Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sandwichman — The Poverty of Fallasophy


Ryan Avent stumbles into the hole of the "lump of labor fallacy," along with "Say's law."

A chief reason to reduce work time is to share productivity gains that make increased leisure possible rather than increasing owner's share including leisure potential.

The problem is that according to neoclassical economics workers who are not employed have acted in the labor market to choose leisure over unemployment!

Angry Bear
The Poverty of Fallasophy
Sandwichman

Sandwichman cites his previous post, The Outlaws of Political Economy, destroying the notion that "the lump of labor fallacy" was anything but capitalist concoction in the first place.
Paradoxically, for old school vulgarians there both is and is not a certain quantity of work to be done. There is a certain quantity of work to be done when it comes to disparaging the idea that workers might increase wages their through collective action:
"There is a certain quantity of work to be done, and a certain number of hands to do it; if there be much work and comparatively few hands, wages will rise; if little work and an excess of hands, wages will fall. It is self-evident that combinations and strikes cannot alter this law. They can neither increase capital, nor diminish population; and, therefore, it is utterly impossible, in the very nature of things, that they ever can procure a permanent rise of wages."
But there isn't a certain amount of work when it comes to explaining why such foolish action isn't even necessary: 
"There is, say they, a certain quantity of labour to be performed. This used to be performed by hands, without machines, or with very little help from them... The principle itself is false. There is not a precise limited quantity of labour, beyond which there is no demand. Trade is not hemmed in by great walls, beyond which it cannot go. By bringing our goods cheaper and better to market, we open new markets, we get new customers, we encrease the quantity of labour necessary to supply these, and thus we are encouraged to push on, in hope of still new advantages. A cheap market will always be full of customers."
The most significant portion of this post is about the purpose of bourgeois economics itself:

Perusing Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy from 1894 alerted me to the odd interaction of a pair of distinctions. The first distinction was between the study of "what is" and "what ought to be." The second distinction was between "economic science" (or "economics") and "political economy." Economic science presumably distinguished itself from political economy by its strict focus on describing "what is" rather than on prescribing "what ought to be."

Palgrave's explains the latter distinction to have been at least partly motivated by the confusion that arose over just what kind of laws -- legal or natural -- so-called "laws of political economy" were. Even after the attempt at rebranding, however:
"...even well-educated persons still occasionally speak of "laws of political economy" as being "violated" by the practice of statesmen, trades-unions and other individuals and bodies. 
You can't "break" scientific laws. They are simply generalized descriptions of fact. A flying airplane doesn't break the law of gravity. It conforms to a more comprehensive complex of physical laws. The law of gravity isn't the only law.

Palgrave's Dictionary further noted that the "great complexity and variety of circumstance which surround every economic problem are such as to render the enunciation of general laws, on a large scale, barely possible and if possible barely useful."

So the whole "positive" economics rigamarole wasn't just about methodological rigor. It was a purification ritual to rid the political economist of the stigma of dogma. Economists who invoke the violation of so-called laws aren't only forfeiting any legitimate claim to economic science. They are contaminating their profession with atavistic hokum.


Burn this into your brain and throw it at people who cite so-called natural laws.

Econospeak
The Poverty of Fallasophy
Sandwichman

I have previously pointed out historically that the theological world view of the Middle Ages began breaking down at the time of the Renaissance, when the Great Chain of Being began to be replaced by modern science, a project that was strongly advanced with Newton's laws. Then the older arguments based on revelation, divine providence and other dogmas gradually fell apart. They needed to be replaced and the Scholastic not in of "natural law" was used to fill the gap between laws guaranteed by the divinity with laws discovered by reason.

IN the 18th century the educated were moving away from the theological explanation of cosmology to Deism, the idea that the Creator set the world in motion and then let it unfold like clockwork. A believe this to be related to the not of an "invisible hand" in the form of "natural forces." While there is no evidence that Adam Smith thought this according to Smith biographer Gavin Kennedy (personal communication), the idea was in the air and it was only short step from Smith's invisible hand to economic laws similar to Newton's laws. Even Marx sought "iron laws."

Owing to the brilliant success of science evidence through technology, all disciplines sought to emulate Newtonian physics in "discovering" what were claimed to be "laws of nature." But, as Sandwichman observes, actual laws of nature hold universally, which is intrinsic to the definition. They cannot be violated. If violation were possible, then the assertion of law would not hold logically.

This reveals conventional economics as dogma rather than science, ideology rather than reason. The ideology of conventional economics is bourgeois liberalism that justifies ownership of the means of production controlling livelihood, primitive accumulation based on enclosure of the commons and privatization of public assets, and rent extraction as "meritocracy and "just deserts."

But there is an out for the failure to discover iron-clad natural laws in economics and social science. There are no iron laws regulating behavior. Humans, the elements of social systems under the assumption of methodological individualism, are not like atoms that are the elements of physical systems. Assuming atom-like behavior does not make it so. But where the law is not known (yet) deterministically, it's effects can be "detected" stochastically as regularities expressed as probability functions and improves through application of Bayesianism.

It's a self-serving load of BS promoting bourgeois liberalism.

33 comments:

Neil Wilson said...

The main problem here is viewing the issue as 'too much work', when actually the problem is that there is 'too little work'.

And by solving the 'too little work' problem you also solve the 'too much work' problem. Both sets of people move towards 'just enough work' and the capitalists have to replacing that labour with capital.

Or moan to the politicians that it is all too hard.

Tom Hickey said...

Employers like to point out that there is no shortage of work to be done and expanding economies are always creating new forms of work even as the eliminate obsolete ones and reduce labor in obsolescent ones.

That is true and irrelevant.

There is no shortage of work. There is a shortage of jobs to do the work. Ten workers an only nine bones leads to unemployment, not a shortage of work to be done.

A JG can easily increase the amount of work done, for example. If the private sector is not eating jobs quickly enough to fill at the available work, then the public sector can do so to mop up residual UE.

Another way to increase jobs is to reduce the daily load of workers by distributing leisure made possible by gains in productivity more widely.

These solutions are not incompatible either. The work week can be shortened, holidays and vacations increased, along with provision of jobs through a JG for those wishing to work. Then the choice between labor and leisure would become relevant. Now it is just another bullshit assumption to ground bourgeois liberalism.

Magpie said...

You know, Hickey, I found your remarks interesting. Don't get me wrong. I agree with much (not all) of what you say, particularly in the paragraph below:

IN the 18th century the educated were moving away from the theological explanation of cosmology to Deism, the idea that the Creator set the world in motion and then let it unfold like clockwork. A believe this to be related to the not of an "invisible hand" in the form of "natural forces." While there is no evidence that Adam Smith thought this according to Smith biographer Gavin Kennedy (personal communication), the idea was in the air and it was only short step from Smith's invisible hand to economic laws similar to Newton's laws. Even Marx sought "iron laws."

And your mention of Smith's "invisible hand" is very appropriate. Whether he believed it or not, the idea generally associated with it is expressed in these terms: self-interested individuals, striving to get their goals, manage to act -- as if guided by an invisible hand -- in the benefit of society. The invisible hand, in other words, provided a consequentialist justification for capitalism. Hence your own comment: It's a self-serving load of BS promoting bourgeois liberalism.

I suppose you'll have no substantial issue with that.

What I find most interesting, though, is that you reach that final point ("iron laws") and stop there. You don't extend your critical gaze to po-key thought. Why not?

For instance, you fail to recognise that the invisible hand paradox could claim a legitimate place next to all the other paradoxes, which, according to Marc Lavoie, are central to po-key holistic thought[1]:

Paradox of thrift (Keynes, higher saving rates lead to reduced output)
Paradox of costs (Kalecki, higher real wages lead to higher profit rates)
Paradox of public deficits (Kalecki, government deficits raise private profits)
Paradox of debt (Steindl, Efforts to deleverage might lead to higher leverage ratios)
Paradox of tranquillity (Minsky, Stability is destabilizing)
Paradox of liquidity (Dow/Nesvetailova, Efforts to become more liquid transform liquid assets into illiquid ones)
Paradox of risk (Wojnilower, The possibility of individual risk cover leads to more risk overall)

You could, for example, easily re-phrase the invisible hand paradox as "higher self-interest leads to social benefit". In fact, it doesn't take a genius to see in that formulation of Kalecki's paradox of costs ("higher real wages lead to higher profit rates") -- which we already discussed here, btw -- just a particular case of Smith's more general invisible hand: a consequentialist justification for capitalism. Something like the invisible hand of Kalecki/Keynes, if you will.

This is where I adopt your own words and ask: does this mean that po-key holistic thought is, too, "a self-serving load of BS promoting bourgeois liberalism"?

----------

You know, Tom, a critical eye is always a good thing, but it's better when one applies that critical eye to one's own beliefs. You po-keys sure enjoy the first bit, but seem less than keen about the second.

----------

With all due respect to The Sandwichman, he is wrong on that. The law of gravitation cannot be broken, alright, but that need not stop people from attempting to break it ... with disastrous consequences. Parents warn their kids all the time: don't climb up that tree, don't run with scissors/knives/glasses in your hands.

When economists claim that policy makers are trying to break an economic law, rightly or wrongly, they have in mind a similar situation. They are threatening/warning the law-breaker: thou shalt pay a price. At least, this is what they mean.

And economists of all stripes -- including po-keys -- also like to issue warnings.

[1] http://www.boeckler.de/pdf/v_2013_07_28_lavoie.pdf

Tom Hickey said...

@ Magpie

I think I have previously made clear that I regard economic liberalism (capitalism), political liberalism (democracy) and social liberalism (normative relativism) to be incompatible owing to paradoxes of liberalism that arise when liberalism is adopted as an ideology. The paradoxes mentioned above are some of these that occur in PKE.

All current economic schools pursued in the US and UK other than Marxist and Marxian assume capitalism and liberalism, even though some heterodox schools may severely critique and seek to ameliorate social, political andeconpomic issues to which it leads owing to institutional arrangements. This includes PKE and MMT, which I have previously criticized on this score.

I have also said that MMT economists have put forward the best practical policy proposal for ameliorating capitalism by resolving the trifecta of growth, employment and price stability, but it cannot resolve the more fundamental issues when capitalism is assumed as the framework.

Liberalism is based on methodological individualism grounded in assuming ontological individualism. Human being are not independent of each other, however. The universe is a system comprised of subsystems and subsystem are comprised of sub-subsubstems, etc, with some system being comprised of elements in relationship. The universe as a system is a web of relationships and these relationships are interactive and dynamic with feedback loops affecting the system and its components. Moreover, this is a complex non-linear system characterized by emergence, hence surprise (unpredictability, synergism)

Humans are not born with conscious knowledge of the system and they have an incentive to develop as much knowledge of it as they can. Aristotle speculated that the incentive is "wonder." Anyone who has been around young children knows that a favorite question is "why." Later it is also "how." Psychologists have found that curiosity is the basis of creativity, invention and discovery.

So humans concoct answers to these questions socially and these answers become worldviews that are the foundation for a culture with its worldview customs and traditions. Most people conflate their worldviews with "reality" not realizing that worldviews structure a view of reality based on interpretation of experience. Few are able to think out of the box and most people are afraid to venture outside of the box because they cannot stand uncertainty, on one hand, and absence of structure on the other. So worldviews perpetuate themselves through culture and change slowly, but in waves that gradually crest and suddenly break.

continued

Tom Hickey said...

continuation

My own view is that perennial wisdom provides the best available insight naturalistically into how the system works in terms of a conceptual model that can be experienced as one's awareness is honed. The conceptual model is not as important as the honing of awareness, prescriptions for which the sages have elaborated. For example, Jesus reportedly said, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" Mt 7:12 (NRSV). Virtually all traditions express this similarly. See here and here.

Reciprocity is the basis of altruism, equity, egalitarianism, and justice. It is contradicted by individualism and rational optimization of preference economically.

The basic idea behind rational optimization is the liberal ideal of individual pursuit of happiness which requires individual liberty as the basis for choice and ownership of property for material satisfaction in the liberal view.

In the view of perennial wisdom, this is a terrible mistake, taking the unimportant as important and the important as unimportant.

True and abiding fulfillment lies beyond the alternation of opposites such as happiness and suffering, and pleasure and pain. The way to realizing fulfillment is through universal unconditional love and it manifests as the peace the world cannot give.

This results in real freedom regardless of the social, political or economic system, none of which can deliver this, although it is easier to be a good person in a good society.

As I have also harped on previously, the fundamental question is, what does it mean to live a good life in a good society.

An economy is the material life support system of a society. Societies are determined by the level of collective consciousness of the members of it, which determine its culture and institutional structure. Therefore, the fundamental question is developing a level of collective consciousness capable of supporting living a good life in a good society.

Of all the Western economists, Marx was probably the closest to understanding this. But that may be because Marx was neither trained as an economist nor a business person, but a philosopher who was well grounded in ancient Greek thought, where this was a lively debate.

n the other hand, I am a realist and realize that we have to recognize opportunities and challenges and deal with them iteratively and incrementally. So we have to acknowledge the existing context as the starting point and determine how best to proceed based on it. The first principles are do not harm and safety first, doing what is possible to reduce negativity. Then comes improving the general welfare. However, lasting progress come from addressing the level of collective consciousness.

Here is where I depart from Marx who held that economic infrastructure is determinative. I agree it is important but not determinative. Here I agree with Hegel more or less as much closer to the conceptual model of perennial wisdom that seems to me to be the best explanation based on my experience. Incidentally, both Hegel and Marx were well acquainted with ancient greek thought and it is evident to anyone who has studied the history of philosophy that they were influenced by it. Plato's logic is dialectical, for example.

GLH said...

"This reveals conventional economics as dogma rather than science, ideology rather than reason. The ideology of conventional economics is bourgeois liberalism that justifies ownership of the means of production controlling livelihood, primitive accumulation based on enclosure of the commons and privatization of public assets, and rent extraction as "meritocracy and "just deserts."
I know of no better description of economics.

Matt Franko said...

I depart from Marx who held that economic infrastructure is determinative."

Can you expand on this Tom?

Matt Franko said...

" There are no iron laws regulating behavior."

Yes there are Tom but WE get to make them... this might be your libertarian/Dariwnian bias manifesting here again...

"Jesus reportedly said, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" Mt 7:12

OK yes sounds good from the Lord there to Israel yada yada trying to help those people figure it all out.. but this principle can be codified in our laws ("well... I really dont want anyone to kill me so... lets have a law against murder", etc...)

... we have the authority to do this and always have and sometimes do ... libertarianism operates against this knowledge of authority...

We could have a JG, or a BIG or a JIG or nothing or whatever... appropriate our currency in whatever rate we deem proper in the process... we have complete authority to do this always have...

libertarianism operates against this... libertarianism is at war with this...

Step 1 has to be that we have to recognize our authority #1... once we understand our authority, then we can start to figure out the details...

Searching for some sort of 'natural laws' in this regard is at least exhibiting blindness to our authority... if not operating against it...

Tom Hickey said...

"Can you expand on this Tom?"

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com/2016/04/karl-marx-on-his-guiding-principle.html

Then link provides the context.

Tom Hickey said...

Yes there are Tom but WE get to make them... this might be your libertarian/Dariwnian bias manifesting here again...

There are distinctions between "laws we make" called positive law and laws of nature. Positive law is time-bound, changeable, local, and contingent. The laws of nature are timeless, unchangeable, universal, and necessary. So-called natural laws or iron laws governing economic behavior supposedly have the same characteristic as the laws of nature.

Magpie said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Tom.

I am just a bloody worker and, frankly, philosophy is well above my pay grade, so I won't comment on much you wrote. It's not that I think that perennial wisdom, awareness, freedom, collective consciousness are unimportant. I just don't know anything about them. I beg you'll indulgence on that.

Going back, then, to what I understand and can comment on:

I think I have previously made clear that I regard economic liberalism (capitalism), political liberalism (democracy) and social liberalism (normative relativism) to be incompatible owing to paradoxes of liberalism that arise when liberalism is adopted as an ideology. The paradoxes mentioned above are some of these that occur in PKE.

All current economic schools pursued in the US and UK other than Marxist and Marxian assume capitalism and liberalism, even though some heterodox schools may severely critique and seek to ameliorate social, political andeconpomic issues to which it leads owing to institutional arrangements. This includes PKE and MMT, which I have previously criticized on this score.


If you have criticized PKE/MMT on that score, either I missed it altogether or did not understand it.

I have also said that MMT economists have put forward the best practical policy proposal for ameliorating capitalism by resolving the trifecta of growth, employment and price stability, but it cannot resolve the more fundamental issues when capitalism is assumed as the framework.

I totally agree on all accounts.

MMT, in fact, does a lot more in my opinion: whatever the normative/advocacy considerations (which it seems are more important to you), it shows how a monetary capitalist economy works. It is what economists call a "positive" theory.

From this you may guess an initial difference between you and I: I do believe one can understand reality. There is such a thing as positive economic theory. It's just that the economic theory sold as positive does not fulfil its specification. It's a case of misleading advertising (more on this below).

Not everything, for me, is a matter of opinion. There are facts: one can have one's opinions, but not one's facts.

If Marx is in some way right (and I believe he is substantially right on many things), then those who deny him any fundamental insight must be wrong (here I'll skip speculation about why they insist on being wrong).

----------

Going back to misleading advertising: a symptom of it is to demand of the competition what one's product cannot offer; another is to accuse the competition of one's own practices.

Let me be crystal clear before proceeding: I'm not accusing you of doing this deliberately. But the fact remains that, explaining your own views, you wrote:

Societies are determined by the level of collective consciousness of the members of it, which determine its culture and institutional structure.

And then, a little later (Matt Franko also noticed that):

Here is where I depart from Marx who held that economic infrastructure is determinative. I agree it is important but not determinative.

Why should one's alleged determinism be preferred to someone else's alleged determinism? Should one say that Keynes was a "subjective/psychological" determinist? Are institutionalists "institution" deterministic? What, exactly, does "determinism" mean?

The issue of the "iron laws" is another example. Isnn't the invisible hand of Kalecki/Keynes an "iron law"? To me, it pretty much sounds like one: Capitalists cannot cut down wages, because the (good) invisible hand will punish them with a recession? Why isn't that an "iron law"? Are there good and bad "iron laws"?

To put things differently: is it okay to apply different criteria to one's beliefs? This is where, in my opinion, po-keys lack of self-criticism leads to a lot of misunderstandings. I may be mistaken.

Tom Hickey said...

To put things differently: is it okay to apply different criteria to one's beliefs?

This cuts to the chase from the logic-philosophical POV. It's about criteria. This is not only a logico-philosophical question. It is the knottiest one. The logic that is current requires consistency in the application of criteria. Changing criteria is shifting the goal posts. Of course, criteria are also based on new knowledge. In this sense, one's criteria can change and hopefully do as one matures in experience and understanding.

The big question is what constitutes adequate criteria.

There are four fundamental areas of inquiry:

1. Ontology — What is there? (What criteria does reality provide?)

2. Epistemology — What can we know about what is? (What is the criterion of truth?)

3. Ethics — What ought one do? (What the criterion of right and good.)

4. Esthetics — What should we appreciate? (What is the criterion of beauty?)

The issues involved are deep and consequential. There have been a number of well-argued answers to these questions. Most people are not aware of these debates and they don't reflect on the questions much either. They simply cobble together a view naively based on what they consider to be "common sense" and group think.

Liberalism is open-ended and leaves choice open, including of criteria. Everyone is free to believe what they want as well as to change their mind.

I have come to certain conclusions that are only of interest to me in my process. They are works in progress.

The history of thought shows that no general criteria have gained acceptance universally. Even science undergoes shocks. QM rocked the world when it shook the determinstic foundations of classical physics. Einstein never could agree that reality is at bottom stochastic and believed that eventually a deterministic solution would be found. But QM does not disconfirm classical physics either, only extends the scope and reach of the field of study.

Similarly, evolutionary theory shook the foundation of the structuralist world view based on essences. This doesn't men that biological taxonomy is useless.

Historically, different views have prevailed for a time in certain places. There has been no timeless view. This doesn't mean that all knowledge is relatively, however. What it does suggest that is that there are no absolute criteria. This is consistent with scientific method that assumes present knowledge is contingent on future discovery.

I am satisfied that Hegel showed rather convincingly that the temporal dominance of one idea calls forth opposition as it complement, since no idea is comprehensive. So history can be viewed dialectically as the interplay of ideas in which previous ideas are subsumed and transcended. Marx argued that the dialectic could be accounted for entirely in terms of material causation that was basically economic. I am not convinced of that.

For Hegel, hstory is a process that humans rationalize ex post. Reflection reveals the dominate ideas after the wave has risen and crested and is about to break. It seems to me that we are now on such a cusp. We can see such dominant ideas such as neoliberalism, postmodernism, etc., but the next wave to rise is still vague and obscured behind the rising height of the current wave that is beginning to foam as it is about to break.

Regarding economics, psychology and social science, my view is that they are in their infancy and thus far yield only meagre results. Their time is yet to come.

Magpie said...

Tom,

I think this is the crux of your reply:

I am satisfied that Hegel showed rather convincingly that the temporal dominance of one idea calls forth opposition as it complement, since no idea is comprehensive. So history can be viewed dialectically as the interplay of ideas in which previous ideas are subsumed and transcended. Marx argued that the dialectic could be accounted for entirely in terms of material causation that was basically economic. I am not convinced of that.

You counterpose Hegel (whom you follow) to Marx. And you write: I am not convinced of that [Marx's view that the dialectic could be accounted for entirely in terms of material causation that was basically economic].

That's your personal view. Fair enough. I, however, can't see why I -- or anyone else for that matter -- should follow you. Other than your own preferences, you didn't advance any reason.

I, for one, cannot imagine "history can be viewed dialectically as the interplay of ideas in which previous ideas are subsumed and transcended". Once again, I might appropriate your words: "I am not convinced of that". Without any personal allusions, until provided persuasive argument, I'll stick to the ol' "it's the economy, stupid" dictum.

I don't want to provide a caricature of your thesis. So, maybe you should explain it yourself, in your own words. This is your chance to persuade us.

How your Hegelian dialectic of ideas work with a simple example we all can understand? Paraphrasing you: convince us of that.

Tom Hickey said...

Magpie, in my view, these matters are personal. It's part of one's process, which is one's own responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. The freedom to explore implies a responsibility to do so.

The important things in life are mysteries. Seeking to inform oneself about them, discussing them with other philosophers (lovers of wisdom) and meditating on them expands one's horizon.

All must pursue their quest individually, but we also travel in caravans, sometimes of our choosing and sometime not. But negative teaching and learning are as important as positive teaching and learning. traveling with people among whom there is agreement fosters confirmation bias.

I really can't offer a compelling argument for what I have come to accept because it is the result of a long process that is uniquely mine. I don't feel any motivation to convince anyone anyway.

As a philosophy prof my job was not to convince student of any particular POV but rather to understand critical thinking and how to apply it, as well as to see how different POV's operate to structure a world view.

The Hegelian POV is similar to the Taoist POV that has been integrated into Chinese thought as an approach. It sees the world in terms of the interaction of opposites. Apparent contradiction is revealed as paradox when the complementary relationship of the opposites is revealed.

For example, in conventional econ and the culture based on it, economic liberalism emphasizes growth irrespective of distributional fairness. This engenders a reaction that emphasizes fairness, which takes a political form such as socialism. In this contest of ideas, one emerges eventually as apparently victorious but it also brings along significant aspects of the former idea, so something new is born synergistically that cannot be foreseen based on either of the opposing ideas. It is an organic process rather than a mechanistic one.

Russia and China as formerly socialistic countries were in opposition to the Western capitalistic countries. However, they have both abandoned the strict approach to socialism they had held and are developing something new that combines capitalism and socialism. But this is work in progress and the idea is still under development.

continued

Tom Hickey said...

continuation


Similarly in global politics the North (developed nations) is opposed to the South (emerging nations). The West (liberalism) is opposed to the East (traditionalism). The result will not be victory of one over the other so that the world becomes Northern or Southern or Eastern or Western. Some hybrid will emerge, likely differing regionally.

History can be viewed in this light as a dialectical theory. Hegel took an organic and rationalistic approach and Marx, a mechanistic and materialistic one. But the logic is similar.

Understanding is important in this endeavor but more significant is the angle that one takes and the foundation on which one stands. We make certain assumptions about that here and don't examine the fundamentals.

What we discuss here has policy implications and so it is useful to examine approaches to economics and to understand how the world works as a social, political and economic system. I generally take a dialectal approach. But generally I don't get into the underpinnings.

The foundation of my view is perennial wisdom and it is a subject in which I have specialized for some decades. Few people operate on that foundation, so I only mention it in passing when it seems to advance the conversation.

Hegel was in the perennial wisdom camp, holding that the history of consciousness is the unfolding of the Absolute to itself. Marx and probably most other people that are materialists think that is just mumbo-jumbo or magical thinking. But I have both rational and extra-rational reasons for thinking the and feeling the way I do. It's the outcome of a consciously undertaken process that led me to certain positions based on that POV.

Socrates famously said that the life not reflected on is not worth living. There are different ways to go about reflection. Critical thinking is important of conceptual understanding, but as a wag once said, "In life, understanding is the booby prize."

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." — Hamlet

Bob said...

I really can't offer a compelling argument for what I have come to accept because it is the result of a long process that is uniquely mine. I don't feel any motivation to convince anyone anyway.

If John Michael Grier can make compelling arguments based on his experiential learning, then so can you.

Bob said...

Typo: Greer

Bob said...

Ralph Musgrave has written previously on the 'lump of labour' fallacy.

Matt Franko said...

Tom,

" Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all.)" 1 Cor 15

imo your consciousness is already at the "All in all" point.... BUT... we have a ways to go yet in time domain...

"And now you are aware what is detaining, " 2 Thess 2

There is a 'detaining' going on which perhaps unfortunately for us (mankind) then means more time passes...

Maybe look at what is going on is that you are experiencing this era now, BUT ... you are being made to experience it with a future type of consciousness...

This can give you a comparison or perhaps a contrast to observe... its like you are there in quality but not in time... might be a pretty rare hence valuable condition...

Tom Hickey said...

If John Michael Grier can make compelling arguments based on his experiential learning, then so can you.

I stopped reading him some time ago. Too thick in my view. He has a POV and then sets about justifying it.

Enquiry starts out with a question, problem, or puzzle and pursuing it with an open mind and heart.

Advocacy begins with a conclusion and rationalizes to it.

Most use of the mind is in rationalization rather than problem solving.

This means that most "argumentation" is justifying personal or group bias.

Bob said...

I didn't ask whether you agree with him, just that his work could serve as an example. He writes about wizardry and exploring the supernatural. A necessary part of this draws upon his own experience. Most people would dismiss these topics, but that doesn't diminish the value of his work. He has an audience, a community and a venue for discussion.

Which topics are important to you? Which ones are worthy of writing about?
I assume you devote your time and effort according to some criteria. There is more to life than reading and writing about politics 24/7, which is what this site boils down to. Are you making contributions elsewhere that readers of MNE may not know about?

Tom Hickey said...

I didn't ask whether you agree with him, just that his work could serve as an example. He writes about wizardry and exploring the supernatural. A necessary part of this draws upon his own experience. Most people would dismiss these topics, but that doesn't diminish the value of his work. He has an audience, a community and a venue for discussion.

Greer is advancing a particular POV. I don't mind that, and I hold a variant of that point of view.

I admit that this is an area in which criteria are absent at the level of gross awareness and evidence is scarce using the gross body as an observational instrument. Material instrumentation is unable to extend the limitations of the gross body very far and can only detect material effects. Their interpretation is therefore controversial at the level of the gross.So without agreed up on criteria and evidence that is publicly available, it's a matter of asserting priors.

The difference between rationalization and enquiry is that enquiry require flexibility with regard to priors and adopting a suitable research program to gather evidence. Perennial wisdom holds that knowledge is structured in consciousness and is different in different states of consciousness. Perennial wisdom also suggests a research program for enhancing the instrument of consciousness by refining it.

Perennial wisdom also teaches that enquiry is not primarily intellectual and that understanding follows experience. Understanding in perennial wisdom is initially mostly about making one's priors more flexible so as to be open to new experience because perennial wisdom is about transcendence.

This has been a priority for me and where I chose to allocate most of my time. My conclusion is several fold. First, my experience has indicated to me that the sages know whereof they speak. Therefore, perennial wisdom is worth pursuing. Secondly, then the question becomes one of adopting a method. It became clear to me that quickest way would be to find a guide. This was in accordance with my long standing practice of hanging out with those who knew more than I did about things I considered important and worth knowing. Those matters were priors for me. Third, I spent some time looking for candidates and financially settled on one after some unfruitful attempts. Fourth, when experience begins to unfold one is a much better position based on not only evidence but a different level of criteria.

The conclusion at which I arrived was that perennial wisdom is the key. However, then the question arises as to what the criterion may be for distinguishing the authentic from the bogus and also sorting out the authentic from the bogus in the genuine teaching, since teaching have been redacted. Moreover, certain aspects of the teaching are less universal than others since the teachings were given at different times and places and were suitable for those to whom they were given then.

Based on this I have come to some conclusions, but they were guided by my own priors and my own enquiry. I feel no compunction to rationalize this for others and only recommend that people people undertake their own quest base on their own priors. But I do recommend perennial wisdom as a the textbook, so to speak. Finding a suitable guide is a matter of serendipity, s to speak, although as one grows in wisdom and understanding one discovers that it is a matter of connection.

Tom Hickey said...

Which topics are important to you? Which ones are worthy of writing about?

The "topic" on which I have focused is consciousness. That is the inner frontier that is likely to be the area of exploration in the future, along with outer space. According to my priors and evidence from experience, exploring inner space is more important than outer space. Plus no space ship requires, only the laboratory of one's own awareness.

The subjects that are worth writing about are the enduring questions that are the subject of intellectual enquiry as the foundation of knowledge.

I assume you devote your time and effort according to some criteria. There is more to life than reading and writing about politics 24/7, which is what this site boils down to. Are you making contributions elsewhere that readers of MNE may not know about?

The major criterion is importance as an ordering principle in prioritization. One must prioritize one's life in terms of expenditure of time, energy and resources. So getting one's priorities right is key. Here I have drawn on perennial wisdom.

My work can be accessed online here.

Magpie said...

Thanks, Tom.

I really can't offer a compelling argument for what I have come to accept because it is the result of a long process that is uniquely mine. I don't feel any motivation to convince anyone anyway.

That's unfortunate. Put yourself in my shoes (actually, put yourself in our shoes: mine and everyone else reading this and trying to make their own minds up): you are not convinced about a materialist view of history, and you propose a non-materialist view, but you can't explain why. It's a personal matter.

You may call me pedestrian (I prefer to call myself pragmatic), but I will stick to the "it's the economy, stupid" thing.

----------

When asked why po-keys don't apply the same set of criteria to themselves and to others, you reply:

Historically, different views have prevailed for a time in certain places. There has been no timeless view. This doesn't mean that all knowledge is relatively, however. What it does suggest that is that there are no absolute criteria. This is consistent with scientific method that assumes present knowledge is contingent on future discovery.

Which is very true: I too doubt there are absolute criteria to judge a theory. But that does not answer my question. To wit:

To put things differently: is it okay to apply different criteria to one's beliefs?

The problem is not whether there are or not universally accepted criteria. We both agree on this: there probably aren't.

The problem is that po-keys are extremely demanding when it comes to criticising other people's beliefs (including but not limited to Marxists, btw), but never criticise their own beliefs.

That's why one finds po-keys pulling criteria off their asses to criticise others. An example of one of these "critics" involves Adam Smith's deers-and-beavers model: There are no anthropological evidence confirming it!!! -- the po-key critic thunder. Sure, there isn't: it's a fucking model, imbecile (this remark, btw, is directed to the blogger who conceived that criticism). But you don't see the same po-key demanding entomological confirmation for Mandeville's "Tale of the Bees" (or agronomic confirmation for Keynes' "banana parable", for that matter). Why not?

The methodological criticism most po-keys (not all, to be fair with MMT leading proponents) prefer looks suspiciously like setting the bar much higher for others to jump, while keeping it low enough for themselves.

Determinism and "iron laws" are two additional examples.

The bottom line for me and I regret to say this: this exchange was very disappointing.

Matt Franko said...

Mag,

Tom imo posts a lot related to the subject of peace (or lack thereof...) peace is obviously very important to him... but it is a non-material issue...

Paul (sage) wrote: "Now whenever they may be saying "Peace and security," then extermination is standing by them unawares"

So achievement of peace looks important separate from our achievement of security which security can include economic security and our personal security which to your point is a material systems matter...

To me Paul is identifying these as separate issues but both to be achieved concurrently... which correlation is not causation... doesnt mean they are related...

If we ever figure this "money!" thing out, imo we might have less problems related to peace but we shouldnt kid ourselves that all of the problems wrt the lack of peace are going to go away just because we eventually reach an understanding that were not "out of money!"...

Peace is probably a separate (non-material) issue...





Tom Hickey said...

I am sorry you are disappointed, Magpie. But the matter is somewhat complicated and this is not the venue to explore it.

Regarding criteria, very few people understand enough about philosophical logic to understand the issues, let alone critique their own criteria.

There are different world views that whose boundaries are the criteria that one applies to truth, goodness, and beauty. Most people take their world view to be reality because in the lens through which they see the world. As a result most arguments that involve foundations end in disagreement with the parties thinking that the other party is stupid, disingenuous, stubborn or crazy.

I recall when I first was in grad school in philosophy in a department that emphasized the history of philosophy rather than a particular approach. I once ask a professor why none of the profs every discussed philosophy with each other. He laughed and said, Oh, we did that and drove teach other back to foundations and agreed to disagree. That's where philosophical arguments end up and that is why they are philosophical rather than scientific or theological, which end in observation and religious belief respectively.

As a result some philosophers are anti-foundationalists, like Richard Rorty. However, anti-foundationism doesn't necessarily imply either skepticism or relativism. An anti-foundationalist can logically claim that in the greater scheme of thing some foundational positions are true than others but lacking comprehensive knowledge of the scheme of things and how things stand in that scheme, there is no criterion for deciding. But people are free to come to their own conclusions about fundamentals and be logically consistent as long as they admit that condition.

However, this is not completely a matter of reason or choice. It's now becoming clear that evolution and biology have produced within our species various genetic types that manifest different disposition and reactions to environmental stimuli. Brain plasticity also implies that nurture can also affect brain structure and functioning. This results in different world views, such as different positions in quadrants on the political compass. For example, some moral criteria are gut-based, grounded in disgust. It's difficult to take a reason-based approach in that case. This is an issue in homophobia, for instance. It's really a problem for homosexuals that are also homophobic dispositionally.

continued

Tom Hickey said...

continuation

Because this is complicated intellectually even for experts and also because other factors impinge, many if not most people are not aware of internal contradictions in their POVs. While some of this can be attributed to lack of reflection or insufficient formalism, which is designed to reveal inconsistency in logic, psychological research suggests that even when such contradiction are pointed out, or disconfirming evidence is adduced, they will double down. More surprisingly, the more intelligent the subjects, the deeper they dig in.

So it would hardly be surprising to find it in economics, especially when people are heavily invested in a POV and have staked out a position.

The problem is that po-keys are extremely demanding when it comes to criticising other people's beliefs (including but not limited to Marxists, btw), but never criticise their own beliefs.

One of the purposes of philosophy 101 in a liberal curriculum is to reflect on one's beliefs and critique them. On the first class I used to say, I used to say, now that you have come of age it is time to question what your parents, pope and president have been telling you and let the chips fall where they may — which is, of course, just a way of saying, question authority.

It is difficult enough to critique received knowledge, but it is more difficult to criticize one's own POV because it is deeply embedded and is usually cherished. It only becomes visible when challenged. As a result, phil 101 is often viewed as destructive rather than constructive.

Very few people feel comfortable deconstructing their own POV and positions based on it. It requires a lot of mental and emotional flexibility.

Regarding criticism of others' positions, I have noticed that very often the arguments are attacking scarecrows because the opponents are not well-versed in the others' POV and there is also a lot of cognitive-affective bias against it. It is not only difficult to criticize one's own POV rigorously but also those of others.

Tom Hickey said...

continuation

The problem is that po-keys are extremely demanding when it comes to criticising other people's beliefs (including but not limited to Marxists, btw), but never criticise their own beliefs.

That's why one finds po-keys pulling criteria off their asses to criticise others. An example of one of these "critics" involves Adam Smith's deers-and-beavers model: There are no anthropological evidence confirming it!!! -- the po-key critic thunder. Sure, there isn't: it's a fucking model, imbecile (this remark, btw, is directed to the blogger who conceived that criticism). But you don't see the same po-key demanding entomological confirmation for Mandeville's "Tale of the Bees" (or agronomic confirmation for Keynes' "banana parable", for that matter). Why not?

The methodological criticism most po-keys (not all, to be fair with MMT leading proponents) prefer looks suspiciously like setting the bar much higher for others to jump, while keeping it low enough for themselves.


This is something that debate is supposed to deal with. But when there really is not much of a forum for debate in economics, it is possible to get away with a lot of things that don't stand the test of rigor. I think that shows up in all schools to one degree or another, although some are generally more dogmatic than others.

Determinism and "iron laws" are two additional examples.

This involves philosophy of science and philosophy of economics and there is a paucity of this in economics as far as I can see. There is a lot of armchair philosophizing though.

The other issues are:

1. many economists are much more concerned with formalism than evidence and take rigor to means formal consistency. That is a narrow definition of "rigor."

2. most economics assume that economics can be isolated from other subjects, even closely related ones like finance, money and banking, and law, as institutionalists point out. Moreover, there is little concern with consilience, that is, that knowledge must fit together. Knowledge in one field that is not consistent with other fields becomes suspect.

As far as PKE goes, there are disagreements among those that self-identify as PKs. I don't see that as a big issue. when everyone agrees, there is a danger for groupthink to dominate. Controversy is good.

The major problem in economics is the same as in philosophy. Proponents of different positions don't interact much with each and when they do it often hostile.

Matt Franko said...

"question authority. "

Should be: "question people in positions of authority who seem unqualified/stupid to you...."

Tom Hickey said...

Should be: "question people in positions of authority who seem unqualified/stupid to you...."

When people come of age they should question what they learned on the way to maturity. That is the basis of a liberal education.

A lot of students in phil 101 have been taught to be believe a lot of things on authority that have no rational basis and may even be irrational.

That's not necessarily a reason to give up one's cherished beliefs, but one should understand their basis. If after a rigorous enquiry one chooses to believe in magic, so be it. It is an informed choice instead of just being transmitted culturally.

In a liberal society people are free to believe what they choose to believe. A liberal educational should ensure that such choices are informed choices, however.

Tom Hickey said...

Should be "educational system".

jrbarch said...

Quotes I really liked from Tom’s web page:

But if you do not know who you are, you are in poverty and you are that poverty. [Gospel of Thomas]

The whole purpose of life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. [St. Augustine of Hippo]

And one from Prem Rawat, relevant to my other comment today on another thread:

Want your life to be good?
Lighten the load.

Calgacus said...

As Tom notes, these topics are so big that they are hard to treat in a blog - I simply don't have the energy or time or the ability to not disappoint. So one point - Opposing Marx & Hegel so much is (a) ahistorical & (b) less and less the scholarly fashion. After a couple hundred years, people generally do get things right. For instance, Susan Buck-Morss in her book "Hegel & Haiti" (?) says people now realize Hegel was always right side up.

In spite of once saying Hegel wasn't, Marx always considered himself & called himself a pupil and disciple of Hegel. Their differences are minor in comparison to their commonalities; in turn, serious Marxoid scholars tend to truly get Hegel better than almost anyone else IMHO. And of course, Lenin famously said that Marx was impossible to understand without understanding Hegel.

Both Hegel & Marx agree that everything, that history is "dialectical". From a practical ("pragmatic") standpoint, thinking that either "material" or "ideas" (even "spiritual") factors are unimportant is so crazy it is not worth arguing about. (In the science of economics, this craziness corresponds to saying that either "real" or "monetary" factors are completely unimportant. MMT, following Keynes and Marx & others, in contrast to modern mainstream economics, is not crazy this way.) Yakking about which of either of these pairs is "primary" is very often or usually a pointless chicken-egg debate at best.

Finally, the only person I know of who was close to both Hegel & Marx was Heinrich Heine. He wrote Hegel was the "mother hen" who was hatching the revolutionaries, the "passionate logicians", surely meaning his friend Marx, "to whom the future belonged." So a position that Marx is substantially right on many things, but that he & many others were wrong about how much he, or the many right things, owed to Hegel is not an easy one to defend.