The Economic Agent and the Feedback Loop



Słowa kluczowe:

cyclic way of thinking, evolutionary way of thinking, having more, being more, acting viciously, acting virtuously



Conventional economics teaches that homo economicus is an individual being with no social dimension, no interaction with others, no one to learn from, and therefore no feedback loop to take account of the agent’s development over her lifetime. With personalist economics the feedback loop is present at all times in the person of action because she is not just an individual being but a social being as well who in interacting with others learns new skills and acquires talents, new ways of living and working, and uses them for having more. In other words, the feedback loop works on the material well-being of the person of action.

The feedback loop works in a second way. Acting virtuously involves giving something freely to another person, expressing other-centeredness in which there is no expectation of getting anything in return.  The virtuous person is admired for being more, for being a better person. The feedback loop is present but this time it works in terms of the character of the economic agent. The person who acts viciously takes without giving in defiance of the usual norms of economic exchange. She is self-centered in the extreme wherein having more is corrupted into taking more. The feedback loop is present with the vicious person who acquires the reputation of being a bad person.

Our extended essay begins with an examination of the cyclic way of thinking about economic affairs, proceeds to the evolutionary way, and taking into account the feedback loop concludes with a comparison of the homo economicus of conventional economics and the person of action of personalist economics.

We draw heavily from the author’s own publications in order to show how his thinking about economy agency has developed with the passage of time.  


Becker, Joseph (1961). “The Adequacy of Benefit Amount in Unemployment Insurance”, July 27, Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the Congress, Volume 107, Part 10, p. 13810.

Blinder, Alan (2000) “Life Imitates Art: How the Economy Came to Resemble the Model”, Business Economics, January, pp.


Boulding, Kenneth (1954). “The Principle of Personal Responsibility”, Review of Social Economy, Volume XII, p. 6-7, 1-2.

Danner, Peter (2002). The Economic Person: Acting and Analyzing. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, pp. 50-51.

Friedman, Milton (1947). “Lerner on the Economics of Control”, Journal of Political Economy, Volume 55, p. 411.

Grisez , Germaine, and Russell. Shaw (1974), Beyond the New Morality: The Responsibilities of Freedom. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, p. 14.

Haberler, Gottfried (1951), “Joseph Alois Schumpeter, 1883-1950”, in Seymour Harris (editor), Schumpeter: Social Scientist.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 41.

Haney, L. (1949). History of Economic Thought, fourth edition. New York: The Macmillan Company, p. 625.

John Paul II (1981). Laborem Exercens, September 14, available at enc 14091981 laborem- exercens.html

John Paul II (1995), Evangelium Vitae, March 25, §2, §84 , available at ii enc25031995 evangelium-vitae.html

Knight, Frank (1939). “Ethics and Economic Reform”, Economica,Volume 6, p.80.

Knight, Frank (1960. Intelligence and Democratic Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 73.

Malthus, Thomas R. (1959). Population: The First Essay, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, p, 131.

Marshall, Alfred (1897). “The Old Generation of Economists and the New”, Quarterly Journal of Economics,Volume 11, pp. 120-121.

O’Boyle, Edward J. (2009). “The Acting Person and Personalist Capital”, invited lecture at the Studium Generale Marcianum,

Venice, April 3.

O'Boyle, Edward J. (2011). “From Individual to Person: An Evolutionary Process Grounded in Human Communication”, in

Looking Beyond the Individualism and Homo Economicus of NeoClassical Economics, edited by Edward J. O'Boyle, Marquette University Press.

Ong, Walter (1982), Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen, pp. 78-79, 179.

Ong, Walter (2004). Ramus: Method and the Decay of Dialogue. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ong, Walter (1967). The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History, New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 295.

Rourke, Thomas, and Rosita Rourke (2005). A Theory of Personalism. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, p. 11.

Schumpeter, Joseph (1945) “The Future of Private Enterprise in the Face of Modern Socialistic Tendencies”, in Richard Swedberg (editor), Joseph A. Schumpeter: The Economics and Sociology of Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1991, pp. 403-404.

Soros, George (2014). “Fallibility, Reflexivity, and the Human Uncertainty Principle”, Journal of Economic Methodology, January 13.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2017). “A Deductive Argument from Contingency”, Cosmological Argument, October 11, available at cosmological-argument/

Stiglitz, Joseph (2002). “Information and the Change in the Paradigm in Economics”, American Economic Review, Volume 92, pp. 460-501.

Waters, William (1952). Entrepreneurship, Dualism, and Causality: An Appreciation of the Work of Joseph A. Schumpeter, dissertation. Washington: Georgetown University, p. 14, available at

http://webcache. WATERS