1. The method of "Inflation as Restructuring"
I have read the introductory chapter to "Inflation as Restructuring - A Theoretical and Empirical Account of the U.S. Experience." What immediately impresses me is that it begins by questioning, and contrasting, two ontologies. What frustrates me about neoclassical economics is that it plunges in, in medias res, with an already assumed, complete and unquestioned ontology. If a person investigating something, anything, already has one settled ontology then any deductive conclusions from the premises are more or less inevitable conclusions. Any hypotheses devised for empirical testing and more particularly the methods devised for testing the hypotheses, from within a single assumed ontology, are likely to suffer from fallacies like circular reasoning and reification. (These two fallacies seem the mostly likely to me to arise, on my first intuitive assessment of such possibilities.) The posing of two possible ontologies (as in Inflation as Restructuring) sets up fertile ground for generating new hypotheses to contrast with the existing "received" ones and to help suggest new methods for empirical testing.
To me, it's an instructive example of doing "comparative ontology" studies. I hadn't thought of this approach before, at least not anything like in these very clear terms. These days, I always consider myself guided by the following dictum, most importantly as a link between philosophy and empirical science:
“The best that can be done is to supply a hypothesis, not devoid of all likelihood, in the general line of growth of scientific ideas, and capable of being verified or refuted by future observers.” – C. S. Peirce.
Philosophy I regard as an hypothesis generator (though speculative metaphysics can be entertaining in its on right). Comparative ontology now appears to me as perhaps the best method for hypothesis generation and the way to aid logical deductions, and intuitions for testing methods. This is after seeing Jonathan Nitzan's use of this method. People will have to excuse me for being so late to this insight. I assume it is standard in modern scholarship... outside dogmas like fundamental religions and neoclassical economics!
However, I will have to postpone reading "Inflation as Restructuring" for several months. My projects take me in another direction for the moment. I will be trying to rectify however the fact that I have read no Veblen and Mumford (in serious quantities).
2. A Corporate Pharmaceutical Case - Valeant.
The case of Valeant Pharmaceuticals is instructive (as well as disgraceful). It seemed to follow a combined breadth-depth strategy. If I have the order and categories correct it;
(1) Acquired new companies for new drugs to sell (breadth);
(2) Slashed R&D (depth);
(3) Used its new monopoly power on given drugs plus extortion on patients, as in pay the new drug price or die. (depth).
The Veblenian sabotage component is very clear. Society's total needful pharmaceutical R&D is reduced by this sabotage. Individual human health, poorer patient by poorer patient, is also sabotaged as drugs are priced out of individual patients' reach, sometimes on the order of $3,000 per annum to $300,000 per annum for life preserving drugs like Syprine to treat copper accumulation (a rare but fatal disease).
It seems a combined breadth-depth corporate strategy, logically executed in that order, and achieving some individual product monopolies, would always result in differential inflation for the product concerned and in differential hyper-inflation when the product is life-preserving, assuming perhaps a tiny sub-group of the super-wealthy who can pay the extortionate price without blinking as it were. Indeed, in this case "conspicuous consumption" turns into "conspicuous survival" a rare pleasure of the most exotic kind for the venal super-rich. Of course, there was overt social-political push-back eventually but while one person was jailed for extortionate pharmaceutical pricing, he was not from Valeant. Valeant's principals suffered few real consequences and certain drug prices continue extortionately high, so far as I know. All of this looks like clear confirmation of Jonathan Nitzan's general theory to me.
3. Further Reading?
All of the above makes me wonder (given my amateur philosophical leanings and methodological interests) whether I should start reading books like:
Comparative Metaphysics: Ontology After Anthropology (Reinventing Critical Theory) Reprint Edition
by Pierre Charbonnier (Editor), Gildas Salmon (Editor), Peter Skafish (Editor).