Wisconsin Institutionalism, Public Persuasion, and Public Science

28 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2018

See all articles by Marianne Johnson

Marianne Johnson

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 12, 2018


This paper makes use of the wealth of materials left by Wisconsin Institutionalists to consider how they thought about economics as public science and as public persuasion. Considered is how the philosophy of pragmatism and an emphasis on empiricism manifested in economics practice at Wisconsin. The ways in which empirical evidence was used to stimulate legal and regulatory changes are also examined. To understand why the empirical method was so important to the Wisconsin Institutionalists requires recognizing that their work was empirical in a very specific way. The Wisconsin economists chose their studies with definite reform goals in mind – reforms that could be achieved either through regulatory changes or by a change of law. They engaged in constructive research – research specifically designed to identify problems and potential solutions. That the Wisconsin Institutionalists generated substantial amounts of materials that repeatedly demonstrated the same findings was an artifact of what they wanted to accomplish. It is also illustrative of how the Wisconsin Institutionalists understood economics as a public science.

Keywords: Wisconsin Institutionalism, John R. Commons, Richard T. Ely, Field Work, Persuasion, Policy Making, Public Engagement, Public Science

JEL Classification: B15, B25, B52

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Marianne, Wisconsin Institutionalism, Public Persuasion, and Public Science (July 12, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3212945 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3212945

Marianne Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh - Department of Economics ( email )

800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh, WI 54901
United States
920-424-2230 (Phone)
920-424-1734 (Fax)

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