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On the Reappraisal of Microeconomics

Economic Growth and Change in a Material World

Robert U. Ayres and Katalin Martinás

The conventional utility-based approach to microeconomics is now nearly a century old and although frequently criticised, it has yet to be replaced. On the Reappraisal of Microeconomics offers an alternative approach that overcomes most of the objections to orthodox theory, whilst offering some unique additional advantages.
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Chapter 4: The Z-Function

Robert U. Ayres and Katalin Martinás


4.1 ON THE EXISTENCE OF A WEALTH FUNCTION To recapitulate what we have said several times above: economic survival for an economic agent or firm depends upon avoiding losses that can be avoided in principle (losses of the second kind). If, and only if, gain cycles are much more frequent than loss cycles can the firm expect to survive in the long term. Unavoidable losses (of the first kind) will occur from time to time, as we have noted. But survival implies that such losses must be exceptional, and – for analytic simplicity – we can rule them out altogether for the first phase of the following analysis. The economic survivability conditions for an agent are only testable ex post, when the q-cycle is closed (whether the outcome be a gain or a loss). Meanwhile, without foresight of the outcome, the agent has to make a sequence of smaller decisions with regard to unit operations, also based on expectations grounded in past experience and the knowledge stock. For convenience, we call this learned behavior ‘obeying the AAL rule’. We will show that the AAL rule implies the existence of a scalar wealth function Z of which the arguments are goods and money. We show that the AAL rule implies that, ruling out occasional losses of the second kind, the economic process is nondecreasing and irreversible, that is, that dZ > 0.1 Allowing for occasional losses, it still follows that market survival means that Z must increase on average. We have acknowledged that knowledge...

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