Social Economics: Premises, Findings and Policies

By Edward J.O'Boyle | Go to book overview
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ECONOMIC HISTORY AS A SOURCE OF SOCIOECONOMIC NORMATIVE VALUE

Lewis E. Hill

For the purposes of this chapter, social economics may be defined as the socioeconomic analysis of human behavior within a broad economic, social, and political context for the purpose of improving the quality of life and enhancing human welfare. All social economists are dedicated to the quest to achieve social and economic justice. Social economists have always been especially concerned with the impoverished people who have been denied the opportunities and the privileges that have been so easily available to the more affluent component of our population. Social economics is an applied policy science that seeks to solve problems of social injustice and economic privation (Hill 1978).

Professor William M. Dugger, in one of his most insightful and forceful essays, has correctly identified the emphasis on socioeconomic normative value as the first among five characteristics which specify the essence of social economics (Dugger 1977:300-2). One of the reasons for this emphasis on normative value can be induced from the nature of social economics as a policy science. Any policy science must use normative value judgments as a necessary technique in the formulation of socioeconomic and politicoeconomic policy. The purpose of any policy is to plan and to implement a course of action which is intended to avoid a set of consequences that is judged to be undesirable and to achieve an alternative set of consequences that is judged to be desirable. The judgments concerning whether a set of consequences is undesirable or desirable are always normative value judgments. Socioeconomic normative values, therefore, provide the only possible basis for differentiating between the undesirable consequences which should be avoided and the desirable consequences which should be achieved; therefore, socioeconomic normative values are the essential basis of any successful policy.

The other reason for social economists' emphasis on socioeconomic normative value judgments inheres in their concern for social justice and human welfare. Both of these concerns can be defined and specified only in terms of normative values. Social justice is a set of normative values

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