Liberty, Cognition, and Beliefs

Apr 04, 2002Apr 08, 2002
<p>Ritz Carlton Hotel<br /> St. Louis, Missouri</p>

This conference was the first of our three-part series “Liberty, Responsibility, and Economic Change,” and is a continuation of a series of workshops on the theme “Knowledge, Social Change, and Economic Performance” also led by  Douglass North and Paul Edwards. A major goal of the conference was to continue building enthusiasm and a common vocabulary for an interdisciplinary research program into the nature of social change that moves beyond reductive assumptions about rationality, and takes seriously the full reality of human belief and its role in behavior.

About the three-part series
This series of Liberty Fund sponsored conferences, co-directed by Nobel Laureate Douglass North of Washington University and Paul Edwards, of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, engaged scholars from a variety of disciplines in the project of developing a dynamic theory of social and economic change.

In recent years many parts of the world have experienced tremendous and accelerated social and economic change. Although there has been a steady stream of technical and financial assistance into many of these transitional countries, we have yet to witness the rise of wide spread, self-sustaining market economies. Economists who have worked closely with these transitional economies are increasingly aware that belief and culture seem to be playing a role in the differential acceptance of market processes and market sustaining institutions.  As of yet, however, economists have not been able to turn that observation into anything approaching a meaningful, robust theory of social and economic change.

This series of conferences is intended to bring us closer to having a meaningful and theoretically sophisticated way of discussing the role that culture and belief play in the process of economic and social change. By bringing together economists and political theorists puzzled by these questions with anthropologists, sociologists, and cognitive psychologist who address such issues, we hope to catalyze a rich and well-informed discussion of what scholars need to take into account as they address these issues. In particular, we will explore the role that beliefs about liberty and personal responsibility play in the process of social and economic change.