his hope that individual greed and acquisition might be replaced in the future by non-economic, goodnessenhancing activities. The paper also argues that it is not sufficient to read The General Theory in isolation as a self-contained work if one wants to understand its pioneering nature fully. Three questions are posed by way of conclusion-why is Keynes so different from, more difficult to understand, and yet more appealing than, many modem economists?
O'Donnell, R. 2010, 'A Mini-Symposium on Colander and McGoldrick's Teagle Discussion: Editor's Introduction', Australian Journal of Economics Education, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 36-39.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'The permanent need for political economy', Agenda, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 89-99.
My purpose here is to offer, in hindsight, an assessment of the significance of the dispute in terms of its two underlying issues the nature of economics and the role of university ideals. I write as someone who was a student activist, both inside and outside official channels, from 1974 to 1977 during the first major phase of the dispute, who graduated with degrees in economics (BEc) and philosophy (BA) and who, supported by scholarships from Sydney University, took a doctorate in Economics at Cambridge prior to returning to Australia and an academic career.
O'Donnell, R. 2009, 'The concept of opportunity cost: Is it simple, fundamental or necessary?', Australasian Journal of Economics Education, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 21-37.
Surveys by Ferraro and Taylor (2005) point to abysmal understandings of the concept of opportunity cost by US undergraduates, graduates and faculty, and raise important pedagogical and conceptual issues. One implication is that the concept is poorly taught in textbooks and classrooms, from which it follows that remedies are needed. Three further implications strongly influence the nature and extent of these remedies. These are that opportunity cost is not a simple concept but a difficult one, that it is not a fundamental economic concept but a subordinate one, and that graduates do not require a good understanding of the concept for successful careers as economists. This paper presents logical arguments supporting these propositions, and discusses their bearing on general strategies for dealing with the pedagogical problem.
O'Donnell, R. 2006, 'Keynes's principles of writing (innovative) economics', Economic Record, vol. 82, no. 259, pp. 396-407.
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In recent years, discourse and rhetoric in economics have received increasing discussion among economists. This paper contributes to the general debate by investigating the hitherto neglected topic of Keynes's views on the writing of economics, especially the writing of innovative or ground-breaking works. Five underlying principles are distilled from the ideas he presented in the 1920s and 1930s in essays on other economists and in reflections on his own experiences. These principles are replete with implications for all writing, reading and conversation in economics, regardless of time, place, type or participant. © 2006 The Economic Society of Australia.
O'Donnell, R. 1999, 'The genesis of the only diagram in the general theory', Journal of the History of Economic Thought, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 27-37.
O'Donnell, R. 1996, 'John Maynard Keynes: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow', History of Economic Review, vol. 25, pp. 1-13.
O'Donnell, R. 1990, 'Keynes on mathematics: Philosophical foundations and economic applications', Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 14, no. 1-2, pp. 29-47.
O'donnell, R.M. 1990, 'Keynes on mathematics: Philosophical foundations and economic applications', Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 29-47.
O'donnell, R. 1990, 'The epistemology of J. M. Keynes', British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 333-350.
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This paper has two objectives, neither previously attempted in the published literature-first, to outline J. M. Keynes's theory of knowledge in some detail, and, secondly, to justify the contention that his epistemology is a variety of rationalism, and not, as many have asserted, a form of empiricism. Keynes's attitude to empirical data is also analysed as well as his views on prediction and theory choice. © 1990 Oxford University Press.
O'Donnell, R. 2010, 'Opportunities Lost and Regained in the Land of Opportunity Cost'.
The economics profession, as a whole, has a gravely confused understanding of opportunity cost, a concept widely regarded as one of the most fundamental ideas of economics. The muddle arises
because of the existence of two contrary conceptions of opportunity cost which are presumed to be the same but only one of which is correct. Conceptually, the problem is serious because, while the correct
idea leads to analytical coherence, the incorrect one generates incoherence and chaos. The incorrect definition, which is arguably more prevalent, introduces mistakes into the treatment of opportunity
cost in top-selling mainstream texts used in the US and in their offshoots in other countries. Fortunately, the problem can be eliminated by some judicious reconstruction. Full coherence can be restored
to the conceptual framework by the retention of the term opportunity cost for the referent of the correct definition, and the introduction of a new term, trade-off cost, for the referent of the incorrect
definition. The argument is based on a survey of the treatment of opportunity cost and its applications in well-known US texts written by prominent economists and experienced economics educators – thirteen
introductory texts, five intermediate texts, four graduate texts and one applied research work. In those texts that mention opportunity cost, none work solely with the correct definition, a majority
deploy both definitions simultaneously as if they were identical, and a minority are based entirely on the incorrect definition. The result is that millions of economics students and graduates world-wide
are being given confused and deficient understandings of opportunity cost.
O'Donnell, R., 'What Kind of Economics Graduates Do We Want? A Constructive Critique of Hansen's Proficiencies Approach'.
In answer to the long-standing question, what kinds of knowledge and skills should economics majors master, Lee Hansen has advocated a proficiencies approach. According to this approach, the teaching and learning of economics undergraduates should be based on the attainment of (six) specified proficiencies. He has also proposed ways in which these competencies can be demonstrated. This paper outlines Hansen's proficiency approach and subjects it to critical evaluation. It finds that much of his scheme is highly admirable and worthy of support, even if its implementation would be difficult in resource-starved educational systems. However, it also finds other parts of his scheme to be disturbing, simplistic, narrow and dangerous. These deficiencies stem primarily from highly inadequate assumptions about the nature of economics as a discipline. The challenge in making the proficiencies approach more acceptable is to retain the valuable elements while discarding the objectionable. To this end, an amended list of (nine) expected proficiencies is proposed.
O'Donnell, R., 'The Thick and the Thin of Controversy: A Critique of Bateman on Keynes'.
This paper critically analyses Bateman's interpretation of Keynes's thought as presented in his 1996 book, Keynes's Uncertain Revolution. The book has two main aims. One is to present a 'thick' history of the evolution of Keynes's thinking on probability and uncertainty, by which is meant a history that refers to both the internal and external influences on a person's ideas. According to Bateman, this is necessary because an adequate understanding Keynes's ideas on probability and uncertainty is impossible without such a history. The second aim is to advance a particular interpretation of the relationship between Keynes's philosophy and his economics. This interpretation contrasts with previous 'continuity' interpretations by arguing for the existence of major discontinuities in Keynes's philosophical thinking. The paper also comments on some of the methodological issues involved in clashes between different interpretations.
O'Donnell, R., 'Introducing Peer-Assisted Learning in First Year Accounting in Australia'.
Australian universities are giving increasing attention to peer-assisted learning (or supplemental instruction) as a means of meeting some of the demanding challenges that have arisen over the last fifteen years. At Macquarie University, Sydney, a two year (2003-04) trial has been conducted of this form of supplemental instruction in selected Accounting courses. This paper discusses the first stage of the trial in terms of its design, outcomes, benefits and costs, and lessons learned. Consistent with earlier studies, it is found that peerassisted learning is best approached as a flexible system capable of adaptation to the specificities of local teaching and learning environments.