Erwin Dekker and Arjo Klamer
This chapter argues that the art of phronesis is central to doing the right thing as an economist. Phronesis, or practical wisdom, is what we practice when we deliberate, weigh values, take into account our feelings and those of others, consider the circumstances, and grope for the right thing to do. Central to phronesis is figuring out the goods to strive for and the appropriate means to realize those goods. We argue that the goods can be categorized into personal goods, social goods, societal goods, and transcendental goods. An important choice that any economist faces is which conversation to join, to which part of economics he wishes to contribute. We argue that situating ourselves in a university department, in the search for truth and truth only, is an important moral choice, with consequences for the goods we can realize.
Iris J. Lav
This article tackles the issue of comprehensive state budget reform. With structural deficits rampant, reform is needed to maintain the current level of programs that states and localities now provide, but cannot support over time with current revenue policies. Recent “reforms” have mainly focused on cutting both spending and taxes. Nonetheless, it is believed that people want their services and will vote to pay for them, if given that option. The article notes that there have been very few successful state tax reforms in recent years. But modernization of tax systems is needed to alleviate structural deficits. Part of the problem is institutional myopia: improved multiyear budgeting can warn policymakers when proposed actions are likely to create budget problems over the long term.
Sidney J. Gray and Helen Kang
This chapter explores accounting transparency as an important aspect of corporate accountability. After defining accounting transparency and identifying factors that influence it, the chapter considers the debate between providers and users of accounting information on how transparent accounting information should be defined, measured, and reported. It also discusses the roles of international standard-setting organizations in promoting accounting transparency as well as measures of accounting transparency, including disclosure level and market reactions. Finally, it looks at future prospects for setting international accounting standards, paying particular attention to International Financial Reporting Standards.
Robert B. Ward
Over the last decade, observers of state and local finances have been alarmed over an emerging picture of long-term, structural imbalances. This article examines the concept of fiscal sustainability in several formulations and explains that it essentially means limiting expenditure commitments to those that can be met by available revenue streams. It investigates why fiscal sustainability in actual practice, however it might be measured in theory, has fallen into disrepair. The usual lineup of budget-busting culprits is next examined, with the proliferation of entitlement programs standing at the head of the line. Over the past four decades, state and local budget increases reflected the strength of the economy during an unprecedented run of prosperity. Meanwhile, the array of entitlement programs that drove spending was increasingly shaped by political, demographic, and institutional forces, each with its own clientele of beneficiaries. That has made adjustments more difficult when revenues do not keep pace with spending patterns.