Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brenda Rosser — The assumption that markets are 'natural'


On David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years and its implications for economics. It speaks to some the recent controversy in the comments, too.

There is no evidence of markets before the introduction of money. Exchanges between individuals informally? Yes. Through markets? No.

Graeber: ....Call this the final apotheosis of economics as common sense.  Money is unimportant.  Economies - "real economies" - are really vast barter systems.  The problem is that history shows that without money, such vast barter systems do not occur....


"Apotheosis" def= exalting someone or something to divine status.

Do not worship at the altar of false gods.

Read it at Econospeak (very short)
The assumption that markets are 'natural'
by Brenda Rosser
(h/t Angry Bear)

8 comments:

Clonal said...

For metallists, I have a question - "how did one measure the amount of metal?"

This could not have happened before a standardized measure of weight came around. Standardized weights can only happen by the active participation of a government or quasi-government entity to have value.

Woj said...

This may once again be an issue of semantics, but I don't think the term markets specifically refers to transactions by money. It seems unlikely that governments or money would have come into being unless individuals learned to exchange ideas, goods and services. This view of markets as natural, however, does not minimize or nullify the role of government policy and money. It is in combination with government policy and money, that markets will almost certainly prove most abundant and beneficial (http://bit.ly/LBreXF).

Tom Hickey said...

Woj: "It seems unlikely that governments or money would have come into being unless individuals learned to exchange ideas, goods and services."

Let's look more closely. 

What does this add to saying that no complex social constructs would have developed if primates had not evolved more complex nervous systems, brain matter, and learned to gain control of evolutionary advantage like opposing thumbs and sound articulation.

These thing developed very slowly and primitive human constructs evolve prior to the appearance of homo sapiens sapientis.

"Credit" originated at pre-primate stages of evolution as did cooperation and coordination for group advantage.



The idea that human appeared fully developed in the Garden of Eden and started speaking and acting like we do is scientifically absurd.



Exchange is a social construct that developed from the very primitive to the very complex extremely slowly over eons of time. It presupposes communication and some sense of evaluation. Setting prices relative to a numeraire is very advanced, and using money is even more abstract. Markets as we think of them only emerged ages after these more primitive constructs were developed and spread geographically as well as across generations.



The narratives that economists make up — yes, make up — are teaching stories very much like religious creation myths. Taking them literally is absurd. The difference is that the religious myths were given by sages and have an inner meaning. 



Ancient people knew this. The literal meaning was to interest children and the ignorant. As one matured, those destined for wisdom realized that the myth was not literal but a teaching story, the inner meaning of which was to be unfolded through personal inquiry and the objective was interior revelation of the mystery. Everyone must come to this one one's own. The myths only point.

Ancient peoples were not scientific, but they developed a very powerful means of discovering and passing on the keys to the mysteries of life.



Most people today are either unaware of this dimension or pooh-pooh it as superstitious. Yet they buy into the imaginative narratives made up by economists, even though they live in the scientific age.

David said...

Ancient peoples were not scientific, but they developed a very powerful means of discovering and passing on the keys to the mysteries of life.

It's interesting that for the great inventions that have advanced civilization like the alphabet, the origin of cereal grains, knowledge of metalworking, etc., the story is usually "it was a gift from the gods." I tend to take this more or less literally these days rather than put a whole lot of stock into any particular speculative explanations that are offered, however plausible and ingenious they are. It's no great feat to construct a plausible explanation in hindsight. The trouble is such explanations often prove to be just plain wrong.

The truth about the origin of money may be simpler or more outlandish than anyone has guessed. As an example we know that the modern postal system was invented by Rowland Hill, a school teacher. If we didn't know this simple fact would some grandiose theory of postal evolution be worth anything?

Matt Franko said...

I would point out that the oldest extant biblical manuscripts do not have the word "money" in them.

In the Greek scriptures (3rd century) there is a distinct terminology. There are certain terms used when referencing the Roman (western) state currency system (nomisma) and the Israelite (eastern) system of using weighed measures of 3 metals (gold, silver, copper).

Our current term in English "money" is a conflation of these two once separate/distinct systems.

Perhaps we are having trouble with this term "money" because of this conflation.

Our ancestors did NOT make this conflation.

To the contrary, it looks like, the Greeks and Romans would actually violently and forcefully SLAM or STRIKE right into the piece of gold/silver/copper (all in column 11 of the periodic table btw), an image of a human being, as if to make a violent physical claim of their human authority over the authority of the metal itself....

"15 Now they weigh for him thirty pieces of silver." Mat 26

Keyword here being "weighed".

"Now they bring to Him a denarius.
20 And He is saying to them, "Whose is this image and the inscription?"
21 They are saying, "Caesar's." Mat 22

Keyword here being "image".

So this battle seems like it is still going on right here in the blog Tom.

Its a battle between those who are subjects of the metal itself (eastern) vs those who seek subjection to human authority (western).

I dont think our contemporary conflation of these systems via the use of the English term "money" is helping us to understand what is really going on...

rsp

Tom Hickey said...

David: "It's interesting that for the great inventions that have advanced civilization like the alphabet, the origin of cereal grains, knowledge of metalworking, etc., the story is usually "it was a gift from the gods.""

The ancient Greeks, who were very gifted creatively, and put Western civilization on the path is still on, attributed creativity in all fields to the Muses. We this a primitive explanation or a recognition of the mystery and the role of "grace." We still say that great ideas and creative inspiration "comes out of the blue" and have as yet no scientific explanation for it. TAs yet no logic of discovery has been developed either that lays down rules to lead to discovery. To paraphrase Feynman on Einstein's discovery of general relativity — "I still can't see how he thought of it." And, of course, many ideas and inspirations come in dreams and reveries, which the ancient considered to be an extraordinary "place," which Jung's work confirms.

The notion that we can reason back to the"naturalness" of most innovation is just wrong thinking. It didn't happen that way. The reasoning about it came after and now it is so well established, one is lead to conclude that the reasoning must have led to it. Research shows otherwise.


The difference now is that we attribute it to the people themselves, whereas the ancient saw that as disingenuous, when the conscious mind was not the source.

Matt Franko said...

"when the conscious mind was not the source."

Well I would have to agree with that observation very strongly Tom.

"they know not what they do...."

rsp

Leverage said...

Yep, most 'discoveries' are intuitive in nature, not a product of reasoned logic.

Our brain is hardwired to 'discover' thing this way. Even nowadays, most innovations in science and applied technology come from pure inspiration of raw empirical data.

Homo rationale is a myth (interesting how economists have appropriated this myth too).