SOS Meeting in Washington D.C. (Jan 6)

On Tuesday, January 6the Society of Socio-Economists (SOS) will be holding its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This years meeting on “Socio-Economics: Broadening the Economic Debate” is being co-sponsored by SPIA and promises to be a valuable and thought provoking event with notable speakers (see below).2014-12-09_1345

The intent of the meeting is to provide people with an opportunity to explore how their research may connect with the ‘socio-economic’ approach to economic analysis, and to build bridges between disciplines and perhaps chart new research collaborations/projects. I have reproduced the “Statement of Socio-Economic Principles” below for those who are not familiar with this text. The principles provide both a sound epistemological foundation and set of ethical rules of fair play regarding economic analysis that could aid the formulation of public policy.

2014-12-11_0849The meeting will consist of a morning plenary followed by a series of concurrent sessions in the afternoon. The plenary is intended to provide a forum that affords everyone a chance to speak and exchange views. Whereas the concurrent sessions allow for more narrowly focused, but still broad, discussions.

The growing list of meeting participants includes the following individuals:

Statement of Socio-Economic Principles

Socio-economics begins with the assumption that economics is not a self-contained system, but is embedded in society, polity, culture, and nature. Drawing upon economics, sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, biology, and other social and natural sciences, philosophy, history, law, management, and other disciplines, socio-economics regards competitive behavior as a subset of human behavior within a societal and natural context that both enables and constrains competition and cooperation. Rather than assume that the individual pursuit of self-interest automatically or generally tends toward an optimal allocation of resources, socio-economics assumes that societal sources of order are necessary for people and markets to function efficiently. Rather than assume that people act only rationally, or that they pursue only self-interest, socio-economics seeks to advance a more encompassing interdisciplinary understanding of economic behavior open to the assumption that individual choices are shaped not only by notions of rationality but also by emotions, social bonds, beliefs, expectations, and a sense of morality.

Socio-economics is both a positive and a normative science. It is dedicated to the empirical, reality testing approach to knowledge. It respects both inductive and deductive reasoning. But it also openly recognizes the policy relevance of teaching and research and seeks to be self-aware of its normative implications rather than maintaining the mantle of an exclusively positive science. Although it sees questions of value inextricably connected with individual and group economic choices, socio-economics does not entail a commitment to any one paradigm or ideological position, but is open to a range of thinking that treats economic behavior as involving the whole person and all facets of society within a continually evolving natural context.

Unique among interdisciplinary approaches, however, socio-economics recognizes the pervasive and powerful influence of the neoclassical paradigm on twentieth century thought. Recognizing that people first adopt paradigms of thought and then perform their inductive, deductive, and empirical analyses, socio-economists seek to examine the assumptions of the neoclassical paradigm, develop a rigorous understanding of its limitations, improve upon its application, and develop alternative, perhaps complementary, approaches that are predictive, exemplary, and morally sound. With modest amendment, this description of Socio-economics was the substance of the petition signed by more than one hundred twenty law professors from over fifty member schools of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), to establish the AALS Section on Socio-Economics. It serves as the constitution of the Section. Source.

Additional information of socio-economics can be read in this paper on Socio-Economics – An Overview by Prof. Robert Ashford.

Talk at the Table – Binary Economics

On Sunday, May 4, a conversation between Robert Ashford, Joyce Rothschild, Woody Crenshaw, and I aired on Talk at the Table with Andy Morikawa. During our conversation, we explain the basic idea of binary economics and how it relates to critical issues such as growing income inequality and sustainable development.


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Talk: An Introduction to Binary Economics

On Wednesday, April 2, Prof. Robert Ashford will be giving an introductory talk on binary economics. His talk will focus on how the approach can address inequality, create demand for employment, and finance sustainable development. More information on the talk is provided below. 

When: Wednesday, April 2, 5:30 to 7:30pm

Description: In general, earning capacity can be enhanced by some combination of two contributions: (1) increased wages earned through employment; and (2) money earned through the ownership of productive capital (e.g., land, technology, patents, etc.). Usually, only people who already own capital are able to acquire capital with the earnings of capital; and they do so substantially in proportion to their existing wealth, which helps to explain how wealth tends to concentrate in a capital intensive economy like the USA. Binary economics reveals practical ways of extending effective market opportunities to poor and middle-class people so that they can also acquire capital with the earnings of capital. In this way, as production becomes ever more capital intensive, poor and middle class people can earn not only by working but increasingly as owners of productive capital. In this talk, Prof. Ashford will introduce the binary economic approach and explain how it can enhance not only an individual’s capital earning capacity (addressing inequality), but also the demand for employment and the prospects for achieving sustainability.


Robert Ashford at VT

Ashford-Robert Photo 2013Over the next few days, Prof. Robert Ashford will be engaging with the Virginia Tech community in a variety of ways. I have provided a summary of his events below.

SPIA Seminar: Robert Ashford talks about Using Binary Economics to Democratize Capital Acquisition with the Earnings of Capital

  • When: Wednesday, November 6, 12:30-1:30pm
  • Where: Room 114 in the Architecture Annex and Room 302 in Prince Street, Alexandria

Economics Brown Bag: Discussion with faculty and students in the Department of Economics

  • When: Wednesday, November 6, 4:00-5:00pm
  • Where: Pamplin 1008

Radio ShowTalk at the Table with Andy Morikawa

  • When: Thursday, November 7, 10:00-11:30am
  • Note: The show will air on Sunday, November 10 at 2:30 p.m. EST on WUVT-FM Blacksburg (90.7). The show streams live at The podcast will be available on the web page of the Institute for Policy & Governance at

VT NLI Seminar: Robert Ashford talks about How to Teach Binary Economics

  • When: Thursday, November 7, 1:00-3:00pm
  • Where: 3080 Torgersen
  • Register here

UAP 5784: Robert Ashford talks with students in UAP 5784 (Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development) about how binary economics could be used to advance sustainable development

  • When: Friday, November 8, 10:00am-12:00pm
  • Where: 3080 Torgersen (please contact me if you would like to attend this class discussion)

Binary Economics Seminar (Nov 7, 1-3pm)

When: November 7, 1-3pm

Where: 3080 Torgersen


Prof. Robert Ashford will be teaching a seminar for faculty and doctoral students at Virgina Tech on “Teaching Binary Economics in Courses That Include Substantial Economic Policy Analysis.” The seminar will be offered through Virginia Tech’s Network Learning Initiatives (NLI).

The seminar will provide faculty and doctoral students with a basic introduction to “binary economics” – an approach to market economics that lies conceptually beyond the mainstream economic theories that underlie the polarized political and economic debate between proponents of austerity and stimulus. Based on a distinct understanding of production, distribution, prices, and growth, Prof. Ashford will use a binary economics lens to explain how the prospect of more broadly distributed capital earnings in future years provides incentives to profitably employ more capital and labor in earlier years. The seminar will be a great opportunity to learn from one of the leading binary economist in the world.


Robert Ashford to Visit VT

Ashford-Robert Photo 2013I’m pleased to announce that Prof. Robert Ashford will be visiting Virginia Tech in November, during which he will take part in a series of events related to the concept of Binary Economics. The first of these events will be a SPIA seminar on November 6, during which Robert will make the case for “democratizing capital acquisition” by broadening competitive market opportunities to acquire capital with the earnings of capital – see the flyer below for more information about this talk.

Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to work with Robert, leading to the two papers below published in the European Financial Review.

Ashford_poster-Nov6I first became aware of binary economics when searching for alternative, transformational models of development. The importance of identifying new development pathways has only intensified following the recent global financial crisis that has deepened economic inequality both within and between nations. Robert’s ideas relating to binary economic growth hold great potential to transform and reignite the economy. My interest in this subject, and reason for bringing Robert to VT with the assistance of an AdvanceVT grant, stems from the need to ensure that any surge in economic growth does not also create a surge in negative environmental and social externalities. My hope is that we can find ways to stimulate binary growth while transforming industrial systems towards inherently sustainable practices.