Research

The title and abstracts of my current working papers are presented below.

‘Property Rights in an Entangled Political Economy’

This paper outlines key applications of property rights theory from the standpoint of ‘entangled political economy,’ which conceptualises economic and political agents interacting within society. The entangled political economy framework stresses that property rights denote relationships between societal members, and that property rights are the subject of evolutionary change. The nature and role of property rights in an entangled political economy reinforces the ‘bundle of rights’ perspective, challenging notions of property rights that emphasise the primacy of ownership. Far from necessarily imperiling the integrity of a market‑based economic order, the bundle orientation inherent in entangled political economy can accommodate extensive market activities grounded in robust property right protections.

‘Negative freedom and the capability approach’

This paper reaffirms the significance of negative freedom for the development of human capabilities. Drawing primarily upon the works of John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek, the claim is made that an expanding set of capabilities, conducive to improved well‑being, relies upon a notion of freedom grounded in an extensive domain of non‑interference. Negative freedom enables both the discovery of, and experimentation with, opportunities that create and expand capability. This is illustrated by a concept of entrepreneurship in which entrepreneurs engage in the selection and variation of capabilities to be or to do, harnessing new opportunities to enhance well‑being for themselves and for others. This approach complements conventional notions of entrepreneurial conduct focussed upon arbitrage, innovation, or risk management. Entrepreneurship as capability facilitation depends critically upon the maintenance of background institutions which minimises the application of coercive political power, and respects the agency of people to undertake their own capability discoveries and experiments.

‘Entangled Comparative Historical Political Economy’

Recent contributions to the economic development literature stress that investigations into the underlying causes of development must be comparative, historical and political economic in nature. This paper demonstrates that the nature and extent to which economic and political agents interrelate, or entangle, with each other also have a bearing upon observed disparities in cross‑national development. This “entangled political economy” framework is used to explain divergent economic trajectories for two settler economies during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, namely Australia and Argentina. All societies exhibit a degree of entangled political economic relations, with Australia and Argentina being no exception. However, Argentina’s economic underperformance compared against Australia is traced to the disposition of political actors to more intensively intervene in the foreground of that country’s economic affairs. Similarities are drawn with other approaches toward comparative political economy over time, such as new institutional economics and the “order theory” of German liberals.

‘Civil Society as a Complex Adaptive Phenomenon’

I depict civil society as a complex and adaptive phenomenon. Individuals and groups within civil society interact with each other to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes, and this gives rise to identifiable spontaneous orders of economic, communal and political relationships. Civil society is not a mere aggregation of these sub-orders but a combinatorial ensemble of them in that a multiplicity of dispositions, interests and values, and relevant feedback mechanisms, co-exist tenuously, often contradictorily and in entangled fashion. This paper describes the general processes in which alternative perspectives within civil society continuously vie against each other for widespread support, and critically appraise the suggestion that certain aspects of economic, social or political evolution portend the “decline” of civil society itself. The distinct value of the civil society concept lies in the capacity of diverse individuals to arrange mutually agreeable adjustments in the absence of domination or subjection.