I am open to studies being conducted. I am not aware that they have been. Doing such studies might be used for punitive purposes, however, such as counterproductive attempts to drug test welfare recipients.

That said the link between, say, alcohol abuse and unemployment is well established. For example:

And those that are unemployed are, of course, on welfare. So you can piece together a case for such links from existing studies. Apart from that I can only cite anecdotal experience. Is this as good as data? No. But I do not discount my personal experiences just because there are no studies backing them. I don't believe that anyone does, to be frank.


On Saturday, 14 May 2016, Linwood Tauheed <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Assuming your response was to my request for "data, studies, or other information":
  1. I have no idea what you mean by "I'm open to it" or "Certainly."
  2. My question was about whether you could provide "data, studies, or other information to substantiate your claim".  I assume from your non-response on this point that you cannot.
  3. Your anecdotal experience is not sufficient to substantiate your claim.  JK Galbraith has alerted us to the dangers contained in the "conventional wisdom".  William Dugger has alerted us to the power of the "enabling myth" in maintaining the status quo.
  4. Since this is a discussion of ideology among institutionalists I think it is appropriate to appeal to that tradition for commentary.

Gunnar Myrdal wrote the following in "Value in Social Theory" (1958 - originally 1944 as an appendix of "An American Dilemma").  (I'm not asserting that your use of "children in very run-down schools" is a reference to racial characteristics, but the correlation is high and so I thought referring to Myrdal was appropriate.)

There are in the Negro problem whole systems of popular beliefs concerning the Negro and his relations to the larger society which are crudely false and can only be understood in this light. These 'popular theories' or ideologies are themselves important data in our study, as they represent strategic social facts in the practical and political problems of race relations. A legitimate task of education is to attempt to correct popular beliefs by subjecting them to rigorous examination in the light of the factual evidence. This educational objective must be achieved in the face of the psychic resistance mobilized by the people who feel an urgent need to retain their biased beliefs in order to justify their way of life. (my emphasis)

In a more penetrating analysis all tendencies to bias will be found to have involved relations among themselves and with deeper ideological tendencies which have even shaped our main conceptional tools in social science ... These ideological tendencies are biased in a static and do-nothing (laissez-faire) conservative direction, which, in the main, works against a disfavored group like the American Negroes.

Myrdal comes to these insights as a result of leading an actual empirical research project on American race relations, the most in depth study even to this date, in which he collaborated with economists, political scientists, sociologists, historians, educators, philosophers, and psychologists among other disciplines.  In fact, it was during this project that Myrdal states that he became an "Institutional Economist", from being a neoclassical economist, as he confronted his own ideological positions, and found them lacking because they did not conform to data, studies and other information.

In a section titled "BIASES IN THE RESEARCH ON THE AMERICAN NEGRO PROBLEM" Myrdal delineates categories of biases; among them:

  1.  "The Scale of 'Friendliness' to the Negro" - which by inference would apply to "liberal" bias, and
  2.  "The Scale of 'Friendliness' to the South" - which by inference would apply to "conservative" bias.
  3.  "The Scale of Radicalism-Conservatism" -  which directly addressed the liberal-conservative split, and
  4.  "The Scale of Scientific Integrity."

On this last "Scale" Myrdal writes:

The degree to which a scientist is prepared to study unpopular subjects and to state plainly and clearly unpopular conclusions derived from his findings depends, naturally, on his own political inclinations, his personal courage, and the relative freedom awarded him by society. These factors, however, are not independent of each other. In communities where academic freedom is low, the scientist normally will, in adjustment to the environment in which he works, develop, on the one hand, a dislike for controversial matters and for clear and bluntly scientific statements concerning them, and, on the other hand, an unduly high valuation of agreement and conformity as such. Quite independent of the favorable or unfavorable judgment society passes upon such an attitude, it is, of course, detrimental to scientific clarity and objectivity and to scientific progress. (emphasis mine)

Certainly, what would distinguish the institutional approach from the neoclassical is the importance placed on producing "scientific" evidence from real world empirical research on which to base theory.  To the extent that institutionalism, as a community, de-values research on "unpopular subjects", or unpopular conclusions from findings, it diminishes academic freedom.  However, those conclusions, if not based on data, studies or other information are "mere" opinion, and everyone has theirs.

I use this reading in my Institutional Economic Theory class as a way of encouraging my students to come to the realization that we are all biased in our opinions, but we have an obligation, as social scientists, to work to get beyond our ideological "mere opinions" to Dewey's "warranted assertability".


On Fri, May 13, 2016 at 5:48 PM, Philip Pilkington <[log in to unmask]');" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I'm open to it. Certainly. But it does happen. I know it because I've seen it up close. With some of my friends and some of their family's kids. And if liberal types want to deny it due to their own ideological predilections, that's on the.

Btw on the original question... Yes this is heavily ideological from what I can see. A picture painted by the middle class to avoid the truth of what is going on.


On Friday, 13 May 2016, Linwood Tauheed <[log in to unmask]');" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Philip wrote:

"You also sometimes find children that are hungry in very run-down schools, for example. But this is typically because the parents are flogging food stamps for drugs or alcohol."

Philip, would you provide data, studies, or other information to substantiate you claim that there are children in very run-down schools who are hungry because their parents traded food stamps for drugs and alcohol?

I'm curious.

Linwood Tauheed

On May 13, 2016 9:48 AM, "Philip Pilkington" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Seems to me perfectly coherent. Hunger -- as in, the need for food -- is not a problem in most Western countries. And yes, obesity and obesity-related interests (diabetes etc) now seem far more prevalent among poorer people.

Food banks and soup kitchens do still exist in the US. But these appear to be mainly for homeless people and drug addicts. I think it's the homelessness and drug addiction that are the main problems here, not lack of food per se.

You also sometimes find children that are hungry in very run-down schools, for example. But this is typically because the parents are flogging food stamps for drugs or alcohol.

In Greece you do seem to have old style soup kitchens reemerging:

But even there it's not really like the classic soup kitchen that would literally feed starving people. It seems more so that people who are hard up use the facilities to save money that they then spend on other things -- like clothes and books for their children.

I think you're right: poverty today increasingly looks like poisonous overconsumption; of bad quality food and of drugs and alcohol.



On Fri, May 13, 2016 at 3:11 PM, John Watkins <[log in to unmask]> wrote:



Thank you for your comments. I agree: hunger is imprecise. And while most people maybe fed, they are not well fed. Even here, as you suggest, there is controversy regarding what it means to be well fed. Obviously, we have many people who are not going hungry (nutrition is another issue), but other needs are going without.


My point is that the nature of poverty has changed. And it is important to trace those changes. Amartya Sen had an interesting comment, which may seem obvious after said. Needs are a function of what is possible. His point is that living 200 years is not a need because it is not possible. Hence, poverty itself, loosely defined as the inability to satisfy needs, is a matter of what is possible.









From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael Keaney
Sent: Friday, May 13, 2016 12:19 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Ideological element among Institutionalists?


Hi John


Hunger is perhaps too imprecisely defined – and reducing everything to calories ignores the issue of nutrition. I attach two relatively recent FT reports that have some bearing on your topic. Especially the Fifield article is quite damning about the state of grocery retail in the US, and may be read in conjunction with Eric Schlosser’s classic “Fast Food Nation”. Not so long ago Europe had its own horse meat scandal, revealing just how little is known of the supply chains feeding us. “Soylent Green” also comes to mind!




From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Watkins
Sent: 12. toukokuuta 2016 20:39
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Ideological element among Institutionalists?


At the recent AFIT meetings, I presented a paper that received considerable criticism. Criticism, of course, is fine, even desirable. I have to wonder, however, if the source of the criticism, in fact, lay in our own ideological blinders. The point that received the most criticism was my claim that hunger is not the problem it was once, at least in the West.


The response led me to wonder if I had attacked a sacred cow, if ideology had blinded my fellow institutionalists to changes in the American economy. I know of no way to go about research other than the use theory and facts. I try to confront ideology wherever I find it, which is usually among mainstream economists. This is not to say that we, too, wear occasionally ideological blinders.


Polanyi refers to the use of hunger as a means of motivating people in the19th century civilization. Polanyi uses hunger as a term for needs generally.


I asserted that the muted response to the financial crisis was, in part, that hunger was no longer the problem it was once. Although the popularity of both Trump and Sanders may reveal up to now a silent, growing response to the crisis and how it was handled. Its silence, however, is not motivated by hunger.


My point is despite the rise in inequality, most people suffer from too much food, not too little. The United States Department of Agriculture prefers the term food security to hunger, meaning that the people have sufficient calories (2100 calories per day for an adult) to perform their daily functions. The importance of food security cannot be underestimated. Good nutrition improves the ability to avoid and fight disease, improving longevity (See McKeown 1983). Data from the US Department of Agriculture indicates that food insecurity with hunger increased from 3.1 % in 2001 to 5.7% of households during 2008 and 2009. Overall, food insecurity comprised 19.2 percent of households. The USDA defines food insecurity as households “unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members because they had insufficient money and other resources for food” (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory and Singh 2015a, 8). Admittedly, there is a difference between the threat of hunger and hunger itself. In 2014, nineteen percent of households expressed concern that money until the next check would be insufficient (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory and Singh 2015b, Table S-5, p. 10). Nevertheless, the report surmises that food insecurity in the United States is not chronic.[1] Even so, food insecurity persists among more marginalized groups: minorities, single women with children, low-income groups, and so on.


All of this was resurrected for me by an article in The Wall Street Journal today titled “Obesity: The New Hunger.” The Journal, of course, is hardly a progressive paper. Nevertheless, we would be remiss to ignore analyses and the facts presented. I do not deny that hunger still exists in America. And the criticisms I received were anecdotal, which I do not deny. Nor do I deny the increase in inequality and the inability of many people to satisfy other needs. But is hunger the issue that it once was? Or as progressives, are we ignoring the facts? Are we ignoring changes in the nature of poverty itself?


John P. Watkins

Professor of Economics

Westminster College

1840 South 1300 East

Salt Lake City, UT 84105

Office: 801 832-2628

Cell: 801 550-5834


[1] “When households experience very low food security in the United States, the resulting instances of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns are usually occasional or episodic but are not usually chronic” (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory and Singh 2015a, 11).

Philip Pilkington

Tel: 0044(0)7825371244

Philip Pilkington

Tel: 0044(0)7825371244

Linwood F. Tauheed, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Economics
University of Missouri-Kansas City
5100 Rockhill Road, 202D Manheim Hall
Kansas City, Missouri 64110

Philip Pilkington

Tel: 0044(0)7825371244