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[P]
How to Explain Everything

By BadDoggie in Science
Wed May 19, 2004 at 06:47:49 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Part 1: Decisions, Decisions.

Are you going to eat out tonight or cook at home? Will you watch a TV program or read a book? Will you study something tonight or will you go out with friend? Do you go out every night or do you save up for a car? Do you get into a relationship or keep things casual?

All of these questions are the subject of economics.

Do you just flip a coin every time you need to make a decision? Sometimes? Only when there's really no difference between the choices to you? How do you balance unlimited desires with limited resources?

In the big picture, economics is the study of choices. While many think of it as the study of making money, it isn't. It's just that most choices hinge around money because of what money is, but that's jumping too far ahead.

If you want to understand how the world works -- how you and everyone else make decisions -- economics provides a lot of insight.

This is the first in a series.


A scenario
Let's say you have $1,500 available. You could buy 100 CDs, a DVD player and 30 DVDs, or a new, more powerful computer to replace that 486DX33 that's served you so well the past decade. It's unlikely that you'll blow it all on CDs, although some music aficionados would do just that. In our example, however, you opt for the computer because the value you receive from this computer exceeds that which 100 CDs might bring you in usability and pleasure.

On your way to the store to buy your computer, your engine throws a rod. Instantly, you're faced with another economic decision. The computer would be very useful, but you need the car to get to work -- continued employment is more important than whatever you could have done with the computer.

That replacement car engine had an opportunity cost of "one computer". Economics defines the opportunity cost of anything as "the value of the next best thing foregone". The computer had an opportunity cost of 100 CDs or a DVD player and 30 DVDs (if the two were equal in value to you). You were willing to give those up for the computer. The car didn't have an opportunity cost of 100 CDs though because you'd given them up in your choice of the computer.

Cost
This leads us into the concept of monetary prices, of which there are two: absolute prices, or a price defined in a unit such as Dollars or Euros or Yen, and relative prices, or the price of goods in terms of each other. In our example above, the absolute price of each choice was $1500; the relative price of a computer was one car engine or 100 CDs.

  • Prices give information
    They let you know about seller's costs and buyer's wants. If you go to the supermarket, you'll see potatoes are 1/4 of the price of French fries. The price reflects -- among other things -- the additional costs of producing fries from those potatoes and the additional amount people are prepared to pay so that they don't have to make the fries themselves.

  • Prices provide incentives.
    A bartender isn't thrilled with wiping and cleaning all the time, but he's being paid to do it and accedes. Very few people would perform all of the tasks expected of them in the course of their work without the incentive of income.

  • Prices work as rationing devices.
    Those goods which are scarce will carry a higher price, limiting their purchase to those who are willing and able to sacrifice more to obtain them. Remember that purchasing one item also means not purchasing another.
Efficiency
In economic terms, efficiency is the result of producing a combination of outputs with the maximum possible value given limited resources. This can be at a personal or societal level. There are three basic categories of efficiency answering the questions "What should we produce?", "How should we produce it?" and "Who gets it?" Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to define inefficiency than efficiency. It's also easier to discuss in terms of a country rather than a single person, but the logic and processes behind the decisions made for one or one billion are the same.
  • Allocative Efficiency
    A country could allocate all its resources to making just pickles and toilet paper, but this would be inefficient because it would then produce far more of these two items than it could consume or trade.
  • Productive Efficiency
    Using more than the minimum necessary resources is inefficient. East Germany's 100% employment goal could put five workers in a coffee shop when one or two would have been sufficient. American automaker unions' demands and restrictions also had many more people on the line than necessary because each had only specific duties; workers would either perform their specific tasks or do nothing.
  • Distributive Efficiency
    How do you distribute goods and wealth? Because discussing distribution of wealth requires more background, we'll tackle it in another column. For now, we'll concern ourselves with goods being produced in an otherwise completely efficient economy.

    Distributive efficiency requires that any specific good is used by the person who relatively values it most. Distributing bread to everyone would be useful; distributing moustache wax or yacht polish would not.

Value

Economics is about cost and value and efficiency, not necessarily money. We usually discuss things in terms of money though because that's the most common method to express value as well as the most concrete. Personal satisfaction is another important measure, but one which, like mojo and karma, is much harder to define, especially in discreet amounts.

You don't believe me? You just got a call from a friend who managed to get you a front row ticket to see your most favouritest band in the whole wide world and got you a backstage pass. On the day of the concert, your old best friend from school who's been gone for what seems like forever and who you've been trying to get hold of for months calls you on the phone and says he's in town for the night before heading off on a midnight flight to Antarctica where he'll be stationed as part of the Penguin Patrol for the next two years. You have to make a decision. Explaining why you'd buy the computer, CDs or car engine in the opening scenario is a lot easier than trying to quantify a decision based on desire and satisfaction. You do it all the time for yourself, but you rarely have to explain your decision to someone else.

We live in a world of scarcity and limits. There are limited natural resources, limited amounts labour, a limited amount of time. Our desires always exceed these limitations and we are forced to make choices. If you go to an ice cream shop which offers 30 different flavours, you have to make a choice. We can make this more interesting by saying the store is having an anniversary blowout and that the ice cream is free and unlimited. You still have to make a choice, because even though the goods are unlimited, your time and capacity to enjoy them aren't. While you might like a scoop of each flavour, your capacity to eat ice cream is limited. You can't eat 30 scoops, so you choose those that bring you the most pleasure.

Economics is forced to make generalisations. A fundamental one, defined by Adam Smith, is that people act purposefully and rationally to maximise their pleasure given limited time, resources, information and budgets. There are countless examples of irrational decisions but, as a blanket rule, this statement is correct.

Economics is concerned with efficiency, which is achieved for a society when, given its limited resources, the highest output with the highest value is attained. Seen from the allocative point of view, an efficient economy produces what people want at the lowest possible price. When an economy is purely efficient, it's impossible for one person to gain without another losing. This ideal point is very close to the basic mercantilist economic idea1, though only in the results rather than the belief in finite capital.

In moving towards efficiency, new allocation makes at least some people better off without making others worse off. Let's say I have a pile of yacht wax I got on sale. If I go to the eye doctor and he says I need a monocle, I could call Rusty and trade him some of my yacht wax for some of his excess monocle polish. If he trades, it's made at least one of us better off without hurting the other. The reason I know this is that I'm willing to make the trade, so I value a little monocle polish higher than the yacht wax I'm willing to trade. If Rusty accepts the terms, then either the value of wax and polish to him are even or my yacht wax is more valuable to him more than the polish. If he accepts the trade, he may benefit and I know I do. This is a move toward (allocative) efficiency.

Guns & Butter: Determining Efficiency

Though I wrote of pickles and toilet paper in an example above, the most common items used to explain production possibilities are guns and butter.

Again, while the principles are applicable to even a personal level, it's easier to discuss them as they apply to a society. In order to explain the concept, we'll act like typical economists and build a hypothetical model: our hypothetical country is called Kehfyvistan and they produce two products, guns and butter2.

Through analysis, we've determined that Kehfyvistan can produce guns and butter in the amounts shown on this graph, known as the Production Possibilities Frontier, or PPF:

ideal PPF curve

Giving up 1000 cases of guns allows Kehfyvistan to make 1000 tons butter. Kehfyvistan can produce efficiently anywhere on the red line from points A through F.

Point X could also be a production target, but being under the curve (a straight line is also a curve with an arc of 0), it's inefficient. It's possible to produce more guns or butter or both.

Kehfyvistan cannot produce at the level of Point Y however, because more resources (labor, materials, land) would be needed than Kehfyvistan has.

Things aren't this simple, though. They rarely are. A real PPF curve looks more like this:

realistic PPF curve

While between points D and E the trade-off is pretty much equal, it's drastic from points A to B and from G to J. Why?

Specialisation.

Many who work in the guns field could just as easily work in the Kehfyvistani butter industry. The sales force, mailroom workers, secretaries, drivers, and other such workers can easily shift from one industry. Land used for obtaining raw materials like ore and wood for stocks as well as for manufacturing could be turned into grazing land for more cows.

However, once all the easily shifted resources have been reallocated, the law of diminishing returns rears its head. Keep adding pasture land and you end up using less and less suitable land, like quarries and wooded areas. Keep taking people and you start taking specialists. A highly qualified machinist or chemist hasn't been trained in buttermaking tasks. A sharpshooter is pretty useless in quality testing the butter. It may be possible to put these people to work in some capacity, but it's inefficient.

Whereas the opportunity cost of increasing butter production at the cost of guns at points D and E is 1000 tons for 1000 cases, that cost increases as we move to point F, where we only increase our butter output by 500 tons at an opportunity cost of 1000 cases of guns. If we continue shifting our resources to a butter-only economy and go to point G, we lose another 1000 cases of guns for only 200 tons of butter. Butter's getting pretty expensive; a ton of butter is now costing us 5 cases of guns. If we move to H, we lose another 500 cases of guns for only 40 tons of butter. The marginal cost of butter just tripled.

The opportunity cost of those 10 tons of butter is another 500 cases of guns, hardly a 1:1 trade-off anymore, but maybe it's still worthwhile...

In the next column, we'll pick up with the PPF and go into the reasons for -- and benefits of -- trade.

1 We'll save the discussion of various economic systems, including mercantilist, classicist, command, capitalist, neo-classicist and others, for a later column.
2 Yes, perhaps Kehfyvistan's products should be "crapfloods and occasional gems" but "guns and butter" is easier to explain.

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Poll
I make choices based on
o Meticulous research 11%
o Weighing all options in a reasonable time 22%
o Considering the options I think of at the moment 18%
o Flipping a coin 6%
o Rolling a D&D die 3%
o Whatever my girl/boyfriend tells me 9%
o The voices 28%
o I'm incarcerated and can't make choices you insensitive clod! 0%

Votes: 77
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How to Explain Everything | 376 comments (313 topical, 63 editorial, 0 hidden)
In conclusion, (1.08 / 12) (#18)
by STFUYHBT on Tue May 18, 2004 at 08:42:23 PM EST

No blood for oil!

-
"Of all the myriad forms of life here, the 'troll-diagnostic' is surely the lowest, yes?" -medham
wtf are these images (1.05 / 18) (#21)
by omghax on Tue May 18, 2004 at 10:10:20 PM EST

-1

I put the "LOL" in phiLOLigcal leadership - vote for OMGHAX for CMF president!
holy fuck, pictures (1.12 / 8) (#22)
by IlIlIIllIIlllIII on Tue May 18, 2004 at 10:55:12 PM EST

it gets my vote. Anybody who gets Rusty's personal attention is a good guy to vote for, cuz I'm a patriotic K5er.

Seconded, plus good econ lesson. +1FP -nt (none / 3) (#23)
by Kasreyn on Tue May 18, 2004 at 11:07:33 PM EST

nt
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
"Thirded". (none / 2) (#51)
by alby on Wed May 19, 2004 at 05:24:59 AM EST

All those in favour?

[ Parent ]
Scarcity (2.57 / 7) (#25)
by Kasreyn on Tue May 18, 2004 at 11:25:01 PM EST

We live in a world of scarcity and limits. There are limited natural resources, limited amounts labour, a limited amount of time.

It would be cool if, in part two, you would analyze the economic impact of the scarcity of a commodity suddenly dropping to nil. Such as happened to songs when mp3 technology met p2p technology. A study of how businesses which attempt to ENFORCE scarcity of a product whose intrinsic scarcity is gone for good, are actually hurting the overall economy through enforced inefficiency, would be a neat touch too. ;-)

*hint*hint*


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Interesting angle (none / 2) (#32)
by BadDoggie on Wed May 19, 2004 at 01:32:41 AM EST

I'll definitely keep this in mind. Not only is it a good example, but slamming RIAA "scientifically" is guaranteed to get some +1 votes. But this wouldn't show up before Part 4. Hell, I don't think I'll get to any macro concepts before 4.

woof.

"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."
[ Parent ]

Problem being (none / 2) (#106)
by emmons on Wed May 19, 2004 at 08:54:12 PM EST

The more you study it, the more you'll realize that what the RIAA is doing is good for our economy, from a macroeconomic view.

That's not to say that I like it.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

yeah but (none / 2) (#90)
by melia on Wed May 19, 2004 at 04:21:05 PM EST

You can easily differentiate between a shop bought CD and an mp3 - the pretty printed insert comes to mind.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, (none / 1) (#201)
by Kasreyn on Fri May 21, 2004 at 12:15:30 AM EST

but paying $15.00 for a pretty slip of paper is a bit steep, don't you think?

I mean, it's a nice little freebie that they include a burn of the music I could get for free online, but a cd is worth what, $0.25? That's about what I pay for them. :P

Oh... wait... people are paying for the burn that comes with the slip of paper?

BWAAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA...


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#207)
by melia on Fri May 21, 2004 at 05:20:33 AM EST

Well I dunno, if the packaging improved a bit... to be honest, I quite like the "collecting" part of being into music, it's not quite the same with mp3s.

But that's just opinion, my point is that you can't really say the scarcity of shop bought CDs has fallen to nil. And of course, "music" in itself has never had any scarcity attached at all, only the methods of delivery. (If you see what I mean)

So: any sort of analysis would possibly not be so simple as it first looks.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Not the point. (none / 0) (#340)
by vectro on Wed May 26, 2004 at 11:10:30 AM EST

If you did away with copyright, then you could buy shop-bought CDs at the cost of distribution and manufacturing -- figure about 70 cents. Even professionally-done CDs are artifically scarce as a consequence of copyright.

You can even see this phenomenon in practice by travelling to countries with limited copyright enforcement and a populace rich enough to buy CDs -- two examples are Thailand and Vietnam.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

cost isn't all (none / 1) (#202)
by horny smurf on Fri May 21, 2004 at 12:57:00 AM EST

A $10,000 yamaha and a $100,000 steinway are both viable pianos. Some people are willing to spend 90% more for a 10% improvement. Audio quality of a CD beats that of something legally downloaded from iTMS, napster, etc, and both beat the quality and experience (but not price) of most p2p services.

Coffee beans are a commodity. You can buy them for $0.10 a pound. But grind them up and put them in a can and you can charge 10x as much. Add in some artificial flavor and charge 20x as much. Throw in some water and sell it in a cup and charge 100x as much. Build a coffee store with a fake italian decor and you're looking at $5 for a cup of coffee.

[ Parent ]

somebody is working on it (none / 0) (#244)
by anmo on Sat May 22, 2004 at 03:30:48 AM EST

Read this article The case against intellectual property
May be a bit too technical for noneconomists

[ Parent ]
Oil !! (none / 0) (#287)
by egeland on Sun May 23, 2004 at 07:48:45 PM EST

It would be cool if, in part two, you would analyze the economic impact of the scarcity of a commodity suddenly dropping to nil.

Oh, oh, do petroleum!
Because we already know that it's going to run out in terms of being cheaply and abundantly available.
And the whole economy is based on it being cheaply abundant.

--
Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]
Tomorrow's Fiction Feature: (1.05 / 18) (#26)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue May 18, 2004 at 11:26:03 PM EST

Tubgirl Meets the Goatse.cx Guy.


--

Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy


Economists study "value." (1.83 / 12) (#30)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 01:22:35 AM EST

So they study something that doesn't exist, like "beauty." It seems to me they have a lot of chutzpah calling their quack philosophy a science. Babbling liberal arts flunkies with make-pretend mathematical models that can't predict the future, we used to call their kind astrologers.

--
Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

Value exists (2.60 / 5) (#33)
by BadDoggie on Wed May 19, 2004 at 01:42:09 AM EST

I think you have a good point here -- something I might have time to flesh out into another paragraph.

The problem is that value is a complex concept; few things have intrinsic value. Different people value different items in different ways at different times. Water is quite valuable to most people but not to the guy busy drowning. And because value is subjective it can't be defined in discreet terms, as I mentioned already.

While astrology in and of itself is useless, its history led us to observing space and learning a bit about it, especially cyclical events. It also built our interest in space enough that we keep going out there.

woof.

"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."
[ Parent ]

Value exists when you refer to it in a sentence. (2.57 / 7) (#35)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 02:36:23 AM EST

Unlike rocks, for example, which don't depend on sentences for their existence. The problem with the economist's theology of value is he desperately wants it to mean something substantial, tangible, solid. He is driven biologically to fulfill a yearning for substance, and clings obstinately to substances in his mind. The task of the economist is to find the value, and to convince the rest of us such a "thing" exists. He has not found it yet, and he never will. For "value," apart from a price or sum of money, is a meaningless absolute. No operation can be performed to establish it. There is no magnitude of value apart from the fiction of money. The measurable value IS what B will actually give for A's stamp collection, not A's claim that he would not accept anything less than $1000 for it. In a different, non-economic sense, value is loose relative term, useful in social conversation, like the words "good" and "bad." This is a "good" thing and I "value" it highly. But that that is not something a fish needs to say about water. It's the wrong word. In fact, no word is necessary to magically establish the value of water to fish or another earthly form of life. It's biology. When you hear an economist pontifically discussing the "value" of water to fish, as if "value" were an entity, get ready for an earful of astrology, for the logical manipulation of verbal assertions rather than on verified observation forfeits any right to be regarded as a science. The economics racket is like a game of chess; it depends on knowing the initial definition of the moves for its supposed truth content. That is, economics is a branch of semantics. It is completely useless, like economists. It's just a game some people like to play. It's conversation. Small talk.

--
Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
[ Parent ]

Wow (none / 2) (#41)
by esrever on Wed May 19, 2004 at 04:15:11 AM EST

I was going to say:
"It sounds like we've hit one of SIGNOR SPAGHETTI's hot-button pet peeves, because for once he's trying to be rationally persuasive, instead of offensively crapflooding", but then I read what you have in your email field, and realised that clearly an entirely different person is using the good SIGNOR's account, which explains the personality dysfunction.

Anyhow, while the article is great insofar as it explains what economists believe, I must say I agree with your post 100%

:-)

Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]

Rusty, tweetsy's trying to be ironic. (2.00 / 4) (#46)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 04:31:52 AM EST

Please ban him.

--
Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
[ Parent ]

*blinks* (none / 2) (#48)
by esrever on Wed May 19, 2004 at 04:35:43 AM EST

Crikey, I'm tweetysgalore?!?  Yikes, I never realised!  I better check myself in for some heavy-duty psychological counselling straight away!

:-P


Audit NTFS permissions on Windows
[ Parent ]

I agree, in part (2.75 / 4) (#56)
by TuringTest2002 on Wed May 19, 2004 at 09:31:09 AM EST

You are right. However, your point is true for all science. Everything in science, from "points" & "lines" to "energy" and "mass" exists from the point when you make a definition for it, and then it becomes nothing more that "a word in a sentence". There might be something solid which behaves in the same way that your "ideal word" does, but it is not neccesary for science to work.

Of course, the validity of this process begins to fall when you must stretch the concepts defined far from the point when they seem rational and intuitive; surely discussing the "value" of water to a fish is a perversion of what the economic science should be. This is the point where a whole set of definitions would be welcome, and a better model for the science needs to be developed. That is, providing that someone can provide a better model; as long as this is not true, you have to resort to the old though imperfect one.

[ Parent ]

economists (none / 3) (#112)
by gdanjo on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:27:43 PM EST

[Value exists when you refer to it in a sentence.] Unlike rocks, for example, which don't depend on sentences for their existence. [...]
How do you know this? Have you ever found a rock that does not have a reference to itself in any sentence whatsoever? The answer is logically no, since the sentence "Rocks exist." immediately places all rocks into a sentence. You may have reason for confidence that rocks would exist even in the absence of a sentence that describes it, but then the same can be said for value as well (I'm confident that dinosaurs valued plants, for example).

[...] The task of the economist is to find the value, and to convince the rest of us such a "thing" exists. He has not found it yet, and he never will. For "value," apart from a price or sum of money, is a meaningless absolute. No operation can be performed to establish it. [...]
Huh? Work establishes value (though, work does not guarantee value). Now, this "value" that we talk about may not be directly observable like particles or light, but it exists because it has an effect on something, and this effect can be induced at will.

That is, economics is a branch of semantics. [...]
Science is a branch of applied semantics.

It is completely useless, like economists. It's just a game some people like to play. It's conversation. Small talk.
The same can be said of all endevours; science, religion, philosophy, etc. There's nothing inherent in any communicatable knowledge that guarantees it's entanglement to reality. All knowledge is independent of reality, and based on assumptions that, if false, would make our whole knowledge system collapse faster than you can say "What's that big black blob?"

But it does not follow that economics is totally useless. Economists, like all scientists, are attempting to create a language that logically reflects reality as best as can be hoped. That they have so far failed (in your opinion) is not an admission that they will never succeed.

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

Hey. (none / 2) (#117)
by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 11:50:37 PM EST

  • Learn something about existential quantifiers. A referent may be blank. We don't have to specify the referent, only that it exists.

  • What effect does "value" have that we can induce at will? What makes you think "value" is having the effect? Maybe it's "God."

  • Please don't call economics a science. The domain of science is natural phenomena, not words.

  • You can't frighten me with an empirical crisis.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

  • Felt I had to butt in... (none / 3) (#147)
    by RegularFry on Thu May 20, 2004 at 12:48:12 PM EST

    Please don't call economics a science. The domain of science is natural phenomena, not words.
    Any subject that permits hypotheses and their disproof can be described as a science, and approached in a scientific manner. This does, despite what many people choose to believe, mean that astrology counts, if it is approached in a scientific manner. The fact that the set of proven, or even likely, true astrological hypotheses is currently null does not discount it.

    And economics is a natural phenomenon. So there.

    There may be troubles ahead, But while there's moonlight and music...
    [ Parent ]

    The effect of value (none / 1) (#158)
    by CENGEL3 on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:02:13 PM EST

    Value has an effect on the behavoir of conscious beings that are capable of choice.

    In a sense, ecnomics are more important to human beings then what you describe as "science". A scientist might ascertain the knowledge of the process of nuclear fusion or the details of the life cycle of a black hole. However what good does it do him if he is stuck with a small tribe on a desert island with access to only primitive tools? Economics, however, can help inform him of how best to organize his resources to improve his chances of survival and his quality of life.

    "Science" gives us raw knowledge. Economics help us determine how we can best use that knowledge.

    [ Parent ]

    Whatever. (none / 1) (#179)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:58:22 PM EST

    Value has an effect on the behavoir of conscious beings that are capable of choice.

    Christ, what a solemn procession of gibberish. Just answer the damn question: What is the effect that value is supposed to have?

    In a sense, ecnomics are more important to human beings then what you describe as "science". I'm sure it is, "in a sense."

    Economics, however, can help inform him of how best to organize his resources to improve his chances of survival and his quality of life.

    Societies rise and fall in defiance of the economist's counsel or lack thereof. You assume in your cartoon thoughts of economic reality a causal chain between the conscientious economist and her society's success or failure. The chain simply isn't there. Most economists consider their field to be a positive science. It is not at all clear economics as a normative science, which is how you consider it, is anything other than an old-fashioned exercise of power, a.k.a. politics.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    science (none / 1) (#190)
    by gdanjo on Thu May 20, 2004 at 08:31:21 PM EST

    Christ, what a solemn procession of gibberish. Just answer the damn question: What is the effect that value is supposed to have?
    The same question can be applied to magnetism. Value is not a thing in and of itself it is that which exists between living entities and objects - it is the "attraction" we feel towards objects that have no physical force exerted on us. There's no such thing as magnetism as an entity unto itself, but this does not mean that magnetism does not exist.

    Societies rise and fall in defiance of the economist's counsel or lack thereof. [...]
    Photons interfere with themselves in defiance of Newtonian mechanics.

    You're confusing "science" with "perfectly correct models of reality." The later is an impossibility; the former encompases economics (and even things like paranormal research, if the method used is scientific).

    Science is a method regardless of success; it is not a term to distinguish correct hyppotheses from incorrect ones.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Oh man, give me a break. (none / 1) (#193)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 09:19:15 PM EST

    Quote: "What is the EFFECT that value is supposed to have?"

    I didn't ask what is value qua value. I realize science establishes existence and acquires knowledge of things through their causal effects. Not that "value" is a thing, unlike magnetism, which I must insist fulfills every scientific standard of existence -- IS-ness and THING-ness -- but whatever.

    I realize that science establishes existence and acquires knowledge of things through their causal effects. Not that value is a "thing" (unlike magnetism, which I must insist fulfills every scientific standard of existence -- IS-ness or THING-osity) but whatever. I am not confusing economies (reality) with economics (text.) I don't know why you would think that when the (sub) text of almost all my comments in this article admonish economists for not chasing down the referents of "value," "choice" and "rational." Scientists can repeat each other's experiments in magnetism because there is a consensus of what it is EXACTLY that magnetism refers to. If economists can't say the same about "value," "choice" and "rational" (and they cannot possibly) then I would suggest that is the problem. Maybe "rational" (for example) is to economics what the ether was once to physics: fantasy.

    Science is a method regardless of success; it is not a term to distinguish correct hyppotheses from incorrect ones.

    That's absolutely true. I agree violently.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    words (none / 2) (#189)
    by gdanjo on Thu May 20, 2004 at 08:13:48 PM EST

    Learn something about existential quantifiers. A referent may be blank. We don't have to specify the referent, only that it exists.
    I don't know what you mean by this, but sentences cannot have blanks.

    What effect does "value" have that we can induce at will? What makes you think "value" is having the effect? Maybe it's "God."
    I can make you reach out and grab a $50 note dangled in front of you. And it's not the realm of economics to determine what causes value to induce the behaviour it does, economists are only interested in modelling it. In the same vein, biologists do not care how the atoms in their disected frog's eyes behave near black holes. Each to their own realm.

    You can't frighten me with an empirical crisis.
    Huh?

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Forget about it. (none / 1) (#194)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 09:31:22 PM EST

    It's not important.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    corporeal and logical entities (none / 1) (#144)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 12:05:41 PM EST

    You may have reason for confidence that rocks would exist even in the absence of a sentence that describes it, but then the same can be said for value as well...

    You're papering over the rather significant difference between the assertion that something exists under a physical description, and the corresponding assertion that something exists under a logical description. That a particular rock exists can be subjected to an elaborate empirical description, which more-or-less fixes the details of its materiality. On the other hand, maintaining that an object has some specific value involves a prior ontological commitment to a category of immaterial entities or incorporeals. An answer to the question "What is the value of some particular thing?", and I don't go in for simplistic materialist reductionism as advanced by Sr. Spaghetti, cannot be obtained by means of a centrifuge or appeal to a system of weights and measures, spatial relations, and spectrographic analysis.

    Work establishes value (though, work does not guarantee value).

    Spectres of Marx? I'm sure you can think of examples of objects which have an economic value and yet are not the product of any "work" (labor) whatsoever? If so, the presence of "work" is neither necessary nor sufficient to establishing value.

    Now, this "value" that we talk about may not be directly observable like particles or light, but it exists because it has an effect on something, and this effect can be induced at will.

    Value has an effect on what?

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    value (none / 1) (#188)
    by gdanjo on Thu May 20, 2004 at 08:05:40 PM EST

    [...] An answer to the question "What is the value of some particular thing?", and I don't go in for simplistic materialist reductionism as advanced by Sr. Spaghetti, cannot be obtained by means of a centrifuge or appeal to a system of weights and measures, spatial relations, and spectrographic analysis.
    But if I place a $50 note on the ground in a busy street, I can guarantee that someone will take it. I can observe the behaviour of people to figure out what they value and what they don't value. I can observe monkey's and emperically prove that they value food. Observation is not the exclusive realm of physics.

    Spectres of Marx? I'm sure you can think of examples of objects which have an economic value and yet are not the product of any "work" (labor) whatsoever? If so, the presence of "work" is neither necessary nor sufficient to establishing value.
    But all objects are a product of work in a metaphysical sense.

    Value has an effect on what?
    Our behaviour. We can create value, transfer value, destroy value; and we can prove that it "exists" in objects by the behaviour of people in the presence of object with value. That value is subjective and unpredictable (and we don't know much more about it) does not mean it does not exist.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Re: value (none / 1) (#225)
    by cr8dle2grave on Fri May 21, 2004 at 03:14:28 PM EST

    Observation is not the exclusive realm of physics.

    Indeed, I emphatically agree. Value is an interpretation after the fact, which is essential to the task of constructing an agent centered description of social phenomena. My point wasn't that the concept "value" is somehow wholly independent of observation, but that to assert the existence of "value" differs, on an ontological basis, from a corresponding assertion that a particular rock rock exists.

    But all objects are a product of work in a metaphysical sense.

    Are they? Please explain.

    We can create value, transfer value, destroy value; and we can prove that it "exists" in objects by the behaviour of people in the presence of object with value. That value is subjective and unpredictable (and we don't know much more about it) does not mean it does not exist.

    Sorry if I was unclear on this point, but I'm not claiming that "value" doesn't exist (Sr. Spaghetti is the one making the reductionist claims), only that it doesn't exist in the same way as a rock does. That said, I have to take issue with your claim that value "'exists' in objects," as value is an immaterial, it cannot therefore be assigned spatial attributes. Value does not inhere within the object, but rather is entailed within the relationship which obtains between a subject and the object of value.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    differences that make no difference (none / 0) (#241)
    by gdanjo on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:49:08 PM EST

    [...] My point wasn't that the concept "value" is somehow wholly independent of observation, but that to assert the existence of "value" differs, on an ontological basis, from a corresponding assertion that a particular rock rock exists.
    It differs, to be sure, but no claim can be made as to the accuracy of one relative to the other. They (rocks and value) both exist, they're both observable, they're both predictably applicable (with different degrees of accuracy) - so I assert that the existence of both is as strong as each other. That one is "real" does not make it exist any more than the other.

    [...] That said, I have to take issue with your claim that value "'exists' in objects," as value is an immaterial, it cannot therefore be assigned spatial attributes. Value does not inhere within the object, but rather is entailed within the relationship which obtains between a subject and the object of value.
    You have two objects, A and B, and when these two objects are close together you get behaviour B(A) and A(B) exhibited by the objects. When they are not close together, they do not exhibit behaviour B(A) and A(B). Where do you suppose the "existence" of behaviours B(A) and A(B) are located?

    In fact, there's no difference between the claim that 'A exists "more than" B(A) exists because B(A) depends on A', and the claim that 'B(A) exists "more than" A and B because A and B depend on B(A) existing.' Similarly, there's no difference between the claim that "G(A) does not exist in and of itself but is an emergent behaviour from the combination of A and B" and "B(A) exists (is instantiated by) the co-locality of A and B, and therefore exists in duality within objects A and B themselves."

    What I'm saying is that the existence of value exists and is "encoded" in the behaviour of the object that exhibits the behaviour that value "causes."

    I think our views aren't that different after all :-)

    But all objects are a product of work in a metaphysical sense.

    Are they? Please explain.

    Do you believe in the Big Bang? Then all particles that exist were the result of the "work" created by the Big Bang. Do you believe in God? Then all things that exist were the result of the "work" of God. Whatever you believe created (evolved, combined, whatever) existence was through the "work" of the creation.

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    Value. (none / 0) (#249)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:46:33 AM EST

    "Value has an effect on what?"

    I spoke about rationality, now I need to clear up the concept of value.

    Value is simply the magnatude measurement of a want.  If I want something then I value it more.

    What does it mean to value something more then something else?  It means that I am willing to forgo more resources, (time, money, other things) to obtain that object compared to something else I value less.

    Do not confuse this economic idea of 'value' with metaphysics talk about value.  Economics is pragmatic, the discussion of things being valuable in and of themself is philosophy.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    it is just pragmatic (none / 3) (#129)
    by bankind on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:28:25 AM EST

    When policy decisions need to be made reagrding very specific measures to develop a stronger (ie wealthier) business environment, ultimatly it is an economist who is necessary to make those decisions. Non-economists like to scream about all these absolutes: free market, communinism. And this certainly dominated things prior to the introduction of math focused economics. Currently, economics as a practice generally looks at outcomes, effects and then make policy suggestions.

    The game isn't absolute, nor philosophy, generally in practice economics is more like finding the least damaging of all possible solutions.

    Economics always hits this realm of never pleasing hard scientists or philosophers as it is a mix of both, but look it, if it wasn't a needed service, then I wouldn't get my HUGE daily rate.

    people that aren't economists seem to spend all their time complaining about the academic side, which is just a fraction (and least the least profitable) of field.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    I'm not trolling or voting for Kerry or anything, (2.40 / 5) (#39)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 04:01:02 AM EST

    but my gut feeling is that economics, as most people would understand the term, is a metaphysical description of what scientists who study animal societies call "ecology." I have the same need for an "economic" description of human society that I do for baboon society: none. That doesn't mean economics isn't coherent or complex or another association we make between knowledge and the cultural cant that passes for "truth," merely that it is a semantic network, a history of annotations to Greek philosophy. In the post-nuclear-suitcase-apocalyptic future, when finally the liberalists have been run off the island into the sea from whence they came, politics and economics will be a branch of exobiology, not language.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    heh (none / 1) (#182)
    by Battle Troll on Thu May 20, 2004 at 05:13:11 PM EST

    In the post-nuclear-suitcase-apocalyptic future, when finally the liberalists have been run off the island into the sea from whence they came, politics and economics will be a branch of exobiology, not language.

    You make a rather large assumption; so much for your credibility.

    If politics, much less economics could be put on a biological basis given what we know today, somebody would have won a Nobel for it by now. If it can't be put on such a basis using current knowledge, on what grounds can you convincingly assert that one day we will be able to do it?

    Hegel to Marx to Sr. SPAGHETTI; this alone ought to shake your faith in the Great God Progress.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Not All Choices Are Made Rationally (2.00 / 7) (#34)
    by NeantHumain on Wed May 19, 2004 at 01:58:10 AM EST

    In the big picture, economics is the study of choices.

    Then maybe economics makes an inaccurate assumption: that all people always make choices rationally. As an example, assume you've already decided to eat dinner at a fast-food restaurant tonight. Some choices are McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Further assume the meals you would get at any of these places would have approximately equal price and nutritional value and, on average, would provide you approximately equal satisfaction. You'll probably either accept the group consensus to avoid argument (if others have already voiced their opinions) or make the decision based off where you feel like eating at the moment.


    I hate my sig.


    You've already made the rational choices here (3.00 / 4) (#37)
    by BadDoggie on Wed May 19, 2004 at 03:30:41 AM EST

    You said there's no more differentiation in the choices you listed (having ruled out a $300 dinner at the Four Seasons). All listed choices provide the same result and in your scenario, there's nothing left to distinguish one from another, although from the lack of Popeye's, KFC and Church's in your list, it appears you've decided chicken wouldn't give you the satisfaction that burgers, pizza or tacos might.

    What irrational choice is being made? You even rationalise the choice further by pointing out that the final choice of otherwise equivalent fast food will itself be determined by a rational choice after assignment of value (where you feel like going vs. consensus).

    As I wrote in the article, economics does assume people make rational choices. It also has mechanisms and methods (statistics, generally) to account for irrational choices. those who go into the esoteric side then generally qualify the irrational choice away as a rational choice based on the person's priorities and perceived marginal benefit.

    An example would be purchasing a $1 lotto ticket for a jackpot of $10M when the odds are 17M:1. Economically this is bad and seems irrational, but the potential results from a dollar that would otherwise not be missed are worthwhile to some. Furthermore, some people consider the fact that even if they lose, half that dollar is going toward public services from which he may benefit.

    Choices are normally made rationally.

    woof.

    "Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
    "Nevertheless, it moves."
    [ Parent ]

    This is the problem.. (2.60 / 5) (#50)
    by ajduk on Wed May 19, 2004 at 05:19:25 AM EST

    We start with the assumption that choices are made rationally, and then introduce a fudge factor of 'percieved value', which is essentially a form of post-hoc rationalisation. It removes any predictive value from the theory.

    Worse still, if complete information is not available (and it rarely is for choices more complex than buying a hamburger), then the choice cannot be fully rational to start with. And now you have two unknowns; 'percieved value' and 'incomplete information'. This allows a huge leeway for an economist to assume his or her prior preducice when explaining behaviour.

    [ Parent ]

    On the other hand (3.00 / 4) (#54)
    by khallow on Wed May 19, 2004 at 08:13:55 AM EST

    We start with the assumption that choices are made rationally, and then introduce a fudge factor of 'percieved value', which is essentially a form of post-hoc rationalisation. It removes any predictive value from the theory.

    No it doesn't. The asymptotics of markets and other large scale economic systems can be close to rational even if the underlying actors are very irrational. So post hoc rationalizing about the choices of individual actors while deeply flawed can still lead to useful results about collective behavior.

    Also, the previous post was in response to a scenario of allegedly irrational economic behavior. They weren't post hoc rationalizing, but instead providing a reasonable counterargument that would explain the apparent irrational behavior as the consequences of rational actions.

    Worse still, if complete information is not available (and it rarely is for choices more complex than buying a hamburger), then the choice cannot be fully rational to start with. And now you have two unknowns; 'percieved value' and 'incomplete information'. This allows a huge leeway for an economist to assume his or her prior preducice when explaining behaviour.

    You mistake "perfect information" with "fully rational". There's no reason that an actor with imperfect knowledge can't be fully rational. Ie, a fully rational being would exploit the information and resources they have in the best possible manner. As new information comes available, the actions of the fully rational actor will change to accomodate the new information optimally.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    To reply (none / 2) (#55)
    by ajduk on Wed May 19, 2004 at 09:29:39 AM EST

    No it doesn't. The asymptotics of markets and other large scale economic systems can be close to rational even if the underlying actors are very irrational.

    Only if irrationality is evenly distributed. Without that, markets can stry far from rationality for long periods of time; this in turn means that being rational becomes an irrational strategy..

    And the fact that this is indeed common - or even usual - in the real world tells us that models assuming rational agents are a poor match.

    You mistake "perfect information" with "fully rational".

    No; I merely point out that without perfect information, rational decisions cannot be made. Assuming (as in real life) markets are based on one time non reversable transactions, future information is effectively useless.

    [ Parent ]

    Behavioural economics (none / 2) (#63)
    by melia on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:55:15 AM EST

    No; I merely point out that without perfect information, rational decisions cannot be made.

    It's neo-classical theory that assumes perfect information, "behavioural economics" is an attempt to take imperfect information, procrastination, habits etc. into account when studying decision making.

    Googling for "Herbert Simon" would be a good way to find out more - he wrote lots of interesting stuff about decision making in organisations and so on.


    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]

    to reply to the reply (none / 1) (#99)
    by khallow on Wed May 19, 2004 at 07:33:14 PM EST

    No; I merely point out that without perfect information, rational decisions cannot be made. Assuming (as in real life) markets are based on one time non reversable transactions, future information is effectively useless.

    Remember these ideal markets are based on two things. Perfect information and rational decisions. Any decision that is optimal (you get the most of what you want for what you have given what you know) is rational.

    No; I merely point out that without perfect information, rational decisions cannot be made. Assuming (as in real life) markets are based on one time non reversable transactions, future information is effectively useless.

    As I indicated before, this is incorrect. Even given incomplete information, a rational actor can trade optimally given the information they have.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    a minor example (none / 2) (#101)
    by khallow on Wed May 19, 2004 at 08:08:44 PM EST

    Here's an example of rational (and irrational) chosing in a limited information environment.

    Suppose I'm given a choice between two slices of cake. One is my favorite, chocolate and one isn't, fruitcake. I choice the chocolate piece. From my point of view, I made the best possible choice. Hence, I act rationally.

    Suppose unknown to me, a third piece is hidden nearby. It's chocolate but the quality of the chocolate and quantity is better from my point of view than the first two pieces. I would choice it if I were informed of its existence. But I'm not. So I chose the first chocolate cake slice. I still acted rationally even though I didn't know of the presence of a better choice.

    Suppose now I'm informed truthfully (and I know this information is correct) that my favorite cake has much more calories than the other slice and that the fruitcake would be much better for me in terms of health. Then I might decide to go with the fruitcake. I'm still acting rationally, but I was given new information that changed my decision.

    Finally, suppose I'm told that people who eat chocolate cake are square, oldhat, boring and senile while people who eat fruitcake are exciting, attractive, sexy, wealthly and fun to be around. Caught in the lure of the moment, I chose the fruitcake. If I thought about it, I'd have chosen the chocolate piece since rationally one slice of cake doesn't improve or sabotage your social attractiveness. I have chosen irrationally since I chose less than optimally. A sign of this is that no real information was introduced yet I changed my mind.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    dornbusch reference coming... (none / 2) (#131)
    by bankind on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:48:07 AM EST

    Only if irrationality is evenly distributed. Without that, markets can stry far from rationality for long periods of time; this in turn means that being rational becomes an irrational strategy..

    Actually, exceptional volatility can be highly rational. For example, excessive currency deflation as a result of a monetary expansion is a reaction to the rational prediction of a future rise in prices. See Dornbusch 1976.

    And the fact that this is indeed common - or even usual - in the real world tells us that models assuming rational agents are a poor match.

    I'd like for you to devise any economic policy that does not use some basic model for human behavior. You can't sanely devise economic policy based on irrational decision makers, now can you?

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Translation for the scientifically impaired. (2.83 / 6) (#65)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 11:36:25 AM EST

    No it doesn't. The scratch-scratch of woofs and other large scale economic systems can be close to ruff-ruff even if the underlying barks are very woof. So post hoc rationalizing about the woofs of individual yips while deeply flawed can still lead to useful results about collective howls. Also, the previous post was in response to a scenario of allegedly woof economic whimper. They weren't post hoc rationalizing, but instead providing a reasonable counterargument that would explain the apparent woof growl as the consequences of woof actions. You mistake "howl" with "fully woof". There's no reason that an actor with imperfect woof can't be fully scratch-scratch. Ie, a fully woof being would exploit the information and resources they have in the bark possible manner. As new information comes available, the actions of the fully woof actor will change to accomodate the new information woofly.
    Says Hogben in this connection: "Instead of inventing a scientific nomenclature free from extraneous associations, economics, like theology, borrows its terms from common speech, defines them in a sense different from and often opposite to their accepted meaning, erects a stone wall of logic on concealed verbal foundations, and defies the plain man to scale it. The part of the real world with which economics is concerned is bounded above and below by the two covers of the dictionary."

    A clue for you: "rational" is a philosophical metaphor. It is not an object of scientific inquiry. Before you let yourself become carried away in the thrall of your ancient Greek gibberish, know this: human beings behave "rationally" EXACTLY the same way ants do. I wonder if you think entomologists should investigate the "rational" aspects of ant behavior. Wouldn't it make more sense to inquire after the little critters' bodily humors, instead?

    Sigh. Geeks, trolls, dear leader Rusty, it is a safe rule that any study where students cannot agree upon what they are talking about is outside the scientific discipline. Economists, which are as far from agreement among themselves as are the miserable sentence mongers, the philosophers, are a plain evil. Economists are scientists the same way Dr. Phil is a brain surgeon.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Mr. Hogan? (none / 0) (#81)
    by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 19, 2004 at 02:47:48 PM EST

    Woof!

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    Does he have anything to do with baddoggie's sig? (none / 0) (#82)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 02:55:01 PM EST

    Just like a neocon to leap to conclusions. Rusty, you know what to do.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    I thought so [n/t] (none / 0) (#83)
    by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 19, 2004 at 02:58:12 PM EST


    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    Rusty, help. (none / 0) (#84)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 03:03:16 PM EST

    I'm being invaded on the flimsiest pretext.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Invaded? (none / 0) (#86)
    by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 19, 2004 at 03:09:24 PM EST

    I was rather fond of the multifarious Hogan personae.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    This guy's more amusing... (none / 0) (#115)
    by gzt on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:59:19 PM EST

    ...and more articulate. I mean, I'm certainly more in agreement with him than Mr. Hogan [perhaps sympathy is a better term].

    [ Parent ]
    agreed... (none / 0) (#119)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:04:09 AM EST

    still crass and beligerent, but more nuanced... definitely a trade-up.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    Mr Hogan had nothing to say (none / 0) (#181)
    by Battle Troll on Thu May 20, 2004 at 05:07:54 PM EST

    He was a reductive situationist, which is to say, a nihilist who wants to eat his existentialist cake as well. Mr SPAGHETTI is a lot funnier and knows a lot more theory.

    That said, the obvious rebuttal to all this 'thought is a black box' stuff is that that's an article of materialist faith rather than an actual argument, or something that is conceivably subject to scientific proof one way or the other. Materialism might be necessary to modern science, but that doesn't protect it from obvious attacks it any more than the necessity of epicycles to Ptolemaic astronomy made them immune to criticism.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Perhaps (none / 0) (#229)
    by cr8dle2grave on Fri May 21, 2004 at 06:40:27 PM EST

    I could be totally off here, but I always sensed Hogan was holding back a little, trapped within the confines of limited purpose persona. When Sr. Spaghetti pulled out the arf/woof routine, I saw shades of Hogan. Anyhow, it's of no consequence.

    Re: black boxes

    I'm inclined to push the issue along a somewhat different course, pointing up the meaningless linguistic subterfuge involved in shoehorning everything which does not readily admit of a material (or biological) reduction into the incoherent ontological category of "illusion."

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    Please stop trolling. (none / 0) (#235)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:09:05 PM EST

    Not illusions, thoughts. Language.

    Contemplate the universe without us. *poof*, everything that isn't dirt just disappeared.

    Whatever you think of your magical linguistic artifacts, you'll have a different appreciation of them once your dead. When you die, they die; and the universe will not care or notice. Ask yourself, what is the difference between you dead and alive? Nothing special: the Great Accountant in the sky will balance His books with your ashes and dust, and nothing, not one "thing" more. Investigate the ashes and dust. Everything else is your species' hubris and vanity, electricity in the brain.

    Still gibbering in darkness, 2000 years dissecting words and rigging sentences in the shadow of scientific progress, you philosophers will never learn. No matter: soon the darkness, so much for everything.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    to quote myself (none / 0) (#263)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 12:00:09 PM EST

    That's the whole point of materialism: to make illusions out of our real experiences and persuade us that we are a gaggle of meaningless processes.

    Then we read: "Still gibbering in darkness, 2000 years dissecting words and rigging sentences in the shadow of scientific progress, you philosophers will never learn. No matter: soon the darkness, so much for everything." I mean, way to make my point for me.

    I don't know how you think you can make a truth claim about the universe while simultaneously rejecting all others' on the grounds that they are philosophy, electricity in the brain, but yours is REAL!!!! like dirt and mud and bugs and stuff. Maybe that's what they teach as good philosophy in today's bette schools, but I'm more inclined to believe that that's what they taught in yesteryear's worse ones, where the faculty members were so bewitched by Skinner and his ilk that they just can't get over the idea of man as a bundle of processes. Why not call the processes an appendage or attribute of the whole man? What do you lose?
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    can't -> couldn't (none / 0) (#264)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 12:00:42 PM EST


    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    It's not that. (none / 0) (#266)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sat May 22, 2004 at 12:53:08 PM EST

    Phil is something all people do, like art, and it is of consequence because we do it. I don't know anyone who isn't a philosopher. But I don't know anyone who does not eat, shit or sleep, either. The philosopher is aware of the potency of his mind. He goes to it for knowledge. He believes that if he can only think hard enough, the road will open up before him: "The starry heaven which we behold is wrought upon a visible background and therefore must necessarily be deemed inferior far to the true motions of absolute swiftness and absolute intelligence... It is equally absurd to take so much pains in investigating their exact truth." (Plato. Those Greek fellows are always good for a chuckle.)

    It is reported Lady Welby once offered £1,000 to any philosopher submitting documentary evidence he (a) knows what he means, (2) knows what anyone else means, (3) knows what anything means, (4) means what everyone else means, (5) can express what he means. Philosophers are notoriously a pinched-for-pennies lot, like their brothers the artists, but the prize has not been claimed.

    I think you should consider the possibility there's as much truth content in philosophy as there is in art.

    I don't know how you think you can make a truth claim about the universe while simultaneously rejecting all others' on the grounds that they are philosophy, electricity in the brain, but yours is REAL!!!!

    You've given yourself away. Only a troll would fail to distinguish "truth" claims from scientific claims.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    hardly (none / 0) (#277)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 07:24:50 PM EST

    Only a troll would fail to distinguish "truth" claims from scientific claims.

    Materialism is not something that we learn from science, it's an assumption that we bring to science. If it's the scientific truth that our minds are really, like, jut a bunch of voltages in our brains!!, then maybe you could take pity on me in my senescence and cite me a journal reference for that exact point.

    It is reported Lady Welby once offered £1,000...

    Even lamer. I doubt that Gene Ray is about to give any philosophers the $10,000 for disproving Time Cube either; that doesn't mean that we have to take him seriously.

    The philosopher is aware of the potency of his mind. He goes to it for knowledge. He believes that if he can only think hard enough, the road will open up before him: "The starry heaven which we behold is wrought upon a visible background and therefore must necessarily be deemed inferior far to the true motions of absolute swiftness and absolute intelligence... It is equally absurd to take so much pains in investigating their exact truth." (Plato. Those Greek fellows are always good for a chuckle.)

    Your reductionistic misreading of Plato is, perhaps, no more than I should have expected from you, but it's depressing nonetheless. While I'm not exactly about to turn to Platonic mind-worship, Plato's point - that we cannot hope to make any good use of the material world until we have first made ourselves good - still stands as the obvious refutation to those liberalists (and you are one, I'm afraid) who worship the future and believe in the inevitability of "progress" or its goodness.

    "But wait!" you say. "I don't believe that 'good' exists, so where do you get off accusing me of believing that progress is good?" This would be a 'good' objection except that good is an ontological category, not a subjective judgment; by 'good,' every thinker means the Tao, that which exists of necessity, a trait it shares with Plato's Form of the Ideal or Christianity's God. You believe that progress exists as an ontological reality, which means for the materialist that it is the destiny of humankind, the inexorable unfolding of our nature (which I will pause to remind you comes under the naturalistic fallacy.) One day, you dream of the Great Materialists striding the laboratory like Colossi, treating of politics and economics with no more illusions than the social insects. Perhaps they will even be able to convince themselves that they are not conscious! Oh happy day! You're crazier than Fen, dude.

    Why is Plato good for a chuckle, because he was uninterested in scientific progress? While I'm not immune to the charms of vaccination and not starving to death, Jefferson did not observe mens' virtue to increase with their wealth, and the same holds true for societies. Even the most horrid tyrants of Plato's day could never have dreamed of murdering their enemies as efficiently as Saddam Hussein, to say nothing of the real super-criminals of modern society, some of whom never see the harm they do. (For example, no one plotted to bring about the collapse of subsistence farming in Africa; it just sort of happened.) I fear that in 'seeing through' the 'illusions' of free will, human dignity, and society, you are seeing through things that you have never properly seen at all. You might want to ask yourself some hard questions about whether your philosophy is really more sensible or defensible than simple solipsism.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Bite. (none / 0) (#286)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sun May 23, 2004 at 01:05:54 PM EST

    Only a troll would fail to distinguish "truth" claims from scientific claims.
    Materialism is not something that we learn from science, it's an assumption that we bring to science. If it's the scientific truth that our minds are really, like, jut a bunch of voltages in our brains!!, then maybe you could take pity on me in my senescence and cite me a journal reference for that exact point.

    Science concerns itself with data rather than "truth," and with theories presented as conjectures rather than "truth." Science -- by which I mean what scientists do, because if I don't pre-empt your objections with really existing scientists achieving really existing results, you're going to box the word "science" into a philosophical category, like you interred the free and gentle spirit SIGNOR SPAGHETTI in the musical box "materialism" -- isn't concerned with the truth predicate of sentences. It is a never-ending falsifiable journey. Your mental subscription to "truth" is unlikely to coincide with Albert Einstein or Linus Pauling's. Or mine. Or SIGNOR SPAGHETTI's. Or anyone's.

    Recognizing truth requires interpretation of situations and so it is a subjective rather than objective process, fraught with meaning, and it is your colloquial use of terms such as "truth" (and "is") that turns discussions of logic (which sensibly substitutes well-formed-ness for the concept of "truth") and science into gibberish that in the end doesn't amount to a hill of magic beans.

    Even lamer. I doubt that Gene Ray is about to give any philosophers the $10,000 for disproving Time Cube either; that doesn't mean that we have to take him seriously.

    Let's try this again.

    William James was once asked to define philosophy and he replied, "Just words, words, words!" To say philosophers avoid facts is not true. But they are not governed by facts. They are not humble before the facts. Facts are not central in their concepts, but tiptoe through the back door. Little of importance has been discovered tossing word salad, like the "materialism" you are fond of, begging unanswerable or meaningless questions and raising categories that represent only themselves, tracing triangles from reference to symbol back to reference again, never checking with the world outside except when forced by science.

    Do you think I am "materialism?" I wonder, since you're a Christian, if Battle Troll isn't the login name for Terry Randall or Ralph Reed. Are you Jerry Falwell? Calling me a "materialist" is like saying I am a drawing of my likeness. No one is a materialist, battle troll. Check with the world outside; everyone is fully human with thoughts and feelings as complex as your own. This game of text you casuists play to marginalize reality, trying to make the world behave as words behave, is the reason only silly intellectuals have any time for serious philosophy. You can count on for support "thinkers" who have never advanced knowledge, like the gibbering fascist Strauss, and pols intent on rousing public opinion to acts of violence and domination when the facts warrant no such action, like his neocon friends.

    The power to reason and manipulate text is as helpful as it is human. But beware of idolizing both as such. The effect of verbal symbols in the mouths of philosophers is to keep inconsistent attitudes forcibly united, convincing human reason of the absence of logical inconsistency in the greatest of absurdities, the really existing world as it trundles meaninglessly about the scornful cosmos, exalting words above the rocks and pricks and cunts and kittens, and transcending existence altogether with decorative mental boxes labeled "materialism," "Good," "Is," "Truth," and so forth. This ensemble of philosophical entities imagined by the thinker is but the shuffling and matching of pedantic dictionary adjectives, a pleasant music obtained by a mechanical manipulation of adjectives.

    For the perfect example, the way you and cr8dle2grave (and biters in general) relate to SIGNOR SPAGHETTI in this thread. I hate to be the one to have to break this to you, but SIGNOR SPAGHETTI does not exist. He is text. He isn't who you think you're talking to.

    <cnip>

    What should my philosophy be? This is what I find most amusing about philosophers seeking truth: they always seem to speak from the advantaged position of having already discovered it. Listen: no one ever had a "wrong" philosophy. As I wrote, philosophy is something all people do, like art, and it is of consequence because we do it.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    ugh! (none / 0) (#295)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 11:06:28 AM EST

    Science -- by which I mean what scientists do ... isn't concerned with the truth predicate of sentences. It is a never-ending falsifiable journey... This is what I find most amusing about philosophers seeking truth: they always seem to speak from the advantaged position of having already discovered it.

    But first: Whatever you think of your magical linguistic artifacts, you'll have a different appreciation of them once your dead. When you die, they die; and the universe will not care or notice. Ask yourself, what is the difference between you dead and alive? Nothing special: the Great Accountant in the sky will balance His books with your ashes and dust, and nothing, not one "thing" more. Investigate the ashes and dust. Everything else is your species' hubris and vanity, electricity in the brain.

    You see, there's no such thing as "truth," merely currently-established scientific verities. Of which the entire preceding paragraph is one (Hogan, SPAGHETTI, et al., "Integral equation for nihilism condensed radical immanence generalizing the Gross-Pitaevskii material equation," Physical Review, June 2004.) You're trying to claim knowledge while simultaneously denigrating the possibility of knowledge; and old trick, but not a good one.

    No one is a materialist, battle troll.

    Just as objects can 'disappear into their usefulness,' people can 'disappear into their beliefs.' People who believe something to be true have an emotional relationship with it such that they revise the value of everything else in their lives. I don't need to bore both of us by reciting a litany of prominent people driven to do unusual things by their ideas and beliefs. You might as well say "no one is a Republican," because, while it's true that no one is solely and simply a Republican, you get enough of those no-ones together and they can elect Bush. Similarly, while there's no doubt more to you than merely your belief in materialism, that's what's at issue here; I don't see anything weird about claiming that your beliefs and daily philosophical activities are conditioned by an overriding belief in materialism.

    This game of text you casuists play to marginalize reality, trying to make the world behave as words behave, is the reason only silly intellectuals have any time for serious philosophy.

    I think you seriously misread me; I took a couple of philosophy classes in college but that's as far as that went. I grew up on a farm in Canada and am comfortable drinking beer in a hick bar, playing hockey, and doing manual labour. I'm not interested in mounting a defense of contemporary academic philosophy, but rather, an attack on materialism, the retarded twin of idealism. At least Dr Johnson had to kick a chair to refute idealism; you only have to think a thought to refute materialism, or any of its idiot cousins that wish to refute the obvious, that we have minds and inner lives.

    I hate to be the one to have to break this to you, but SIGNOR SPAGHETTI does not exist. He is text. He isn't who you think you're talking to.

    I don't care what you call yourself, just what you believe. And I think that in this thread the mask came off.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    OK (none / 0) (#297)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 11:29:55 AM EST

    You see, there's no such thing as "truth," merely currently-established scientific verities.

    Right, because nothing else can be verified. You're free to believe in something else, or not. It depends on your philosophy. You do have a philosophy, don't you? Well isn't that special. :-)

    "Integral equation for nihilism condensed radical immanence generalizing the Gross-Pitaevskii material equation," Physical Review, June 2004.)

    Dictionary porn.

    Just as objects can 'disappear into their usefulness,' people can 'disappear into their beliefs.' People who believe something to be true have an emotional relationship with it such that they revise the value of everything else in their lives. I don't need to bore both of us by reciting a litany of prominent people driven to do unusual things by their ideas and beliefs.

    Oh, absolutely. I claim the same relationship for art.

    I don't care what you call yourself, just what you believe.

    Who's "you?"

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    you don't get it (none / 0) (#300)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:34:24 PM EST

    Right, because nothing else can be verified.

    Science hasn't "verified" your views one way or the other.

    Dictionary porn.

    You'll get it until you can show me how this entity "science" "proves" "your" "views" one way or the other. "Yay," I can write "'scare' '"quotes"'" too!

    I claim the same relationship for art.

    Yes and no. Meat for another thread.

    Who's "you?"

    I'll accept the meaningless collection of senseless matter and preposterous processes that sat down to respond to me, churned out some electrical representations of chemical signals not differing in kind from those of social insects, and hit the "post" '"key."'
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Sigh. (none / 0) (#303)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:58:45 PM EST

    Science hasn't "verified" your views one way or the other.

    Science hasn't verified my PHILOSOPHY.

    P.S.:

    I'm not interested in mounting a defense of contemporary academic philosophy, but rather, an attack on materialism, the retarded twin of idealism.

    That's wonderful, good luck with that, except there's no such thing as "materialism." It's just a word, a category in philosophy, like the "King's Indian" is a category in chess or "realism" is in art. It stands for something in your mind; but no one understands the word the same way you do (c.f. Lady Welby.) Ever wonder why we debate "materialism" but never what direction sets the sun?

    Text doesn't exist, people do; and, as I wrote: "This game of text you casuists play to marginalize reality, trying to make the world behave as words behave, is the reason only silly intellectuals have any time for serious philosophy... The effect of verbal symbols in the mouths of philosophers is to keep inconsistent attitudes forcibly united, convincing human reason of the absence of logical inconsistency in the greatest of absurdities, the really existing world as it trundles meaninglessly about the scornful cosmos, exalting words above the rocks and pricks and cunts and kittens, and transcending existence altogether with decorative mental boxes labeled "materialism," "Good," "Is," "Truth," and so forth."

    The epithet "materialism" does not connect with my existence. I haven't been trolled by culture to reduce this high-order abstraction "materialism" to self or events in my real world of experience. The word, as you mean it, is incomprehensible to anyone not immersed in the language of western philosophy. It is a linguistically created reality, and so I can disown it without any natural consequence. It simply turns to gibberish interrogated critically.

    You are merely trying to mug me with language, calling me a "materialist." All people do that -- we can't help it, to speak is to impose self on the universe -- but it is the philosopher's method to identify the tightly-plotted word salad that inflicts syllogisms on ambiguous reality with "truth." That is how he acquires (concocts!) so-called "knowledge." That's OK, your thing is philosophy. Other people make sense of life with chess. Or art. Or murder.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    PPS (none / 0) (#304)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 01:44:08 PM EST

    You'll get it until you can show me how this entity "science" "proves" "your" "views" one way or the other.

    Science isn't an entity. Just as I predicted:

    Science -- by which I mean what scientists do, because if I don't pre-empt your objections with really existing scientists achieving really existing results, you're going to box the word "science" into a philosophical category, like you interred the free and gentle spirit SIGNOR SPAGHETTI in the musical box "materialism" -- isn't concerned with the truth predicate of sentences.

    I assure you, BattleTroll, that I do get it, and have since been weaned off it. Just as I am not "materialism" so really existing scientists producing really existing results are not Science qua philosophy. You want to debate the ontological niche occupied by science. Next you'll question its epistemology. But the philosophy of ANYTHING, including science and the interpretation of its results, is still philosophy: musical sentences, a branch of aesthetics. I don't know what is mass or gravity. That is a philosophical question. "Phil is something all people do, like art, and it is of consequence because we do it." Etc.

    Science doesn't need an explanation, people do for science. That is fine. Because I love people (ask anyone) I must love them for their pining and their doubts. So what? Still it is the case that all we can decide with any certainty is verified by the EXTERNAL testimony of measurement procedures. Scientists are realists. They believe in the existence (WHATEVER THAT MIGHT BE) of an external reality that has never, and never will be, proved by philosophers exists.

    Maybe God exists, too. Not your God, mine. Get it? I guess that's that then.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    don't be a fool. (none / 0) (#309)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 03:20:57 PM EST

    Scientists are realists. They believe in the existence (WHATEVER THAT MIGHT BE) of an external reality that has never, and never will be, proved by philosophers exists.

    So do I, because as a psalm-chanting icon-kisser, I don't accept, nor am I interested in, [Western] philosophy; I don't need to inflict Aristotelianism upon my spiritual beliefs in order to relate to God, any more than Vodou practitioners need Airstotelianism in order to have a personal experience of the lwa. My belief in God is existential and personal, not propositional, general, external, transferrable, etc. A corollary to that is that I don't need a philosophical system in order to know experientially that the world exists and that I exist within it. From my perspective, an instrumentalist view is the natural approach to science.

    But here you tip your hand: Still it is the case that all we can decide with any certainty is verified by the EXTERNAL testimony of measurement procedures.

    I can decide with certainty that I have a personal existence, as can you apparently, considering that you're talking to me and trying to convince me of something; have you ever asked yourself why human beings consider themselves as being fundamentally different from dirt and rocks? It's not due to Western philosophy.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Uhm. (none / 0) (#313)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 04:00:24 PM EST

    So do I,

    No, you missed the "WHATEVER IT MIGHT BE" part. Scientists don't do that part, or at least do not look on it for "truth." Scientists don't do truth. That is the philosopher's game, and they have as much to show for it as my 8-yo niece, or a chess player, an artist, or murderer.

    Some humans might, sometimes. Humans, who consider many different, often self-contradictory and mutually exclusive things, are NOT "fundamentally" different from dirt and rocks. Just like a philosopher to smuggle in an ambiguity like "fundamentally" and pretend to make a truth of it. The question, "fundamentally how?" is one two people, let us call them "philosophers," will disagree at encyclopedia length about.

    Why can't you be happy to exist, to love and cherish life the way it is? No one their deathbed ever said, "I wish I had spent more time worrying my corollaries and Aristotelian categories, existential propositions of what I'm almost sure now were transferable in essence. Damn." What's that Mr Hogan used to say? Life is eating, rutting, picking fleas, a little motorcycle maintenance, then tilt. It might as well be, for all we'll ever learn otherwise.

    Peace.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    these are not trivial questions (none / 1) (#317)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 05:21:10 PM EST

    Humans, who consider many different, often self-contradictory and mutually exclusive things, are NOT "fundamentally" different from dirt and rocks. Just like a philosopher to smuggle in an ambiguity like "fundamentally" and pretend to make a truth of it.

    I can do without "fundamentally." How about "humans differ from rocks and dirt in that they are animate, and I assume based on my own experience of consciousness that other human beings are conscious and to some degree autonomous as well, instead of being meat robots"? I'm not making positive claims about the nature of consciousness, apart from its mere existence and its constituting some sort of qualitative distinction between humans and minerals.

    Why can't you be happy to exist, to love and cherish life the way it is? No one their deathbed ever said, "I wish I had spent more time worrying my corollaries and Aristotelian categories, existential propositions of what I'm almost sure now were transferable in essence. Damn."

    I'm not a philosopher. Rather, I'm rebuking you for adhering to a reductive, lame philosophy, not trying to sell mine to you. Notice, for instance, that I've said almost nothing about my religious beliefs except to say what they're not.

    What's that Mr Hogan used to say? Life is eating, rutting, picking fleas, a little motorcycle maintenance, then tilt. It might as well be, for all we'll ever learn otherwise.

    It sounds better that way than 'eat, rape, then tilt,' doesn't it? See, he thought it was all rape in the middle, and you can't investigate that with Science. Congratulations on freeing yourself from his religion. But the proposition that life is meaningless implies a worldview and behaviour of which I am personally not prepared to be a victim. That way lie such beasts dialectical materialism, not just 'living your life and being happy.'
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Whatever. (none / 0) (#333)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Tue May 25, 2004 at 03:56:49 PM EST

    First, you say "meat robots" as if an arrangement of substance could not possibly manifest your subjective experience of mind, love, aesthetics and epiphenomenal sundries of that nature that no two people can agree on what their evidence consists of. Saying that these experiences constitute a qualitative distinction between humans and minerals is evidence merely that you can't explain a phenomenon at one level by looking at the same phenomenon at another level. Your faith in transcendental properties is thus a fancy way of saying juju is involved. I guess you must think yourself wise seeking shelter in the comfort of Christian metaphors. Sadly, the history of science is littered with the corpses of victimized moral philosophers practicing word magic, their inherent need to "know" the world in spells inveighing bitterly against "materialism" with curses like "robot," "meat," "nihilism."

    Who argues people are "meat robots?" Did you read that argument in a book of philosophy? I hope it had a chapter on the philosophy of language because I, for one, don't know what "meat robot" means. If we infuse "soul" in "robot," does it then become "human?"

    Gibberish. It may be meaningful for you to listen to yourself talk that way, but it puts the lie to "true."

    You're full of word magic, aren't you, BattleTroll. Our inherent need to "know" the world in speech evolved (say some philosophers of some science) because it most likely conferred a reproductive advantage in forests dense with savage animals with fangs and scales and claws. But science says things language cannot, and the restrictions of word magic creates a vacuum science -- not "materialism" -- has routinely filled in the past. You oppose the scientific practice because it is flexible and frequently changes its deductions as more facts come in. This horrifies moral philosophers and formalists because scientific progress is morally and, indeed, formally indefensible. As science has made headway where previously gibbering medicine men held sway, the brilliant idea occurred to retrograde philosophers that if they studied the form of scientific thought while disregarding the matter and practice, they could sit in judgment of the sciences. They could criticize all knowledge without themselves producing or acquiring more than words.

    P.S. Ooh, "dialectical materialism." More scary monsters: the word is everything, the speaker nothing.

    P.P.S. Similarly, it's perfectly reasonable for me to observe that I have observed materialism to lead to nihilism in people I know, and to present a line of reasoning that, while incapable both by design and by nature of replicating the whole inner experience of the nihilist, has pretensions to credibility if read by such a materialist-cum-nihilist.

    Yeah, you keep pounding that pulpit.

    This is what I meant by "you oppose the scientific practice." Oh yes you do. The strategy of raising the scientists "beliefs" as the defining characteristic and sine qua non of his existence, splicing prejudicial dross into sentences that insinuate danger lurking in "materialism," that is precisely the kind of sophistry that attempts to make the world behave as words behave. We have no knowledge of anything in the world that is not a practice or process, and so continuously changing its characteristics, slowly or rapidly as men measure the intervals between their ignorance. There is nothing you can infer from sentences except more sentences, and so it is the quoted paragraph is plot. You are writing pure exploded fiction. Perhaps you are proud of the powers of your perception that observe materialism as the gateway to nihilism, I guess like marijuana is supposed to be the gateway to cocaine. Too bad it is the inadequacy of belief that you are always going on about that permits you to observe nihilism in people the same way Rush observes leftism in his political opponents. Not the nihilism or left politics are bad things, because they are neither bad nor things; they're bad words. Here's another: slut. And another: faggot marriage.

    P.P.P.S:

    Go ahead and quit at this point, but if you do, I'm not too impressed. It seems to me that you established an untenable position, that all would one day be brought under the sway of physical science; refused to answer when charged with extrapolating beyond the present explanatory power of the sciences and, thus, making philosophical claims disguised as scientific ones; were unable to defend your suggestion that things in the mind are somehow devoid of the reality we accord to physical artifacts, including artifacts of communication in other animals; and then tried to wiggle out of it by saying that science can never explain the subjective experience of mind, which sounds like a direct contradiction of your initial assertion.

    Such reading incomprehension! Such a distortion of, when not in flagrant opposition to, what I've written! Such a determined effort to filter out everything that doesn't conform to your richly plotted book of metaphors! Such an astounding disregard for referents and the repeatedly stated difference between objective reality, which is the purview of science, and subjective experience, which my 8-yo niece does as well as you.

    P.P.P.P.S. I know how smitten you are with the classical rows between the advocates of free will and of determinism, which has filled many library shelves with meaningless tomes of being, becoming, then tilt. I get the feeling from your prejudicial diction, pointy word-things such as "autonomous" and "robot," that either man is a free agent, whatever that scritchy-scratchy sound might be, or he is foredoomed by a merciless fate to act thus and so, to hither and fro yon all the days of his miserable life? What I want to impress upon you, and I hope I've done it finally, is that these questions are a property of their constituents: words. Just words. Useful used colloquially, I would not consider it cricket to pit their meaning against the meaning of the man who used them, nor regard it as unreasonable if that common man sensibly refused to use them in lieu of really existing knowledge of the really existing world of rocks and pricks and cunts and, as always, kittens.

    Sometimes in the car, I am startled to discover how I've successfully negotiated tens of miles of traffic without once having consciously thought of what I was doing. Usually I am thinking of having nasty sex, not the gas or brake and steering wheel. Heck, I probably couldn't pass a driving theory test. I guess it is enough to exercise "free will" in the choice of destination, because clearly it is God or Satan who then becomes my autopilot.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    sorry, I didn't see this post earlier (none / 0) (#363)
    by Battle Troll on Fri May 28, 2004 at 12:21:39 PM EST

    Who argues people are "meat robots?"

    Marvin Minsky, the prominent AI researcher.

    Did you read that argument in a book of philosophy?

    No. And it wasn't an argument - to him, it was a fact. To him, it was obviously true that a cybernetic device made out of meat, ie a human being, was not intrinsically different from a cybernetic device made artificially from metal (or, for that matter, from artificially engineered flesh, whatever.)

    This may or may not be true. There's certainly no way to tell today. Hence, belief in either side of the question is religious, not scientific.

    The strategy of raising the scientists "beliefs" as the defining characteristic and sine qua non of his existence, splicing prejudicial dross into sentences that insinuate danger lurking in "materialism," that is precisely the kind of sophistry that attempts to make the world behave as words behave.

    This would only be true if one's beliefs did not significantly correlate to one's actions in any sense. History and our everyday experience teaches us that convinced people's professed beliefs make manifest their reasoning, convictions, experience, and potential future activities. No, people don't do exactly what they say; yes, what people say has a relationship of some sort to what they do.

    Sometimes in the car, I am startled to discover how I've successfully negotiated tens of miles of traffic without once having consciously thought of what I was doing.

    Good God, man, I'm not a Berkeleyan idealist, or a mentalist, or a Cartesian dualist, or some other Western atrocity. Are you in all honesty completely innocent of the union between flesh and spirit that lies at the very centre of all orthodx theology? I would never propose that absolutely every human activity is plotted out in advance by the rational intelligence. In fact, I think that the association of the will with the intelligence in Western philosophy is a pernicious remnant from paganism.

    I'm happier with a free will that sometimes traffics with the intellect, but is more often connected to your subconscious wishes and attitudes. We read in the East that "the mind teaches the body and the body teaches the mind."

    I know how smitten you are with the classical rows between the advocates of free will and of determinism, which has filled many library shelves with meaningless tomes of being, becoming, then tilt.

    I'm not smitten with the rows, I'm confronted existentially by the question. See the difference? How often have I cited any arguments at all in defense of free will beyond the most basic? How often have I cited the work of specific philosophers?

    I'm not looking for the truth in books. Rather, I have an experience of my and others' seeming free will that is certainly not well explained by science or, philosophically, by materialism even in principle. Therefore I reject them. How hard is that?

    You are writing pure exploded fiction.

    This sentence alone describes why materialism breeds nihilism. If our thoughts, beliefs, and ideas, expressed however haltingly through language, are "exploded fiction," then we have destroyed the legitimacy of the human experience; it is nothing more than the accidental fever dreams of a mindless* meat robot, subjective experience that can never connect to or participate in objective reality. This is clearly a social, political program, no matter how much you disavow it, because ideas can induce behaviour.

    * "Mindless" in that it has a subjective experience of mind, but not the objective capacities for free will, an integrated personality, or autonomy in the face of natural processes which we would ordinarily associate with the word "mind." Calling such a meat robot's voltage fluctuations a "mind" would be to diminish the term as it is ordinarily understood.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Trolling? Who me? (none / 1) (#299)
    by cr8dle2grave on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:15:59 PM EST

    Thought & Language? Or mere thought and language? It makes all the difference in the world. In fact, the difference is precisely the choice between the world, on the one hand, and nothing, on the other.

    Your lil' Dust to Dust sermon was truly moving, and one could reasonably make the case that never were truer words spoken, but don't for a moment believe that your dread vision of an antiseptic void is a somehow more natural, less philosophical viewpoint. Verily I say, it is the most philosophical thought of all, the most unnatural, and the coldest abstraction, which gazes on the world of lived human experience and sees only ashes.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    thanks for making my point concisely (none / 1) (#302)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:57:38 PM EST

    Science does not - neither the method nor the social institution - teach us Sr. SPAGHETTI's views.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    Yeah, yeah, verily this. (none / 0) (#310)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 03:26:33 PM EST

    Yours is the sort of blather high-SAT-scoring freshmen swallow by the bucket in PHIL-101. It goes down as smoothly as an advertisement for shampoo. It sounds wise. It gives a feeling of comfort to BattleTroll. It is undeniably learned, particularly the shrewd crack about the asymptote of nothingness or whatever it was someone taken at random thinks you meant. And it is nonsense adulterated by the tiniest flicker of meaning. I can't escape philosophy -- it is language, blab blab blab. But unless it is your thesis that the universe and the electrons may be said to think and feel, the things that are not language are the things that ARE.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    you're nuts (none / 0) (#311)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 03:44:15 PM EST

    But unless it is your thesis that the universe and the electrons may be said to think and feel, the things that are not language are the things that ARE.

    Human beings are no less real than the things that they're made of or the place that they exist within. You assert over and over that only matter is REAL!! Only matter EXISTS!! But we're here, we're real, get used to it.

    You seem to think that something real - the matter of the human body - somehow conjures something unreal - thoughts and language - into being. Stated in such simple terms, it's clearly ridiculous; you might as well say that bees' dancing is unreal. At the very minimum, a good materialist (which rejctions aside still seems to me to be an appropriate bin for categorizing your beliefs) must admit that human language is as real as other animal language.

    Here's a freebie: I agree that language doesn't create or accurately describe reality. I'm a happy instrumentalist. I don't think that ideas exist autonomously. I think that math and language are tools for working with the ultimately irreducible reality with which we are confronted. Unlike a Catholic, an apostate Catholic (ie a Protestant,) or an anti-Catholic (a liberalist,) I don't need me religious beliefs to be the master science. All I want from you is a simple admission that materialism fails at present to explain the irreducible autonomy of the phenomenon of the human mind, and an admission that your prediction of the mind's inevitable conquest by Science is not something which at present admits of scientific validation.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    And people are? (none / 0) (#314)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 04:35:11 PM EST

    The substrate of thoughts and language is stuff. They are properties of stuff. They provide evidence for and stand as proof of stuff that can be measured. They manifest structure and relations between stuff -- people stuff, dog stuff, and even computer stuff. Only an idiot would suggest we don't have thoughts or that I am not communicating to you in language, so don't do that. Nor is there the suggestion in anything I've written that subjective reality isn't important. It's important because we're important.

    <snip IS plot>

    There you go again with your decorative mental boxes labeled "materialism," "Good," "Is," "Truth," and so forth, not fundamentally different or more meaningful than a bird on a wire trying to sing its way into little birdie heaven. I really like those little birds. Singing is important to them, too.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    well, that's the point (none / 0) (#318)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 05:23:59 PM EST

    There you go again with your decorative mental boxes labeled "materialism," "Good," "Is," "Truth," and so forth, not fundamentally different or more meaningful than a bird on a wire trying to sing its way into little birdie heaven.

    How exactly do you know that they're not fundamentally different? A little Science flew down and whispered it in your ear?
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Sorta. (none / 0) (#321)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 06:37:46 PM EST

    Well, fundamentally, all I know, all that I _can_ know, is by the dint of science. Science tells me I'm the stuff the dirt and singing birds and grassy knolls, whatchamacallits in their invariable relations that register universally the same on instruments in labs at M.I.T. and at the Vatican alike. Must the stuff we're made from rest on strong philosophical foundations? Realistically, no: I have no need to resolve the problem of induction or Popper's thesis or whatever, and self-evidently neither does tomato salad or a rocket ship to mars.

    I am the stuff of rocks and grass because in all of their diversity the sciences tell me so -- in the results of their objective (i.e. external) and empirical results. NOTA BENE: I'm not referring to scientists for my authority or ranking the scientific paradigm above all others. Scientists after all are human and guided by their minds, interests and their animosities, and "paradigm" is philosophy. Remember, I claimed no one ever had a wrong philosophy and that it is useful because we do it.

    Beyond that, I don't know. I JUST DON'T KNOW. Is that so wrong? I hope not, because philosophy will never teach me and thus I'll never learn.

    Re books: Inky squiggles on paper can be meaningful to minds and their simulations, big deal. I don't know what that's supposed to establish or disprove but I should tell that the Chinese Room Experiment is down the hall.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    don't patronize me, please (none / 0) (#323)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 06:58:17 PM EST

    I am the stuff of rocks and grass because in all of their diversity the sciences tell me so -- in the results of their objective (i.e. external) and empirical results.

    Pay attention: I'm not arguing Cartesian dualism. But there's a difference between "I am the stuff of rocks and grass" and "the human experience of mind isn't 'real.' " There is as yet no explanation for mindfulness. This doesn't bother me, but it ought to bother you, because you have claimed that there will be an naturalistic explanation found for it. I don't care about any of your other claims, but I do care about you smuggling the idea that mind is merely matter into the statement that matter is the physical substrate of the mind. This especially considering your peremptory rejection of philosophy, because you're making materialist -- not scientific arguments, as I can find no science in them -- while denying the possibility of making any meaninful philosophical arguments at all.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    bg7u3viwo (none / 0) (#327)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 09:18:51 PM EST

    Listen, the experience of mind is real is as real as the experience of gravity. I shouldn't have to herd these faint nuances you infer from my text. You're trying too hard. I've never claimed a naturalistic explanation for mind for the simple reason I don't know what it is. Does a computer have a mind? Cognitive scientists seem to think so. How about the planet or another complex system that acts as if it did? Is a beehive mindful? Mind is metaphor. What you call mind is experienced subjectively, and science will tell you to your satisfaction what IS mind the day it tells me what IS gravity: never. At the basis of your philosophical anxiety is the illusion "cause" is the explanation of natural phenomena when it is in fact philosophical dross inextricably bound up with misleading associations made in natural language; its complete extrusion from your vocabulary desirable. If you care about the meaning of explanation in science, you should stop throwing high-minded terms like "materialism," "Cartesian dualism" and "nihilism" at me and try to understand what it is scientists are doing when they are "explaining" something instead of what they're saying. Keeping firmly in mind that every word in this sentence has a questionable meaning, the answer seems to be that scientists explain a natural phenomenon or principle when they show how it is deduced from principles that are more fundamental still. There, I just made the world behave as words behave. I hope you're satisfied.

    Believe in magic and supernatural principles all you want. Your faith cannot be verified by science, and thus its providence is not really existing things in the really world. Why is this a problem for you?

    I do care about you smuggling the idea that mind is merely matter into the statement that matter is the physical substrate of the mind.

    Nothing is merely matter. There's complexity in structure and the way that matter interacts.

    This especially considering your peremptory rejection of philosophy, [and your] denying the possibility of making any meaninful philosophical arguments at all.

    What is that supposed to mean, the "rejection of philosophy?" Is there something in the structure of language that checks communication? I guess there must be because I've claimed philosophy matters more than once, and that it is of consequence. I've claimed it is akin to art, which matters a great deal to me. I've distinguished between meaning, which is how we negotiate facts, and the truth of sentences, which is vitally important to philosophers but which 99.99% of people don't consider 99.99% of the time. I don't blame them. The great words acclaimed for centuries as part of the priceless cultural heritage of white men spin round and round in my head, too, until I become dizzy. Sometimes they make pleasant music, but I can rarely effect passage between them and the real word of rocks and pricks and cunts and kittens.

    OK, no more from me. Some other time.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    you're really confusing me (none / 1) (#328)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 09:50:18 PM EST

    Listen, the experience of mind is real is as real as the experience of gravity. I shouldn't have to herd these faint nuances you infer from my text. You're trying too hard. I've never claimed a naturalistic explanation for mind for the simple reason I don't know what it is.

    But earlier you claimed that one day, economics and politics would be subject to exobiological elucidation. Economics and politics are inextricably bound up with the question of mind and free will; reducing either one to biology is to reduce the mind to biology, so make up your mind, as it were.

    At the basis of your philosophical anxiety is the illusion "cause" is the explanation of natural phenomena when it is in fact philosophical dross inextricably bound up with misleading associations made in natural language; its complete extrusion from your vocabulary desirable.

    If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: I am happy with a completely instrumentalist position on the relation of the sciences to language, truth, and reality (whatever that is.) Who's word-mugging whom?

    If you care about the meaning of explanation in science, you should stop throwing high-minded terms like "materialism," "Cartesian dualism" and "nihilism" at me and try to understand what it is scientists are doing when they are "explaining" something instead of what they're saying.

    What's wrong with materialism and nihilism? They exist as beliefs, which is all I care about. I don't have to be making a value judgment by saying that, today, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to watch admit to watching erotic movies; this has been established by statistics.

    Similarly, it's perfectly reasonable for me to observe that I have observed materialism to lead to nihilism in people I know, and to present a line of reasoning that, while incapable both by design and by nature of replicating the whole inner experience of the nihilist, has pretensions to credibility if read by such a materialist-cum-nihilist.

    I keep calling you a materialist because it seems like an apt description of someone who thinks his own thoughts are less objectively real than "the real word of rocks and pricks and cunts and kittens." The point of materialism isn't the mere statement "all is material;" it's the statement "all our pretentions to knowledge and autonomy are nonsense because all is material."

    I'm not using terms like "materialism" to comment on science; I'm using them to comment on social states and lines of reasoning, which are artifacts of mind.

    I've distinguished between meaning, which is how we negotiate facts, and the truth of sentences, which is vitally important to philosophers but which 99.99% of people don't consider 99.99% of the time.

    You know, there's more to philosophy than the Greeks and the analytic tradition. Not, for the umpteenth time, that I'm defending philosophy.

    Go ahead and quit at this point, but if you do, I'm not too impressed. It seems to me that you established an untenable position, that all would one day be brought under the sway of physical science; refused to answer when charged with extrapolating beyond the present explanatory power of the sciences and, thus, making philosophical claims disguised as scientific ones; were unable to defend your suggestion that things in the mind are somehow devoid of the reality we accord to physical artifacts, including artifacts of communication in other animals; and then tried to wiggle out of it by saying that science can never explain the subjective experience of mind, which sounds like a direct contradiction of your initial assertion.

    It always seemed to me that materialism necessitated a certain degree of intellectual irresponsibility. It appears I was right, and for the simplest reason: that the phenomenon of mind seems not just to be beyond the reach of current science, but seems by its very nature not to be within the purview of scientific dissection. One doesn't have to be an ignorant Bible thumper to be impressed by the phenomenon of mind that you want to badly to denigrate in comparison to rocks and pricks.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    I'm tired. (none / 0) (#329)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 11:55:37 PM EST

    I haven't slept. I can write no more. This really is my last reply.

    But earlier you claimed that one day, economics and politics would be subject to exobiological elucidation.

    Yeah, that was pretty funny, and like all trolls at least partly true.

    Economics and politics are inextricably bound up with the question of mind and free will; reducing either one to biology is to reduce the mind to biology, so make up your mind, as it were.

    First, mind is not how you EXPERIENCE it. I like the way you associate mind with will and society as if these terms were well defined. There are some astonishing system theories of mind and society out there that might have slipped your notice. Second, since humankind is natural there is no reason in principle science cannot describe it. Science describes other animal societies very well, after all. It has become your philosophy, after you went and raided nearly every branch of science, from neurobiology to quantum theory, in a stubborn attempt to find how words behave and why meaning is frequently frustrated, that science present and future tense is insufficient to check the cause of philosophical speculation. Right? My belief is that your conception of mind, society, economics and political science will sound as quaint 1000 years from now as Aristotle's physics do today.

    What's wrong with materialism and nihilism?

    Nothing.

    They exist as beliefs, which is all I care about.

    Yes, you are infatuated with text, led to evolve the most fantastic systems by the aid of abstract nouns alone. You identify words with things. "SIGNOR SPAGHETTI is a materialist," you say. Is he? The thing that is called SIGNOR SPAGHETTI is a nonverbal object. It can be observed by the senses, experienced in proximity, it can be described, and then, for convenience in written arguments -- plots -- the label "materialist" can be attached to it. But the label is not SIGNOR SPAGHETTI. SIGNOR SPAGHETTI is not a conspiracy of philosophy - "just words, words, words!" SIGNOR SPAGHETTI is not the essence (woof) or fine quality (arf-arf) "materialism." SIGNOR SPAGHETTI's plots are not SIGNOR SPAGHETTI. Not even SIGNOR SPAGHETTI knows what is SIGNOR SPAGHETTI. He is a multi-faceted talented soul impervious to verbal fluxions. He is different things to different people. Go ahead and ask them if you don't believe me. Manac Capac, whose brother was swallowed by a cave and two others turned to stone, would never call SIGNOR SPAGHETTI a materialist. He can't even imagine what materialism means, for there is no word for that concept in Quechua, nor for the words and concepts that precede it. Manac Capac has a different concept of IS than BattleTroll. Are you suggesting he cannot relate to SIGNOR SPAGHETTI as a human being -- as SIGNOR SPAGHETTI?

    Ridiculous.

    You will find in SIGNOR SPAGHETTI whatever you are looking for. An enemy, a friend, currently on kuro5hin a muscle-bound drop-dead sexy he-man. Just because you are the one creature on earth able to accumulate a semantic network from books on Christian apologetics derived from Aristotle does not mean the verbal monsters in your head are SIGNOR SPAGHETTI. That's just your script. You are always reading from the script "The Story of Philosophy." It's just a story. Many stories are possible.

    Large differences in language lead to large differences in thought. It may seem to you the shared meanings in our culture's books and values are entirely natural but they are cultural idiosyncrasies, the hive's effluvial enthusiasm for itself masquerading as reality. The world is your subscription to a set of words.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    more (none / 0) (#334)
    by Battle Troll on Tue May 25, 2004 at 04:42:18 PM EST

    I haven't slept. I can write no more. This really is my last reply.

    The famous "you're simply too obtuse" rejoinder. It doesn't work if you've demonstrated yourself to be sincere earlier in the thread.

    [A]nd like all trolls, [the assumption of politics and economics into exobiology is] at least partly true.

    It's typical of a smug master-philosophy adherent to disdainfully use the weasel-word partly to spackle over a serious problem. While it's certainly true that biologists and cyberneticists work together and have a common vocabulary more than ever before, it's hardly clear that there will ever exist a master science capable of predicting human behaviour in the general case. Your belief that there will be is religious, not scientific, a point you have consistently failed to address even when directly challenged to do so.

    [S]ince humankind is natural there is no reason in principle science cannot describe it.

    Once again, your religious beliefs are presented as though they have been established as scientific, as opposed to simply constituting the folk-culture of scientists. I agree that the folk-culture of scientists has been consistently risible and anti-intellectual, but you fail to extend this obvious point to the present day.

    You identify words with things.

    No. I try to express my experience of things, which are aesthetic and private, by means of such words as can be spoken or written.

    "SIGNOR SPAGHETTI is a materialist," you say. Is he?

    Yes. That's not all he is, that's not all he can ever be, that's not even a relevant description for many of his (no doubt contradictory) emotions, actions, or beliefs; but it appears to be a correct description of his beliefs within the scope of the term. This is also an objection that I have addressed before, to which you have responded with reiteration, not argument.

    Just because you are the one creature on earth able to accumulate a semantic network from books on Christian apologetics derived from Aristotle does not mean the verbal monsters in your head are SIGNOR SPAGHETTI.

    I'm not an adherent of Western philosophy. I stopped reading Aristotle years ago and have an 'instrumentalist' position on everything.

    You might ask yourself at this point why I keep biting. You see, the thing is, I know that we're addressing your real beliefs, and I know that you don't really have adequate justifications or defenses for them. It doesn't matter to me that you're exercising your troll-fu, because like Father Brown, I have you on an unseen hook and an invisible line which can bring you back from the ends of k5 with a merest twitch upon the thread. Sooner or later, you will have to admit to yourself that, if there exists an adequate defense of your position, you did not mount it, and that if your beliefs have gaping holes, you must eventually struggle for new ones.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    43738hyunib0k. (none / 0) (#336)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Tue May 25, 2004 at 08:46:15 PM EST

    The famous "you're simply too obtuse" rejoinder.

    What?

    It's typical of a smug master-philosophy adherent to disdainfully use the weasel-word partly to spackle over a serious problem.

    What?

    While it's certainly true that biologists and cyberneticists work together and have a common vocabulary more than ever before, it's hardly clear that there will ever exist a master science capable of predicting human behaviour in the general case.

    What are you talking about, master-science? You are plotting a marvelous fiction again. The first point to be emphasized is the diversity of science. Although we talk about Science with a capital S, we actually have scores of disciplines under this abstraction. Some of them are out of step with others. The second point is that the sciences are objective and empirical: they present results that can be verified independently by competent individuals using instruments. However, each scientific discipline has its own procedures, which in turn are the product of training and a community of views and to some extent mentalities.

    [S]ince humankind is natural there is no reason in principle science cannot describe it
    Once again, your religious beliefs are presented as though they have been established as scientific, as opposed to simply constituting the folk-culture of scientists.

    I'm sorry, "humankind is natural" is religion? Is that what you are saying? Perhaps you do not know what is religion, because you certainly do not understand science, are unfamiliar with how scientists think and what it is they do. You struggle to understand that everything we know is knowledge acquired through scientific practices, and I am struggling very hard to understand your objection that something hitherto mysterious must be... what, supernatural? Is that it? The assumption that humankind is natural has served us well, its contradiction miserably or not at all. It's best you understood that and stopped trying to impress with rhetorical solecisms plucked from the Boy's Book of Philosophy that you mutter in the same matter-of-fact tone you inflict the magic words materialism and nihilism on me.

    Perhaps you genuinely believe in supernatural entities. Fine, belief is very powerful and people seem to need to unite with one another, fight wars and make sense of life, or at least it seems to me that is beliefs are used for; but in that case, why not say what you mean: "I believe in things we'll never know exist independent of my belief in them."

    How about this, instead of debating uselessly what IS, why don't you admit what sane men agree, that natural IS and that all the rest is merely a description of how you live and relate to natural, the topics of your conversation with c8dle2grave but not SIGNOR SPAGHETTI.

    I agree that the folk-culture of scientists has been consistently risible and anti-intellectual, but you fail to extend this obvious point to the present day.

    Are you trying to be witty or are you really a gibbering sanctimonious cunt? Just asking.

    Yes. That's not all he is, that's not all he can ever be, that's not even a relevant description for many of his (no doubt contradictory) emotions, actions, or beliefs; but it appears to be a correct description of his beliefs within the scope of the term. This is also an objection that I have addressed before, to which you have responded with reiteration, not argument.

    Right then, since we have determined to our mutual satisfaction that there is no instance "materialism," I am naturally left to wonder after the purpose of calling me materialist. I wonder, could it be because you want to understand SIGNOR SPAGHETTI? You dog, I'd be blushing furiously if you hadn't already convinced me thoroughly that you understand materialism too well, thank-you-very-much, or at least according to your Latin. Therefore it must be because you want to dominate SIGNOR SPAGHETTI. In your defense, it can be said that you have very little patience with materialists pretending to have discovered the holy grail of your existence, and so erected some thought-stopping categories of your own intended to imprison thought and constrain compassion to a set of values you picked up reading arguments torn from context and arranged tidily in sentences. Plots. Always with the plots.

    But of course this is just fucking typical, sane men have learned to expect nothing less from Christians. Oh, did I forget to mention, a correct description of his beliefs marks BattleTroll as "Christian?" We all know what that means, so into the Christian mental box you go.

    From that box, padded with exquisitely phrased yet scientifically useless flotsam from philosophy and sundry sordid facts from the history of your co-conspirators, I infer correctly that you are mentally disposed to dressing up like a dungeon master and visiting hell on earth upon the infidel.

    Next!

    I'm not an adherent of Western philosophy.

    Of course you are, you're Christian; it is (ahem) a "correct description of your beliefs within the scope of the term." I, on the other hand, am certainly not a materialist. Get it? Do you get it now or has your gibbering given you a terminal case of cognitive dissonance? You know, for someone who spends more time than he should defending God from His detractors here on kuro5hin, you sure do spend a lot of time detracting from Materialism.

    My position throughout this thread has always been that stuff exists but that God and your Materialism are answers to questions that objectively are meaningless. It "is" whatever is found and described to be by scientists doing science, not writing sentences around classifications. You can refuse to look at people through a microscope, but the scientist must examine them and renounce your rigid classification and the plots that breathe life into them. That fact that you believe in God and I in genes does not establish the existence of miracles or a spurious genetic reductionism. It merely means that our worldviews differ. Neither one is "better" than the other; it doesn't matter how you live so long as you feed, fuck, then fuck off. But when the last man has fucked off (or before the first man lived) genes ARE and God has CEASED TO BE with him. As far as we can know.

    I'm sorry, BattleTroll, but if you read thoughtfully what I have written in this thread you will see that I have indeed done more than reiterate an objection to your mouthing materialism. It seems philosophical arguments are mostly angry people shouting at each other. They use the same words but mean different things by them. (Lady Welby was right.) I have tried to write plainly but gosh darn you refuse to consider as intellectually fit sentences that don't verbally mystify. You want I should roll nominalism into realism around the corner from idealism to stub its toe on positivism smack into romanticism return again to humanism. That's too bad, because a certain tragic fate attends the verbal treadmill of philosophy. With no standard, no proof, anywhere in the premises, a brand of philosophy can be overthrown as easily as it can rise up.

    You might ask yourself at this point why I keep biting. You see, the thing is, I know that we're addressing your real beliefs, and I know that you don't really have adequate justifications or defenses for them. It doesn't matter to me that you're exercising your troll-fu, because like Father Brown, I have you on an unseen hook and an invisible line which can bring you back from the ends of k5 with a merest twitch upon the thread. Sooner or later, you will have to admit to yourself that, if there exists an adequate defense of your position, you did not mount it, and that if your beliefs have gaping holes, you must eventually struggle for new ones.

    I shall quote me:

    "As science has made headway where previously gibbering medicine men held sway, the brilliant idea occurred to retrograde philosophers that if they studied the form of scientific thought while disregarding the matter and practice, they could sit in judgment of the sciences. They could criticize all knowledge without themselves producing or acquiring more than words."

    But I repeat myself when I tell you the philosophy of science, the "justification" you pretend to seek, is but a pleasant music ringing between your ears. I wonder, WHAT IS YOUR JUSTIFICATION OF RELIGION! The reason I ask, if there exists an adequate defense of religion, no one has ever mounted it, and that if your beliefs have gaping holes, then you must struggle diligently to write new sentences. They are underused.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    more (none / 0) (#338)
    by Battle Troll on Wed May 26, 2004 at 10:44:13 AM EST

    I'm not an adherent of Western philosophy.
    Of course you are, you're Christian; it is (ahem) a "correct description of your beliefs within the scope of the term."

    It's not a correct description. I am an Orthodox Christian, as you would know if you'd read my posts (Westerners don't kiss icons.) There is little Augustine and no Aristotle in the East.

    What are you talking about, master-science? ... [T]he sciences are objective and empirical: they present results that can be verified independently by competent individuals using instruments.

    So far as this goes it isn't a problem. But to extrapolate, as you did, from this statement which no-one could contradict, to the idea that politics and economics will one day be subsumed under exobiology, is to claim the inexorability of a master-science subsuming all fields of human activity.

    I'm sorry, "humankind is natural" is religion? Is that what you are saying?

    It sure as hell isn't science, kid. We don't learn from the sciences that human life is purely a matter of volts, squirts and five-carbon sugars. It doesn't seem to me that there's a way of experimentally establishing whether or not humans are completely 'natural,' their entire beings mere products of nature, like waterfalls or rocks. But maybe I'm wrong, in which case, I invite you once again to produce a journal reference on such an experiment so that I can review it.

    I'm not denying that it's scientifically useful to assume that the universe behaves consistently and deterministically, but to go from scientific utility to the only possible human standard of truth is to ignore the most compelling datum conceivable: our experience of being human beings, to which all other data are necessarily subordinate.

    Newtonian physics was great, and useful, but its inability to account for some data marked it for revision. We have a master datum, the human experience of free will, autonomy, and separation from nature. If your theory can't address it, but is otherwise useful, then let it be used, but cast off your hubris that would cut the data to fit the theory.

    Right then, since we have determined to our mutual satisfaction that there is no instance "materialism," I am naturally left to wonder after the purpose of calling me materialist.

    It's not to put you in a box; it's to show you that the box arising from your views has bound you to your detriment.

    Therefore it must be because you want to dominate SIGNOR SPAGHETTI.

    Again with the subterfuge: all human interaction is dominance/subordination, so if I argue with you, I'm 'raping' you or 'mugging' you a la Mr Hogan. I might as well argue that you're making the claim that I want to dominate you, in order for you to establish your own dominance over me.

    It "is" whatever is found and described to be by scientists doing science, not writing sentences around classifications.

    That's fine as far as it goes; as it happens, this is "instrumentalism," the shorthand for this position that I have claimed at least twice for myself in this thread. My problem isn't with your pragmatic instrumentalism, it's with your religious belief that you can discard any data not found by looking through a microscope, which leads to two problems. Science can tell us what is but not what we should do, obviously, and your answer to that (that the inevitable advance of science will eliminate the question by providing us with mechanical means of deriving the correct answer) is not in the least scientific. It doesn't become true just by being necessary for the universal application of instrumentalism, and you ought to know better, because this is precisely the error you condemn in speculative philosophy.

    Second, science ought to aspire to account for all credible, verified data. For you to dismiss the data of man's personal experience of freedom and autonomy is not scientific at all; you offer a tenuous, unbstantatiable chain of speculation where you ought to admit that you cannot yet account for something. There is no shame in such an admission unless you are proposing a universal philosophical system instead of scientific reasoning.

    It seems philosophical arguments are mostly angry people shouting at each other.

    Sometimes they even draw pokers on one another. Regardless, I think we're making progress.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    56r379g8yiubpo (none / 0) (#341)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 26, 2004 at 01:13:25 PM EST

    For you to dismiss the data of man's personal experience of freedom and autonomy is not scientific at all;

    I have no idea what freedom and autonomy are, and neither do you; but I have never dismissed man's experience of ANYTHING.

    Again, everyone experiences the world subjectively, differently, and science does not comment directly on the astonishing diversity of inner life. Complex cases of the material world, all creatures, even bugs (no two of them alike, either), are forced to make sharp distinctions between the happenings inside their skin and those without. The chief business of the "me" is to come to terms with the world and reproduce its kind. It is your prerogative to disdain the progress in proliferating scientific theories of life and consciousness, of course.

    The things you prefer to talk about, the semantic content of sentences in literature, philosophy, religion, as well as images in art and our cultural practices and behaviors, are topics of conversation we have with our fellow beings about meaning. They describe, in the language of cultural memories we are not at liberty to forget then reconstruct, for example Marvin's metaphor "determinism," how we relate to the wholly natural circumstances accounting for their context. The conversations are not even colloquially true except considered continually in context, which sentences rip asunder and render everything a troll. A sentence can't describe everything at once, which is why I keep emphasizing you consider what it is that scientists do rather than what they say. What is it Mr. Hogan used to say, that everything is ONE?

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    I give up (none / 0) (#342)
    by Battle Troll on Wed May 26, 2004 at 01:46:42 PM EST

    It is your prerogative to disdain the progress in proliferating scientific theories of life and consciousness, of course.

    In the 70's it was 'man is a computer.' In the 80's it was 'man is an ant.' Today we're more advanced: we say 'we don't know just what man is, but we're sure he's not in any sense independent of nature, because that would be unscientific.' Now that's what I call progress.

    They describe, in the language of cultural memories we are not at liberty to forget then reconstruct, for example Marvin's metaphor "determinism," how we relate to the wholly natural circumstances accounting for their context. (Empahsis mine.)

    Once again, instead of defending your position, you have asserted it. As far as my criticism goes, "wholly natural" is what's at issue, and what doesn't seem susceptible to proof one way or the other. Of course, my offer to address any references you can provide still stands.

    What is it Mr. Hogan used to say, that everything is ONE?

    If you can experimentally establish that, I'll happily concede the entire argument. Until then, it's as much a religious statement as anything I've ever said.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    I don't get it. (none / 0) (#343)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 26, 2004 at 03:12:06 PM EST

    I give you the perfect opportunity to make peace when I admit a cultural role and "existence" for the subjective reality you mentally experience differently from scientific instruments (but which can be explained eventually in terms of outside realities), and what is it you do? You criticize the scientific method and demand proof of "is." Prove how? Using what? I guess the rules of logic or else you would not have written "proof." What are you going to apply the rules to - more words, the internal and inconstant music?

    Jesus Christ, the only philosophers who still think that way are hoary English wizards gathering dust between the pages of history books, asking why the universe bothers to exist.

    It exists because blurgh, that's why!

    is not enough for you to attempt to understand our subjective experiences as related to our customs, economics, religious practices and simply fascinating cultural attitudes towards eating, raping, finally tilting, you have to dispute, without a prayer it can be resolved, the notion there's something more than what any uncorrupted child will tell you honestly is all there is.

    Of course it is "belief" the world of rocks and pricks and cunts and, as always, kittens is wholly natural. So what? SO NOTHING! Science is knowledge collected following certain practices, presented in a certain way: data and falsifiable conjecture. It depends on the existence of external reality philosophers have never been able to prove -- that's why it works -- and the reason we refer to its cold-blooded efficiency as progress is because data and falsifiable conjecture, rather than the unverifiable "true" sentences (!), which are not transparent or logically consistent, as philosophic difficulties with meaning readily attest, IS what has advanced knowledge.

    I give you life and all you give me in return is sentences? You are a very selfish liberalist, BattleTroll. Sane men despair of sentences.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Not that I want to get into this... (none / 0) (#344)
    by gzt on Wed May 26, 2004 at 04:01:51 PM EST

    ...but you said it: falsifiable conjecture. Now, pray tell, what about your conjecture is falsifiable? I don't believe Mr. Troll disapproves of the scientific method or 'progress' so-called, but rather of your interpretation of science masquerading as the scientific method. After all, you're saying there's much less there than what our uncorrupted children would say, and it frankly goes against our intuitive perceptions.

    [ Parent ]
    Well. (none / 0) (#345)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 26, 2004 at 05:02:50 PM EST

    I am writing sentences, and you are reading them. You can try to parse the sentences for "truth," or you can try to understand what it is their author's saying. In the first instance lies philosophy, and you are welcome to whichever one you have; in the second, I would hope a description of what it is scientists that do. I hope the description corresponds at least roughly to the really existing world of really existing scientists producing really existing results, because it isn't an attempt to correspond to TRUTH. This is a recurring theme in every comment I have written in this thread. I won't rewrite those comments now.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Pardon? (none / 0) (#346)
    by gzt on Wed May 26, 2004 at 05:52:15 PM EST

    How is what I and Mr. Troll are doing an example of the first and not the second? And do you hang around with scientists much? I'm quite familiar with what scientists do. I, quite frankly, don't see what relevance it has to what you, the author, are saying.

    [ Parent ]
    Let's try this again. (none / 0) (#347)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 26, 2004 at 07:01:49 PM EST

    You wrote, "Not that I want to get into this, but you said it: falsifiable conjecture. Now, pray tell, what about your conjecture is falsifiable?" The obvious answer is I wasn't doing science, I was writing sentences. I didn't make a falsifiable conjecture. I didn't produce any data, either.

    The misfortune of philosophy, the one true "interpretation of science" you' pine for, is that every word in every sentence has an infinite number of meanings. Each meaning considered individually spawns additional meanings -- a forest of meaning, no two people understanding any tree, branch, or even leaf identically, so that a sentence as simple as "1+1=2" cannot be understood without first understanding everything: What is "+", "1", "=", "formalism," "Platonism," "life in ancient Athens," etc., etc. etc. None of that prevents us from doing mathematics, because the doing subsumes everything.

    The reason philosophy turns to gibberish and the results of science never magically stop working is exactly this problem of manipulating meaning logically in sentences in order to discover truth in natural language. I have made that point repeatedly in this thread in a variety of ways, or thickets of meaning if you prefer, and each way can be disputed philosophically. So?

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    I'm not claiming... (none / 0) (#349)
    by gzt on Wed May 26, 2004 at 07:07:51 PM EST

    ...one interpretation is better than the other, but you are. I pine for nothing, I use science. It's what scientists do. We're talking past each other, as you have past Battle Troll as well. I fairly well agree with this entire post [except where you say I pine for things I certainly do not pine for]. This is what instrumentalism means! The point is that this does not mean life is eat, rape, then tilt.

    [ Parent ]
    I didn't word that properly. (none / 0) (#350)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 26, 2004 at 08:37:52 PM EST

    I meant that you wish I would defend an interpretation in debate, for then we can debate philosophy. But, you see, I don't care about the philosophy of science except as a diversion. I feel about philosophy, "Just words, words, words," the way I do about art, except I think art is prettier. I am fully aware that every time I write such sentences I vitiate my text. I would hope the reader reaches a paradigm shift he can also get pondering chains of causality back to the very first mover, who was moved by... damn, who cares.

    One can find in daily life a kind of stereotyped distrust of text, reflected in such phrases as "slogans," "empty verbalisms," "hot air," "taking the word for the deed," etc. The distrust is seldom profound, usually it is employed to discredit an opponent in debate, but I think people who aren't particularly committed to some idea know deep down inside life is more than its articulation.

    This is what instrumentalism means! The point is that this does not mean life is eat, rape, then tilt.

    Sig biter. What does anything mean? Whatever you want. Put aside the fact that for some people life literally is food and rape then tilt, everything still hangs on what you mean by "is." We invent our own worlds, which are "true" when they are coherent and do offend troll-spotters or people armed with guns. We accept them by the rightness of their description -- how well they match our culture's memory -- instead of their correspondence to reality.

    I feel, anyway.

    Re comment #348.

  • The supposed parts of our circumstances that aren't wholly natural might as well not exist. There is no evidence for them by definition. They are reports of "me," and their magic continues to diminish under the complete and confirmed integrity of scientific practices. The working assumption of science is heretofore mysteries are unexplained, not magic. If this is "religion," language is gibberish, which it may very well be.

  • Science is culture and, what is more, scientists are people, too.

  • I have said on numerous occasions that philosophy is something all people do, like art, and it is of consequence because we do it. Look, I don't want to claim there is no rhetoric to science. Of course there is, its models are informed by conceptual frameworks -- metaphysics -- that are part of the semantic network of cultural memories we call "knowledge" and which exclude rival concepts that might have developed if (for example) the Inca civilization had flourished. These rival metaphysics might have produced the same results as ours using different models, or they might have gone off in a completely different direction we have not anticipated as of yet.

    I feel, anyway.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

  • do NOT offend troll-spotters ... (none / 0) (#351)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 26, 2004 at 08:40:53 PM EST

    That changes everything, yet nothing.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    I wish you'd realize... (none / 0) (#352)
    by gzt on Wed May 26, 2004 at 10:49:48 PM EST

    ...you were presenting an interpretation which needs defending. I wouldn't care either way if you defended it or not, I don't like debate. If you believe all of art and the phenomenon of mindfulness can be explained by science, more power to you, I can't wait for the journal articles. Science is coming!

    [ Parent ]
    Defend WHAT? (none / 0) (#355)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 27, 2004 at 02:08:46 AM EST

    Defend HOW -- like _The Republic??_

    I have defended it. For three days now I've been defending it. I don't know what you want or expect from me, gzt, and this is proving difficult to articulate, but here goes nothing once again. As soon as I write a sentence, grammar collapses a combinatorial explosion of meaning -- everything -- to the subject of the sentence. As I explained in at least one previous comment, this sentence turns to gibberish interrogated critically. Since I don't believe truth is a property common to the philosopher's category "true sentences," I do not have to defend the sentence if I don't want to play philosophy. The practice of science (or philosophy etc.) is its own defense because doing subsumes everything.

    Jesus Christ, every person that ever lived had his or her own unique philosophy. So what!

    If you believe all of art and the phenomenon of mindfulness can be explained by science, more power to you, I can't wait for the journal articles. Science is coming!

    Everything is natural, but randomness enters into even relatively simple phenomenon, and if experiments conducted into art and mind stray too far beyond established, known ground, then a crisis in explanation will develop, and gzt's natural impulse to force the new into the old will rest his curiosity, confident that, "Aha! Exactly as I suspected," scientists cannot explain every thought as it occurs to him, nor every picture he is moved to paint.

    This strikes me as entirely reasonable, since when you have explained a thing to gzt, and gzt has understood it, what you said has checked with gzt's experience, which, uhm, may be limited.

    I mean, really. Is an explanation that a thunderstorm is caused by angry gods good enough for you? I ask because unwarranted explanations have seemed pleasant enough to other people in history.

    I guess not, so it must have been a philosophical objection that you raised. Great! First, let's manipulate logically the meaning of the words in your sentence, consulting philosophy books filled with the baleful effects of words such as causality, determinism, mechanism, and assorted meaningful gibbering. Then classify grammatically its symbols among substances, like lead, and relations between substances, like the color red and the temperature 100. Finally, tilt.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    more (none / 0) (#357)
    by Battle Troll on Thu May 27, 2004 at 06:57:36 PM EST

    The practice of science (or philosophy etc.) is its own defense because doing subsumes everything.

    So far, so good; no one's asking you to defend the practice of science. You see, as a card-carrying Orthodox Christian, I am perfectly willing to let science explain whatever phenomena it can; I'm not a Catholic or, God forbid, an Aristotelian; I don't have a philosophical system. There is no such thing as a philosophical system in Eastern Christian thinking, which insofar as it is Eastern is concerned with existential questions, not with botching science from the top down with a priori whatevers.

    Precisely what I'm asking you to defend is the inexorable engulfment of all human activities within a master-science. I don't think that it's possible. That aside, I know that such a belief is religious, not scientific, because the mere fact of scientists' (purportedly) impersonal, quantitative exploration of physical phenomena is not and can never be evidence that all phenomena are quantifiable, or that all are susceptible to investigation.

    Our only hope of progressing in our ability to control the crude forces of nature, to which all men are enslaved, is to engage in scientific research. Research acts like an external nervous system, allowing us to develop more coherent, reliable responses to the world's stimuli than we could ever hope to achieve by an a priori technique, and this fact alone stands in condemnation of idealistic, speculative philosophy. This is why it is absurd to ask truth questions of science. To the extent that scientific research is free from the prejudices of those engaged in it, it addresses the actual behaviour of actual things free from projections of folk physics and the like.

    if experiments conducted into art and mind stray too far beyond established, known ground, then a crisis in explanation will develop, and gzt's natural impulse to force the new into the old will rest his curiosity, confident that, "Aha! Exactly as I suspected," scientists cannot explain every thought as it occurs to him, nor every picture he is moved to paint.

    You do both gzt and me a grave injustice. The "god of the gaps" is a Western phenomenon, because the only place to put your a priori system after its failure at the current limits of scientific thought is beyond those limits. But what you have to realize is that to state a disbelief in the natural character, or a belief in the autonomous character, of free will and human mind, need not be g-o-t-g juvenalia. Rather, it's a religious belief that man is separable from nature, that man's character is not fundamentally susceptible to scientific interrogation. This is no more irrational a belief than the belief that man in inseparable from nature and that, therefore, his subjective thought and experiences do not attain to the dignity of free will; being conditioned and produced by nature like spray on the ocean or the osmotic rebalancing of ion levels across cell membranes.

    Economics, psychology and politics are qualitatively different from physics, anatomy, and cell biology, because humans being as diverse and complex as they are, it is very difficult to replicate or predict human behaviour past the most primitive level. You can know that a healthy person will have certain reflexes, a fairly predictable number of bones, a brain weighing in between certain parameters of weight, and that he or she will have certain basic drives that you might call 'instinctual' - the drives to obtain food, water, and shelter, for instance. But human society is so much, much more complex than the most complex animal societies that it is not proven even in principle - that is, it is an article of mere faith - to state that economics and politics can ever be solved problems to the same extent as anatomy. By the time you get to the dissection, people are fairly similar and predictable, but only because they're already dead.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    I'm talked out. (none / 0) (#364)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Sun May 30, 2004 at 12:20:06 AM EST

    Precisely what I'm asking you to defend is the inexorable engulfment of all human activities within a master-science.

    Again the sinister master-science plot, a shambling creature engulfing our symphony orchestras and Sunday picnics. How do you propose I should defend this capricious stab at meaning? I find it hilarious the first word in that sentence should be "precisely."

    I despair.

    It's as if Rusty wrote in his regular monthly update that "The Collaborative Media Foundation, which for years has nursed the souls of heroic troll-busting nerds homesteading the noosphere, calls upon you for the supreme sacrifice which you, in whom flows heroic blood and superior genetics, will not fail, and which will reverberate forever in the history of Open Source Software." Versus what he meant in the next update: "Every Kuro5hin account will receive not more than two pork rations per week until such time as we've paid off my yacht." I cannot defend Rusty's first update because I don't know really what it means. My impression, and I could be hysterical, is a demon must be sat upon; if it gets up terrible things will happen in a crumbling ghost town somewhere in Maine. In the second update is less possibility of communication failure, and if you want my opinion, it is the message stands to glum reason.

    You're moralizing.

    I mean, "engulfing," that sounds grim. If we are engulfed, then Good, the brightest region of being, will be blotted out in ... well, darkness. O, such woe as we! Please, brother, stop asking SIGNOR SPAGHETTI to defend humankind from mad plots. Passionate conspiracies of meaning do not refer to any object or situation in the real world. Labels for essences such as "freedom" and collections such as "master-science" and "ALL human activities" are abstractions of a lofty order. If there's one thing grand theories of society and politics have taught us, it's there are no such entities in the world outside our heads, but only some billions of conflicted individuals that refuse to advance physically over several continents, as a kind of beast or angel, "engulfing."

    Previous this comment you wrote:

    In the 70's it was 'man is a computer.' In the 80's it was 'man is an ant.' [WHAT?] Today we're more advanced: we say 'we don't know just what man is [_WHAT?_], but we're sure he's not in any sense independent of nature, because that would be unscientific.'

    You seem a little disappointed with the scientific method. Were you waiting for the one true model to establish truth, finally, within your lifetime? Or else... MAGIC! I keep telling you the never-ending so-called falsifiable journey science makes precludes the Truth you seem hung up on, but nothing I say seems to penetrate, because here you are again pounding the table with the "inexorable engulfment of all human activities by science." WTF BattleTroll, science doesn't "engulf" ANYTHING, BattleTroll, not rocks, pricks, cunts, or kittens.

    Did Newton "engulf" gravity? No, he induced theory from observation and deduced consequences from the theory to check them. Was the theory "true?" Does it matter? No: theory is convenient fiction; and no: men rode to the moon in Newton's rocket knowing it was broke.

    How about relativity, what does that "engulf?" It engulfs Newton's theory. Please, this is important, your words are made-up to resemble really existing people doing really existing science but they are running short of oxygen soaring into rarefied verbal regions where science does not exist. Please help make communication more dependable. Give me one example of science "engulfing." Just one example, that's all I ask for.

    Apropos the sense in "we're sure he's not in any sense independent of nature, because that would be unscientific," I'm curious why you chose the word man in that sentence. Why didn't you write rocks?

    It seems to me in the "instrumental" appreciation of the sciences you profess, you are easy with the notion it can explain rocks and kittens or at least amoebae, and glad for insulin and UV 15 sun block, I am certain, but horrified it might explain... us. I find it curious this suggestion, the subtext in all your comments, that because some magic writing taught you man has hoodoo-voodoo in him, the scientific method suddenly loses all its probity and goodness.

    You make no secret of your disdain for neuroscience and evolution, which threads your comment history on kuro5hin. The life sciences discomfit you, I think, because by exorcising the ghost in the machine, science undermines the doctrines you depend on for your religious comfort and conviction, the notion these fantastic things called "souls" find "value" and exercise "free will" as they conduct a fleet of "choices" into "Heaven."

    Why you cling to metaphors?

    Is it a miracle your co-conspirators eventually squared astronomy with Christ's ascension into Heaven? No, it happens reliably, one could almost say "inexorably," when metaphors are disproved by science and the existence of God as a symbol of a reality, which has no existence in the usual sense of the word or in the chain of being, must be rediscovered by the imaginative discipline of writing newer sentences, so that He may be experienced all over again in prayer and quiet contemplation.

    Glad ships of shining souls navigating the sacred stream of knowledge, tending flocks of timid sheep, blind beggars, meeting an admirer, flames of lust, the cries of Cain, finally, not really tilt.

    ???

    Because the gap between hairless chimps and the coarser animals was established once and for all by God in His original act of creation? To the hairless chimps he gave "souls," "free will," "rationality" and "morality," and to the lesser vermin the property "delicious?" If you substitute for this fantastic narrative a different picture, the attribution of moral qualities to animals, including hairless monkeys, follows quite naturally, neutrally. A fine thing, too, this speculation of the naturalistic basis for morality, because religion is by no means entirely effective spreading goodwill among men, and (ahem) "our only hope of progressing in our ability to control the crude forces of nature, to which all men are enslaved, is to engage in scientific research." You said it, brother.

    Now that's what I call progress.

    Science is what everyone else calls progress, too, because... it makes progress.

    I don't think that it's possible.

    Agreed, science is powerless against infinite sets of vague composition. Any fop who takes seriously the haunted sentence "_everything_ can be _explained_ by science" should be given a savage beating for squandering his parents' money on philosophy. Then exiled to a padded cell in purgatory where he can reason beyond possible experience, flailing without benefit in antimonies and paradoxes of infinity, until an infinite number of hairless monkeys at typewriters can, "inexorably," reconstitute his existence with numbers and formulae arranged neatly on recycled graph paper: all scientific knowledge of all events in all the universe of strong dependence of outcomes on slightly differing initial conditions.

    Monkey #5236781, Ph.D., African Journal of Reproductive Health, Star Date 49263.8, "Sperm penetration tests on Mrs. BattleTroll (occupation Earth mother) as related to the bickering season on Volgon, when the crows there are most murderous and the frequency of flapping is observed at Butterfly Peak levels." Good work, monkey, have a banana.

    Monkey #8723094, "To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in 327fd, =)(&@!_\ fdk &hj34l $943k lk_8!"

    Whoa, close enough. Have Ophelia.

    What in the heck is everything, and what, or rather, who determines membership in this set? Does it include "people I think are evil?" Does it include the set of "good novels written last year?" Next year? Explain how? Did you want an anthropological description of the Eucharist, or a quantum description? Explain when? How about in 10,000 years? Is 10,000 years good for you? Finally, what feature of hairless monkeys is the intimate and incriminating connection between "explanation" and "everything?" Don't look at me, that's just crazy talk, I think the connection is only marginally more tenuous than it is between ants, whose circumstances are wholly natural, too.

    Be specific. Ask meaningful questions. It doesn't make sense to say "I don't think it's possible," because in a universe of infinite (heh) possibilities, conspicuously natural as far as perception permits knowledge of, knowledge of the perceived yet hitherto mysterious phenomenon "white male G. Bush receiving messages in English from dashboard Jesus" (for example) is certainly conceivable, and therefore a distinct possibility.

    "That aside, I know that such a belief is religious, not scientific, [...]"

    It is your prerogative to frame this discussion most absurdly, absence evidence for magic words are all you have, but you're not going to get me to agree science (motto: take no one's word for it) has reverence for or concern with the sacred or dogmatic, thus that its beliefs and practice could be "religious." Science is neutral to religion -- it is one more phenomenon that can be studied scientifically -- and hostile to religious-like belief. Science assumes our circumstances are wholly natural because everything that isn't might as well not exist. Supernatural causes are not those causes whose existence is demonstrated, but only those whose existence is supernatural: they explain only themselves, i.e. nothing -- literally no thing -- explaining nothing. This is obviously beyond our ken. :-)

    So anyway, one has to wonder how far you are willing to push this line of argument. Do you call the principle of bivalence in logic a "religious belief," too? That would be consistent, an example of something else you "know," and I would predictably disagree.

    What you call "know" is a deep inward conviction and some feelings, reports of "me" trying to make sense of the world, which everyone, including atheists, who are exactly as "spiritual" as you, BattleTroll, experiences differently. It is arrogant to think because you feel intimately your reports of "me," beyond language's ability to communicate, that they are in some sense more nuanced or profound than someone else's. I fully respect your reports of "me" -- your feelings. I mention this because arguments science is religion do not connect with my feelings, and to remind you philosophy arguments never changed anyone's mind. (Which reminds me, pleasing music.)

    I've always wondered why religious people make philosophical arguments when God of the philosophers has very little value to religious people. Even Aquinas, whose arguments give the impression God was just another item of philosophy, was convinced personally the arguments bore no relation to the mystical God he had experienced in prayer.

    Like you and Aquinas, I'm overwhelmed by my ignorance and in awe of the mysteries (not magic) of the universe, which hairless monkeys practice science in order to examine the perpetually alleged grounds for its terrible secrets and judge how well they stand up to a careful and detailed scrutiny. But God, the answer to answerable questions, the name for why the universe bothers to exist, explains nothing, never has, and He never will, not the least because He cannot be scrutinized.

    "[...] because the mere fact of scientists' (purportedly) impersonal, quantitative exploration of physical phenomena is not and can never be evidence that all phenomena are quantifiable, or that all are susceptible to investigation."

    Well that's just silly; everything can be investigated.

    <snip>

    That sounds reasonable in places. You attack some views I have not represented, but whatever, we both have better things to do than debate stuff that won't matter tomorrow. As for free will and that muck, you know my opinion, and I'm sure you're at least somewhat acquainted with scientific views that strongly suggest you're fighting a rearguard action.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Here's my point: (none / 0) (#348)
    by gzt on Wed May 26, 2004 at 07:02:00 PM EST

    The chief business of the "me" is to come to terms with the world and reproduce its kind is a philosophical interpretation, language you've internalized as knowledge about the world. So is our circumstances are wholly natural. You're going far far beyond the data when you make those claims. If we're engaging in philosophy, so are you: neither of us are doing science in this discussion. If you'd like to claim those two statements are Science, please create some sort of experiment, some sort of justification.

    [that is, assuming science were some purely objective pursuit rather than a cultural endeavour as bound in language as any philosophy you care to dream of, but that's beside the point and would rather not discuss]

    [ Parent ]

    PS (none / 0) (#339)
    by Battle Troll on Wed May 26, 2004 at 10:52:58 AM EST

    When Minsky was asked whether a machine could think, he answered something like "of course it can; we are meat machines and we think." How is he different from you?
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    ps, yuck (none / 0) (#319)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 05:25:07 PM EST

    The substrate of thoughts and language is stuff. They are properties of stuff. They provide evidence for and stand as proof of stuff that can be measured.

    The physical substrate of books is paper and ink. Therefore, there's nothing in a book that's not in an ink-soaked page.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    *BLUSH* (none / 1) (#312)
    by cr8dle2grave on Mon May 24, 2004 at 03:53:09 PM EST

    Why Sr. Spaghetti, I do believe that's the single kindest thing anyone has ever said to me here.

    And in the spirit of conviviality and good will, I'd like to offer you a bit of sage advice:

    When rattling about in the void, take to heart Protagoras' dictum as a palliative against the onset of that sickness unto death; Man is the measure of all things. All else is effluvia.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    I'm giving you a three for your good humor. (none / 0) (#316)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 04:58:48 PM EST

    Man is the measure of all things.

    He'll die anyway.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    welcome to the wonderful world of... (none / 0) (#320)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 05:26:49 PM EST

    He'll die anyway.

    Christian existentialism.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    A lovely box. (none / 0) (#322)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 06:38:13 PM EST


    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    are you this crass in person? (none / 0) (#325)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 07:02:13 PM EST

    Any idea I have -- "It's a box." Any idea you have -- "It's REAL!!!"

    Christian existentialism isn't a 'box' any more than voting Democrat or speaking Chinese is a box. If I try to tell you we're speaking English, does that mean I'm putting you in a 'box,' because the mere category label 'English' can't possibly do justice to the wonderfully free, untrammelled reality of what your speech actually IS!! ? If I try to tell you you're posting to k5, is your answer that k5 isn't real, only the excited phosphors (or twisted LCDs, whatever) on your computer screen?
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Sorry, I was brusque and dismissive. (none / 0) (#324)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Mon May 24, 2004 at 07:02:02 PM EST

    "He'll die anyway" is data. "Christian existentialism" is a philosophical interpretation, language you've internalized as knowledge about the world. Many such interpretations exist and are infinitely more are possible. Being human, it is not enough for man to die, you need his death to mean something. All that tells me is you aren't a zombie. Congratulations.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    my point: (none / 0) (#326)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 07:15:14 PM EST

    "Christian existentialism" is a philosophical interpretation, language you've internalized as knowledge about the world.

    I didn't say that Christian existentialism is an eternal verity, because it isn't; what I meant is that, for an educated person, it is a healthy and intellectually responsible response to the conflicting claims of humanism and nihilism. (Nihilism is, of course, the response of an educated person who believes in free will but also believes in a blind, meaningless cosmos, because he observes himself to possess free will but cannot find a meaningful object toward which to apply it. Humanitarianism sometimes tags along because the nihilist decides to find meaning for his life in ameliorating the suffering of future generations.)

    Being human, it is not enough for man to die, you need his death to mean something.

    But why shouldn't it be enough? We don't observe animals depressed by the contemplation of their own mortality. On the contrary, though animals will struggle against danger, unless they have been severely traumatized, they don't get morbid and neurotic. But humans were getting morbid long before Socrates was a twinkle in his daddy's eye.

    You might be interested to know that evidence suggests that the ancient Jews believed in God before they believed in a personal afterlife. God made their lives meaningful, not just their deaths.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    Mortality is no argument against a thing [n/t] (none / 0) (#331)
    by cr8dle2grave on Tue May 25, 2004 at 12:58:23 AM EST


    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    that's fine by me (none / 0) (#259)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 10:49:29 AM EST

    I'm inclined to... [point] up the meaningless linguistic subterfuge involved in shoehorning everything which does not readily admit of a material (or biological) reduction into the incoherent ontological category of "illusion."

    I don't need to tell you, of course, that Sr. SPAGHETTI is working in the fine old tradition of materialists from the Enlightenment onward (I don't know much about Democritus and the like.) Good ol' La Mettrie or the Churchlands would be entirely symapthetic toward him. That's the whole point of materialism: to make illusions out of our real experiences and persuade us that we are a gaggle of meaningless processes.

    You don't need to be an icon-kissing psalm-chanter such as myself to find that not just intellectually shallow but really repugnant, like swallowing toads and centipedes.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    dogpile! (none / 0) (#98)
    by khallow on Wed May 19, 2004 at 07:18:03 PM EST

    I'm being invaded on the flimsiest pretext.

    Invaded? We were merely on our way to your neighbors. And we like to drive tanks. Just consider it an extended visit, Mr. Hogan.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    No, it's not (none / 3) (#100)
    by khallow on Wed May 19, 2004 at 07:48:04 PM EST

    Says Hogben in this connection: "Instead of inventing a scientific nomenclature free from extraneous associations, economics, like theology, borrows its terms from common speech, defines them in a sense different from and often opposite to their accepted meaning, erects a stone wall of logic on concealed verbal foundations, and defies the plain man to scale it. The part of the real world with which economics is concerned is bounded above and below by the two covers of the dictionary."

    All of the sciences use terms of common speech in specialized ways. For example, in mathematics there's "normal", "structure", "nice", "obvious", "near", "neighborhood", "open", "closed", "set", etc. With the exception of the notorous terms "nice" and "obvious", these are well-defined terms that have specific meanings in mathematics.

    In a similar way, "rational" has a very specific meaning. It means the trader makes the best possible trades given the information at their disposal, and their goals.

    A clue for you: "rational" is a philosophical metaphor. It is not an object of scientific inquiry. Before you let yourself become carried away in the thrall of your ancient Greek gibberish, know this: human beings behave "rationally" EXACTLY the same way ants do. I wonder if you think entomologists should investigate the "rational" aspects of ant behavior. Wouldn't it make more sense to inquire after the little critters' bodily humors, instead?

    Actually, there's no reason that ants or computing machine couldn't be termed "rational" in an economic sense. A trader doesn't have to be intelligent though the trader does need some way to evaluate choices. Both ants and computers, for example, can make choices even if those choices happen to be quite deterministic.

    Given the minimal computing power and limited capability of the average ant, why can't it be considered rational in the sense that it makes optimal decisions given it's limited capabilities, resources, and information?

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    IS SO! (none / 1) (#105)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 08:54:04 PM EST

    Your examples are terms of art that stand for formalities. Unlike "rational man," they refer to only themselves. If you think even Euclid's contemporaries examined the sort of things the language of mathematics can be applied to, the numbers and planes that came out of the need of shepherds and farmers and trades people, heck even economists, then you have an absurdly inflated opinion of our ancient sodomite friends. I assure you they mostly lolled about marble porticos, evolving truncated pyramids out of the ether, the fifth and highest element after water, earth, wind and fire. Their forays into reality were limited to experiencing biologically the swarthy sailors that debarked from galleys in the port of Athens. As I was saying, a semantic analysis of economic theory would fill a book of shaky assumptions extrapolated from the fog of natural language, with the scientific method undeveloped and controlled experiments debarred. The result is a series of propositions, "economics," that rest on deductions implicit in the economist's initial definition of the subject matter: pink unicorns "rational man." Making "choices." About "value." Jesus.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    You miss the point. (none / 3) (#110)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:02:51 PM EST

    Please do consider ants rational and their colonies "economies." Watch them go about the business of life transmuting dirt into more ants, formicidae economicus. You will then not fail to miss the point again that science doesn't have to soak the little social beasties in the phlogiston of philosophy, "rational" agents making "choices," in order to describe their material relations. Only papists cling to quaint metaphors such as "rational" and the notion people make "choices." So-called "choice" isn't; it is the extrapolation of natural language to cover gaps in scientific knowledge. If economics were a proper science that could teach us something, it would begin with descriptions of happenings on the level of sense impressions and not reverse this procedure, which is what generally happens in economics, starting with high-order abstractions like "rational" and "choice" and working down as it weaves its shaky assumptions and philosophical gibberish into an elaborate system of deductive logic. A lovely game.

    "Rational man" is EXACTLY as true as "1. e4."

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    What's wrong? Looks good to me. (none / 2) (#116)
    by khallow on Wed May 19, 2004 at 11:12:54 PM EST

    Please do consider ants rational and their colonies "economies." Watch them go about the business of life transmuting dirt into more ants, formicidae economicus. You will then not fail to miss the point again that science doesn't have to soak the little social beasties in the phlogiston of philosophy, "rational" agents making "choices," in order to describe their material relations. Only papists cling to quaint metaphors such as "rational" and the notion people make "choices." So-called "choice" isn't; it is the extrapolation of natural language to cover gaps in scientific knowledge. If economics were a proper science that could teach us something, it would begin with descriptions of happenings on the level of sense impressions and not reverse this procedure, which is what generally happens in economics, starting with high-order abstractions like "rational" and "choice" and working down as it weaves its shaky assumptions and philosophical gibberish into an elaborate system of deductive logic. A lovely game.

    Hmmm, doesn't seem to be much of a problem here. "Perfect information", "fully rational", etc are approximations used to build models that people can actually manage. Of course, they label gaps in knowledge. It's good you understand this. I wouldn't default to calling it gibberish merely because economics doesn't model the full complexity of the problems that society faces. You discuss sense impressions (what I assume are observations), but you forget that a key part of science is to make claims about what you will sense/observe. Economics can make many claims, but observations are difficult and even harder to reproduce.

    It's interesting that you refer to a theologist ranting against the theology of the Market. If you pardon my sacriledge here, I'd say that as a tool of social engineering "The Market" is probably more effective in the current flaky moral environment than any old-time religion out there. After all, The Market is better at distributing goods and services than God apparently is. And The Market is a great place to find the religion that best fits your situation and financial resources. That's one thing the author misses. You can have other gods than The Market. The only blasphemy is to not participate.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    Right. (none / 1) (#120)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:33:11 AM EST

    Hmmm, doesn't seem to be much of a problem here. "Perfect information", "fully rational", etc are approximations used to build models that people can actually manage.

    Another example is astrology. And let us not forget Aristotle's physics. Truly a scientific icon.

    Of course, they label gaps in knowledge. It's good you understand this.

    I'm sorry but you have to have a pretty vulgar understanding of science to claim its models are "approximations" or that words are models. You keep saying this magic word "rational" as if such a "thing" existed and two people understood it the same way. I guess you must think "rational man" corresponds to reality because it's an assumption in a model (except it's an axiomatic system not a scientific model.)

    Well OK, all peoples practice ritual word magic in the casting of spells, curses and prayers, where the word is often held more potent than the thought it stands for, however incipient, so I want to emphasize that your devotion to "rational man" shouldn't be the cause for your subsequent shame or embarrassment. I only hope that you won't oppose the economist's abject failures with a plea to "think things through," the stock retort of one dogmatist to another. Thinking things through is useless mental labor--from the thought "rational," which tends to vanish like a vapor, to the magic word "rational," reified in sentences, and back to thought again. Repeat ad infinitum, a form of sentential gymnastics liable to spurious identification, for example "rational markets." (Markets are rational? I was unaware they reasoned.)

    On the contrary, I would hope we try to find the object to which the thought and word refer, and after that to discover its attributes and relationships. This might mean tearing down the scaffold of what has passed for thought and building it afresh. Don't worry, nothing bad will happen; economies don't depend on economics, any more than ants on entomologists.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    most excellent output (none / 2) (#121)
    by khallow on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:51:01 AM EST

    I'm sorry but you have to have a pretty vulgar understanding of science to claim its models are "approximations" or that words are models. You keep saying this magic word "rational" as if such a "thing" existed and two people understood it the same way. I guess you must think "rational man" corresponds to reality because it's an assumption in a model (except it's an axiomatic system not a scientific model.)

    Of course, once we restrict this discussion to two economists instead of two K5ers with sharp, rhetorical axes to grind, we find that the vagueness of the term "rational" goes away. The models have definite rules and the rational trader plays optimally by those rules.

    On the contrary, I would hope we try to find the object to which the thought and word refer, and after that to discover its attributes and relationships. This might mean tearing down the scaffold of what has passed for thought and building it afresh. Don't worry, nothing bad will happen; economies don't depend on economics, any more than ants on entomologists.

    But what happens when you get the same scaffolding again? The problem here isn't a massive divergence from the theory of economics and the reality of economies. Rather it is conflict of interest. Unlike the other sciences, economics is deeply relevant to the real world in that it can and is used to justify all sorts of policies, wealth redistribution, asset siezures, etc. I don't see this changing just because the field is "rebuilt". The same players have the same incentives to subvert the science.

    Stating the obvious since 1969.
    [ Parent ]

    Friend. (none / 2) (#123)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:30:52 AM EST

    Of course, once we restrict this discussion to two economists instead of two K5ers with sharp, rhetorical axes to grind, we find that the vagueness of the term "rational" goes away. The models have definite rules and the rational trader plays optimally by those rules.

    "Rational" is vague because it is a metaphor for something we don't understand, that is presumed (probably incorrectly) to occur entirely in a black box called "mind." It is the liberalist's version of "soul." It doesn't matter that two economists might agree on the rules of their sentential puzzle. They also agree on rules drawn up by the brothers Parker. Does that make Monopoly a science? Is Monopoly evidence for the existence of rational man? Rational man, as a pair of economists might pretend to agree on the term, couldn't have evolved in the first place.

    <snip>

    Oh, who cares, everything is politics.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Dude, (none / 1) (#130)
    by bankind on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:39:27 AM EST

    You keep saying this magic word "rational" as if such a "thing" existed and two people understood it the same way.

    so like maybe, my like green is like your blue and like my red is like your yellow...

    man that is like so freakin' willllldddd.......

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Now that you mention it. (none / 0) (#133)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 05:43:35 AM EST

    Economics, as it is currently taught, has many interesting parallels with the queer collection of lore that used to be known as color theory, a theory that, like economics today, consisted almost entirely of dogma asserted with pseudo-scientific authority. We now know color does not exist. Each wavelength of the spectrum corresponds to a unique hue, but light itself has no color; it exists in the mind, not in the physical world. The color you refer to as "red" is created by a combination of perceptual response (the hard-wiring of our retinal cells), cultural and linguistic distinctions, and cognition. Moreover, the apparent "red" caused by identical wavelengths can change depending on the context in which the light is viewed. It can appear as red, pink, scarlet, maroon, brown, crimson, grey, or black. Color theory was attractive not because it was true, but because it substituted for our complex experience of the world simple, arbitrary rules that created a predefined symbolic code for the experience: "red," "green," "blue." "Rational," "value," "choice."

    I guess I should thank you for the opening.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    Do you have Asperger's? (none / 3) (#138)
    by Kax on Thu May 20, 2004 at 09:19:38 AM EST

    Just wondering.

    [ Parent ]
    I have Assbiter's. (none / 1) (#222)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Fri May 21, 2004 at 01:19:39 PM EST


    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    predictability (none / 0) (#107)
    by gdanjo on Wed May 19, 2004 at 09:05:42 PM EST

    We start with the assumption that choices are made rationally, and then introduce a fudge factor of 'percieved value', which is essentially a form of post-hoc rationalisation. It removes any predictive value from the theory.
    Perhaps the subject is not predictable, and therefore requires a fudge-factor. And if this is the case, then economic theory is one such fudge-factor theory.

    Personally, if I knew that someone was able to accurately predict what I was going to eat each day, I would purposefully make irrational choices just to stuff up these predictions. Predictability can be a major disadvantage (even in the evolutionary sense).

    Dan ...
    "Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
    Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
    -ToT
    [ Parent ]

    You assume (none / 0) (#140)
    by NoBeardPete on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:17:10 AM EST

    You assume that adding a random factor to your behavior is irrational. Under many circumstances, it is very rational to make random choices. Suppose you are playing rock-paper-scissors with a man you know to be a master of psychology. You would be well advised to roll a die out of his view, and use that result to determine your behavior.

    If you value not being predictable, either as a goal in itself, or because it helps you achieve other goals, random behavior can be perfectly rational.


    Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
    [ Parent ]

    I don't see the problem (none / 0) (#156)
    by CENGEL3 on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:06:56 PM EST

    People value things differently. People will make a choice based upon what particular value they assign to the specific options. They will tend to choose the option that has the highest value to THEM (which may not have the same value to anybody else). This is rationale behavoir. Where is the problem?

    I might choose to eat at McDonalds simply because I like the color red and McDonalds has a red sign. This might seem like an irrational choice, but really it is not.... if I value eating at a restaurant whose sign happens to be my favorite color more then any of the other differentiating factors then I have made a rational choice.

    [ Parent ]

    That's back to front. (none / 0) (#215)
    by ajduk on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:31:25 AM EST

    A model should, by definition, have predictive power. In this case we are effectively saying 'He made choice X so we define choice X as rational'. Yet to make predictions - for our theory to have any utility - we must be able to *predict* this choice.

    [ Parent ]

    They do (none / 0) (#217)
    by CENGEL3 on Fri May 21, 2004 at 11:12:57 AM EST

    Economic models do have predictive powers..... but they are not PERFECTLY predictive. They can point to trends and liklihoods but they can not accurately predict that given conditions X, the result will always be Y.

    This is the distinction between physical and social sciences. Photons will always behave a certain way given certain conditions because photons are incapable of conscious choice. People (unlike the laws of the physical universe) do not behave in an entirely consistant manner. This does not mean that the study of peoples behavior has no "utility" or is a waste of time.

    Look the study of astro-physics has great utility if you want to predict the course of an asteroid or the life cycle of a solar system. However it doesn't do you very much good if you want to win a war.....for that you need "millitary science" which anyone knows is anything but entirely predictive. However if you think it has no "utility" try putting a general and an astro-physcist in charge of a division of infantry and see who does better.

    [ Parent ]

    Very good. (none / 0) (#251)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:57:53 AM EST

    Very good comment, you have it exactly correct.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    hint, hint (none / 1) (#122)
    by emmons on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:27:17 AM EST

    (You may want to talk a bit about utility. Too many people are stuck on a bad interpretation of 'value', which is causing this rational decision confusion.)

    ---
    In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
    -Douglas Adams

    [ Parent ]
    IAWTP [nt] (none / 0) (#228)
    by alby on Fri May 21, 2004 at 06:05:44 PM EST


    --
    Alby
    [ Parent ]

    Rationality (none / 0) (#250)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:52:03 AM EST

    "You'll probably either accept the group consensus to avoid argument"

    Then you've obvisally weighed the cost of speaking up and determined that the benefit of being in good standing with your friends is worth more then the cost of eating at your 2nd or 3rd choice for fast food.  Thus you *rationally* conclude you should be quiet.

    All actions are necessarily rational if the person is acting in their perceived best interest.  It does not mean acting like Mr. Spock.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    It is good that someone is doing this. (2.77 / 9) (#58)
    by brain in a jar on Wed May 19, 2004 at 09:56:09 AM EST

    Economics is involved in most government decisions or is at the very least involved in their subsequent justification. The fact that only a small minority of people have any understanding of the subject, risks allowing poor decisions and worse justifications to go unchallenged.

    That said, many people who have studied economics have the tendency to forget the assumptions on which the field is based. They tend to forget that these assumptions are commonly not satisfied, or at least are convinced that this doesn't matter.

    Too often this leads to those with economic training being excessively sure of the predictions that neo-classical economics makes, and to disregard its obvious failings.

    For example, the washington consensus of policies which the IMF has been pushing for years, should, based on textbook economics, work out well. But the fact is they have consistently failed to produce stable growth in developing economies, and have commonly lead to economic instability and the suffering that goes with it.

    So, keep up the good work, but bear in mind that economics is entirely fallible, and it is probably worth devoting a latter article to looking at the gaps in present theory, and the points where observations differ from prediction.

    For my part I am working on an article inspired by Scitikovsky's "The joyless economy" which focuses on the inadequacies of classical economic models of human behaviour. Sadly it may be a while till I have time to finish it.

    The greatest problem of economic in relation to humans is that it predicts that increasing levels of wealth produce increasing happyness. This is not the case if we compare rich societies with poor ones. It can only be observed when we compare the rich and poor within a single society, but this has more to do with status than consumption.


    Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

    Actually (2.88 / 9) (#62)
    by NoBeardPete on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:37:24 AM EST

    My understanding is the increasing wealth does produce increasing happiness on a society-wide scale, up to about an average income per head of $15,000 per year. For societies that make less than that, extra wealth means they can afford better health care, drink cleaner water, be secure in their food supply, etc. This makes a difference in how happy people are.

    Above about $15,000 a year, however, making a society generally wealthier doesn't seem to make people generally happier. This seems to be because, once people are leading comfortable, secure, well fed, healthy lives, extra wealth is mainly useful in that it improves their status amongst their peers. In other words, your prosperity is making other people less happy. Classical economics are computed on the assumption that people don't care what others have, which is obviously incorrect.

    This is an interesting effect, and I believe economists have started to figure out how to incorporate this facet of human nature into their field. Obviously, it's a bit beyond the scope of this article. Hopefully we'll get around to it in future installments.


    Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
    [ Parent ]

    re: IMF (none / 2) (#128)
    by bankind on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:12:31 AM EST

    For example, the washington consensus of policies which the IMF has been pushing for years, should, based on textbook economics, work out well. But the fact is they have consistently failed to produce stable growth in developing economies, and have commonly lead to economic instability and the suffering that goes with it.

    These tyoe of statements are always so great. I mean really the IMF does have that huge standing army that enforces its policy. Countries can opt out of IMF support if they wish (as Malaysia did in '97 and as Vietnam did this year). This dependency theory revisionism is a load of crap.

    If Argentina and Malaysia want to screw their own populations that is their doing, not the IMF. IN the case of Indonesia, the IMF suggested scalling back government spending, the Indonesian government's response, cut back food subsidies. The reofmist Government party spin: the IMF noodle. Which you seem to eat by the bucket, sucker.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Idiot (none / 1) (#141)
    by wobblie on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:18:45 AM EST

    So what happens when your democratically elected government is overthrown by foreign intelligence services and replaced by stooges for a foreign nation who break the country's back borrowing from the IMF? This is what happens, moron.

    [ Parent ]
    huh? (none / 2) (#203)
    by bankind on Fri May 21, 2004 at 12:58:45 AM EST

    > who break the country's back borrowing from the IMF?

    You mean borrowing from the private banking communities in develop countries? Listen dolt, the world bank and IMF have never 'broke the backs of a developing countries from repayments. Their loan policies are very long-term and can (and are) always be renegotiated.

    Investement and merchant banking however is another issue. and when New York and London suddenly decide that LDC X isn't a secure investment, they dump their currency holding and cause the debt (to the private banking sector) in local currency to skyrocket, thus causing a liquiditiy crisis.

    Why the fuck do you think debt issues fell off the table when the dollar lost value? Oh wait Bono said debt, so debt it must be..

    Say ho, you don't know day one about this and I will tap dance on your fucking skull the morse code for international capital transactions regulations.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    hey, bankind (none / 2) (#212)
    by Battle Troll on Fri May 21, 2004 at 09:55:09 AM EST

    You ever hear of the 'Beat the IMF' boardgame that they play in Argentina? I'm totally serious.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    for a scam (none / 0) (#267)
    by vqp on Sat May 22, 2004 at 12:58:57 PM EST

    you need a perpetrator and a victim, the two willing to participate.

    happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

    [ Parent ]
    A Small Correction (none / 0) (#252)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 07:01:01 AM EST

    "So, keep up the good work, but bear in mind that economics is entirely fallible"

    It would be more accurate to say that 'all' social sciences (nay, all human endevors) are entirely fallible - not just economics.

    Perfection is denied to humans and all of his or her endevors.  Imperfection necessarily means growth and change.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    happiness = d(wealth) / dt (nt) (none / 0) (#268)
    by vqp on Sat May 22, 2004 at 01:00:48 PM EST



    happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

    [ Parent ]
    -1, not smart enough to design ascii art (1.09 / 11) (#70)
    by sllort on Wed May 19, 2004 at 01:08:33 PM EST


    --
    Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
    Your pictures are fakes! (1.00 / 4) (#72)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Wed May 19, 2004 at 01:23:17 PM EST

    Everything you need to know about economics is illustrated here: every aspect of economic behavior can be modeled by biology -- hard science -- and explained as a strategy of reproductive success in an environment of evolutionary adaptations. It's all about fucking. Everything we do is about fucking. There are no exceptions.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.

    I beg to differ (none / 0) (#113)
    by Orion Blastar on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:53:10 PM EST

    Freud would love to analyse you. :)

    Anyway economics is not about fucking, it is about where the money goes and how much you have. Fucking has nothing to do with it unless you married for money, or are a prostitite, pimp, or madam.

    This article is not really about economics, but more about making choices and sticking to a budget.

    You could choose to buy the computer and a broadband connection and only buy the songs you want to hear from a music service and burn your own CDs to save money. Who needs 100 CDs when you only listen to two or three songs per CD anyway? Figure an average of 12 songs per CD. That is 1,200 songs total, and only 200 or 300 songs you actually listen to. Figure an average cost of $1USD per song, and $1 to burn a CD (use quality CDs made for the best audio quality). If you bought a CD, the average price would be $15USD per CD. 100 CDs would cost $1500. The cost of 300 songs to download is $600 and the cost of making 15 CDs (20 songs per CD, and 300 songs fit on 15 CDs) is $15, so for $615 you can own just the songs you like and have $885 left over. Now instead of paying $1500 for a new part, you can choose to instead pay for a refubrished/used part and pay $285 for it part and labor. Which leaves you with $600 left over for the computer. Instead of buying a name brand, you shop at an Internet web store and find a 1.7Mhz AMD Athlon system, 80G hard drive, 512M RAM, floppy, Nforce2 Chipset with LAN, Modem, Video, Audio, Firewire, USB 2.0, etc for $500 sans a monitor. You decide to use your old monitor to save money and buy another one later. Shipping and handling is $50 so you have $50 left over. You find that a local department store sells a Sony Discman on sale for $59, but it is out of your price range, yet you notice an AWIA portable CD player for $38, just perfect for your new music collection. You use the remaining $12 for gas to drive around. Any more and you can always charge it to your credit card and pay it off next paycheck. Alternately, you could decide to not buy the CD player and pocket the $38 and start up a savings account to save for when your car breaks down again.
    *** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
    [ Parent ]

    Oops sorry (none / 0) (#114)
    by Orion Blastar on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:55:11 PM EST

    I said $1 per song, but it is more like $2 per song, which is what I based my figures on, due to rising fees on music sharing networks and bandwidth costs.
    *** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
    [ Parent ]
    I have several hundred CDs. (none / 0) (#126)
    by haflinger on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:58:04 AM EST

    'Course, I'm a DJ, among other things. :)

    But aside from that: 1500 dollars (I'm guessing USD) only gets me 100 CDs? In what universe?

    I don't pay over $10 CDN for a CD unless I'm really after something rare (and even then, I often find it for single-digit prices; I prefer below five dollars, but I can't often get that low). I've probably spent about $2000 tops on my music collection, Canadian, and I'm not sure how many CDs I own, but it's gotta be at least 500. My iTunes library shows 410 albums, and I think I've ripped maybe two-thirds of my collection, probably more like a half. (And practically none of my LPs.)

    Now, if it was yen, that'd be different. But you know.

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    I based it on the average price of a CD (none / 0) (#197)
    by Orion Blastar on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:31:25 PM EST

    which based on current prices is $15USD, a lot of new CDs cost $20USD or more now, you know. Not everyone can shop at thrift stores, used CD places, half.com, etc to buy those $10USD and under CDs. I went to local K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, etc stores and priced CDs in my area. The average price of a CD is $15USD, unless you buy it used. In the USA the RIAA has total control of our government, the prices that CDs sell for new, and can sue anyone they want to. Yes it is racketering, but nobody has been brave enough to call them on that yet.

    If you are in Canada, you have cheaper medicine too. Healthcare and Medicine are two other areas that racketering exists in the USA.
    *** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
    [ Parent ]

    Do thrift stores require ID now? (none / 0) (#221)
    by haflinger on Fri May 21, 2004 at 12:30:31 PM EST

    Um, "not everyone can shop"? Is there some kind of ID card you need to go to a used CD store?

    I'm just saying. Maybe if you're the kind of person who spends $100 on CDs for a decade, then yeah, you buy 5 CDs at $20 a pop or whatever. (Actually, most of the Generic New CDs are priced at $24 CDN up here. But I don't buy those. I wait for sales, or buy used.)

    But if you're the kind of person who can often spend upward of $100 on CDs in a month, then you're also the kind of person who looks for bargains. So if you're given $1500 to blow, and you spend it on CDs, which sort of person are you?

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    Not all thrift stores carry the sort of music (none / 0) (#223)
    by Orion Blastar on Fri May 21, 2004 at 01:54:31 PM EST

    I like. Plus the selection is very limited. So, tell me, what kind of selection does a thrift store have?

    I can tell you that I have less than 100 CDs in my selection. Some bought at used CD stores, some bought new. The ones I bought new I could not find used or discounted. Hence I cannot buy my entire collection from a thrift store.

    As I stated, it is more economical to buy from music sharing stores like iTunes and Napster 2.0, per song, and burn your own CDs. That is the sort of person I am. :)
    *** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
    [ Parent ]

    Used stores CD selection. (none / 0) (#275)
    by haflinger on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:37:03 PM EST

    Now, I'm a little biased. I used to live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, which is an absolute armpit of a town.

    However, it is the Heaven of Used CD stores. Anybody who lives in Freddie and spends more than $8 on an RIAA CD is just insanely stupid.

    But anyway, that said. The selection in used stores varies directly based on the size of the city, and - especially - the number of college students it has. College towns (like Freddie) are great places to stock up on CDs en masse, particularly around end of term when rent's coming due and the beer money (a.k.a. student loan) has dried up. Also, typically, used CD stores in college towns have the best special-order catalogues of anybody when you're looking for tough stuff (which for me is mostly Sonic Unyon and World Serpent recordings). The only mainstream music store I can get my indies at is HMV, and I don't think you guys get HMV stateside (it's a Brit company). So I mostly go to used stores to get my indies too.

    Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
    [ Parent ]

    test (none / 2) (#132)
    by bankind on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:55:13 AM EST

    every aspect of economic behavior can be modeled by biology -- hard science -- and explained as a strategy of reproductive success in an environment of evolutionary adaptations.

    OK lets see it then.. monetary expansion, inflation, the money multiplier, government expansions, GDP, interest rates, the bond market, and capital mobility.

    Come on then lets hear what Jane "hot lips" Goddal has to offer on those topics.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Your big words have no effect on me. (none / 1) (#134)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 05:53:03 AM EST


    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    It is a serious question (3.00 / 4) (#135)
    by bankind on Thu May 20, 2004 at 06:29:58 AM EST

    you make some very funny and true points about the logical structure of economics (defined as "rational man"), but I'm really curious how the more technical aspects of economics answer to your analysis.

    I personally can't see any other field that asks questions such as: what are the effects of capital controls to overall national development?

    If poli-scientists or ape huggers could answer these questions I would gladly join their ranks. As it stands, these are some of the most pressing issues in economics today, not these philosophical questions that are more economic amusments rather than practice.

    Amartya Sen wrote this great piece "Rational Fools" specifically attacking the philosophical base of economics, and gained a nobel for this work. Economics is not this closed off field (as this very narrow and sometimes WRONG article suggests)--except to austrians.

    However, this argument that economics is not needed is complete shit and you know it. You base your life on all the issues I posted above, even if you don't know what they mean.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Wow, tough crowd. (none / 2) (#170)
    by SIGNOR SPAGHETTI on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:19:35 PM EST

    Well, first, as Rusty knows but disapproves, I don't come to kuro5hin except to have a little fun and heckle world famous intellectuals. Economics is not "shit." It is very difficult, and it "works" (usually despite itself.) I have nothing but an enormous amount of respect for someone like Sen, who is a first class mathematicians as well as social scientist, someone not afraid to conscientiously gather fact and bend a solid bar of theory with his eyes and ears.

    Next, let's dispense with the notion I might have the training and tools to challenge the econometric literature with any competence. I don't. I trust what I read that much of econometric analysis is bollocks, number pollution that seems to be having a hard time at the moment, but it is difficult to penetrate, incomprehensible to one of ordinary knowledge or understanding.

    Economics as applied wisdom is something I receive in the effects of its policies, not create -- as it is the case for the vast majority of miserable souls trapped in the force field exerted by the Wall Street Journal, we pathetic creatures in the clutches of capital and its pundits. So I can't troll the subject except with appeals to our trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight. You don't have to be an economist to follow its foundational disputes, which I think are too important to glom with "pragmatism." (A commitment to orthodoxy is "practical" too, or at least it won't be cause to get you fired, but that doesn't mean it is correct.)

    Because if you look at the development of economics as a system of knowledge, you see an unhinged combination of philosophy and propaganda without parallel in the positive sciences. The classical economists fitted out the businessman with a fine new philosophical suit. Then the workers went spiritually ragged until Marx came along with dashing new threads for them; an admixture of Ricardo's theory of value, Hegel's gibberish, and a dose of emotional sympathy for the downtrodden that was sorely needed to offset the league of classicists and oppressors. Well it would seem to me that what is old is new again. The orthodox economists are having a difficult time with the wicked world that pays scant attention to their PPF for Guns and Butter curves and "natural laws," and the heterodox crowd is still writing scathing theoretical rebuttals that might as well be literary criticism for their impact. It's the same old nest of rats and owls. To criticize economics today, or to prescribe for its "improvement" because Adam Smith said thus and Marx said so, is as foolish as to believe a fly has eight legs because Aristotle said so.

    Economics needs a new approach. Anyone can see that.

    --
    Stop dreaming and finish your spaghetti.
    [ Parent ]

    sure (none / 3) (#204)
    by bankind on Fri May 21, 2004 at 01:29:27 AM EST

    what i find funny is that the mainstream is about reinventing economics: Stiglitz, Krugman, Sen, Obstefeld, Easterling, etc etc etc. The mainstream of economics has always been reform (look at the debate between Ricardo and Malthus).

    Friedman and Galbraith come to mind as visionaries of a new economics. Even a institutional economists like Mankiw is still rather on the fringe of this hypothetical world of traditional economists that apparently can't read a regression or understand the foundational problems of the field.

    See this is what gets me most about "the crisis in economics crowd." Economics has always been in a crisis. There are so many unsolved question in economics, such as the basic causes a boom and bust in a economic cycle or differences between inductive and deductive theory.

    What I find so disturbing is that non-economists read a portion of this debate, lock onto one idea and somehow believe this defines the whole field. Econometricians KNOW the problems with regression analysis far better than anyone. The game is to be able to distinguish from the data issues that have the least problem. And then try to explain something complex (like uncertainty) to laymen with authority.

    I think that this is about all we can ask of the field, we don't have a sterile experiment or a control group or a isolated policy mechanism, but we can see change and try and find cause (either past present or future). Anyway, the process is far from perfect, but none of these "radical" economic thinkers are going to change things. the individuals that cause change in the field are the builders of new theories, the krugmans, Mudells, etc. These bozos that just sit back and say, that assumption is shit (such as rationality) are missing the painting to argue about the frame.

    the really good economists are the ones that do both, stiglitz comes to mind. But some crank that is pushing theory X and can't get full acceptance by his peers, that then goes on a anti-economics tirade is not anything new, original, or (to me) useful. <see www.mises.org>

    But the "economics is worthless" argument is truly the shit all. And I will bite every troll on that topic, because it based on the one thing that irritates me more than anything: fucking ignorance.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    Social action theories: examples and critique (2.75 / 20) (#77)
    by decon recon on Wed May 19, 2004 at 02:21:12 PM EST

    The introduction to your discussion overextends the utility of microeconomic theory (which social theorists sometimes call "rational choice") in explaining social action. The assumptions in your discussion exclude some very important points about the nature of society.

    Different types of social theory have been developed to explain social action. This is because societies have a number of irreducible aspects.  

    You wrote:
    "Are you going to eat out tonight or cook at home? Will you watch a TV program or read a book? Will you study something tonight or will you go out with friend? Do you go out every night or do you save up for a car? Do you get into a relationship or keep things casual? All of these questions are the subject of economics."

    All of these topics are the subject of anthropological and sociological theories as well, which may offer more insight into why and how we do things than economics.

    To offer examples of other ways to explain social action, I'll briefly summarize four types of social theories in relation to social action: rational choice, structuralism, social phenomenology, and cultural-social construction. I'll mention a few readings. At the end, I'll provide an example in which one could apply any of these types of theory. Then, I'll make a brief general criticism about a major problem in liberal economic theory. Summarizing these different types of theory is also a type of criticism. This is a little dry because general, but I hope it is pithy and helpful.

    In its sociological variant, rational choice theory, RC, proposes that actors make choices about actions based on evaluating needs, wants, rewards and costs through using reason to formulate and choose actions and strategies. Mancur Olson's the Logic of Collective Action is one classic in this field.

    In actuality, actors act based on many complex motivations and causes, such as: social ties and solidarities, grievances, ideologies, emotions, moral claims, changes in understandings, and views, etc. Contemporary variants of RC theory include the influence of social networks and cultural interpretations in making choices.

    Other social theories explain social action in these ways:

    Structuralist theories attribute a social reality to groups and base the analysis of social action, at least partly, on participation in group structures and group subjectivity, such as: social networks and institutions, religious groups and ideology, class conflicts and consciousness, social movements, etc. Marco political-economic factors are often a main focus in structuralist theories, but sometimes these theories include cultural factors and social interactions. People do things all the time because social forces are pulling and pushing them to do so. Structuralist theories range the ideological spectrum from radical leftist Marxism to conservative structural-functionalism. A place to start reading: Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century by Harry Braverman

    Social phenomenology attributes social action to the agency of the actor which is mediated through their interpreting social events and experiences in interaction with others according to a complex interaction of their learned and evolving understandings, emotions, morals, etc. This is a type of individualistic theory (like much of early rational action theory), but focuses more on how inner experience mediate action than on rational decision-making. We don't always clearly decided what to do. People draw on feelings, morals and understandings all the time as motivations and frames for action. Schutz's work and later that of ethnomethodologists cultivated this perspective. A place to start (dense work): Phenomenology of the Social World by Alfred Schutz.

    Social (and cultural) construction theories locate social action in a complex interaction of cultural and social institutions and people, such as: language formation, education and socialization, habituation to institutional roles, sanction processes, etc. Cultural and interaction factors are often studied in constructionism at a larger than individual scope: meso and macro levels. People do things all the time out of habit and because of group and network interactions -- perhaps rationally, perhaps not. A place to start: Berger and Luckman's The Social Construction of Reality.

    Some social researches use a number of all of these perspectives in their research now: micro and macro and cultural-relational-political-economic. An early attempt at multi-perspective, multi-disciplinary social theory was the work of the Frankfurt School. Place to start: Habermas' works such as Legitimation Crisis or The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.

    On a positive note about economics (and its political and sociological relatives), there are many insights to be gained from a rational choice analysis of strategic action and interaction. In the last decade or two, rational choice, structural and cultural theories have been integrated in the study of political-economic, social movement and cultural processes. Where to start with this? How about this: Dynamics of Contention by McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly. I partly draw on their model of types of social theory in the above summary.

    Using the above models on the first example in the article:  One might buy, steal, borrow or copy a CD or download a free version from the net because: one likes the band, has friends who like it, feels they need to listen to it to understand their students, identifies with the aesthetics or politics of the band (punk, whatever), or is doing social research on the social construction of neo-primitive counter-culture identities on the Internet. Yes, rational choices would be made. But, these are mediated through various cultural, phenomenological, interactional and group processes -- which may or may not give more explanation of why a person makes a social action. And understanding these social processes may give us more of understanding of how to live a good live, musically, politically and otherwise.

    So. There is rationality in action, sometimes. It is but one factor amongst many in explaining social action. The over-reliance on economic theory in evaluating social policies is a serious problems in U.S. politics. See Habermas above for the distinction between instrumental (means-end) reasoning and communicative (interactive-value interpretative) reason. Most liberal economic theory is generally instrumental. In instrumental reason, you can treat people as objects. In communicative reason, you interact with people as subjects. Using one or the other type of reason makes all the difference. Instrumental reason is often used today to construct and legitimate social domination. Communicative reason is used to create mutual understanding and mutually rewarding interactions.

    The use of communicative reason has been declining in the U.S., given the expanding social reliance on the market to organize our private activities. Europe is doing better in this, but still eroding. Various Asian societies and societies in the global south may have a few other types of social rationality processes in play, but still instrumental thinking is important as a logic for government. As a society, all the time we fail (and I fail often) in using communicative reason. This type of reasoning - dialoging about emotions, morals and understandings and evolving our shared understandings as a part of planning and deciding - is to be highly encouraged as a way for us to create a better life and world!


    Huge comment -> Article? (none / 1) (#125)
    by OniDavin on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:41:24 AM EST

    I found that comment as a whole more interesting than the actual article (no offense to BadDoggie, I just find Anthropology and Psychology interesting) - thought about writing your own?



    [ Parent ]
    re: Huge comment -> Article? (none / 1) (#148)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:01:28 PM EST

    Thanks. I might write something on how in the last decade, some social science disciplines (or sub-disciplines within those) have been interacting more. Perhaps I might subset that down to social movement theory. It's an exciting time for social theory.

    A few more general thoughts:

    Economic theories are important (especially ones that focus on people and not on profit extraction). But, political economy is only one small slice of social reality. That is, there are many distinct ways that we can study social processes.  Yes, economics is important. So are the other areas. Yes, economic theorists are cultivating new turf. So are all many other social disciplines.

    To understand how people live and interact and think and feel, it is necessary to integrate the insights of (and connections amongst) philosophy, biology, medicine, psychiatry, psychology, religious studies, linguistics, anthropology, education, sociology, political science, geography, history, and the insights of various topical studies like women's studies, race and ethnicity studies, peace studies, criminal justice, various area studies, etc. Economics too, especially people-centered economics (as in the ParEcon example in my reply on this string).

    Further, some new disciplines are emerging that we have to be watch. One could be called cognitive studies, which will come out of cognitive psychology and neuro-psychology interfacing more with A.I. research, if and when A.I. and advanced computing tools are more linked to our thought and perceptual processes. Another emerging field or set of fields are transpersonal humanities or the study of spirituality as an experiential process in social context, bringing together philosophy, psychology, biophysics, anthropology, comparative religion, etc. The Integral studies work of Ken Wilber are part of laying the groundwork for that:  see http://www.integralnaked.org.

    To go out on a limb: a future A.I.-human cognition studies field and spirituality studies fields may be as important to humanity's future as say the study of economics, political science and sociology combined. Think about it. What gives us the power to act in the world and understand it or the ability to share that power in interaction? Our minds and our spirits in action in context. The greatest fault of economics, left and right, and social sciences in general are the general materialistic bias of modern science. I think in the long run that bias will be dropped. I hope sooner than later.

    Across social research disciplines, there are, of course, meta-types of studies. Four types of those are mentioned in my first comment above. Traditional economics seems mainly only to draw on the rationalist and structuralist perspectives (in a conservative manner) - ignoring mostly the subjective and communicative side of things and how we create our social worlds and relationships from within our social worlds. That instrumental rationality and objectivist bias in traditional economics needs to be critiqued strongly in an ongoing way.  

    [ Parent ]

    OT: interdisciplinary studies (none / 0) (#149)
    by lurker4hire on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:26:41 PM EST

    Since you don't have an email address posted, nor could I find with a brief perusal of your website, I'm gonna ask this here. From these (and other posts) I'm guessing you may have some info that would be helpful.

    I'm entering my final year of a very interdisciplinary undergraduate degree (Science and
    Technology Studies/Political Science double major, plus a certificate in Urban Studies), and looking for grad schools to apply to this fall. Do you know of any schools that have a strong academic background and are friendly (maybe even encouraging!) to interdisciplinary studies (in the US, UK, or Canada, maybe Australia)? I'm considering academia, but not sold on the idea (50/50)... so taught masters degrees are mainly what I'm looking at.

    I'm not so hot on giving more detail on a public forum, so if you've got any ideas and want more info, please email me at my hotmail address.

    [ Parent ]

    re: OT: interdisciplinary studies (none / 0) (#153)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:52:34 PM EST

    Neat foci: kind of a soc-poli-econ(as tech) intersection. Nice.

    I'll sort of respond as if I am speaking to a younger version of myself.  And this might not work for you:

    My plan back in early 90s was to do a mainstream phd and then an alternative integral studies degree.  Haven't got around to the second degree...  

    You have a hard choice ahead of you.  If I had it to do over, I'd probably still try the traditional grad route first -- more difficult and very painful but more rigorous.  You can always supplement with alternative studies.

    Lot's of universities have interdisciplinary studies.  Instead of looking for a specific interdisciplinary program, I'd encourage you to consider choosing quality schools with good mentors/mentoring (interviewing grad students specifically about the later) with the areas of interest you have.  

    Further, going to a school with a phd and ma program is better than an ma.  Then you have an option. I did a ma first and then went to another school for phd.  Lost time.

    Here are some mainstream universities where interesting social science interdisciplinary studies programs exist, off top of my head...

    New School for Social Research, New York.
    University of California, Berkeley.
    University of Wisconsin, Madison.
    University of Washington, Seattle.

    You might have to apply for acceptance beyond Fall. Deadlines?

    Alternative programs:

    Saybrook Institute, SF
    California Institute for Integral Studies
    Naropa, Boulder

    Ken Wilber's institute (not degree granting) is worth following for cutting edge ideas:
    http://www.integralinstitute.org/

    If you have a livejournal acct or start one, you can send me an email via LJ.  Or, feel free to post more.

    That said.
    I have a love-hate relationship with academia. Sometimes I wonder if it is better to love from afar than suffer in agony up close.
    My advice to my early 90s self might also have been to consider stick with programming and data analysis and retire when 45.  Stupid not to have.
    But, know. Social theory and research is so much more rewarding (and infuriating).

    [ Parent ]

    thanks! (none / 0) (#160)
    by lurker4hire on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:21:27 PM EST

    Thanks for the info. Just to clarify, I'm starting my applications in the fall, for fall of 05, not hoping to start this fall :)

    I've got several months to stew over all of this, but I'm guessing you've just given me another variable to chew on... looking for masters programs I like where the option for switching to PhD track exists... didn't really think through that one but now that I consider it I can see switching to another school adding an unwanted year or two.

    I'm pretty much looking at mainstream universities anyways, somewhat from a self-serving position though... regardless of the actual merits of the individual schools, from the point of view of gainful employment, schools with international name recognition are helpful... and it helps if you can at least appear to fit a pigeon hole. That being said, I'm hopeful that I'll find faculty with a broad perspective within these 'top-tier' schools.

    It sounds like you've gone the academic route, and perhaps regret that somewhat, which is interestingly enough a very very common thread among the people I've asked about the option. But, come to think about it, it's a pretty common thread among those whom I work with who choose not to go the academic route... must be a feature of middle age ;)

    [ Parent ]

    re: thanks! (none / 0) (#163)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:45:28 PM EST

    Welcome :)

    Ha! sounds like you've got the essential points down.  Do talk to the grad students.  Faculty who take time to work with you are key!  At some schools the faculty are aloof, period.

    My youngest brother is seven years younger than me. He went the programmer route.  Makes 6 figures. He could retire in a few years if he wanted.  And what does he want to do?  He wants to go for a phd now.  

    Yah, the grass is always greener.  

    One more thing: Phds are for reserach. Ya got to like research and/or theory to go that route. A phd is very useful in academic settings.  It is increasingly useful in business -- degree value deflation I guess. The more degrees out there the less valuable they are.

    If you are damn clever, why not find a way to do both -- social justice/social research work and make money on side as tech person somehow.


    [ Parent ]

    funny you should mention that (none / 0) (#168)
    by lurker4hire on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:10:40 PM EST

    "social justice/social research work and make money on side as tech person somehow."

    How do you think I'm financing my undergrad?

    On research/theory: this is what keeps me waffling on the academic route.. I love theory, but I also think I'd be really unhappy simply researching/theorizing... I need to find ways to apply the fruits of my research and I'm not certain whether the opportunities I want would be available within the academic framework.

    [ Parent ]

    activist academics (none / 0) (#169)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:17:00 PM EST


    there are plenty of activist academics -- progressives, moderates and conservatives (in whatever context)

    indeed, part of the credo of academics is:
    teaching, research, service

    you need to sometimes do only research or research and teaching, but there is room for lots of service of all sorts, especially if you research your area of service (as action research or participant observation or as praxes or engaged academic -- however you want to frame it -- and you may use more than one frame depending on audience)

    thing is though -- if you are going to do academia and service on the side, that doesn't leave much money for academia and tech bucks (nontoxic and not oppressive) on the side.

    so, perhaps one way to frame the choices is:
    - service and academia
    - bucks and service
    - bucks and academia

    If you find a way to do all three, let me know!

    [ Parent ]

    thanks again... (none / 0) (#174)
    by lurker4hire on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:34:14 PM EST

    I think you've got it bang on with that framework... much heavy thinking ahead for me I guess.

    [ Parent ]
    welcome -- time bound choice (none / 0) (#175)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:41:07 PM EST

    welcome :)

    one more thing pops up about this.

    you don't have to choose one path for ever -- for the rest of your life!

    you can make a time bound choice -- for 5 or 10 years.

    and:
    for which ever is your biggest desire --  service, bucks, or theory/research*** --  you could take off a year or two and just do that (perhaps in another country) -- to see if it is what you really want and like.

    and: it is going to be easier to do the non money stuff now than later.

    ***by theory/research now only route I mean an internship or write a book or play or something cerebral and creative somehow.


    [ Parent ]

    You might check out... (none / 1) (#154)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:58:16 PM EST

    ...the History of Human Consciousness program at UC Santa Cruz. Also, NYU offers (or at least it used to) opportunities for interdisciplinary work under, I believe, the auspices of its Urban Anthropology program. You could also look into Harvard's School of Education, which makes considerable allowances for self directed interdisciplinary work.

    The above programs are, as far as I know, non-terminal, so you would want to make sure that the academic track is what you're looking for.  

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    thanks too! (none / 0) (#161)
    by lurker4hire on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:36:43 PM EST

    Had a brief look around the History of Consciousness programm website, and it certainly does look interesting... I like the way it seems organized, sort of 'study what you want within these parameters' + 'this is what our faculty studies, it's probably best to have some interests that intersect with these'. I've already got my eye on Harvard, but not the education program... I'll have to look into that (I've been looking at their public policy program, they offer a science and tech policy angle).

    I'm still not certain about the academic track though, but hey I've got months to agonize over it. I'll probably end up just applying everywhere and seeing who lets me in and decide from there :)

    [ Parent ]

    Communicative Economics? (none / 1) (#145)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 12:11:54 PM EST

    What would it look like? And did you have something in mind other than the obvious dialogic model? If not, spell it out so everyone knows where you're coming from. You don't have be afraid of the "M word."

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    Participatory Economics (none / 2) (#146)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 12:35:11 PM EST

    There are various models of people-centered or dialogical economics. ParEcon is a well developed model that I like. The ParEcon website presents good summary, so I'll quote it:

    parecon.org - The Participatory Economics Project
    http://www.parecon.org/

    "Participatory Economics (parecon for short) is a type of economy proposed as an alternative to contemporary capitalism.

    The underlying values parecon seeks to implement are equity, solidarity, diversity, and participatory self management.

    The main institutions to attain these ends are workers and consumers councils utilizing self management decision making methods, balanced job complexes, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, and participatory planning.

    The parecon vision is spelled out in numerous books, the latest of which is Michael Albert's ParEcon: Life After Capitalism.

    Some of these books are available in full on this site."

    At some point it might be nice to go into some ParEcon principles at K5 and debate them here. Perhaps BadDoggie would care to do the summary?

    [ Parent ]

    Hmmm.... (none / 0) (#150)
    by CENGEL3 on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:33:33 PM EST

    To a total neophyte (which is what I am as far as economics) PareCon seems awfully similar to the same old fashioned communism that resulted in putting people like Joseph Stalin in power.

    I can't concieve of how it would be at all workable outside of a small group of prehaps 1 or 2 dozen individuals. Then again, prehaps I just have limited imagination.


    [ Parent ]

    Parecon is the opposite (none / 0) (#155)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:00:38 PM EST

    of centralized state communism (which is really state capitalism).

    Parecon is *decentralized* *democratic* *participatory* economics.

    This can work on larger than local scales.

    Partial and imperfect real world examples at regional levels include the Mondragon coop system in Spain and the participatory planning process in Porto Alegre Brazil.

    It would take a sea change (evolution) in economic practices and theory to implement ParEcon on a wide scale.  But there are lots of little demonstration projects and networks of those.

    Capitalism started within in a dominant feudal and craft economy as networks of traders who had rationalized business practices.  

    The next worldwide economic system may be emerging already -- a more democratic and fluid and responsive and dialogical and participatory and informative and flexible system than capitalism. The ParEcon model is worth serious study.


    [ Parent ]

    Excuse the historian in me (none / 0) (#157)
    by CENGEL3 on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:27:28 PM EST

    But weren't the STATED goals and STATED model of most old style  communist revolutions the same sort of "decentralized* *democratic* *participatory* economics" (i.e. the means of production controled collectively by the people, from each according to his abilities to each according to thier needs, etc) and didn't those revolutions inevitably morph into brutal authoritarian regimes like Stalinist Russia and the Khmer Rouge.

    In other words, I understand the IDEALS of PareCon are entirely different then the REALITIES of Stalinist Russia. However Stalinist Russia started out with the same (or seemingly very similar) IDEALS and inevitably morphed into an authoritarian regime in trying to impliment them.
    That seems to be a consistantly repeating pattern with nations that espouse ideals and economic models similar to the ones Parecon seems to espouse.

    This would tend to lead me to believe that the Parecon model fails because it does not reflect the practicalities of the real world or a realistic understanding of human nature.

    [ Parent ]

    As well, excuse the historian in me (none / 0) (#162)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:38:45 PM EST

    We are talking about the expansion of democracy here from politics into economics. This is to be desired for many reasons.

    Soviet Russia was implemented under a Leninist form of government.  The revolutionary decentralists, the Mensheviks, lost out to the centralists, the Bolsheviks, fairly early on. This was a political failure in organizing, not a failure of an economic model.  

    Such failures are not forordained for social movements, especially grass roots one in advanced industrial, educated democracies (vs. peasant agrarian economies like Russia was).  

    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensheviks

    In principle: For ParEcon to work, both the politics and economics have to be democratic.

    So, I find your reasoning faulty on this. You are mistaking political failures for innate weakness in the model or application of that.

    If the political system is democratic and participatory that ParEcon can work well and indeed:  ParEcon is a much more democratic economic system than the forms of capitalism we have today.


    [ Parent ]

    Again (none / 0) (#166)
    by CENGEL3 on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:05:18 PM EST

    It seems to be a common PATTERN that movements with similar ideals and based on similar models have turned into authoritarian regimes. It was not just one isolated example of the Russian revolution. We see this time and again.... The Paris Communes, The Soviet Union, The Spanish Civil War, The Khmer Rouge, North Korea, China, Cuba, countless african states, etc...

    While in THEORY, there may be nothing that dictates that the PareCon model has to turn into authoritarianism (although I personnaly suspect there is) in PRACTICE we see time and again that brutal authoritarianism and ultimate failure has been the result. How many times does one have to get burned before one can conclude that there is a flaw/problem with one's method of grabbing a pot handle?

    [ Parent ]

    touche! (but...) (none / 1) (#172)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:27:51 PM EST

    for the use of the word "pattern," touche!

    however, the examples you mention were early in the development of socialism or mostly corrupted by the Soviet or Capitalist influence (The Paris Communes, The Soviet Union, The Spanish Civil War, The Khmer Rouge, North Korea, China, Cuba).

    we have not discussed the examples I mention.  I guess this is where this has to go.  but that then is to do parecon.  and you haven't read it.  and Albert does this much better than I could. so, we could go over and look at what Albert says.

    See the other substring above for points about there being optional lines of development for parecon in advanced industrial capitalism.


    [ Parent ]

    errrrr... (none / 1) (#206)
    by bankind on Fri May 21, 2004 at 02:57:16 AM EST

    The Khmer Rouge affected by the Soviet and Capitalist model? Not quite, try French radicalism and Maoism. Look at Khieu Sampan's phd dissertation for an example.

    Anyway, parecon is nothing new, participatory methods are employed by every donor/development agency in operation these days. And in practice works like the same patron-client systems as grassroots democracy plans (ie vote buying, entrecnhed powers, poor outcomes).

    Stick to the academics, you'll find notheing but disapointment at the real issues of the real world.

    also parecon reminds me of "technostructure" as another one of these old, already established ideas with a new name that will never be either used or remembered.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    same general issue (none / 0) (#214)
    by decon recon on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:11:11 AM EST

    your supposition is way off. I have plenty of real world project experience. most any economic system gets fucked up in practice, very much so for capitalism.  a question is if a society has planning and political processes to adjustment practices and policies. western democracies do. any economic democracy would need such practices.

    as for russia or china, leninism or maoism -- same general principle: a centralized philosophy of development is one main problem.

    any system is fallible and subject to corrupting influences (obviously). this is not a reason to avoid working with a democratic model. positive yet imperfect examples exist - mentioned in string above.

    i think that decentralized economic democracy is going to develop more extensively in advanced industrial nations in europe or perhaps in some of the better off nations in latin america.

    another prob in 19th/20th cent. as you pointed out is colonialism. underdevelopment cripples new countries economically and politically.

    point is that for widespread growth, grassroots economic democracy needs some sort of political structure that has freedoms, that is open, and/or that is protective of new economic sectors somehow.

    look:
    as we move into a global economy where more and more educated people don't have work and more and more robotic systems are displacing laborers, what are we going to do?  one thing we are going to do is include the educated in the *processes* of production and distribution in various democratic manners.  the tension will be between technocratic control by a few or a more widespread and dialogical process involving many educated workers, service providers, etc.

    [ Parent ]

    silly commie (none / 1) (#242)
    by bankind on Sat May 22, 2004 at 02:26:01 AM EST

    most any economic system gets fucked up in practice, very much so for capitalism.

    I know about a billion Chinese, another billion Indians, and 80 million Vietnamese that would disagree with that statement. Where you people get that capitalism is "fucked up" is really beyond me. Using basic market principles the past 20 years have seen a broader decline in poverty than ANY and EVERY effort of wealth distribution.

    Your issues of technology displacing labor is based on a completely false premise of labor, one that doesn't account for advancements in human skills at a pace equal or greater to technology.

    Regarding decentralised decision making, whatever, you're making a decision to try and change the world on your vision. As for me, I want to advance trade, as nothing is more real than the 45 degree relation between GDP growth and trade openness (exports + imports as a % of GDP). My vision is based on a very real, very straight foward fact. Your ideas are based on little constructs you invent in your head. and some sick desire to decide the fate of all the brown people.

    Plus, before you begin to question educated people being unable to find jobs, perhaps you should look at trends in the returns to education. While these returns have increased over the past 20 years, overall, education is not the best investment in regards to material returns.

    Highest dollar per person expenditure on education in the 1960's: Africa; lowest gdp growth per capital in the 1990's: Africa.

    And before you get confused by my assertion of human productivity growth outpacing technology displacments and the failure in education to bring substaintial returns, education is not the only quality that defines a persons productivity.

    Rather, and as is the case for every job I've ever heard of, experience plays a much greater role.

    Capitalism, as a system, will always provide greater opportunities for a variety and the freedom to choose work experiences than any other possible system. period. fullstop. end of story.

    You people like to get all pissy about the US elites, but it is such a fucking stupid premise considering our society took a loser and a computrer and made him the richest man in the world (Gates); our society took a high school drop out and some real estate and made him the richest man in the world (Trump).

    These aren't hoop dreams, this is purely a question of skill and drive. People aren't equal and they certainly don't deserve any of my financial pie. And NO ONE is interested in wasting money to invest in the creatation of some socially retarded academic's vision of a better world.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    your offensiveness is off putting (none / 0) (#258)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 10:02:52 AM EST

    A precondition of dialog is tolerance and an open mind.

    You start off with a marginalizing insult (and ended with insulting points in your other post above).
    And you make a basic mistake in category with that insult.  

    Try again another time, if you like -- and I might dialog.  Not *now*, I'm out of time.

    [ Parent ]

    this is a well-known phenomenon on Usenet (none / 0) (#260)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 10:55:03 AM EST

    "Though my arguments founder, I will win because I am passive- rather than overtly argressive."
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    next time (none / 0) (#261)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 11:00:56 AM EST

    when I visit again in a month or two try your indirect arguments.

    [ Parent ]
    it's not me you have to answer (none / 0) (#262)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 11:03:23 AM EST

    It's bankind.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    constructive dialog vs. strategic war of words (none / 0) (#265)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 12:20:59 PM EST

    I noted that I would not be answering bankind unless he stops with the insults and advancing judgements about my background on no information.  what nonsense!

    when someone like bankind write three insulting posts in a row, based on faulty assumptions that they did not check, that undercuts the possibility of constructive dialog.

    then, what is happening is a strategic war of words and not dialog.  sometimes that is necessary, but not in this case and certainly not at the start of an exchange.

    anyway, talk to you or whoever later, in a month or two, when I tune back in.


    [ Parent ]

    obnoxious or not (none / 0) (#269)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 04:03:21 PM EST

    From my point of view, he won the exchange.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    substance and no substance (none / 0) (#270)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 04:34:18 PM EST

    the exchange would need to be evaluated on the first round -- since the 2nd round was not completed. my points in the 1st round were better than his.

    here is my first round reply:
    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/5/18/163324/792

    I do believe that my reply was the superior reply in content and principle. he had to then go off and start with insults and off on a tangent points.

    he violated the basis for dialog -- turn the discussion into a verbal scrum.  forget that.

    if there is a competition: in that i gave one civil and well reasoned reply to an initial obnoxious and insulting comment and in that after that he wrote two more erroneous and obnoxious comments, I would say that not only did I win the content of the first exchange but that I win the meta-interaction by exemplifying and amplifying on one of the general arguments of this string -- that dialogical reason has principles that operate outside of competition (strategic) or material matters.  so, in the jostling for position as it were, my position defeats his.

    if you consider his arguments to be worthwhile, then fine. I think your evaluation then reflects either a support for his views or a perception that insults combined with detail are virtuous over reasoned argument in dialog.  And, I think you have a negative view of my political views (which I infer from your previous comments and interactions in other strings). hence, I believe you are trying to indirectly add weight to his views.  such indirect argument is not very effective in the long run.  

    a respect for the principles of dialog and actually grappling with points instead of throwing around quotes and evaluations without substance would be more interesting, engaging and helpful.  

    so, I win, since you've turned this into a competition, on substance and procedure in the above case and against you on your lack of substance.

    anyway, your comments are more stategic games and I am not toing to jostle back further at that, so, adios.


    [ Parent ]

    wow (none / 0) (#276)
    by Battle Troll on Sat May 22, 2004 at 07:04:31 PM EST

    Unlike bankind, I didn't assume you to be an academic at first, but from your passive-aggressive approach, it's pretty clear that you're either an academic or involved with the liberal churches. I've never met people in the real world whose idea of argument is entirely constituted of framing the terms of debate and declaring their opponents' contentious belligerence to somehow be an illicit argumentative tactic.

    The Khmer Rouge affected by the Soviet and Capitalist model? Not quite, try French radicalism and Maoism. Look at Khieu Sampan's phd dissertation for an example.

    Your answer to this: "it's all due to centralized development." Of course, that's finessing the issue more than a little; without centralization of military power, Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot would never have been able to coerce people into following their schemes. Here in the West, too, military and political power could trump economic power; if the U S Army ever declared war on the U S Government, we all know who would win. But that's the point. In our political culture coups are not considered legitimate, but in Communist thought, they are perforce legitimate, as one of the only means to transfer economic power forcibly from members of civil society to the government's direct control.

    bankind wrote: I know about a billion Chinese, another billion Indians, and 80 million Vietnamese that would disagree with that statement. Where you people get that capitalism is "fucked up" is really beyond me. Using basic market principles the past 20 years have seen a broader decline in poverty than ANY and EVERY effort of wealth distribution.

    Your answer? "You start off with a marginalizing insult (and ended with insulting points in your other post above). And you make a basic mistake in category with that insult." Now that's what I call a convincing refutation.

    As for your vaunted top-level post, as far as I can see, bankind never replied to it at all.

    I think your evaluation then reflects either a support for his views or a perception that insults combined with detail are virtuous over reasoned argument in dialog. †And, I think you have a negative view of my political views (which I infer from your previous comments and interactions in other strings). hence, I believe you are trying to indirectly add weight to his views. †such indirect argument is not very effective in the long run.

    Let's put this through Battle Troll's translation service. "Since you agree with bankind, and bankind is wrong, you are trying to pummel me into submission rather than argue. How do I know this? Because if you genuinely engaged my arguments, it would be obvious how right they are." Good God, man, grow a spine and stop sulking whenever someone kicks sand in your face. I'm sufficiently literate and informed to follow your arguments (such as they are) and I'm not about to be guilt-tripped into releasing you from your obligation to refute obvious objections to your theory (and by the way, you haven't even touched mine, you've just whined, sulked, and claimed to be out of time, all the while pursuing other threads so that you can leave here looking good.)
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    ah so (none / 0) (#278)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 08:22:58 PM EST

    you follow in bankind's steps of offering ad hominem, and incorrectly assumed, insults to start off your points.  so, being short of time, I'm really not inclinded to respond to such bullying nonsense.

    the subject in this string is about framing of reason in part -- hence a good topic to discuss.

    your selectivity in quoting does of course not convey the full sense of points or their implications, especially in context of discussion here and other points earlier.

    when I get more time, perhaps a few weeks or months, I might respond to your points. I like your historical perspective and am curious/concerned about your negative assessment of humanity. But, I am out of time now. so, later.


    [ Parent ]

    more (none / 0) (#282)
    by Battle Troll on Sun May 23, 2004 at 10:57:14 AM EST

    you follow in bankind's steps of offering ad hominem, and incorrectly assumed, insults to start off your points.

    It's not argument ad hominem if I call you an academic - only if I say 'you're wrong because you're an academic.'

    your selectivity in quoting does of course not convey the full sense of points or their implications

    I'm trying to summarize a thread here, not win a prize for journalism. Any summary glosses some things over, but I don't feel that mine was unfair, calculated, or propagandistic.

    I like your historical perspective and am curious/concerned about your negative assessment of humanity. But, I am out of time now. so, later.

    Good luck. I'll be around.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    your discourse tactics (none / 0) (#283)
    by decon recon on Sun May 23, 2004 at 11:33:18 AM EST

    fyi: in the last day, my making responses in other threads (and in responding to you) has taken 5 minutes or 10 minutes at most.  

    whereas, to respond to the tangents that bankind raises would take an hour or a half a morning as I'd have to go into some depth thinking -- and for that I just don't have time.  that is because I am doing other time consuming intellectual work at the moment.

    I continue to respond to wrap things up.  discussion strings have their own life (because they are a relationship) and sometimes you need to let them wind down. ya can't just drop things sometimes.

    so. you do use strategic argument tactics that distract from the discussion and act as a block to mutually beneficial communications and understandings. here is what you wrote -- it is both an ad hominem and framing attempt to discredit an argument (using the very same tactic you try to criticize):

    "Unlike bankind, I didn't assume you to be an academic at first, but from your passive-aggressive approach, it's pretty clear that you're either an academic or involved with the liberal churches. I've never met people in the real world whose idea of argument is entirely constituted of framing the terms of debate and declaring their opponents' contentious belligerence to somehow be an illicit argumentative tactic."

    people can write what they want.  but I do not see the need to engage with someone who is using verbal warfare to make points -- rather than substance -- especially in a string where the debate is about the use of communicative vs. strategic vs. instrumental reason.  my refusal is in part to make that point. it is also because verbal warfare takes extra time.

    as for not addressing points which you mentioned above. I have found that to be the consistent tack of the conservative argumentation in this string!

    your summary and bankind's miss some very key points:

    economic democracy in principle fits well with political democracy and in practice can work quite well. neither bankind or you have addressed this well.

    you are not speaking to the main points of this thread about different types of rationality and how communicative rationality translates into cooperative economic democracy.

    whenever I return to this stuff, I'll refocus on these points and get to the historical cases in that light.  anything you have said does not touch on this.


    [ Parent ]

    not in the least (none / 0) (#284)
    by Battle Troll on Sun May 23, 2004 at 12:05:24 PM EST

    economic democracy in principle fits well with political democracy and in practice can work quite well

    The trivial objection to this, which I have made, is that economic 'democracy' must always mean, in plain language, the enlistment of political and military power to confiscate private property. This is not always a bad thing; the mere fact of some piece of property's being private needn't sanctify its possession. But in the site you linked, we read that

    "We could hold a lottery, or perhaps have a brawl to decide who owns what productive resources. The unfortunate losers would have to hire themselves out to work for the more fortunate winners, and the goods the losers produced could then be "freely" exchanged by their owners -- the people who didn't produce them. Of course this is the capitalist "solution" to the "economic problem" which has been spreading its sway for roughly three centuries."
    While no sane person would argue that property has ever been distributed justly or equitably, it's hardly clear that the mere existence of inherited privilege need mean that all wealth in our society has been obtained illegitimately. Much of it has, perhaps, but capitalist systems also provide the opportunity for people to benefit from the fruits of their labours. I live about half a mile from George Eastman's mansion. He founded Kodak on his mother's kitchen stove, cooking up a dry-plate process after the end of his working day as a bank clerk. Who exactly was expropriated to make him rich? The comparative democratization of the upper class in the capitalist era has to, has to, give this kind of expropriationist rhetoric pause.

    As it happens, I have friends abroad in developing nations. My wife's family lives in an ex-Communist state. From what I am told, young people in poor countries are very enthusiastic about the opportunity of capitalizing their earnings to found businesses and enrich themselves as their parents never dreamed, thereby enriching all society. It seems obvious that people are better off figuring out ways to become productive rather than figuring out how to place themselves as the beneficiaries of state-ordered expropriation of the rich.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    your completly mistaken generalizations (none / 0) (#285)
    by decon recon on Sun May 23, 2004 at 12:41:42 PM EST

    This is typical of your argument. You make a grossly overgeneralize statement and that completely misconstrues the main point at the same time!

    In this quote for instance, you have ignored one egregious part of the reality of capitalism and made a very inaccurate assumption about participatory economics.  

    "The trivial objection to this, which I have made, is that economic 'democracy' must always mean, in plain language, the enlistment of political and military power to confiscate private property."

    Give me a break!!!  "Must always mean"  Please think!!!  

    I have refuted this type of point several times in these discussion strings above.  To go into it more:

    1. Participatory economic relations can and have grown up within capitalist systems! One does not need to use military to create this opportunity.  One can use social investments that are now given favorably and inequitably to capitalist concerns.

    2. Capitalist forces have used again and again military and political power to steal and secure capital.

    Do you understand that we are talking about a new paradigm here?  Do you understand that I and others with parecon type ideas have been arguing that economic democracy can be created within political democracy? If you want to disagree with that, fine.  But, please don't call economic democracy totalitarian.

    Several comments ago, you accused me of using misleading points! I have generally stuck to this main argument here about parecon.  But in your first comment above -- on the threat of the centralized communist party as theorized by Lenin -- you totally bypassed the decentralist intent of all the previous discussion. You submitted an allusion which did not fit the subject here. When I responded and corrected your point, you merely restated your allusion more clearly -- still missing the point, which is now restated twice in last two strings.  

    I see you are stuck in a historical perspective on communism and equaiting that to economic democracy now.  Well, there are many paths to something like parecon (such as within a capital system, along side it, after it collapses -- so many options not entailing domination) -- which has also been stated in previous comments a number of times by now.

    As for reply to the quote of parecon that you give:

    "capitalist systems also provide the opportunity for people to benefit from the fruits of their labours."

    Participatory economic democracy does this more so!

    Btw, my wife's family is also from eastern europe. Yes, many young people there are enthusiastic about capitalism.  You again make the mistake of equating economic democracy with communism. Participatory economic democracy is about decentralization, not centralization of control.  There remain thinkers in eastern europe dedicated to this model (I'd have to look up refs -- I think Markoff is one).

    And, I have been to developing nations and have friends there.  I have seen the poverty under capitalist development.  2.8 billion people still live on under $2/day after 2 centuries of capitalism.  Further, you don't need to look far for that poverty in N. America:  just go to the inner cities.  

    The Expropriation and redistribution of wealth is not the main point of critique to make against parecon.  That is a critique of communism.  You are not getting this point.  The main critique of parecon is that worker management takes too much time!!!!!!  Yes, it does compared to capitalism.  So, you need social investment to balance the difference -- and that investment can be switched over from the money given to oil, car and foresting capitalist corps -- to create more equitable corps.

    You have insisted on taking this discussion into more elaborate points. I wish you had not. I've told you repeatedly that I don't have time.

    This whole discussion and your first points are founded on your misconceptions about the economic democracy and decentralization not being possible. Study this some more please before you get back at me on this. I'm out of time. Again, adios and for good for 1 or 2 months now.


    [ Parent ]

    Now I know you're an idiot (none / 1) (#289)
    by bankind on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:09:44 AM EST

    And, I have been to developing nations and have friends there. I have seen the poverty under capitalist development. 2.8 billion people still live on under $2/day after 2 centuries of capitalism.

    Two centuries ago 2 dollars a day would have hardly been considered poverty. Furthermore most people that work in development, as I have for many years now, would argue against the World Bank's dollar a day figure to instead use a PPP figure that differs across countries.

    Where I live, Vietnam, 2 dollars a is doing very well for rural workers and ethnic minorities in the Northwest and Central Highlands. And why am I focusing on this point, because it is this assumption that the rest of your nonsense is based.

    Further, you don't need to look far for that poverty in N. America: just go to the inner cities.

    Innner city US? Do you really think that the inner city is as poor as the developing world? Are you fucking MAD!!! I certainly don't recall seeing many blacks in Washington DC and New Orleans working 16 hour days for a handful of rice. US social safty nets have essentially eliminated hunger, nourshiment levels between say Destiny Projects in New Orlenas and Laos are fucking uncomparable.

    You have no sense of poverty comparison, no sense of scale. The only comparable figure is the mortality age of Indian Males is higher than that of urban american black males. But how you can take this cultural issue and make it concern economic system is complete fucking nonsense.

    You might be able to talk a bit of academic talk and use some mistified language, but broken down it means nothing. All your ideas collapse in the face of stone cold number analysis. And you might be of the 'statistics are shit' clique, but my numbers are far more persuasive than your -isms and visions .

    And as far as my insulting manner in replies, you damn fucking right I am.

    It is you halfbaked crackpots that cause agricultural subsidies, that protect workers in textiles factories, and are opposed to GM foods. You base all these decisions on three or four ponytailed earinged proffessors , while eating your organic brocolli, never doing any number anaylsis on your own, cause you are too busy try to impress people at cocktail parties, with your -isms and visions, while the developing world suffers under your fucking constructs.

    Capitalism IS working and rather than sitting on your ass thinking at leisure in your central heat and air, why don't you get your ass in the bush and make a godamn difference.

    And yes I know what work you've done and what you haven't because there is a central convergence on intelligence that occurs from field work, that measn and you are several standard deviations apart.

    you should have stopped when you first said you were taking your ball home.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    your missed foci and misread points (none / 0) (#292)
    by decon recon on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:55:53 AM EST

    Hello,

    Your advocacy of capitalism in development is not a central point here.

    One of my secondary arguments from early on in these strings has been that decentralized economic democracy might best develop in developed world.  Did you not get that?

    All this detail about the developing is not to the point.

    A central point of my string is that economic democracy is compatible with political democracy.  This is not to foster communism.  This is to encourage various types of worker involvement and ownership in their enterprises. Your points bypasses this.

    You think the $2/day figure is a central point? It most obviously was not. And other points, like the above, were stated as such. I put that in for perspective in previous recent discussion.  But to go into it.

    That figure, by the way, is from around year 2000 and Stiglitz's (former chief economist of World Bank) figure to define poverty line, from his work Globalization and Its Discontents. He is hardly an ivory tower guy.  

    Another figure used is the $1/day figure at which income point malnutrition and lack of access to health care become very very serious problems -- this is a level of dire poverty -- for about 1 billion people.  

    The point of 2 centuries ago is when capitalism started developing.  The problem with underdevelopment of course over last two centuries is as much political and social as economic.

    So, what you wrote here may be so but does not refuting above:

    "Where I live, Vietnam, 2 dollars a is doing very well for rural workers and ethnic minorities in the Northwest and Central Highlands. And why am I focusing on this point, because it is this assumption that the rest of your nonsense is based."

    There reason to mention inner city in USA is that between 12 and 20% of the population, of this very wealthy country, are experiencing poverty, by U.S. definitions.  Poverty and unemployment is a structural part of capitalism -- it drives down wages And people in the U.S. do suffer poor nutrition and health care, etc. They may or may not have homes.  This is the benefit of capitalism?  It is quite relevant.

    I am indeed busy and sad to see that you feel the need to tromp your views out in such a nasty manner.  Some of my experience is in cooperatives and participatory democratic arenas.  Some more of my experience is from many types of grassroots media work. Some more experience is from public health research, in a poor area. How about we drop the holier than thou and more experienced than thou rap?  Then we can talk at another time.

    Since you have called me a silly commie, I think you have an ax to grin here.  I am in fact a decentralist (not centralist) and methodologically pluralist and not a statist for sure when it comes to economic policy.  You have misread me.

    Your rude and over the top attacking manner shows that you care a lot about what you write -- but it does not make you correct on the general arguments.  Indeed, you have consistently misread or misrepresented them.

    So, please chill, step back, and shall we try another time.  We both might actually learn something.


    [ Parent ]

    correction on origin of capitalism (none / 0) (#293)
    by decon recon on Mon May 24, 2004 at 01:01:37 AM EST

    From 2 centuries ago is when capitalism really started kicking into another gear such that you could see productive forces emerging as large parts of economies. 3 centuries ago it was already forming. 4 and 5 centuries ago you could begin find some of the roots of capitalism in rationalized business practices. Sorry, writing this quickly.

    This is a subpoint in the discussions above.  The context is:  what has capitalism done to reduce or foster poverty globally.  Endless debate there.

    [ Parent ]

    backtracking your argument (none / 0) (#353)
    by bankind on Thu May 27, 2004 at 12:20:29 AM EST

    You think the $2/day figure is a central point? It most obviously was not. And other points, like the above, were stated as such. I put that in for perspective in previous recent discussion. But to go into it.

    OK you use this number, as an example of the failure of capitalism, then in a reply say that you bested my numbers with a number. When I challenge the use of that figure you have attempted to change the framework of the argument.

    You entire premise for a new order in economics is based on the assumption that the existing system is faulted. You have reached this conclusion without knowing anything about economics, rather meta-fields like 3rd generation feminism (whatever the hell that is). This type of cynical approach, this believing rather than thinking is shit, and for this I call you a fool.

    That figure is paramount to the discussion as you have made it paramount as a measure of the worth of capitalism. I will gladly take up that argument as statistical analysis is my bread and butter. Had you said something regarding your beliefs according to the spiritual development of capitalism, then I would have said nothing, cause I don't care. You entered this fray, you defined the arena, now you are backing out because you are out of your depth. In this real discussion about real topics rather than meta-topics of Frankfurt critical methods (whatever the hell that is), you are intimidated because I have uncovered you as a fraud. A charlatan, a snake oil intellectual.

    Nothing is equal to the issue of development and poverty reduction in economics. NOTHING! And only the most callow, foul, Self centered individual would contest otherwise, as you have clearly done above, or order to discuss divided the developed world's pie.

    That figure, by the way, is from around year 2000 and Stiglitz's (former chief economist of World Bank) figure to define poverty line, from his work Globalization and Its Discontents. He is hardly an ivory tower guy.

    You mean Joe? I think a nobel laureate (on industrial organization and asymmetric information) and a Colombia professor might JUST be the ivory tower. Also, the 1 dollar a day figure is a world bank number (not Stiglitz creation) primarily to give an overview as a PR tool to people that don't understand Purchasing power parity. For example, the UN millennium goals are based on this dollar a day figure in reducing poverty, with most economists saying that the goal was met 5 years ago (based on PPP).

    Bedsides the point really, but the dollar a day is not a very accurate judgment of poverty. Really you should ask the interdisciplinarians that are training you for your money back. You should know these basics by now, any basic training in economics would have given you the tools to understand figures (like this) before you use them, and poorly.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    to address the topic and your off topic points too (none / 0) (#356)
    by decon recon on Thu May 27, 2004 at 01:33:19 PM EST

    I have been talking in these strings about various options for the development of participatory economic democracy within and without capitalist systems in advanced industrial societies.  

    Your concern about developing countries is not addressing or directly relevant to this.  

    As for capitalism in general, there are many analyses of the contradictions and severe problems of capitalism -- and debates about various ways to address these. That's obvious. (For someone reading this far...) Here is one online source of this:
    A Quiet Revolution In Welfare Economics
    http://www.zmag.org/books/quiet.htm

    Beyond but connected to economics: Some current versions of Frankfurt school theory offer a critique of the development of global neoliberal capitalism and how the injustices and failures liberal economics is justified, ideologically. One criticism is neoliberal capitalist economic policy takes a strategy of requiring developing states, in exchange for development assistance, to cut back regulations that protections for workers and environment. This has quite negative impacts on workers in developing countries. One part of third wave feminist literature studies the impact of capitalism and various grassroots development strategies on women in developing countries.  

    Progressive political-economic studies are not all about statistics. They investigates to whether political systems are stable, democratic, etc. and to what kind of cultural justifications are going on.  Social movements that resist the excesses of capitalist development have a role to play here. The shrinking middle class in industrial societies and links from the expanding base in poverty between developed and underdeveloped world have a part here.  Many other things are involved. Both Frankfurt theory and current feminist theory look at these many complex connections.

    Yes, Stiglitz is an academic.  However, he has been very engaged through World Bank -- it is your point about the separation of academia and real world that is incorrect here. This point is silly that you make. Stiglitz is one example of a worldly academic. There are plenty of engaged academics.  

    On the measures of poverty, I was also drawing on the Millennium Development Goals  -- http://www.undp.org/mdg/abcs.html
    To quote:
    "More than a billion people still live on less than US$1 a day: sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and parts of Europe and Central Asia are falling short of the poverty target."

    If you believe this statement is not true -- I would suggest you take that up with the U.N.  The meta point here is that neoliberal capitalism, while an engine of development, has not been doing so good yet for 1/6th of humanity.  The MDGs are not being met, unlike what you claim.

    Your position that something better could not be done than capitalism misses some very key points. One key point is that capitalism works in some ways or very much not in others. A question then is what ways can we work within capitalism as dominant system and in what ways can we deal the serious problems of capitalism. The questions (in real world of development) are more then what kind of capitalism and what kind of social policy.

    By the way, your claim several notes ago that there is a convergence in development literature is nonsense.  I have friends who have worked as hands on project managers in development work for close to 20 years who take the strongest criticisms of capitalism -- more so than I.

    So. The Seattle Initiative for Global Development (see my K5 article on this: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/2/18/17734/6449) notes that $50US billion dollars more in investment per year could drastically affect poverty for the poorest in the developing world.  This is a policy and political issues -- a global social welfare issue that would include economic development work and education efforts and medical care -- it not just an economic issue.  This is where critical theory and feminist theory come in.  How do you translate aid into development?

    More than that I don't have time to rehearse. I am of course delaying discussion for a later time because I do not have time to chat further, beyond 5 mins here and there, as I've noted now a number of times.  

    However, in these strings: Your responses are not relevant to my points about developed countries and your stated lack of interest in Frankfurt theory and feminist theory seems to be blindness to the interconnection of social systems. If you are interested, then speak up please.  If not, given the two about points -- I don't see that we can bridge a communication gap -- we can merely make assertions about different economic theories and data.  On that: See the link above.  

    --

    So. You are not responding to the main topics that I have been talking about.  I have been addressing what you bring up and extending my points at times.  By your misreading and ignoring of what I am saying we are moving away from the main points here into your faulty points and tangents. Some of these are not contested.  Some are.

    As for further discussion, when you stop totally misconstruing what I say, I'll gratefully drop this discussion and focus on my other pressing matters. Until then, perhaps we'll go tit for tat.  Or perhaps I'll just drop it.  Not sure which...


    [ Parent ]

    sorry for the delay (none / 1) (#366)
    by bankind on Wed Jun 02, 2004 at 09:57:19 PM EST

    but you relize that you said 'developing economies is not the subject' then said, 'neoliberal economics causes developing economies to lesson workers rights.'

    go back and re-read the parent. Of course you don't have any facts for this point, just some series of ancedotes from adbusters or something.

    Dude, you suck.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    do you support neoliberalism? (none / 0) (#367)
    by decon recon on Wed Jun 02, 2004 at 10:47:13 PM EST

    On the impact of neoliberal economics, Stiglitz's Globalization and It's Discontents provides many points. Sen's Development and Freedom provides another line of argument.  

    The burden of argument here is in your court really: The failures of neoliberalism are well documented in the above works. The slow paths of transition to capitalism by China and Poland have achieved very good results.  More radical transitions have been failures.  

    We could go through points. Fine. Do you really want to do that?  It seems we are quite far about in basic principles. Do you favor neoliberalism? If so, why?

    The debate for the developing world remains what kind of capitalism.  You think this is settled. For developed world, the question is can we democratize capitalism more and more and eventually replace capitalism with a participatory economic democracy.

    --

    Anyway:
    I'm beginning to conclude that your tendency to offer insults is based on a rigid position that must try to tear down alternate principled stances -- and shift ground and avoid engagement rather than discussions.  

    You don't offer much in the way of references or argument to back up your points.  I've consistently offered references and some argument for my main points. You never engage those.

    In last post I was responding to your points in a general way, bud. You throw out various topics so I generally engaged a few. I also continue to address the main lines in the strings here and you have yet to do so.

    I think you need to reread what you've written and see if it applies to your approach here. Really.  This extensive tendency to insult rather than engage is probably rooted in some aspect of your discourse.


    [ Parent ]

    son... (none / 1) (#368)
    by bankind on Fri Jun 04, 2004 at 03:17:10 AM EST

    The debate for the developing world remains what kind of capitalism. You think this is settled. For developed world, the question is can we democratize capitalism more and more and eventually replace capitalism with a participatory economic democracy.

    Hardly, I think essentially your argument is about issues that have no basis in reality. No facts. Trust that I am well versed on most modern thoughts and trends in economic thinking, now also trust that rather than reading these layman's books (such as Development as Freedom and Globalization and its discontents ) that I also am well familiar with the backbone academic articles that make up these arguments (in fact more so than these airplane reads). So do get that straight, I'm not commming at this like someone that knows a piece of the story, I know the pie. I could reference you various journal articles by the NBER, IIE, or other academic references but I doubt you will understand the process to even get to the right questions. Frankly, me quoting to you Xavier Sen Martin will not ultimatly prove my point. Referencing the democracy and GDP per capita study on-going at Harvard (that shows that there is zero coorelation over 200 years of statistical evidence--democracy is statistically insignificant) will not make my point either.

    Instead you doubt all these references from a point of outside observation, through your interdisciplinary studies, which to me is like reading the inside leaflet of a book and saying you understand the issue (Development as Freedom is a perfect example).

    So what am I getting at here: well in the real world, outside of frankfurt critical theory, we have to work in sub-optimal non-control politicized environments. When people such as yourself, bringing nothing more than your vision of paraecon or whatever, do nothing good for our service. The only basis for your material is more material. Without real world numbers, no one cares. It is simply the truth and it is why I see through your bullshit and call out your work as nonsense.

    If the most significant study on democracy and welfare continues to show that the two are unrelated, how will you react? you'll retrench yourself and call out the methods, claim a crisis in economics, and invent some new term/field. This happend with the Asian model in the early 90's and is clearly unresolved. However, you rather than looking at the evidence enclose yourself in a wall of sources that agree with your opinion.

    But lets look real quick at Development as Freedom is it provactive, sure. Does it have an application: not a bit. Sorry, it doesn't. End of the day, Sen wrote more a book long editorial rather than a book on economics.

    Anyway, I know my positions quite clear, always invistigate, undermine and understand an issue by routing out the basis of these conclusions. When I read a document I run the stats, if you don't then you are a lemming.

    As far as my opinion, it is an ever changing and strengthening understanding of the world based on the most sound methodologies I can find. And that generally excludes gurus, witchdoctors, and snake oil selling proffessors with a pony/earring/stories of debautchery during his stay in Indonesia.

    If you need to read something go give some of Will Easterly's works a look over and get back to me, jr.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    how to critique expertise and not miss the point (none / 0) (#369)
    by decon recon on Sun Jun 06, 2004 at 06:46:53 PM EST

    We are approaching economic theories with very different perspectives and commitments. Here are some points about this:

    First: my main points in these strings are not about development and democracy. I know that you believe this is the most important topic, period. That is another topic and I disagree.  It is one important topic. I've repeatedly stated this. I'll repeat that a number of times in this note. Other important topics include:  The critique of the nature of economic theory, the critique of domination in neoliberal globalization and the theorizing about the potential of participatory economic democracy. These later topics have been my focus in the strings above. Your stance on the lack of association of democracy and welfare does not address the points I have been arguing in regards to ecnomic potentials in advanced capitalism.

    I did point to one K5 article I wrote on development issues and you did not respond to that.

    Second: A meta-point - Your last post is mostly an appeal to your authority and a dismal of alternative views. That is a step up from the many insults, a nasty ad hominem attack and weak argument style, in your previous posts here. This focus on your authority is still rhetorical posturing and does nothing to advance the discussion. You are attempting to defeat my points by both not addressing them and then by valuing your authority on the very topic that I critiqued in my first post -- the use of instrumental rationality at the base of economic theory. This mere brute assertion of authority is impressive to those not educated in statistics but it is rhetorically weak.

    If you wish to counter my points about economic democracy in advanced capitalism and the critique of instrumental rationality, you have to address those head on.  See the first 4 or 5 levels of my posts in these strings (and below) for some general approaches to those points.

    Third: FYI - I happen to have extensive training in statistical methods (6 or 7 grad courses) and I have full time professional work experience (6 years) in quantitative and statistical data analysis in public health areas. Hence, I am very very familiar with quantitative methods and reasoning.

    After my data analysis work, I returned for a phd in social science. I shifted from suing mainly quantitative methods to using mainly qualitative methods and case studies as these later reveal insights and generate much deeper understandings of social actions and meanings in institutional contexts. I have studied the sociology of science and technology (and of social science) and political economy and social theory as it impacts these in various social theory frameworks.

    I find statistical modelling (which again I have run various types over and over in service of various research strategies) to be quite secondary to critical and social theories.

    Here is a list of some of the theorists that I find useful for thinking about political-economy, as many o them usually fall outside the purview of conservative liberal economic training and study -- though they have very important views to consider. These theorists and thinkers include Marx, Kropotkin, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel, Horkheimer and Adorno, Habermas, Gramsci, Marcuse, C. Wright Mills, Murray Bookchin, Berger and Luckmann, Harry Braverman, Piven and Cloward, Latour, Gouldner, Foucault, Tilly, Goldstone, Giddens, Collins, Held, Castells, Hochschild, Richard Sennett, Deleuze and Guattari, Negri and Hardt, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Moishe Postone, and others. Also there are economic thinkers such as Boulding, Schumaker, Galbraith, Stiglitz, Sen, Michael Albert, and others. And, I also find popular thinkers like Hazel Henderson, Satin, Rifkin, Toffler, Walden Bello, Naomi Klein, and so on to be helpful.

    Some of the above thinkers few are too pomo. A few are too 19th century. Most are too much this or too that. Most are not from the formal liberal economics side, but rather from the left economics side. All of the above still share very important insights about social actions and relationships and historical trends that are important to use in analyzing political-economic systems. My critique comes from those often very solid theory and research bases. The social science critique of liberal economic rationality and consideration of various alternatives (be they welfare, parecon, market socialism, natural capitalism, whatever) are fundamentally important to a good future society.

    Why mention all these thinkers?  These people bring important approaches to the economic debates.

    If you have not studies all of the above, your claim to have studied all the useful economic theories is quite off base.  No one can study all of these in perspectives depth. Hence, there is a need for dialog across different theories. But, one can know a number of these in depth.

    Fourth: So, I am not a junior intellectual effort to you. I am in another field. You are an economist. That's great. It is very good that you look at various economic theory and data. I am a social researcher. I do the same with multiple social research methods.  As noted, I have extensive training and extensive work experience in various quantitative analysis methods. I find qualitative and case study methods to shed more light on the connections amongst various social factors. So, that is what I focus on today.

    Fifth: So, I am well aware of how statistical and instrumental reason can be twisted and abused in various ways. The studies of the conditions for democratic and moral discourse and relationships and communicative rationality are fundamentally important to a good society. Engaging these conditions deliberatively underlies any just and equitable social interaction system, including economic systems. Such communicative rationality concepts (treating others as subjects from the get go--participatory reciprocal relationships) are also relevant to criticizing theoretical postures such as yours in this string. We could go into the critique of bureaucratic and instrumental rationality and its oppressive uses if you want: starting with Marx and moving to Mills and Baverman and Habermas and on to Latour and Woolgar and others. More interesting still would be the discussion liberating, critical, or communicative reason, but that is Frankfurt school stuff or hey, third generation feminist theory stuff or hey autonomist Marxist stuff, and you have stated you are not interested in that.

    So, a main point of my original post at the stop of this string has yet to emerge in your response -- the critique of instrumental rationality. I'd like to reintroduce that. There is an underlying counter-assumption that you make: that statistical analysis of economic trends is the way to resolve economic debates. No, this is my challenge: philosophical debate and criticism is the way to address the meaning and value of social systems of which economic systems are one part. But, you seem to reject the interdisciplinary thinking involved when it touches on cultural and philosophical issues.

    Here is a summary (I jotted 5 or so years ago) of one approach to a critique of objective scientific reason. Latour's approach is a little too social constructionist for me as a study of physical science (which I think do describe objective reality) but Latour's approach is correct in regard to the social sciences:

    Bruno Latour in _Science in Action_ takes a radically social constructionist and partly socio-cultural movements perspective on science and technology. Latour shows how science cultivates knowledge, rather than uncovering objective facts. Latour proposes an ethnomethodolgical (read cultural-story-inquiry) method in which the first step is to suspend use of normal social and philosophical categories in the study of the practice of science. (Which is perhaps possible only if there are alternative views to hold.) His second and main step is to study science in action: Who practices it and gathers the resources, and where and how it is practiced. Latour dissolves the boundaries of some traditional oppositions in modern sciences:  Use of ideas and artifacts, subjectivity and objectivity, social and pure interests. Science does not only present us with highly debatable theoretical maps of the objective world which sometimes change fundamentally from generation to generation and sometimes become the conceptual bedrock of future assumptions, science is made by scientists who are driven by practical interests and supported by networks of cultural associations which frame and ground the social construction of tools and theories.  (That is: All science is subject to bias. Scientists introduce bias in various ways in their use of theories, methods and in their reporting of findings. This bias is often shaped (marketed) to suit the interests of those commanding the activity of scientific research -- be it the military, commerce these days or government grants. Latour cites various rather surprising statistics about the level of fudging, error, and outright deception (30%, 40% and the like) published in various scientific reports and journals. Note: there was a recent study about extensive statistical errors in Nature and British Journal of Medicine. On top of this, in many fields, there is a tendency to not publish studies with negative findings -- creating a the statistical error of over-reporting positive findings.)

    Beyond scientific rhetoric and the mystified celebration of mathematical methods, for Latour, the cause of society's and nature's stability, objectivity, is the result of a settled controversy, not of discovering truth. So, one can not look at hard objective social or natural categories (which categories were originally constructed) and deduce conclusions of arguments from them.  (You can use apples to do math but you can't use math to make apples! Well, maybe applesauce.)  To understand science, one must study the construction and alignment of subjective interests -- which when in retrospect is the story of the making science. In practice, techniques and laboratories are not separate from scientific claims. Technology and science together are a social practice. After enrolling and weaving together as many resources as possible, science is objectivized by redefining responsibility for this construction as an idea discovered.

    So, a key insight is here. The manufacture of scientific facts is mediated through language, tools, and techniques -- all intersubjective constructions. Hence, to understand science, we need to understand the sociology and linguistics of science. Maps are not separate from their use or from the tools that are extended to make them or from practices of interpretation. In short, again, objectivity is created and grounded in inter-subjective practice. (As is subjectivity.)  And not only are the inside and outside, the subjective meanings and objective work, of creating science not separate in practice, for Latour, hard science is the most connected to society of all scientific practice.  So, just as maps are reflective (or mirroring) and constructive, science is reflective and constructed and constructive of lived social contexts.  Quite practically so...

    Looking simply at where resources come from and go to, the majority of hard science this century has been supported by resources addressing military aims and health industry aims. These two arenas are focused on survival of the social body and physical body. More recently, information technology has become a major source of investment and technique -- meriting consideration of a fundamental shift in our culture and economy from politico-bio-maintenance to communication.  The marshaling of cultural resources in science is a potent theme in Latour's project.  It is quite intriguing for the future of social theory to consider how as the economy becomes more virtually negotiated, if social construction perspectives will become more liminal and reflected in social commentary, perhaps enabling an expanded use of social theories and inviting more intricately critical theories associated with sophisticated liberating practices.

    The radicalness of Latour's project is to propose that it is not necessary to attribute qualities to the mind , the world or a method, but that one may first inspect how subjective records such as inscriptions, or significations, are gathered, combined, and tied together -- the rhetoric and practices of science. His conclusion is that a study of mobilization of interests and inscriptions goes a very long way to explain most reality claims. It is enough to tell the story! This seems to invite a radical relativism. Yet, Latour says that one must use the languages of both realism (objectivity) and relativism (radical subjectivity) in talking about Science. For! Scientists use both languages -- objectivity for settled controversies and relativistic stances for their ongoing debates. This contrast is found in Latour's work itself. Perhaps, given Latour's openness to varying reality stories, and sociologies, it is quite a bit ironic that he elevates one particular method -- social inquiry into resources, interests, practices and lexicon -- as the way to start in understanding science.  Perhaps this irony is intentional, given the reflexive self-critical comments in Latour's work: he is a bit of self-conscious in elevating a beautifully formed theory of social construction to canonical status in his own work (see the methods appendix to _Science in Action_). Yet, why not out and out advocate a pluralistic approach and compare the results of various lines of inquiry?  This point is an old problem in theories of knowledge: Do theories apply to themselves?

    So, the above can be applied to economics and any social science. We need to see what are the stakes and interests in economic theories. For instance, in studying development economics, we also need to be aware of how conservative academics leverage liberal economic theory for the interests of various transnational capitalist corporations and the IMF in forwarding neoliberalism -- and yes how leftists economic theorists react to that.

    Why go into all of the above?  It is at this level of epistemological critique that I think we have a conflict. I critiqued the biases and abuses in the instrumental rationality of economics (based on very sound theory from Habermas).  You have kept putting forward that this very instrumentally based approach to economic theory is the way to understand economics (in a sphere I have not been talking about) and rule out the possibility of critique if one does not have expertise in your area and share your presuppositions. We need to discuss knowledge claims, social science methods and underlying assumptions at this point. But, you have repeated said you are not into such interdisciplinary reflections. If this is really so, perhaps we don't have much to talk about.  I am doing an epistemological critique. You are holding to the potency of the methods of your form of capitalist friendly economics, while rejecting leftist critiques within economics and the meta-critique.

    [And yes: I do have dozens and dozens of fragments like the general framing of issues above which I am going to have to use to flesh out my case as I am short on time. Some of the theory fragments are more specific to the case of critiquing economics.]

    Sixth: You offer some references. Nice. However, William Easterly looks issues such as how bad government can keep developing countries trapped in poverty cycles. This is the debate about development again. So, this reference misses the point again.  Yet, on the other hand, this is a reference to the interaction of politics and economy. You seem to be selective about which interdisciplinary approaches you accept as worthy of being connected with economics. Those that support your thesis of the autonomy of economics, fine:  Let 'em in. From what I've read, it is probable Sen and Stiglitz have more to say about our possible democratic and sustainable futures than Easterly.

    Seventh: While my main topic in this strings is not studying economic theory of development, two things: I do agree with you that the economics of development is very important for achieving sustainable way of life on our planet (noting that economic innovations which really impact the global scene are likely to come in advanced economies, including such sectors yes in developing countries). I also agree that the study of the association of democracy and economic development, of which you mention a study, is interesting. It is aside from my main points again.

    Eighth: You seem to reject Stiglitz and Sen's more general works and their views too? These works are where they depart from formal economic theory and embrace and use philosophy and social science. Do you dismiss as well the more cultural work of Marx, Weber, Mills, and Smith? All did work in both economic and cultural theory. Deep social thinkers look at how societies systems interact *and* and at what motivates them in meanings and values.

    Ninth: Yes, Sen's book is an editorial -- or a long essay on values, philosophy, political, economical and cultural forces. It is for a general audience. Various other deep thinkers on the economy have mixed such -- Marx, Weber, Mills, etc. Some of their works are still exemplary (though methods and concepts need to be critique) -- a 100 years later -- because of their profound genius. It is good for the principles in these works and those like the most gifted political-economic thinkers of today, like Sen and Stiglitz, to be debated and not dismissed.

    Tenth: However, you write about Sen, "But lets look real quick at Development as Freedom is it provactive, sure. Does it have an application: not a bit. Sorry, it doesn't."

    Excuse me!  Sen describes applications. Your pronouncement from the depths of your involvement in economics have missed a profoundly obvious truth. Sen is describing the application of rationality to maximizing various freedoms in modern liberal democracies -- and how economic relations is but one part of that. The applications of value and philosophy to economic theory is for expanding freedom not for maximizing profit -- and if we follow through on these values, it will changes how we shape our politics and cultural systems to shape our economies and yes vice-versa. The history of western culture for 200 years has been about the expansion of various freedoms.  So, Sen links this to economics. Positive and negative freedoms are both important. They are very present in modern society.  These issues are at the center of what it is to have a good life.  

    Humanists like these thinkers pursue social justice and freedom and democracy for the principles of these -- if it costs more, it is up for a society to choose those or other social goods -- and they would do so most usually. These goods is not as efficient as some types of capitalism at extracting profit, but they are more meaningful.

    We evaluate these issues through considering the interplay values and principles in everyday life and social context. Essays are a good way to do that. Here are some social science ways to analyze these issues (that are superior to statistical analysis -- for the study of meaning and value in informing social and institutional action): Case studies of the complex interactions of various social systems are one way (macro breadth). Multi-dimensional analyses of one slice of causal interactions in institutional processes are another way (macro depth). In-depth personal interviews is another at an individual level (individual depth). Participant observation of social behavior across various systems is another at a inter-personal level (individual breadth). Integrating case studies and biographies and participation in methods are ideal. These qualitative and combined methods (that can draw on intense statistical models) are much preferable to most of liberal economic theory.

    In rather arrogantly on the basis of hard care economic theory or not throwing out Sen and Stiglitz's popular and yet theoretically wide-ranging and valuable books, you are not only not addressing their main points which connect to my main arguments, you are missing the variety of ways in which these seminal thinkers are extending economic thinking from a sterile science into being a rich social science with an economic focus.

    So. You have stated repeatedly your disregard for the use of interdisciplinary discourse on economic topics (how convenient a way to marginalize my original criticisms of instrumental rationality in economics).  An now you reject Stiglitz and Sen, who, like Frankfurt critical theorists (who do this type of deep analysis better than the forays of Sen and Stiglitz, quite arguably), bring to bear critical thought on moral principles and the pursuit of value, democracy and freedom in society. To trot out that such principles may or may not have a connection to economic development in developing countries or in the history of capitalism is to miss the point. The point is our values and principles shape our politics and laws and institutional cultures which shape how we will shape a more democratic future. As economic democracy has not been tried (the socialism of the 20th century was not that), we are left with analyzing small demonstration projects and a few networks here and there across history and emergent tendencies in late capital, of which there are a number now -- see previous notes and references.

    Eleventh: So, if you persist in staying stuck on the development theme, there is not much to talk about in terms of economic democracy -- which I am proposing (based on the historical record) mostly likely requires political democracy in advanced or somewhat advanced industrial societies.  Sorry if I am really beat the topic to death by repetition but you consistent ignore it.

    If you want to talk about purchasing power parity, OK. I'd rather not get off topic (this was one of your development tangents) so I glossed over it in the same way you have: With a declaration of truth (Stiglitz glosses over the $1/day issue in much the same way -- grand hand waving in place of argument -- seems to be a favorite of economists). This kind of rules out dialog, huh? However, to discuss PPP, in terms of a critique of rationality (as an epistemological exercise -- though it is much more than that) would be interesting, because one would have to look out how different PPP calculations could slant the interpretation of poverty and basic needs/resources being met one way or the other. And, why do liberal economists favor some particular way of framing PPPs and not others? And are there not problems in relating PPPs across cultures?  As noted by Sen, what is really needed is an evaluation of quality of life and freedoms across various social domains.

    Finally: You have thrown in some marginalizing statements along with your self praise in this last post. Both weaken your position SINCE.... Yet again: You have managed to bypass yet again a main point of my discussions again:  my focus is on economic democracy in advanced capitalism.  That is much more likely in the many-to-many communication systems and network structures evolving in advanced industrial societies and those developing societies with advanced industrial sectors, such as China, India, and Brazil.

    If you do wish to address the points in the origin of this string such as the discussion of the critique of reason and the possibility democratic economic relations, great. I'll give it one more try. If you throw out insults again and redirect to your area of interest in development economics, I will regard you as being stuck in your position and blind to discourse.

    This post lays out where I think it would be fruitful to engage the topics from the start of these strings. I don't have much time. I am sorry if this is a bit redundant in places -- quite busy this weekend. I actually don't think we are going to have a productive dialog. But, I'll give it another try or two, if you respond with something of substance.

    It would forward matters if you would pick one point or two of my general line of reasoning and mount a counter-critique.  We both might learn something then. For instance, this claim of the convergence of development thinkers you made a few posts ago (which is not relevant to general points) and is very much not the case -- why try that tactic?  Rather, let's examine perhaps the abuse of reason? No. That would involve perspectives from various social sciences and philosophy. So...

    Let's get focused on the basic issues or let's drop it for another time -- when you might be more inclined perhaps to debate alternative socio-economic theories.


    [ Parent ]

    Are you serious? (none / 0) (#370)
    by bankind on Mon Jun 07, 2004 at 06:03:44 AM EST

    JK Galbraith? Didn't Solow nail him in a coffin, drag him out to the ocean, and bury that man forever? I can't recall the last time someone seriously brought up Galbriath in a discussion. Oh wait I can, I saw him quoted in an issue of adbusters. Anyway, it was the reference to Adorno that cracked me up the most.

    Look we can argue about who said what and how, but really in the previous post I claimed that in the face of a negative critical response to 'democratic value' that you would enshroud yourself in a sea of references. thanks for proving my point.

    I'd also like to say I understood what you are going on about in the above, however I don't. It is so far out of place to any remote coherence of reality. It also is incredibly long and frankly you are incredibly naive to believe I would possibly waste my time reading that collection of mind-wankery.

    I heard that there is this 500 page philosophy book on the ethics of windowsills. Next time you should cut and paste some of that in your argument as well.

    Simply regarding Sen's book, claiming that there is any remote suggestion of 'process' is about the most hilarious bit of self delusion I've heard in a long time. And frankly I value Sen's ability to rate any other individual's level of happiness about as much as I value your ability to judge what is best for overall society. Which is zero.

    Also, I think you should watch yourself, you really sound like a 20 year old future neo-conservative with all that culture talk.

    Good luck on your dissertation, I'm sure you will be awarded it on the size of you bibliography.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    you missed at the top... (none / 0) (#371)
    by decon recon on Mon Jun 07, 2004 at 10:00:48 AM EST

    in the last comment by me, there are sections at the top where I note that am very unimpressed with your appeal to authority or statistics. This is a weak argument strategy -- which you continue in this last comment by rejecting one or two thinkers.

    I am unimpressed with your appeals to expertise as I have done extensive statistical work.

    You missed the discussion of social construction of science and fallibility of that -- hence the need to inspect the principles and biases and assumptions scientific projects whithin in a moral and philosophical framework.

    Yes, Adorno and Horkheimer:  See the Dialectic of Enlightenment for the abuse of reason. You seem to not be concerned about this.

    Galbraith made many attacks on mainstream economic theory -- pooh poohing him through one ref does invalidate all of those critiques. Some of his themes: There is not a perfectly competitive firm. That economic issues are politically capatured.  (A theme also found in Habermas's legitimation crises -- social conflicts migrate across social sphere, from economics to politics and even cultural spheres.)

    My roots in critical theory are to balance political-economic critique and cultural critique.  You throw around insults with the grace of a neocon.

    So, you have avoided the return to the critique of reason which is the subject of the original post.

    There is no dialog possible with you, unless you wish to grapple with the critique of reason.

    good bye.


    [ Parent ]

    reason, sure I'll show you reason (none / 1) (#372)
    by bankind on Tue Jun 08, 2004 at 03:02:11 AM EST

    I'll grapple on a critique of reason, why is it you seem to proclaim IVY league professors somehow are not mainstream? Galbraith was an econ prof at Harvard. I'll sum up my views on this thread:
    You: you must understand the logic to understand the specifics
    Me: all that matters is what I see hear and taste dickhead
    You: stop calling me a dickhead, it shows that you don't see the dynamics of frankfurt critical theory and 3rd generation feminism that you would have such a material view of the world
    Me: What did you say dickface? NO one cares about anything you are talking about except the professors that your parents are paying for an education.
    You: If you call me a dickface again I'm going home, but not until I reference all the obscure books in the back of this "how to be a humanities PHD student handbook."
    Me: Dickface, it would be good if you even knew who you are talking about before you referenced them.
    You: As you have called me a dickface I will now cut-n-paste for you some observations I made on, like, the world while at starfucks.

    Pure and simple you are the type of `scholar' that likes to reference people and places without any regard for context. Never mind that Chomsky supported the Khmer Rouge, Never mind that Betrand Russel advocated first strike on Russia. Never mind Adorno has been caught for plagiarism and his behavior models are frauds. None of those matters as they all add to the bibliography of your dissertation and more importantly strengthen your leftist ideals. For that matter forget the real world, instead spend time reading anecdotes and case studies, I'm sure after you consume enough somehow in the plural form, it will equal data.

    Why can't you accept that there is a great deal of success in this world? Why can't you spend time learning about what we have instead of trying to shape the world to your biased opinions?

    If you want to grapple with reason, and big questions, ask why you spend your time so selfishly in a field of consumption (academics) rather than in the world of production?

    So far you seem like nothing more that a student of comparative literature... dickface.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    LOL! (none / 1) (#296)
    by cr8dle2grave on Mon May 24, 2004 at 11:08:34 AM EST

    my numbers are far more persuasive than your -isms and visions

    Thanks for the chuckle.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    numbers discussed in parallel note (none / 0) (#307)
    by decon recon on Mon May 24, 2004 at 02:27:00 PM EST

    I responded to bankind's numbers pointing out how the number's have been used.  

    You might read that to see the counter.

    I favor mixing principles, critique and data... and leaving out the insults.

    [ Parent ]

    twisted mirror image of dh003i (none / 1) (#291)
    by bankind on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:38:49 AM EST

    But I do love this line:

    ...I just don't have time. that is because I am doing other time consuming intellectual work at the moment.

    bankind's translation service:
    I'm a slack-jawed mouth breather.

    Anyway, we should have a POB discussion sometime soon, I came into a cache of books recently.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    for my money (none / 0) (#294)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 10:33:53 AM EST

    The scene in Post-Captain where Aubrey beats the daylights out of Adam Scriven is the best-written fight scene in the history of literature.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    after reading your comment (none / 0) (#354)
    by bankind on Thu May 27, 2004 at 12:56:30 AM EST

    I decided to reread that bit of post-captain. It was pretty damn slick, but so far, I thin the scene in the HMS Suprise with the Malay pirates cutting out that ship is my favorite. With afterwards, Aubrey throwing his sword into the ocean. Like most of POB's writing it is just classic, moderated, perfect...

    Even though there are 20 books, I do wish that the series had an ending.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    I just reread HMS Surprise last week (none / 0) (#358)
    by Battle Troll on Thu May 27, 2004 at 07:11:29 PM EST

    Got Far Side of the World going right now.

    I love that scene with the Malay and Chinese pirates for several reasons:

  • Though a gore-soaked fight scene, it gets you deep into Jack's and Sophie's characters; his need to make her into a bit of a little woman and her need to be one; his Tory character where, though a killer and prize-taker of two dozen years' experience, he can only handle violence when it's within certain vaguely-defined but inviolable parameters.
  • It's great action writing. You feel present.
  • It expresses the fascinating differences in the experience of dirt-poor peasants in England vs. South Asia. The English tars are Tories almost as much as is Jack. The Chinese pirates, on the other hand, come from a highly developed civilization in which peasants have so little guaranteed access to their basic needs that they can be quite cold-blooded about killing in a way that repulses the British.

    It's genius, absolute genius, is what it is; POB is the only writer I know of who could write something so nuanced and informed. Most novelists write for their buddies at the coffeeshop. POB, on the other hand, wrote the great, great novels, that are anathema to the masturbatory Western intellectual classes, but that ring cherries for any smart guy with knowledge of the world who wants to spend time around men of action like himself. I can't tell you what a great influence those books were on me. They turned me off bookwormhood forever.

    Have you read the chase-sequence with the Waakzamheid yet, on the horrible old Leopard?
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

  • He's obtuse enough to be an academic... (none / 0) (#298)
    by cr8dle2grave on Mon May 24, 2004 at 11:32:36 AM EST

    ...but if he is in fact one, he's not a particularly good one. He eagerly trotted out Habermas as an authority, but no amount of prodding on my part could elicit from him a response that would indicate even a passing familiarity of the percieved crisis in Marxist theory to which the Frankfurt School, and their uneasy reconcilliation with liberalism, was a response.  

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    hmm (none / 0) (#301)
    by Battle Troll on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:56:23 PM EST

    Maybe bankind's right, then: trustafarian name-dropper.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    See this (none / 0) (#308)
    by decon recon on Mon May 24, 2004 at 02:28:03 PM EST

    Further up...

    How to Frankfurt?
    On the development of the Frankfurt school and how to approach economic democracy as a liberation project.

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2004/5/18/163324/792/305

    [ Parent ]

    On the Frankfurt school and economic democracy (none / 0) (#306)
    by decon recon on Mon May 24, 2004 at 02:25:01 PM EST

    In reply to you, here is some theory at link below in this string (further up near top). My theory is generally up to snuff and exciting according to some excellent eminent Frankfurt school theorists who have noted so.

    The bits in the link below are quickly done and a very general skim over complex stuff:

    How to Frankfurt?
    On the development of the Frankfurt school and how to approach economic democracy as a liberation project.

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2004/5/18/163324/792/305


    [ Parent ]

    See: ideology and movement roots of parecon (none / 0) (#362)
    by decon recon on Fri May 28, 2004 at 12:32:30 AM EST

    See this post also.

    This is another bit of critical theory in answer to an earlier question of yours above about ideology and parecon:

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2004/5/18/163324/792/360


    [ Parent ]

    Umm why? (none / 0) (#335)
    by CENGEL3 on Tue May 25, 2004 at 05:27:06 PM EST

    Why is it that we have to do Parecon? Other then the simple fact that YOU want to?

    The capitalist system is certainly not broken. It is working perfectly fine as evidenced by a real increase in the quality of life and standards of living in most capitalist nations. Not to mention being coupled with unparraled political freedoms.

    If you don't believe me just look at the nations with the longest waiting lists for immigration permits... they are all very strongly capitalist.
    People are crawling over each other trying to get in. How do you explain that?

    Whereas almost ALL the large examples of systems similar to the one you are discussing HAVE RESULTED in brutal authoritarian regimes. Regimes that were so oppressive that they had to guard thier borders just to keep thier own citizens from escaping. You can make excuses for WHY that happen and make arguements about why it does not neccesarly have to be that way.... but the bottom line is that it HAS BEEN.

    Why should anyone be willing to take a risk on rolling those dice again? Especialy when capitalism is working reasonably well (and it is) for the great majority of people in capitalist systems.

    You've provided some examples of Parecon systems that "work well". Since I've never heard of them, I'll take your word that they do in fact work well. However, those are VERY small examples and can't really compare to the economic system of an entire nation.

    I'll tell you that almost every micro-example of similar cooperatively managed system has been a total circle jerk...and an absolute disaster as far as competitiveness.

    Furthermore, your theory about transitioning to an economy of the sort you describe peacefully is absolute bunk. The only way you are going to get me to give up my capital and my ability to manage it as I see fit is to put a gun to my head, literaly. There are millions upon millions of people just like me who will not voluntarly participate in the system you propose. So tell me... how exactly are you going to deal with people like me without coercion?

    [ Parent ]

    you might want to remember (none / 0) (#187)
    by Battle Troll on Thu May 20, 2004 at 07:49:34 PM EST

    What Burke said about democracy and military dictatorship, or Rosa Luxemburg's warning to Lenin. (Only two 'n's, he wasn't a Beatle.)
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]
    Rosa Luxemburg on freedom (none / 0) (#199)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:39:13 PM EST

    She said:
    "Freedom for only the supporters of the government, however many there may be, is not real freedom. Real freedom is freedom for those who think differently."
    http://www.newsandletters.org/Issues/2004/May/Essay_May2004.htm

    So, freedom of press is needed.  Freedom of association.  Religious freedom.  Etc.

    These are some of freedoms in a liberal political democracy.

    These are required for economic democracy as well.

    Anyone who advocates decentralist economics would agree with this it seems.

    I spelled Lenin as Lenin in my previous post. I am arguing the decentralist case here.  Are you sure you replied to the correct post?


    [ Parent ]

    I didn't ask for a random Rosa Luxemburg quote. (none / 1) (#211)
    by Battle Troll on Fri May 21, 2004 at 09:49:56 AM EST

    Thank you for that, though, I had no idea of her best-known sayings.

    She warned Lenin that dictatorship of a class can become rule by a party, which can become rule by a party committee, which can become rule by the chairman, who can dispense with a committee easily enough. This is exactly what happened in the USSR.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    the quote makes a key point (none / 0) (#213)
    by decon recon on Fri May 21, 2004 at 09:59:14 AM EST

    and, again, I agree with that problem with centralization of authority in social movement organizations

    the quote I shared points to the positive side of this dynamic -- that political freedoms and grass roots political democracy together can be fertile ground for economic democracy.

    [ Parent ]

    I doubt it (none / 0) (#218)
    by Battle Troll on Fri May 21, 2004 at 11:27:04 AM EST

    Soviet Russia was implemented under a Leninist form of government. The revolutionary decentralists, the Mensheviks, lost out to the centralists, the Bolsheviks, fairly early on.

    There's a reason that the Mensheviks lost out. That's what my Luxemburg quote was intended to elucidate. While I can certainly sympathize with people living under the oppression of a capitalist regime, you ought to remember that decentralization of power can hardly be ordained by fiat (by definition; it wouldn't be 'decentralization' in that case.) It has to arise from many people truly possessing a measure of power. Economic power is the least dangerous form of power; I can speak my mind much more confidently to someone with $100 million in the bank than I could to someone with influence in a state security apparatus (or, the other side of the coin, with untrammelled private thugs in a state in anarchy.)

    political freedoms and grass roots political democracy together can be fertile ground for economic democracy

    Well, how can I possibly say a word against 'political freedoms' or 'grass roots political democracy' without looking like a monster? This statement is so vague that it can't be argued. But trying to get from that to your "expansion of democracy here from politics into economics" sounds like you'd have to travel by the road of making production and wealth unquestionably subjected to political power.

    Your problem is that, if people democratically resist your democratic movement, the political fist inevitably comes out of the democratic glove, and we find out exactly whose political power is backed by authority and whose is backed only by votes. The institution of the welfare state go far towards dispossessing the capitalists; if you go beyond the welfare model and vote their money directly into your pockets, you'll cross a terrible line.
    --
    Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
    Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
    [ Parent ]

    another possibility (none / 0) (#220)
    by decon recon on Fri May 21, 2004 at 11:43:28 AM EST

    You seem to closely link economic democracy with political tyranny.  That is emphatically not a necessary connection.   Economic democracy, which we haven't seen on a wide scale (but there are local and regional examples), best goes with political democracy.

    you wrote:
    "The institution of the welfare state go far towards dispossessing the capitalists; if you go beyond the welfare model and vote their money directly into your pockets, you'll cross a terrible line."

    This is a key point of contention.

    A good possibility for the development of parecon and like models, I think, is for democratic economic networks to be fostered within social democratic states.  This can be done with the same or less amount of political-economic practices (legal protections, advantages, tax breaks, direct financial sponsorship, etc.) as are undertaken to sponsor very large corporations (benefittingthe few) now by western states.

    you wrote:
    "Your problem is that, if people democratically resist your democratic movement, the political fist inevitably comes out of the democratic glove, and we find out exactly whose political power is backed by authority and whose is backed only by votes."

    Given what I said above, this is not necessarily the direction of development.  

    We are talking a new paradigm here: the model is the social investment in democratic planning and worker co-management of firms (along with other econ democratic processes) within a capitalist system at first (a more democratic system later). There would also be strong controls on monopolies and various oppressive big business strategies, which are innate principles to our western liberal democracies already, but are not enforced well because of the power of big business in influencing government, so far.


    [ Parent ]

    nothing new here... (none / 1) (#243)
    by bankind on Sat May 22, 2004 at 03:22:07 AM EST

    We are talking a new paradigm here: the model is the social investment in democratic planning and worker co-management of firms (along with other econ democratic processes) within a capitalist system at first (a more democratic system later).

    amd how does this differ from the current system of stock ownership by employees? Stockholders rights allows votes in regards to management decisions. This is not only a function of the financial system of a fully development captialist system but is also some of the SOE privatization strategies of transitional economies.

    And even on an academic side you can see these same issues raised time and time again, the best example I would suggest as the later works of Thorstien Veblen regarding engineer driven companies based on technological complexity.

    Anyway, again I'm led to beleive you are very isolated in whatever academics your pursue (ie what is the latest, cutting edge, and controversial) as well as I doubt seriously that you've done real project work on any incentive structure schemes (as you earlier claimed).

    Note of advice: new does not equal good.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    to correct your presumption (none / 0) (#257)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 09:59:21 AM EST

    Being very short of time *now*, I'm not inclined to dialog with someone like you who writes things like this, rather than asking questions. But to correct the disinformation in the more clueless part of what you wrote:

    "I'm led to beleive you are very isolated in whatever academics your pursue (ie what is the latest, cutting edge, and controversial) as well as I doubt seriously that you've done real project work on any incentive structure schemes"

    My social theory framework is interdisciplinary, grappling with real world problems in general, drawing on several interdisciplinary perspectives including the Frankfurt school of critical theory, 3rd wave feminist theory, political process social theory, and so on.  My project experience is hands on and organizing across many contexts -- political, spiritual, business, and academic.

    [ Parent ]

    In the words of Benjamin Franklin (none / 1) (#290)
    by bankind on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:16:45 AM EST

    A jack of all trades, is a master of nothing.

    My social theory framework is interdisciplinary, grappling with real world problems in general, drawing on several interdisciplinary perspectives including the Frankfurt school of critical theory, 3rd wave feminist theory, political process social theory, and so on. My project experience is hands on and organizing across many contexts -- political, spiritual, business, and academic.

    What's wrong with you? Can't learn any details of something tangible? I'm done with you and your "spiritual project work."

    You say "interdisciplinary," I say trustifarian that doesn't have the worries of student loans or future job markets.


    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    See: ideology and movement roots of parecon (none / 0) (#361)
    by decon recon on Fri May 28, 2004 at 12:29:32 AM EST

    An interdisciplinary view is necessary to see the outlines of various social trends that could lead to social democracy and then parecon.

    See this post above:

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2004/5/18/163324/792/360

    [ Parent ]

    ParEcon is essentially naive Marxism... (none / 1) (#165)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:03:18 PM EST

    ...which holds that we can reach the terminal state without first passing through the ugly realities concomitant with the dictatorship of proletariat.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    yes and no! (none / 0) (#171)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:21:36 PM EST

    we might need a global social democratic state (with checks and balances) first before we move to a decentralized social democratic political and economic networks of a parecon sort.  this is one way to expand economic democracy.

    there are other paths of development available.  

    Development options:
    growing democratic forms within capital forms is one way.
    growing them along side is another.
    having a few nation states make this move from a strong social democracy (such as in scandanavia) and then it catching on with other states is a possibility.

    I think you are too skeptical about parecon's possibilities.

    I wouldn't rule out various lines of development.

    [ Parent ]

    "You can have my capital... (none / 1) (#177)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:41:29 PM EST

    ...when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers."

    This essential sentiment, pervasive across the full spectrum of classes, will eventually prove fatal to all grandiose reformist fantasies.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    well, you've hit the nail on the head (none / 0) (#180)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:59:16 PM EST

    But is it a hammer (and parties) we need today?

    Or a computer?
    And education and micro-credit and coop and social movement networks?

    We shall see.

    OK.  Really, your maxim fails in the face of the evidence of the history of social transformation. And your maxim is 150 years out of date.

    Revolutions can work. Indeed, structural change requires contention.  

    But hyper-revolutions don't work. They fuck up.

    Evolution can keep going on and accomplish more than hyper-revolution. Witness the rights of women.  

    [ Parent ]

    Evolution.... (none / 0) (#216)
    by CENGEL3 on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:47:30 AM EST

    Implies a competitive advantage. I think history has amply proven that such models on a grand scale are competitively inferior (and I believe they are on a micro scale as well). You can blame the failures of previous attempts on whatever external factors you like....but the real world is not a petri dish.... external factors will always exist.... and systems that can't cope with them will fail.

    The problem with your particular revolution is that the vast majority of people in the world today want nothing to do with it (as evidenced by the stream of immigrants from socialist countries to capitalist countries). Is it possible that some day people might change thier mind on this? Sure, but I wouldn't bank on it anymore then I'd bank on people wanting a 3rd arse. Not every idea that has ever been postulated is an idea that a large number of people will want to pursue.

    [ Parent ]

    the recent history of social evolution (none / 0) (#219)
    by decon recon on Fri May 21, 2004 at 11:30:09 AM EST

    The opposite is the case from what you claim.
    I am arguing for decentralized democracy.

    The majority of people in the world want an expansion democratic protections and processes, in some domains at least.

    The recent history of social evolution or development, in the West, is to expansion of the following principles and practices:

    - more human rights platforms and legal protections for: women, people of color, lesbian, bi & gay people, handicapped people, etc.

    - more democratic forms of participation in various areas of society such as civic government, unions, tenant boards, etc.

    The movement to decentralized democratic democracy in practice is part of this general trend.

    "My particular revolution" is the development of democratic relations in all spheres of life -- something that all the above spheres of development demonstrate very well.

    Political democracy is an essential internal factor to a society's potential to establish economic democracy.  Yes, influence by Soviet or Chinese or U.S. imperialism has interrupted some social democratic experiments in the developing world.  I think economic democracy is more like to appear in relatively developed Europe or Latin American societies.

    You keep dismissing of parecon based on an historical cases which have as much to do with parecon, in principle, as say the U.S. democratic revolution. Without addressing the examples of successes and the actually theory of parecon or other similar dialogical theories, we can't go forward in evaluating that or other dialogical, participatory system. So, I am going to bow out now of this string. I suggest that folks check out www.parecon.org.

    [ Parent ]

    Evolution & Revolution (none / 1) (#227)
    by cr8dle2grave on Fri May 21, 2004 at 05:07:34 PM EST

    Evolution can keep going on and accomplish more than hyper-revolution. Witness the rights of women.

    Female sufferage and, more generally, the whole of the feminist platform, or at least those aspects of it which have met with some degree of success, has been realized from within Liberalism, not in opposition to it.

    Herein lies the crux of your problem: Liberalism has, on the whole, thus far proven to be highly effective at mitigating those conditions which would otherwise give rise to the lines of social resistance necessary to overturning it. Marx had theorized that a catastrophic failure of the Liberal-Capitalist order would prove to be the engine of history, the motive force for catapaulting humanity forward and beyond the capitalist stage of social development. If Liberalism can effectively defuse those potential lines of resistence by delivering a "good-enough" remediation of its inherent inequities, the collective will to realize the more radical agenda of overturning capitalism will never materialize.

    Now, this situation doesn't present me with any particular problems, as I've, somewhat reluctantly, hitched my wagon to Liberalism's star, but no amount of reform within the Liberal-Capitalist order will bring about the alleviation of alienation (or as you and Habermas would have it: instrumental rationality).

    I tend believe that liberal capitalism will, as you elsewhere suggest, continue to trend in the Keynesian direction of cleaving capital from management, thereby encouraging the development of broader economic enfranchisement, but the critical reversal you anticipate, the overturning of the capitalist mode of production itself, cannot be accomplished without the motive force provided by immiseration.  

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    you are 1/2 stuck in marx (none / 0) (#230)
    by decon recon on Fri May 21, 2004 at 06:42:27 PM EST

    another option: parecon can develop within liberal capitalism and then expand within liberal capitalism and then replace it.

    [ Parent ]
    For someone interested in social change (none / 0) (#232)
    by cr8dle2grave on Fri May 21, 2004 at 07:21:23 PM EST

    ...you're remarkably tight-lipped on the subject.

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    references on social change (none / 0) (#236)
    by decon recon on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:11:30 PM EST

    If you want to read more of my ideas on social change, see my first 2 articles posted at K5 (and comments there) and other posts in this string.  

    For anyone interested looking for more readings on social change, here are some starting points, links on social change and inner development:

    http://www.zmag.org/introtopol.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activism
    http://www.integralnaked.org/
    http://www.globalserve.net/~sarlo/Ratings.htm

    So.
    My cognitive style is immersion -- so I can only spend a bit of time here every month or two.  I mostly enjoy it, in spite of all the huff.

    I've run out of time this round.  I will submit more articles now and then, if I have time.  Discussing theory is not a fast process.


    [ Parent ]

    The no corporation cult (none / 0) (#240)
    by guidoreichstadter on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:39:01 PM EST

    Just persuade people to boycott all the corporations that are not democratically controlled, and build surrogates to satisfy the needs unobtainable under that criteria.


    you are human:
    no masters,
    no slaves.
    [ Parent ]
    many ways (none / 0) (#256)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 09:51:43 AM EST

    as it I would say the same thing, I'll repeat my points above in reply to your other comment:

    yah, there is a lot of power in various types of collective action.  in what direction then to act?

    very generally...
    the principle is one: economic democracy goes with political deomcarcy.

    but what mix of equalities and freedoms do we want in our deep democratic societies?

    there are wide number of ways to get to and grow more democratic institutions.

    the methods of social change and the social forms that could work are many.

    www.parecon.org has a good model.
    there are others out there...

    [ Parent ]

    I imagine it might be necessary to get by without (none / 0) (#238)
    by guidoreichstadter on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:26:41 PM EST

    capital.

    If you could figure out how to do without it, or make do with little of it, it might not make so much of a difference who has it.

    Of course, if necessary, people can be induced to share capital without recourse to violence. Or persuaded not to circulate it in certain circles on ideological grounds.

    And of course, most people don't have much capital at all.

    Plus, it's more instructive to learn how to build drugs from scratch than to occupy the pharmaceutical plant.


    you are human:
    no masters,
    no slaves.
    [ Parent ]

    Communism requires a global state (none / 0) (#191)
    by roystgnr on Thu May 20, 2004 at 08:49:32 PM EST

    Anything smaller, and you risk your young communists being confused by the prosperity of the capitalists elsewhere on the globe.

    [ Parent ]
    economic democracy needs a democratic polity (none / 0) (#198)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:31:53 PM EST

    of whatever size. global is not required. and...

    grassroots economic democracy is compatible with grassroots capitalism of certain sorts.

    [ Parent ]

    Getting from here to there (none / 1) (#164)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:55:38 PM EST

    It is, generally speaking, an act of stupendous folly to categorically reject out-of-hand a particular model of social organization, strictly on the grounds that the reality it describes is inherently unworkable. Human beings are manifestly capable of successfully existing within a widely variegated array of social structures, and the differentiated roles which constitute their larger social order. A satisfactory account of homo economicus must then minimally allow for the monastery as readily as the boardroom, and the Maasai herdsman as much as Bond Street's disciplined army of conspicuous consumers.

    I'll therefore put aside any particular objections I might have concerning the inherent feasibility of the ParEcon model and, for the sake of argument, assume that it describes a perfectly workable social order. It still remains to be seen that we've any way of getting from here to there (again leaving aside questions of whether ParEcon in fact posits a "there" worth obtaining). Is ParEcon anything other the effort of frustrated economists trying their hand at Utopian fictionalization? Is ParEcon, properly speaking, economics or just SciFi?

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    re: here to there (none / 1) (#167)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:06:33 PM EST

    Thanks for your hypothetical open mindedness :)

    A point made in the parallel string:

    Partial and imperfect real world examples levels (of some aspects of parecon) include the Mondragon coop system in Spain and the participatory planning process in Porto Alegre Brazil.

    There are also examples in the parecon lit.

    More generally, getting from here to there means lots of demonstration projects in grass roots economic democracy and then networks of those. Then, states or cities to allow, undertake, or foster economic development in these democratic directions. Examples mentioned above point to this.


    [ Parent ]

    I'm trying to play footsy with you here... (none / 2) (#173)
    by cr8dle2grave on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:33:14 PM EST

    ...but you keep recoiling like some coquettish virgin. I've not enough patience for a long drawn out victorian affair, so I must ask, if you'll pardon my boorishness, "However do you envision the realization of those ideological adjustments necessary for the establishment of a participatory economy?"

    Do you catch my drift? Or am I going to have to force myself upon you and whip out the Gramsci?

    ---
    Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


    [ Parent ]
    adjustments are under way (none / 1) (#178)
    by decon recon on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:53:26 PM EST

    ideology and practice adjustments and innovations are well under way.

    just that. (otherwise no point to talk about parecon.)

    quite a long discussion. various assumptions. various interpretations. big can of worms. hands get dirty. yelling happens.  

    whimsical short cut:  
    take texts from gramsci, autonomist marxists as in Dyer-Witheford (there I used the m word), 3rd generation frankfurt school theory integrating key pomo insights (as in Best and Kellner), parecon, new media studies, 3rd generation feminist theory, Freirian conscientization education methods, postcolonial thought, and yes, unfortunately, natual capitalism and various market capitalism burblings and more and whatever else you like...

    put texts in blender, mix with glue and water, let set for a nights, voila....

    make big revolutionary puppets out of the substance of the revolution: democratic paper mache

    take pictures, post online.

    long way:
    read Albert's work. he's the authority on this.  contrast and integrate with above works.

    as for more from me, I'm not a radical economist -- but with further proding you might get me to sqeek or mumble some.  no.  I'd start quoting Albert.

    my piece of this for now is how social movements and democratic revolutions are changing in the era of globalization and advanced tech. I may post on that here at some point, months or months and months down line.

    [ Parent ]

    ideology and movement roots of parecon (none / 0) (#360)
    by decon recon on Fri May 28, 2004 at 12:27:07 AM EST

    Just glanced at this part of the string again and decided to take some time with it...

    This is a good question:

    "However do you envision the realization of those ideological adjustments necessary for the establishment of a participatory economy?"

    This calls for a complex response and I didn't have the time to do that in this last week. Indeed, I'm squeezing it in now (as I wrap up my participation here for awhile).

    To rephrase your question: "what ideological adjustments are occurring that might support the establishment of a participatory economy?"

    In line with my suggestion that there are various ways to realize participatory economics (in, outside, after) in advanced industrial society:

    There are different ideological and political-economic currents leading in this direction. But they overlap. It is taking time for these to unfold.

    Ideological criticisms transformations are bound up with social movement projects.  Social movement projects change as different political challenges, counter forces, and opportunities unfold.

    In the 80s in Europe Green parties formed. Key principles of Die Grunen, the first Green party in Germany, were ecological wisdom, nonviolence, participatory democracy and social justice (if I remember correctly!). The American version of the Greens formulated in the mid to late 80s added a number of other principles.  Key here is a multiple liberation view linking political, economic and social liberations.  The original radical views got watered down each time the Greens got a little power - but the Greens spread and are spreading their philosophy widely.

    In the 80s, the third generation of feminist theory saw a linking of feminist, anti-racist and class based analyses, looking at interactions amongst people's experience, different oppressive systems and liberation projects.  That is, a poor black woman experiences three oppressions at once and the effects are additive. This calls for a nuanced analysis. Such analyses have been growing. Yes, these are mostly academic views - but they are informing activists in women's and anti-racist social movements.

    Various postmodern philosophical and cultural schools of thought (those that plow on with that) now tend to draw on such multiple liberation perspectives as well. These theories are informing movements.

    Various theorists from the 60s on worked on integral liberation project theories, including work by Albert, Chomsky and others. These theories are informing movements.

    In the late 90s, the anti-globalization or global justice movement (which had been emerging in the 80s in the global south in IMF protests) emerged in the global north to protest various aspects and organs of neoliberal capitalist economic globalization (Seattle against WTO, DC against IMF/WB, etc). The emerging global justice theories (as expressed in various movement platforms such as the world social form) read to me like an extension of the Greens and 3rd wave feminist thought (and really from the more integral of the radical democratic New Left thinking of the 60s) and some of the other theory trends mentioned above.  

    In global justice movement discourses, you have a wide platform of liberation projects listed in various movement statements. (an example can be found at the world social forum website.) There is an understanding that is becoming very clear that to liberate any type of oppression means to liberate from all types of oppression.

    At the same time, various platform statements around the turn of the millennium that outlined broad multi-dimensional liberation platforms -- These include The Earth Charter, The Hague Peace Accord, and A UN statement and several others.  All of these were long laundry lists of liberation projects including environmental, gender, anti-racist, class, human rights and other liberation and justice issues.

    The import of all this for progressive politics is that there are a number of emerging discourses that are from multiple liberation projects as the work of any specific social movement.  

    Albert suggests that the root principles cultivated through participatory economic democracy are equality, diversity, self/co-management, solidarity and sustainability. These principles mostly are stated or implied by the multi-dimensional takes on social justice by the Greens, 3rd wave feminist, global justice, etc. So, various cultural academic, social and political movements are spreading these multiple liberations ideas.  

    Key here is that economic democracy is connected to participatory political democracy and various social liberation projects.

    As for the economic processes the participatory economic model: this is based on worker and consumer counsels and democratic allocation and planning processes.  Yes, it is public property, anti-private property, and claims to be more efficient in allocation than the market.  So, there is a critique of private property and of corporations that needs to go on here. There is a critique of individualism. There is a positive argument for allocation vs. the market that needs to go on.  But, all of these *can* fall out of the above global social justice discourses. You need the principles and passion and identity and liberation work -- otherwise forget the pragmatics.

    To get all of these ideological and economic practices in a parecon system together would require a demonstration project at a community or state level where a populace decided to take on parecon.  One could imagine this is a progressive northern European or Latin American country.  The U.S. seems unlikely to be on the forefront of parecon development.

    So, progressives, based on progressive party membership, make up what, 10 to 20% ? of a populace in various advanced industrial society.

    What about the rest of a polity?  They would have to buy into parecon too. Not for partial demonstration projects and networks of those (there is a list of such at the parecon website). But, eventually, yes.

    As various social movement liberation projects are more and more woven into society and institutionalized -- and as progressive theory links various liberation projects then more and more people are exposed directly to the above multi-dimensional models, hopefully through critical participation in one of the dimensions.  But, perhaps just vaguely as part of a collective identification process with some general themes along these lines.

    On another tangent: There are elements of economic democratic trends happening within capitalism, such as ESOPs, co-ops, and progressive finance projects. These may acculturate some people to some aspects of economic democracy.  

    But more fundamentally, the consciousness change would be drive by multiple social movement discourses which link liberation from class oppression with liberation from other types of oppression.

    I think this is most likely to proceed in stages though.  I don't see one big leap as most likely.  More likely is first the development of social welfare projects at a global level -- a big if perhaps, but I think it is likely.  And various elements of parecon (worker and consumer councils) may expand in capitalist situations. Barter networks and freenets may grow creating a base ready for allocation work.  

    Within such a global social welfare society, some societies would be still more leftish -- those would be ready for parecon. These would seed deep and broad democratic practices informing all major institutional relationships.  Others would follow.  

    I think that advanced technology could produce abundance, once the energy problem is solved. This will produce more leisure time.  This will likely accelerate the move to alternative economic systems.  

    Further, if advanced computing and eventually A.I. keep accelerating, well, are thinking now might seem very outdated and intensely intelligent fluid elegantly regulated markets or democratic (iteratively planned) allocation systems might be AI or brain-to-brain internet facilitated.

    I think various economic processes might be tried over the next century or two. The more the merrier.


    [ Parent ]

    I don't know about parecon (none / 0) (#239)
    by guidoreichstadter on Fri May 21, 2004 at 10:29:15 PM EST

    But I think it should be reasonably easy to convince hundreds of millions of people to withdraw their capital from circulating with corporations that are not under direct democratic control. That would be an effective way of getting from here to somewhere, I think.


    you are human:
    no masters,
    no slaves.
    [ Parent ]
    various ways (none / 0) (#255)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 09:48:15 AM EST

    yah, there is a lot of power in various types of collective action.  the point is what goal to have.

    very generally...
    the principle is one: economic democracy goes with political deomcarcy.

    but what mix of equalities and freedoms do we want in our deep democratic societies?

    there are wide number of ways to get to and grow more democratic institutions.

    the methods of social change and the social forms that could work are many.


    [ Parent ]

    The Frankfurt school and economic democracy (none / 0) (#305)
    by decon recon on Mon May 24, 2004 at 02:21:34 PM EST

    How to Frankfurt?
    On the development of the Frankfurt school and how to approach economic democracy as a liberation project.
    One quick take.

    You requested a take on the Frankfurst school below.
    This is a very quick effort to suggest that economic liberation projects can be mixed with various types of political and cultural projects.

    Time has been an issue here for me from the start.  I have some big deadlines looming.  So, I've tried to keep things short.  But, this gets long.

    Off the top of my head...

    (Preliminary:  Other frames of theory are as useful as this.  Time, Time, Time. Sorry for the rough bits in next passage.)

    The Frankfurt school was a reconciliation between a Marxist and a Hegelian dialectical takes on cultural and cultural processes, taking a Weberian stance on the semi-autonomy and interconnectedness of various social spheres.

    Introduced into this was a Freudian perspective, to give a depth psychological dimension to the cultural critique of oppression (to complement the structural and ideological critiques of oppression).

    This stance was adopted to explain the failures of socialism in Stalinism, Nazism and, later, in explaining the emergence of U.S., through labor movement efforts in part, of the social welfare state.  These were all primarily cultural and political failures of the iron law of socialist development adopted by some more rigidly economistic Marxists.

    OK, this next bit is hairy and preliminary...

    Then, after this first wave of analysis, cultural movements exploded in the 60s.  Habermas further revised the Frankfurt program by bringing in pragmatism, speech act theory, moral philosophy and developed his theories of many aspects of society, including types of reason and types of cultural crises.

    The explosion of different liberation projects was complemented by the rise of postmodern, poststructuralist, ect. thought. Cultural issues became more central -- power-knowledge became important in practices, discourses and microstructure/micropolitics.   The Frankfurt program was unmoored from a general structural critique and liberation project and meta-narratives were challenged.  

    Habermas addressed this by grounding his analysis in a community of dialog and inquiry, a pragmatic sort of grounds, and in yet reaching beyond context in the introduction of immanent critique (a neo-Kantian move) of what would be in the best interest of a given community.

    Kellner and Best's take on and reconciliation of postmodern philosophy and Frankfurt theory.  The aim: explaining domination and liberation still, but using more refined understandings of cultural politics and dropping hegemonic master narrative theory in favor of more context bound theory. Liberation from economic, political and cultural oppression remain a central theme -- now as much through media and identity and legal works as through economic.  The revolution gets displaced from economy to other spheres.  This point is made strongly in an early Habermas work, legitimation crisis.  Melded with pomo, economy risks melting into the merge. But, Best and Kellner often keep returning to the focus on political-economy as a key realm -- but it gets lost in all the pomo theory and alternatives. In other words, as 3rd generation frankfurters, they have brought in so many types of theory -- that you could loose the key aspects of the economic critique of domination in capitalism.  To be fair: Some of Kellner's work updates critical theory, maintaining a balance in ideological and political-economic liberation projects.  It is just the 3 volumes of Best and Kellner in critiquing and integrating pomo from a Frankfurt school perspective -- is a bit vast and wily.

    I would balance this take with Dyer-Witheford, because his angle on atonomist Marxism, His take is grounded in both seeing social movements and real economic changes on a plurality of fronts -- reconciling the Marxist liberation project with postmodernism in one way -- but in keeping economic democracy as a central project, because without resources you have little ability to work with the media, political networks, or sustaining mobilization efforts.  He retained various economic liberation projects as a key *and* necessary factor -- making room for other social movements as parallel projects.  

    So, all these projects are going on at the same time in semi-autonomous ways (back to Weber) but without economic democratic efforts liberation work is still class divided and undercut and partial somehow (back to Marx).  So, the projects go on together: feminism, anti-racism, economic liberation. What the elements are of democracy and liberation (freedom, equality, community, truth conditions and legitimation, consciousness, etc.) are other topics and part of this web of theory. But, the above is to use a lot of words to get to a simple point...

    So, this fits into my emphasis in the above strings:  That political and economic democracy go together, but they can develop apart in different ways.  In general, an established political democracy is a workable framework for the development of economic democracy -- better than that of a newly forming state with unstable institutions.  It also fits with my suggestion that there can be multiple paths for grassroots economic democracy to unfold -- within, beside and after capitalism.  So, basically:

    There are various ways for participatory economic democracy (and it's many various elements) to unfold.  Brass tacks of that will have to be discussions for another time -- see Albert's parecon work anyway on that.

    So, I've been saying this over and over in above strings further down, which you chime in on -- and these points have not been engaged.  

    Perhaps the theory is needed -- or at least on the part of others, a dropping of rigid conceptions about Marx whenever economic democracy, especially a participatory variant, is mentioned.

    ---
    On the further down the string stuff:

    Instead of addressing my main points that I raised in reply to you (keeping the topic on economic democracy) or instead of raising questions -- you offer insults which are shallow and without substance -- ad hominem slurs basically -- delegitimizing your stance.

    Since you insult and question my background, The above are some quick very general thoughts...

    OK, I spent about 45 min., too much time, on this.  I don't have time to go into this stuff!  If you stop making silly insults, I'll take time to go into this more at some point in the future.

    Keep up the crap, as further down string... I'll consider that you are just using words strategically to battle, insult and maneuver so as to discredit positions (falsely conceived ones) and not engaging in dialog.  


    [ Parent ]

    Rationality (none / 0) (#248)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:32:38 AM EST

    "Using the above models on the first example in the article:  One might buy, steal, borrow or copy a CD or download a free version from the net because: one likes the band, has friends who like it, feels they need to listen to it to understand their students, identifies with the aesthetics or politics of the band (punk, whatever), or is doing social research on the social construction of neo-primitive counter-culture identities on the Internet. Yes, rational choices would be made. But, these are mediated through various cultural, phenomenological, interactional and group processes."

    People get too hung up over the concept of rationality.  If this person wants to steal it, because he thinks that is in his best interest, then he is necessarily acting rationally.

    Anytime you act, in what you percieve to be, your best interest then you are, from an economic stand point, acting rationally.  It does NOT mean you have to be act like Mr. Spock.

    What is nonrational behaviour then?  Behaviour driven by instinct, blinking, breathing, animal behaviour, etc.  
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    types of rationality and additional faculties (none / 0) (#254)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 09:44:28 AM EST

    Your model of the human faculties is a little sparse.  

    Here is a more complex model.

    Human faculties and types of experience include:  awareness, intuition, emoting, a number of types of reasoning, passions, perceptions, instincts, movement and reflexes. You include only reason (and probably a subset of that) onward in this list.

    Economic theory usually misses the qualities and values of realms of inquiry and experience based on higher faculties. Philosophy and some social sciences investigate our higher faculties.  Hence, they understand human action and inner lives better.

    If we focus on reason, there are a number of types of intersubjective rationality, the higher forms of which, again, economic theory does not address. To list some types of reason:

    - visionary logic - the combination of holistic intuitions and various types of reason

    - dialectical reason - the ability to hold two opposite values in mind while in dialog or

    - dialogical reason - respecting other people as agents and reasoning in dialog with them according to their different values and ideas

    - strategic reason - treating other people as agents and responding to them tactically and strategically

    - instrumental rationality - treating other people as objects

    General traditional economic theory tends to focus on human beings in the last manner.  Leftist economists include the last four types of reason (so a good and undogmatic leftist economist is to be preferred over a traditional one). Visionary logic is employed by some new thinkers.

    The use of reason, especially higher forms, is not just that exercise by individuals or groups in pursuit of interests -- it is a dialog, an intersubjective unfolding that is creative, at times holistic and can be mutually supportive.  Additional qualities involved in higher reason in action include:

    - inter-subjectivity
    - visionary and intuitive faculties, including expanded awareness
    - altruism (yes, altruism can use instrumental reason)

    These qualities overlap with the full spectrum of reason.

    In short, these qualities of reason are: social, creative, and moral.  Many of these types of behavior involve symbolic and linguistic exchanges and not material exchanges.  Economics can not track very well the social activies, meanings and values of higher types of reason.  Nor can it track the life of our self in awareness, intuition and emotion.  The bulk of what is wonderful about being human can not be studied by the frameworks of Economics.  It explains little of what is truly valuable and worthwhile to us.  The pretension towards that is an ideology that must be critiqued.

    Economics is good at tracking material production, distribution and consumption -- especially when it centers on people as actors who are in mutually interdependent nurturing and/or exploitative relationships, rather than just focusing centrally on material and monetary issues.  

    I am out of time for now.  I must put off further discussion for a month or two.  

    For more reading on these types of idea see Ken Wilber's works:
    http://wilber.shambhala.com


    [ Parent ]

    Fluff (none / 0) (#280)
    by Zabe on Sun May 23, 2004 at 07:58:24 AM EST

    "Here is a more complex model."

    Complex != better

    I see little gained in the added fluff you go on and on about.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    Key: communicative vs. instrumental reason (none / 0) (#281)
    by decon recon on Sun May 23, 2004 at 08:38:49 AM EST

    The type of reason used makes all the difference. Using different types of reason changes fundamentally how political-economics work.

    Perhaps you didn't read this passage at the end of my original comment:

    "See Habermas above for the distinction between instrumental (means-end) reasoning and communicative (interactive-value interpretative) reason. Most liberal economic theory is generally instrumental. In instrumental reason, you can treat people as objects. In communicative reason, you interact with people as subjects. Using one or the other type of reason makes all the difference. Instrumental reason is often used today to construct and legitimate social domination. Communicative reason is used to create mutual understanding and mutually rewarding interactions.

    The use of communicative reason has been declining in the U.S., given the expanding social reliance on the market to organize our private activities. Europe is doing better in this, but still eroding. Various Asian societies and societies in the global south may have a few other types of social rationality processes in play, but still instrumental thinking is important as a logic for government. As a society, all the time we fail (and I fail often) in using communicative reason. This type of reasoning - dialoging about emotions, morals and understandings and evolving our shared understandings as a part of planning and deciding - is to be highly encouraged as a way for us to create a better life and world!"

    For more on this, see discussion of Parecon and the comment on New Literacy for Cooperation under the original comment.


    [ Parent ]

    A New Literacy for Cooperation (none / 0) (#271)
    by decon recon on Sat May 22, 2004 at 05:10:09 PM EST

    This short post offers interesting points and links about another take on a dialogical (cooperative) economics. To copy the Many2Many post:

    Institute for the Future: A New Literacy for Cooperation

    This week I participated in a mind-bending Institute for the Future event shaped by Howard Rheingold on A New Literacy of Cooperation. They are developing a new framework which challenges the assumptions of business strategy that centers around competition. The rise of open source, intellectual property commons, participatory politics, participatory media, and social software all give rise to new cooperative strategies for business.

    One of the participants is good friend and UCLA professor of Sociology Peter Kollock, whose work includes the sociology of cyberspace, reputation, how markets are actually social and social dillemas (.pdf): Social dilemmas are situations in which individual rationality leads to collective irrationality. That is, individual rational behavior leads to a situation in which everyone is worse off than they might have been otherwise.

    Competition and collaboration go hand-in-hand where social dilemmas arise, so the framework provides lenses and levers to understand and shape how they emerge. Peter provides a great rationale for why you shouldn’t be the first one to defect, be envious of business partners and why you should be generous. There are great incentives to be open, but it comes at risk. There is no algorithm for community, there are algorithms for destroying one.

    We are just at the beginning of developing language and models for cooperation. Measured by the response of enterprise participants at the event and in the Eventspace to the frameworks presented, Howard is really on to something by moving us past zero-sum thinking. Not just for business, but our survival.

    [ Parent ]

    I'm not really an economist, Im a roadie! (1.00 / 10) (#91)
    by StephenThompson on Wed May 19, 2004 at 05:15:59 PM EST

    This is really bad. Like a high school paper. What is the point of a noob writing an article on something he knows nothing about? To spread ignorance and misunderstanding? This will get voted up for its pretty pictures alone, and that is sad.

    Felch me. (1.50 / 6) (#92)
    by BadDoggie on Wed May 19, 2004 at 05:48:00 PM EST

    I was the only non-economist taking graduate econ course at my university. I was married to an economist, helped her write her book and wrote papers for her to present to investors when she was a fund manager. I more than just some passing knowledge of the subject.

    I'm not teaching an econ course here; I'm writing a series which is primarily targeted to those who have not studied or have little intention of studying the subject, and done so in an interesting and easily read manner.

    Along with my roadie story, I've written about selecting and preparing a wok, an important District Court First Amendment decision and a piece on European monetary union financial matters, arguably a piece dealing with aspects of economics. I have a broad range of interests.

    What have you contributed? A mildly amusing MLP.

    I've talked about writing this series for more than 18 months on the site and in IRC. Many have had the chance and none have taken it. If you think you can do better, let's see it.

    Until then, STFU.

    woof.

    "Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
    "Nevertheless, it moves."
    [ Parent ]

    Heh. (none / 1) (#111)
    by gyan on Wed May 19, 2004 at 10:15:26 PM EST

    He was baiting you. You fell for it.

    ********************************

    [ Parent ]
    Good Artcle. (none / 0) (#247)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:25:44 AM EST

    "I was the only non-economist taking graduate econ course at my university. "

    Very good article, and even now you probably know more then 99% of the people in the population.

    Articles like this will allow people to shead their misconceptions about what economics is about.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    Whatever he is.. (none / 2) (#103)
    by emmons on Wed May 19, 2004 at 08:35:50 PM EST

    His "high school paper" isn't incorrect, though it could be better written. He has just covered about the first two weeks of a standard college intro to microeconomics course.

    It's a pity that so few people understand how economies work, really.

    ---
    In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
    -Douglas Adams

    [ Parent ]

    talk about ad hominem (none / 1) (#143)
    by conglottenese on Thu May 20, 2004 at 11:26:14 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    I was once in Kehfyvistan on business. (1.00 / 5) (#95)
    by noogie on Wed May 19, 2004 at 06:44:46 PM EST

    I was due to a see a butter farm that was having a problem with their solaris-based butter regulator.

    Unfortunately, when I arrived, the farm had been turned into a small rifle workshop, and a grenade factory was being built in the next field.


    *** ANONYMIZED BY THE EVIL KUROFIVEHIN MILITARY JUNTA ***

    Dude (none / 3) (#97)
    by BadDoggie on Wed May 19, 2004 at 06:52:25 PM EST

    What's with the zeroes? Especially for defending myself? Are you mad that you never had a chance at last week's riddle that finally went up today? Weaponry and dairy products and allocation are a big part of Part 2. As are other foodstuffs. And polishes and waxes.

    woof.

    "Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
    "Nevertheless, it moves."
    [ Parent ]

    u got angry at constructive critiscm. (none / 1) (#127)
    by noogie on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:06:30 AM EST




    *** ANONYMIZED BY THE EVIL KUROFIVEHIN MILITARY JUNTA ***
    [ Parent ]
    Charts (none / 3) (#96)
    by Katt on Wed May 19, 2004 at 06:50:32 PM EST

    I didn't really read it and just looked at the charts. But that was good enough for me, because charts are cool.

    woah buddy (1.00 / 20) (#104)
    by Hide The Hamster on Wed May 19, 2004 at 08:50:13 PM EST

    whose cock did you suck to get images in article body?


    Free spirits are a liability.

    August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

    Just a guess... (none / 1) (#186)
    by Skywise on Thu May 20, 2004 at 06:59:25 PM EST

    Rusty's?  :)

    Ooooh... there goes my Trusted User status...

    [ Parent ]

    GENUINE ROR! (none / 1) (#226)
    by noogie on Fri May 21, 2004 at 03:26:42 PM EST

    GLAD NO ONE ELSE IS IN THE housE COZ I WOULDVE SOUNDED FUCKING MAD!


    *** ANONYMIZED BY THE EVIL KUROFIVEHIN MILITARY JUNTA ***
    [ Parent ]
    Wow (1.25 / 4) (#109)
    by PhillipW on Wed May 19, 2004 at 09:46:29 PM EST

    I feel like I'm in High School again.

    -Phil
    Missed this in high school (none / 0) (#118)
    by Eccles on Thu May 20, 2004 at 12:12:25 AM EST

    I didn't take econ in high school, and I wish I'd had some econ education. I ended up learning a fair bit of it the hard way, and more from David D. Friedman's "Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life." And just about every day I read something from someone else who I wish knew a little economic theory.

    [ Parent ]
    Economics is mathematics for complete idiots (2.60 / 15) (#124)
    by Shubin on Thu May 20, 2004 at 02:40:00 AM EST

    Subj. Draw a graph of a simple inequation, name it using cool TLA, add some words to make an article larger and you're done.
    Your country, whatever its name is, cannot produce guns OR butter. Guns requires steel, copper, wood or plastics. Steel requires coal, etc etc. Your graph is actually 100 or more dimensional. But this is not the end of the story.
    The system has memory. Farmers teaches their sons to work in the farm. So when you decide to re-train farmers to be bus drivers, you get 2 times more people to train than expected. Alternatively, farmers might tell their sons that they will find better life if they will leave to town. This brings us another phenomena - ideology.
    People beleive in different things and are acting according to this beleif. Every real economic system is not 100% efficient just because people do not always want act in the most efficient way.
    And the most important thing : reflexy. Any and every economic theory, widely used in a society, changes this society, making itself incorrect.

    Poli-sci is economics for complete idiots (none / 3) (#205)
    by bankind on Fri May 21, 2004 at 01:37:36 AM EST

    Come on! Let's play this game until we get to comparative literature.

    "Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman
    [ Parent ]

    -1, Stupid (1.00 / 8) (#137)
    by trezor on Thu May 20, 2004 at 08:25:20 AM EST

      If you want to understand how the world works -- how you and everyone else make decisions -- economics provides a lot of insight.

    You obviously forgot that the stars current position related to their position at the time of your birth controls everything. Not to mention tarot-cards, patterns in coffe cups, and the level of alchohol in your blood also affects your choices.

    Saying economics can determine our actions is stupid. So listen up.

    We are individuals. We determine our actions. Wow, it wasn't harder than that. No need for an article.


    --
    Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

    No true. (none / 0) (#196)
    by Wulfius on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:18:01 PM EST

    Whiles we as individuals are unpredictable, our demographics are very predictable.

    So, say you are a 25-30 geek with no girlfriend and a game rig computer who likes to watch extreme sports.

    *I* cant make *you* do squat.
    But I can do things that will make a statistically representative majority of the demographic jump when I say jump.
    I can make you my slaves. :D


    ---
    "We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
    http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
    [ Parent ]

    B...b... (none / 0) (#209)
    by melia on Fri May 21, 2004 at 06:09:52 AM EST

    ...but he never said "economics can determine our actions", he said economics can help explain how we determine our actions. So really, no need for a comment.
    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]
    Economics is the Science of Means, Not Ends. (none / 0) (#246)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:22:20 AM EST

    "...but he never said "economics can determine our actions", he said economics can help explain how we determine our actions. So really, no need for a comment."

    Exactly.

    Economics is the science of means (the how), not the ends.

    People choose their goals, their values.  Economics simply tells you how to achieve these goals with the least amount of effort and resources.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    Inefficiency is our friend (3.00 / 5) (#139)
    by IHCOYC on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:15:05 AM EST

    A society where all has been optimized for maximum efficiency in the production and delivery of goods and services sounds to me like a pretty hellish place.

    Civilisation, after all, is what people create in their spare time. Economic efficiency has costs of its own, in that it tends to be a ratchet that tends to make it harder for less than perfectly optimal producers to make a living. This tends towards oligopoly, a situation in which price competition usually tends to become obsolete; the few remaining competitors face roughly equal economies of scale, the aggregate demand for the sum of their outputs is also relatively fixed, and competition is for a share of that total market. Market-share competition, as opposed to price competition, is also socially undesirable: it encourages the vendors of goods and services to make more noise to call attention to themselves, and pollutes the stream of social discourse.

    Economic efficiency has further social costs. The less than optimally efficient producer is driven from his chosen or traditional trade, and this leads to a great deal of stress, a rootless population accustomed to milling about, and the disruption of settled ways of life.

    It follows from these premises that economic inefficiency is itself a social good: a public resource, needed to create a just and livable society, that economic forces allowed to run unchecked will tend to destroy. Naturally, this social good is entirely off the radar for the discipline of economics; which is not to say that economics is wrong, only that it does not "explain everything." This does not alter the fact that it is a social good, one which must be defended by people who are less beholden to economic ideas and whose motivations are not for profit through trade.
    --
    Iac et Iill, quśrentes fontem, ascendebat paruum montem.
    Ille, cadens, fregit frontem, trahens secum hanc insontem.

    efficiency (none / 1) (#185)
    by stephanwehner on Thu May 20, 2004 at 06:31:39 PM EST

    To find the optimal price one often has to try out lower prices. So the optimum is never reached. Then customers catch on, e.g. for airline tickets. And then the cost of the price search kicks in ...
    _____________________________
    Stephan Wehner
    Editor, Traffic Life: Passionate Tales and Exit Strategies
    www.trafficlife.com
    [ Parent ]
    Sir, (none / 0) (#151)
    by JChen on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:39:56 PM EST

    I posted an editorial comment before in regards to your article's titling. The request was that it be called "Microeconomic Theory". This is in part because of the previous comments in which the posters believed this to be a load of fecal matter.

    I hope people will realize that in order to understand economics and how it attempts to explain how the world works, the very basics and the theory behind economics is laid out first.

    An analogy might be that you can't ride a bike without learning how to keep your balance, but keeping your balance is not all there is to riding it.

    Also, as you get deeper into economics, you will find that the numbers are not all economics about; it is also about gauging the human factors, as well as a variety of other variables, that affect the economics of any place. Thus, when one hears the cliched phrase that "economists can never agree on anything", they cannot agree on how to interpret these variables, nevermind the numbers, but all economists may agree on the basics of defining and presenting the variables in order to comprehend them.

    Economics is vital, however, in managing the complex money patterns in a huge market economy. Examples such as Argentina show that when economic policy is enforced in a healthy fashion (in Argentina, the government suffers because of a shortage in tax income, since personal incomes often are not completely reported, with much of the money coming in from sketchy offshore sources that are not the subject of government scrutiny), the seriousness of the study and application of economics comes into light.

    Let us do as we say.

    *when good economic policy is not enforced (none / 1) (#152)
    by JChen on Thu May 20, 2004 at 01:41:21 PM EST

    in Argentina example

    Let us do as we say.
    [ Parent ]
    WTF?! (none / 1) (#195)
    by Wulfius on Thu May 20, 2004 at 10:15:25 PM EST

    So now the fsck up in Argentia is the fault of the government that RELIED on the advice given to it by IMF and World Bank?

    I would not mind finding more about it. Links please someone?

    ---
    "We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
    http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
    [ Parent ]

    not agreeing isn't the problem (none / 0) (#376)
    by jbuck on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 06:43:12 PM EST

    When scientists disagree, they attempt to come up with experiments that would settle the matter in favor of theory A or theory B; if a theory is not falsifiable in this way, it's generally not considered to be scientific (while not everything Karl Popper wrote about the philosophy of science is generally accepted, falsifiability certainly is).

    Once a theory has been falsified, its proponents can attempt to patch it up instead of rejecting it, but all would agree on the need to patch it up. Economists, on the other hand, detecting a difference between their theories and the real world, often choose to condemn the real word (for example, by complaining that human beings are "irrational", that is, don't make decisions the way economists say human beings should make decisions).

    [ Parent ]

    This should be clearly labelled `neo-classical' (2.50 / 4) (#159)
    by big fat idiot on Thu May 20, 2004 at 03:11:03 PM EST

    And an disclaimer should be posted that there is 0 empirical evidence that the concepts it uses exist in the real world. For example, virtually no real word graphs exhibit the shape one would expect if the law of diminishing marginal returns were used. The end result of neoclassical supply/demand price theory, that the equilibrium of supply and demand curves predict the equilibrium price, is almost assuredly not the case in the real world. Real world prices are predicted much better by labor value theories of economics such as Sraffa's neo-Ricardian analysis.

    Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged (none / 3) (#176)
    by MyrddinE on Thu May 20, 2004 at 04:41:21 PM EST

    You may agree, or you may disagree, with the assertion in the first few paragraphs of this article. But regardless, Ayn Rands book 'Atlas Shrugged' is a very in depth look at the philosophy of 'life as economics'. Published in the mid 50's, the book is widely considered a literature classic.

    Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, has its basis in Reality, Reason, Self-interest, and Capitalism. This article's initial premise seems rooted in Objectivism. There's a nice essay on Objectivism here.

    Second (none / 0) (#231)
    by niku on Fri May 21, 2004 at 07:14:03 PM EST

    I'd like to second that. I wouldn't necessarally say I regarded it as a book about 'life as economics', but capitalism applied to life. Granted, I know next to nothing of economics, and it may certainly may be a true statement, but it's just not what occured to me. It is, either way, an excelent read, combining both excellent an excelent plot, and a lot of interesting ideas.
    --
    Nicholas Bernstein, Technologist, artist, etc.
    http://nicholasbernstein.com
    [ Parent ]
    atenshun ann rand si a known comunist (none / 0) (#233)
    by JChen on Fri May 21, 2004 at 07:29:13 PM EST



    Let us do as we say.
    [ Parent ]
    Economics is Basically Modern Theology (2.66 / 9) (#183)
    by cronian on Thu May 20, 2004 at 05:37:08 PM EST

    The mathematics surrounding decision making generally falls under categories like Decision Theory and Game Theory. Figuring out how people make decisions in society falls under things like Psychology, Sociology, and Political Science. Understanding how people can behave in general falls under things like Neuro-Biology.

    Economists attempt to look at how markets behave, and make predictions. The problem is that they often either make crazy assumptions that people are 'rational' in some odd way, or they make predictions based on insufficient data. They then turn these things into various assumptions, try to pretend they know some math, make everything as technical as possible, and come up with policy advice.

    The various economic policies then turn into ideologies, which are the modern form of religions. 'Free Market' economists, Marxist economists, Keynesian economists, etc. all have their own ideology or theology in starker terms.

    I don't particularly like theology, and economics is pretty bad. One other to notice is that economics worships money instead of God. Does this make sense? What good is money if it is invested in some company that is going go bankrupt tommorrow? What is good is cash if it can become worthless? What good is a property deed unless you have secure property rights?

    Markets are really just casinos. Economics claims to tell the rules of the game, but most of the games are rigged. Also, external forces can change the rules of the game at any time.

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    Exactly. . . (none / 0) (#184)
    by IHCOYC on Thu May 20, 2004 at 05:49:01 PM EST

    . . . and this is why economanic pseudolibertarians and Washington Consenters are as dangerous as Communists and "left" ideologues. What they all share is a Big Plan to remake the world in accordance with their doctrine.

    And like all such people, they go along with the axiom that you may have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, so you have to break a few heads to have a revolution. They mean to proceed with their grand schemes without regard to whom they inconvenience, upset, or render obsolete. They will all have to be reeducated in the New World Order.
    --
    Iac et Iill, quśrentes fontem, ascendebat paruum montem.
    Ille, cadens, fregit frontem, trahens secum hanc insontem.
    [ Parent ]

    Rational people (none / 0) (#192)
    by Brandybuck on Thu May 20, 2004 at 09:11:39 PM EST

    The problem is that they often either make crazy assumptions that people are 'rational' in some odd way

    When economists say "people are rational", they mean your typical sane individual will choose to maximize their value. Thus, people would rather buy a carton of milk for one dollar than one hundred dollars. But it's not all about money, as any economist will tell you. You might choose to take a lesser paying job because you find the work more interesting.

    Microeconomics works. No one disputes this. You only need go to any auction to see it in action. But macroeconomics gets more tricky. That's because it's essentially broad statistics. It's the aggregate behavior of millions of individuals. It's also an area that intersects with public policy, and in that realm ideology presides over all. As an example, raising taxes WILL lower the employment rate, all other things being equal. But all other things will NEVER be equal, so it's impossible to say how much the employment rate will drop, or when. Likewise, imposing a price cap on a product WILL case a shortage, all other things being equal. But all other things will never be equal, so how much of an impact this will cause is extremely difficult to determine.

    [ Parent ]

    'rational' people? (none / 1) (#200)
    by cronian on Thu May 20, 2004 at 11:12:42 PM EST

    Money is held to have value in judgement. Of course this is related to everyday experience of money working being useful to buy things. However, when this gets further extracted into a want for accumulating money, it becomes a sort of worship of money.

    Even according to various economic theories, people only maximize value in limited contexts. The snob effect is where people like to buy things because they are expensive. Furthermore, people will pay a lot more for milk if they beelieve the cheaper milk is likely poisonous, or they have strong brand loyalty.

    "Microeconomics works." What do you mean? Auctions can be fraudulent. The value of the products is often largely determined by the success of various marketing. Economics often doesn't really take these things into account.

    Economics focuses on two things: how to make the most stuff, and how to equally distribute stuff. However, it ignores physical reality. People's beliefs are based on those around them, what they see, and most of all what propoganda and ideas they are exposed to. The idea that the auction follows its stated rules is just based on societal norms.

    Yet, these things are not stationary, but they can change. Some people are exposed to more corruption than others, and would have different views on whether the auction is rigged. When you confuse assumptions with facts, you lose real predictive power.

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    [ Parent ]
    Read carefully (none / 1) (#208)
    by melia on Fri May 21, 2004 at 06:06:40 AM EST

    Economics is not about money. Economic Man can be a hippy, an environmentalist or a barbarian if that's what you want him to be. I don't think you quite understand that. But anyway, let me dismiss your other facile observations.

    into a want for accumulating money, it becomes a sort of worship of money.

    Which surely, is a convenient proxy for a worship of goods? Sounds reasonable to me.

    Even according to various economic theories, people only maximize value in limited contexts.

    ???

    The snob effect is where people like to buy things because they are expensive. Furthermore, people will pay a lot more for milk if they beelieve the cheaper milk is likely poisonous, or they have strong brand loyalty.

    What? You've just completely agreed with the comment you're replying to. Read carefully: Economics is not about money. Value is not synonymous with price. What you are saying is the very foundation of economics itself. You are, indeed, an economist who doesn't know it.

    "Microeconomics works." What do you mean? Auctions can be fraudulent.

    Economics is based on a great deal of assumptions, if I were analysing an auction, it would probably be very sensible to assume the auction was fair. We could of course also analyse the situation where the auction was fraudulent. Can these assumptions incorporate all possibilities? Maybe not, but what's your point?

    The value of the products is often largely determined by the success of various marketing. Economics often doesn't really take these things into account.

    ...whoops! I'm sorry to inform you you're suffering from "not-knowing-what-you're-talking-about-itis". It's serious. Read a random first year uni economics textbook three times a week for 3 months, then come back to see me. Or, maybe baddoggie will get to this eventually.

    However, it ignores physical reality.

    Although I suspect you can't justify this, you have a case for saying that certain assumptions (r.e. neo-classical economics) are unrealistic, but these assumptions aren't made by all economists. Even the ones who base their work on these axioms (since they are rather useful in terms of simplification, and offer results that closely match the evidence) could not credibly argue they are true. Of course - you do generalise rather wildly, as the ignorant tend to do.

    Another point - since Newtonian physics is not exactly correct, should we start teaching high school students quantum mechanics in it's place? Since you don't seem to understand the fundamentals, BadDoggie would be fighting a losing battle if he were to write about more complex theories of decision making.

    When you confuse assumptions with facts, you lose real predictive power.

    Nobody is confusing assumptions with facts, except for you, who is making lots of uninformed assumptions about a complete field of study.


    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]

    economics vs economists (none / 1) (#272)
    by cronian on Sat May 22, 2004 at 05:27:19 PM EST

    I suppose may be worthwile, but all the economists I've known didn't know what they were talking about. The mathematics used or rather often misused in economics can be applied successfully to certain situations.

    However, most 'economics' lacks objectivity, or understanding. Economics seems most frequently used to justify many stupid policy decisions from both the left and right--like eliminating private enterprise, and 'privitization' where resources are transfered from government to well-connected individuals.

    "Read a random first year uni economics textbook"
    Can you suggest a good one? I almost took a few university economics courses, but all the economics professors I've seen, didn't know what they were talking about. I've heard claims from various econ majors, that if the government collects $30 in taxes and gives back $30, that inherently creates an inefficiency--even if the processing cost is negligible, and there is no transfer fee, etc.

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    [ Parent ]
    funny (none / 1) (#274)
    by melia on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:15:01 PM EST

    I almost took a few university economics courses, but all the economics professors I've seen, didn't know what they were talking about

    Don't you feel a little absurd saying things like that? You're rather putting the cart before the horse. If you replaced "economics" with "biology" or "chemistry" maybe you'll see my point. There's a difference between questioning what you're being taught and refusing to be taught at all.

    In order to learn anything at all you need to approach new material with patience and an open mind. If your attitude to a textbook will be to dismiss it after the first few chapters as you've done with with BadDoggie's article and these professors you've spoken to i'm not sure there's any point.

    Anyway, enough wax-on wax-off, the first economics textbook I was forced to buy was Parkin,Powell & Matthews "Economics", Addison-Wesley 1998. I wouldn't exactly call it fascinating though. Actually, I'd say it was boring, but there you go.


    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]

    better (none / 1) (#330)
    by cronian on Tue May 25, 2004 at 12:18:44 AM EST

    Do you have another suggestion for a book. The book you mentioned seems to only be available in the UK, and not in the United States. Also, it doesn't look very rigorous. Could you suggest a more rigorous, mathematical economics textbook?

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    [ Parent ]
    Hmm sorry (none / 1) (#332)
    by melia on Tue May 25, 2004 at 07:15:12 AM EST

    Sorry about that. I'd probably try begg fischer dornbusch economics. To be honest, I wouldn't know any good "mathematical economics" textbooks because i'm crap at maths and I don't like it :) Besides, I wouldn't say that maths is necessarily the best way to understand economics, you don't want to run before you can walk.
    Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
    [ Parent ]
    hmm (none / 1) (#337)
    by cronian on Wed May 26, 2004 at 12:25:03 AM EST

    I'll look into Fischer Doombusch Economics. I don't necessarily need a math-based economics textbook, but I am mathematically inclined. I would prefer to read the theories stated in strict mathematical terms.

    The problem with economics is that real-world can be quite complicated, and I think many economic theories lead people to oversimplify situations, and arrive at faulty conclusions.

    For example California's energy de-regulation turned into a disaster because they didn't consider the ability of companies to rig the prices in what was supposed to be a free market. It appeared there would be competition which would in theory lower prices, but in reality it was just a mechanism whereby certain companies were able loot lots of money.

    Another complicated issue like that is transportation. How do you measure the economic value of train line? It can increase the property values of surrounding property and businesses. However, it may technically be losing money. So, if the government finances it then you can get into issues of who is actually paying the government to finance through taxes, and who is benefiting. It may just be one project, but its viability feeds into a whole economic system, and it can't really be understood outside of the context.

    Probability can also play in leading to some weird economics. If you suppose people make decisions based on past experience, their decisions will be based on how lucky they've been, and won't necessarily corellate with reality. To understand the economics, you need to not only analyze the probabilities, but also the psychological consequences of various states of mind.

    I just don't think the simpler can really account for much, so their use is mostly just theological. For learning economics, I would like some book that has throughly-tested theories that can be applied with high-correlation with reality. Otherwise, what is the point of the theories? Can they help in producing actual models, or are they just theology used to justify certain political decisions? Applying Newton's laws I can calculate quite accurately how object will move in Earth's orbit, but can the same be said for most of the popular economics' theories?

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    [ Parent ]
    Books on economics (none / 0) (#359)
    by jrincayc on Thu May 27, 2004 at 09:53:33 PM EST

    The book I initially learned economics from was Price Theory and Applications by Steven E. Landsburg. It give a fairly intuitive overview of most of microeconomics, including questions like why $30 of tax collected causes more than $30 of economic cost (in general)

    Another book that might be interesting to you is The Economics of Public Issues by Miller, Benjamin, and North. It covers the economic persective on a variety of economic issues including airbags, tariffs, greenhouse gases etc. They also make enough oversimplifications that you can have some fun finding detailed problems with some of their economic arguments.

    I learned quite a bit about cost benefit analysis from Cost-Benefit Analysis: Concepts and Practice by Anthony E. Boardman et al. It contains about a good intruduction to how you would actually go about calculating the economic benefit or harm of some proposed plan. Also, if you want to understand economic cost benefit reports, this is a useful book.

    For hard core mathematical economics, I learned from Structure of Economics: A Mathematical Analysis by Silberberg. It starts from a fairly small number of postulates and attempts to prove various economic theories. If you don't have a good grasp of multivariable calculus, or are willing to learn, don't bother.

    If you only read one book about economics, I would recommend the Landsburg book.

    As for your question about a tax that collects $30 dollars, unless the demand is inelastic, it will impose more than $30 of effect. For the extreme case, say that the government put a $30 sales tax per french fry. The government would get maybe $1000 per day from this tax, but it has a side effect. Very few people would now eat french fries (and most of the people who did would do so illegally at black markets). So the tax not only imposes a cost on those people who do pay it, it also imposes a cost on people who no longer can eat french fries legally because they cannot afford french fries at the new amount. It also affect the businesses who can't find customers at the new total price for french fries. So taxes affect not just the people who pay them, but also the people who would have bought the product but don't because of the tax. So if you tax labour, you get less of it. If you tax cigarettes, you get less of them. This means that if there is a $30 tax, then there might be a $35 cost to society. The Landsburg book and the Boardman book explain this in more detail.



    [ Parent ]
    What exactly is your point? (none / 0) (#210)
    by spooky wookie on Fri May 21, 2004 at 08:14:00 AM EST

    Should people not study economics?

    Do you have any alternative to how society can distribute it's resources?


    [ Parent ]

    in order to stay ahead... (none / 1) (#224)
    by Wah on Fri May 21, 2004 at 02:24:42 PM EST

    ...and keep up with the Joneses, you have to religious about keeping up to date with your finances.

    If you don't, someone else will, and you will lose the game (or that round/ratio of it, anyway).
    --
    Help us cross the digital divide, yo.
    [ Parent ]

    Ok, so it's a religion... (none / 0) (#234)
    by spooky wookie on Fri May 21, 2004 at 09:34:28 PM EST

    Hard times for atheists i guess.

    [ Parent ]
    a little (none / 0) (#273)
    by cronian on Sat May 22, 2004 at 05:33:30 PM EST

    If you study economics some, you can better understand the flawed thinking of others who have studied it. So, I think it can be useful to study some economics. However, I think it is important to try to understand how the economy actually works.

    The mathematics used for economics is real mathematics. If you understand the mathematics, you can even make your own models, and deconstruct the stupid ones.

    We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
    [ Parent ]
    Your View of Economics is too Limited (none / 0) (#245)
    by Zabe on Sat May 22, 2004 at 06:17:31 AM EST

    "Economists attempt to look at how markets behave"

    No.  Some economists do this simply because jobs that deal with lots of money usually pay very well.  Thus many economists gravatate to jobs in this field but economics merely being about markets is false.

    Economics is the study of how resources are distributed among alternative ends to satisify human wants.  In so far that distribution among alternative ends involves *choice* the article correct.

    As for game theory, this multidisciplinary field is often taught by the department of economics.  Awards in game theory is the Noble Prize for economics e.g. John Nash.  

    As for economics being about money, it isn't.  Barter is within the realm of economics as well.  Money is simply a widely used proxy for resources and value, and that is what economics deals with so it necessarily deals with money.
    Badassed Hotrod


    [ Parent ]
    distributive efficiency (none / 1) (#279)
    by danny on Sun May 23, 2004 at 02:46:13 AM EST

    Distributive efficiency requires that any specific good is used by the person who relatively values it most.

    As used in economics, distributive efficiency actually requires that any specific good is used by whoever is willing to pay the most for it.

    On any external evaluation, there are starving people who would value the dinner I am going to eat today more than I do, but it's NOT a market inefficiency that they don't get it.

    This is one of the fundamental problems with markets: they are efficient only with an implicit "one dollar one vote" value system.

    Danny.
    [900 book reviews and other stuff]

    Doh! Economics, the irrelevant science (none / 0) (#288)
    by mveloso on Sun May 23, 2004 at 08:53:07 PM EST

    The classical models of economics only deal with situations that are very simple, tight, and controlled. Unfortunately economists have forgotten that and tend to generalize their models outwards, due to a desire to seem relevant to the world at large.

    "All economists are liars, except for the ones that are telling the truth."

    This is as accurate a statement as can be made about economists.

    The value of economics (none / 1) (#365)
    by WilliamTanksley on Mon May 31, 2004 at 12:13:39 PM EST

    I know what you're saying, but it's not correct. Economics is a very valuable science when it's used according to its limits. It's like physics, in that physics has very similar limits (the Heisenberg uncertainty principle). Planck's constant (or its equivalent) is simply much, much larger for economics than for physics.

    Oh, and thanks to the work of the economists, we actually understand WHY economics has an uncertainty principle, unlike for physics. It's because economies are made of people who make discrete choices, not continuous movements. In theory, if you could get a macroscopic view of an economy you could work out the future of the economy in detail -- but even that doesn't work, because if an economist can back out and get a big picture of the situation, so can an entrepreneur; and entrepreneurs change the picture.

    In spite of this, and partially because of this, economics has changed the world for the better. Because of them we understand that uncoerced exchanges increase immediate value for both parties; we understand that capital is the foundation of prosperity; we know that the price of a good is not related to its cost of production, except that if the cost of production is too near the market price of the good the good will be unprofitable to produce; we understand that mercantilism is an obstacle to a nation's prosperity, not a help; and we understand that socialism makes economic calculation impossible.

    We can NOT use economics to calculate the optimum price at which a particular good should be sold in order to maximise profit. Yes, given a knowledge of the supply and demand curves you can plot a profit curve, but such knowledge is possible only as historical datum, and the very act of changing the price of a good in order to determine the curves changes the curves (to say nothing of all the external events that could change the curves). But although this is a limitation of economics, economics itself is what discovered that limitation.

    -Billy


    [ Parent ]

    Guns and butter? (none / 0) (#315)
    by lacerus on Mon May 24, 2004 at 04:41:14 PM EST

    That's funny - in Germany the classical example here is bread and beer. Bread and butter are pretty boring, but guns and beer - USA and Germany - that's funny :-)

    Wheat and Cars (none / 0) (#373)
    by Markusd on Sun Jul 04, 2004 at 03:14:10 AM EST

    In Canada (SFU at least), we just use Wheat and Cars

    [ Parent ]
    Hah! (none / 0) (#374)
    by Milo Minderbinder on Tue Jul 13, 2004 at 05:58:23 PM EST

    Let's say you have $1,500 available.
    I would invest it in a mutual fund, place it in an interest-bearing savings account, or otherwise find a way to make it earn me money.

    Then, much later, I'll retire and spend my days traveling the world and enjoying myself, while you continue holding your nose to the grindstone at your dead-end job.
    --
    M & M ENTERPRISES, FINE FRUITS AND PRODUCE.

    Remember the Syndicate! (none / 0) (#375)
    by Milo Minderbinder on Tue Jul 13, 2004 at 06:04:01 PM EST

    Let's say you have $1,500 available.
    You should invest your $1,500 in the Syndicate. Each man owns a share, so everyone would benefit from your investment, even yourself.

    High-ranking government officials poured in to investigate. Newspapers inveighed against Milo with glaring headlines, and Congressmen denounced the atrocity in stentorian wrath and clamored for punishment. Mothers with children in the service organized into militant groups and demanded revenge. Not one voice was raised in his defense. Decent people everywhere were affronted, and Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made. He could reimburse the government for all the people and property he had destroyed and still have enough money left over to continue buying Egyptian cotton. Everybody, of course, owned a share. And the sweetest part of the whole deal was that there really was no need to reimburse the government at all.

    'In a democracy, the government is the people,' Milo explained. 'We're people, aren't we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I'd like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry. If we pay the government everything we owe it, we'll only be encouraging government control and discouraging other individuals from bombing their own men and planes. We'll be taking away their incentive.' Milo was correct, of course, as everyone soon agreed but a few embittered misfits like Doc Daneeka, who sulked cantankerously and muttered offensive insinuations about the morality of the whole venture until Milo mollified him with a donation, in the name of the syndicate, of a lightweight aluminum collapsible garden chair that Doc Daneeka could fold up conveniently and carry outside his tent each time Chief White Halfoat came inside his tent and carry back inside his tent each time Chief White Halfoat came out.

    Excerpt from Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
    --
    M & M ENTERPRISES, FINE FRUITS AND PRODUCE.

    Two most important facts about economics (none / 0) (#377)
    by tonyenkiducx on Mon Sep 06, 2004 at 08:46:32 AM EST

    1) Something about supply and demand
    2) Bordem cant kill you, but you might wish it could.

    Tony.
    I see a planet where love is foremost, where war is none existant. A planet of peace, and a planet of understanding. I see a planet called
    How to Explain Everything | 376 comments (313 topical, 63 editorial, 0 hidden)
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