The 1982 Subroto Roy Critique of the KJ Arrow Amartya Sen “social choice” theory, plus the FA Hayek and IJ Good comments, plus the 1989 chapter from Philosophy of Economics “Remarks on the Foundations of Welfare Economics”
“In September 1989, after a struggle of numerous years, my Philosophy of Economics: On the Scope of Reason in Economic Inquiry was published in London and New York; the next month, I, from Honolulu, gifted a copy to Kenneth Arrow at Stanford.
My inscription praised Arrow’s work (from which I had learnt so much in its market theory aspects) and said I had always seen it as a scientific challenge. [Uploading the inscription today 29 September 2021, I find the words “inspiration and magnificent challenge” not “scientific challenge” as I remembered it, and also mean now.]
Arrow’s 17 year collaboration with Frank Hahn that resulted in General Competitive Analysis was known to me, and Hahn had paid me fifty pounds sterling back in 1976/1977 to proof-read it for a second edition. Arrow and I had met briefly in the early 1980s at an American Economic Association meeting, and I had sent him in 1982 “Knowledge and Freedom in Economic Theory Parts I and II”, a discussion paper I had published with Jim Buchanan’s Center for Study of Public Choice, now made freely available:
The thrust of my criticism at that time was the contradiction present in Arrow’s work between his assumptions about information in market theory (or general equilibrium) work and in his “social choice” theory. An earlier draft of this had been sent to F A Hayek in Freiburg, and Hayek had very encouragingly said:
“I was grateful for the reminder of the passage of Aristotle at which I had not looked for many years and found the criticism of Arrow well justified and important.”
I do not think Arrow understood this aspect of my criticism but by the time of the 1989 book there had been a vast expansion and development of my thinking.
Arrow’s response in 1989 was both gracious and accepting: “I shall have to ponder your rejection of the Humean position which has, I suppose, been central in not only my thought but that of most economists. Candidly, I have never understood what late Wittgenstein was saying, but I have not worked very hard at his work, and perhaps your book will give guidance”.
Amartya Sen arrived at Cambridge in 1953, the year Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations was published, two years after his death. Professor Sen told me, in 2006 (see below), John Wisdom and C D Broad both knew him at the time, all at Trinity College; if anyone, Amartya Sen should have conveyed to Kenneth Arrow in America in the 1960s and 1970s the implications for economic theory of Wittgenstein’s later work. But he never did. Instead I had to do so in 1989. The attempt by Amartya to distract from that fact ever since by some Marxist spin on Gramsci and Sraffa being what Wittgenstein was really all about I find disingenuous and anti-scientific…
The last letter I have from Amartya is from Harvard to Honolulu in 1987, and said he had put the manuscript of my book on the back-burner.
My 1987 manuscript contracted at the time for several years with University of Chicago Press came to be instead published in 1989 by Routledge in its International Library of Philosophy, the first work by an economist in that series, known earlier as the International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method and even before that as the International Scientific Series. It sold out quickly and was in paperback two years later. I had asked the publisher to send Amartya at Harvard a complimentary copy which I think he received though did not acknowledge. Imagine my surprise hearing Amartya Sen’s Nobel Banquet Speech nine years later in 1998 sound as if I’d written a bit of it :D… (see below)! Amartya had every right to put my manuscript on the back-burner in 1987 but has not had a right to lift from it or the book that resulted in 1989 or any of my later or earlier work without acknowledgement. It’s called plagiarism. See Section 9 et seq of Critique of Amartya Sen: A Tragedy of Plagiarism, Fake News, Dissimulation.
Did Ken Arrow or Frank Hahn talk of Suby Roy’s 1989 criticism, trying to solve some theoretical problems in economics by applying the later Wittgenstein? Of course they did. But Amartya Sen was not going to follow up his 1987 letter saying to a fellow-Indian : “Dear Suby, Congratulations on your book and thanks for the copy. Ken Arrow was talking to me about it, and I think we should like to hear you give a talk about your criticisms of our social choice theories…” That’s a letter I did not get… ! Amartya as of 1989 and much earlier (Hahn told me at Stanford in the summer of 1983) was in single-minded pursuit of you know what, and couldn’t take any kind of academic risk exposing the Arrow-Sen “social choice theory” to be “not merely wrong but even absurd” as my Blacksburg colleague I. J. Good, Cambridge probability and statistical theorist and co-worker of Turing during the World War II code-breaking at Bletchley Park, said upon reading my criticism.
[The version Jack Good commented on in 1984 seems to be titled “Knowledge, social choice theory and liberalism” in between the 1982 and 1989 versions…]
Besides, Amartya might have seen himself as Arrow’s gate-keeper as far as any other Indians were to be allowed access to the great man… and what I had and have done is not only bypass him completely but identify the errors of Arrow as well as his own; the “social choice theory” peddled by Professor Sen and his friends Eric Maskin, Kaushik Basu et al has been long sunk by the work of myself and Sidney Alexander. It is Zombie economics I said in 2017…