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Sandpit

February 28th, 2012

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. February 28th, 2012 at 21:58 | #1

    The sandpit might better be re-named sandspit.

  2. Dan
    February 28th, 2012 at 22:05 | #2

    Did people see this?

    http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/the-aussie-making-a-motza-from-offshoring-whitecollar-jobs-20120220-1thyc.html

    Kind of inevitable, really. But a disturbing development nonetheless, in my view.

  3. Mel
    February 28th, 2012 at 23:25 | #3

    Dan:

    “Kind of inevitable, really. But a disturbing development nonetheless, in my view.”

    I don’t see why. I think it’s a wonderful thing.

  4. Dan
    February 28th, 2012 at 23:30 | #4

    I guess I’m thinking from the perspective of liking it when my friends can find jobs.

  5. Chris Warren
    February 29th, 2012 at 13:16 | #5

    Mel : I think it’s a wonderful thing.

    What is wonderful. The hatchet-man making a motza, or the loss of whitecollar jobs?

    Is unfair competition ever “wonderful”?

  6. Mel
    February 29th, 2012 at 14:29 | #6

    Dan:

    “I guess I’m thinking from the perspective of liking it when my friends can find jobs.”

    I think you’re being unduly negative. Almost every major technological development from the invention of the factory system to computers has been denounced as a disastrous destroyer of jobs but the reality has been far more complex. Think about architecture for example. Maybe only one or two percent of Oz homes are currently designed by architects because architects are very expensive. The rest of us have to make do with generally poorly designed builders’ homes (including mine). If, as per your article, local architects can do the initial conceptual work then offshore the hack work to a suitably qualified architect in India, architecture will suddenly become affordable for a large proportion of the population

    In a nutshell- We’ll get much better housing, developing economies will get more income and local architects who are genuinely talented will have a surfeit of design work. Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

  7. Dan
    February 29th, 2012 at 14:46 | #7

    And the accountants and programmers will, no doubt, also be freed up to do more creative work. (Creative accounting?)

    The offshoring of manufacturing was mitigated somewhat by the movement of the Western labour force towards white-collar jobs. Nonetheless, it was an economic and social disaster in many regions.

    Now let’s suppose the white-collar jobs are offshored; I’m not aware of any other colours that collars come in.

    Of course I am simplifying things and there will be successes. But on the whole this is a negative thing for the Australian worker.

  8. Jill Rush
    February 29th, 2012 at 15:53 | #8

    There are the pink collar jobs and with the ageing of the population there will be plenty of those.

  9. Mel
    February 29th, 2012 at 16:03 | #9

    Dan: “And the accountants and programmers will, no doubt, also be freed up to do more creative work. (Creative accounting?) … But on the whole this is a negative thing for the Australian worker.”

    Jobs like accounting and programming are complex-routine jobs and thus they are necessarily dull for anyone who isn’t at least mildly autistic. I’d call that another win.

  10. Peter T
    February 29th, 2012 at 16:17 | #10

    Mel

    and all those 50 year olds liberated over the past three decades from dull jobs as toolmakers, machinists, textile work, boilermaking and much else thank you from the bottom of their hearts. Their new life stacking shelves is so much more interesting and remunerative.

  11. Ikonoclast
    February 29th, 2012 at 16:55 | #11

    The hollowing out of productive Australia continues. Once we make nothing and grow nothing what then?

  12. Mel
    February 29th, 2012 at 17:44 | #12

    Oh how awful. The yucky brown and yellow people are getting uppity and taking jobs that properly belong to white people.

    Is this a left wing website or have I accidentally found myself at Stormfront?

  13. Sam
    February 29th, 2012 at 19:05 | #13

    @Mel
    I disagree that programming is dull for the non-autistic. Accounting is, certainly. But programming can be wonderfully creative.

  14. PM
    February 29th, 2012 at 19:46 | #14

    Mel – your ignorance of how architecture relates to and can possibly improve living conditions is profound.

    The idea of outsourcing the ‘hack work’ to ‘suitably qualified’ architects in India sounds glibly possible but a bit of deeper thought about what that hack work actually is proves the utter stupidity of the idea.

    Is the hack work the documentation of the kitchen and bathroom and joinery of the kitchen? If so then how will someone who has no idea of how Australians live, eat, drink, cook and bathe perform this function in a way that improves quality of life for everyone?

    Is the hack work the documentation and detailing of how the various materials are joined, flashed, waterproofed etc? If so then how will an Indian architect know how the local tradespeople do this work? Or what materials, fixtures and fitting are available? Or what local weather conditions need to be accounted for?

    To anyone not intimately involved in an industry it is easy to think – outsource the grunt / hack / boring work, save $$$, everyone wins. To anyone actually involved in the industry being outsourced it is never that straight forward.

    Perhaps next time choose your examples a bit more wisely.

  15. Ikonoclast
    March 1st, 2012 at 08:17 | #15

    Mel :
    Oh how awful. The yucky brown and yellow people are getting uppity and taking jobs that properly belong to white people.
    Is this a left wing website or have I accidentally found myself at Stormfront?

    My substantive question is not answered by this kind of slur. If Mel trawled my old posts she would find my advocacy for more assistance to indigenous Australians and a more enlightened policy with respect to refugees.

    If Australia loses too much of its capacity to manufacture goods and grow its own food then we are in dire economic trouble. This will be particularly so when oil shortages curtail international trade and it once again becomes vital to produce regionally and locally.

    Capitalists love to move production to countries with inadequate labour laws so they can exploit labour and expand the class war into race war. Divide and conquer is what the 1% use to rule the 99%.

    You can see the results of this globalised exploitation model in the ruined underclass of the US (on the one hand) and the severe pollution and labour exploitation in China (think of China’s Apple workers) on the other hand. A further problem for this globalised production system will arise when oil becomes very expensive and production declines due to resource shortage. Globalised production only makes sense when energy is cheap. Once energy becomes dear and/or unavailable in the forms required (non-fungible) then the globalised production model fails. Simply put it will become to expensive in energy (and financial) terms to move so much stuff so far. At that stage regional and local production becomes more viable once again.

    http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/31/exposed-apples-terrible-sin-in-china-tctv/

  16. socrates
    March 1st, 2012 at 08:54 | #16

    Speaking of bad government policy, this interview with the Finnish education minister is interesting. The emphasis on quality teachers and equity stands in stark contrast to current Australian “thinking” on education policy. Finland actually spends slightly less on education as a % of GDP than we do, but consistently comes top of international tests.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-28/highly-educated-teachers-the-key-to-success/3858612

  17. Dan
    March 1st, 2012 at 09:05 | #17

    @Mel

    Oh my,

    I shouldn’t even respond to your dull smear, but nonetheless I will. Sigh.

    I don’t mind what colour Australian people are or where they were born. What I do not want to see is the quality of life in Australia and the value of the Australian labour force slipping (exception: as part of a concerted global push for an environmentally sustainable future, although I suspect that’s probably not part of Matt Barrie’s game plan).

    Incidentally, if I did say that a number of my friends in IT are interpersonally unusual, I suppose the fact that they value, enjoy and materially gain from their work becomes irrelevant, right?

  18. Mel
    March 1st, 2012 at 12:37 | #18

    Relax, Dan, that comment was tongue-in-cheek.

    But the reality is that we’ve never had it so good. In my area in central Victoria it isn’t uncommon to have to wait 12-18 months for an architect and employers are screaming out for workers. I’ve not experienced this situation before in my lifetime.

    We also face skills in many areas, so much so that the WA has been proactive in sourcing skilled workers from Ireland.

  19. Dan
    March 1st, 2012 at 13:39 | #19

    Ah, see it’s hard to tell with you Mel, especially after your mishandling of what I will continue to call the Kucinich Affair ;P

  20. Dan
    March 1st, 2012 at 16:19 | #20

    (I’ll add that’s it’s a wonderful article, I have read it before, but nice to have a refresher. Cheers.)

  21. Chris Warren
    March 1st, 2012 at 17:16 | #21

    @Mel

    That was a disgusting provocation.

    Whhy blow such smoke? Are you scared of the real issue.

  22. Mel
    March 1st, 2012 at 20:43 | #22

    Ikonoklast:

    “Capitalists love to move production to countries with inadequate labour laws so they can exploit labour and expand the class war into race war. Divide and conquer is what the 1% use to rule the 99%.”

    Please keep your hands above the desk, old bean. Hundreds of millions of people are currently being lifted out of poverty precisely because capitalists have invested in low wage countries. Vietnam is a great example. When I first visited that country, in approx 1988, when it was still trying to live the communist dream, people were hungry, dressed in rags and miserably poor. Nowadays, almost 2 decades after the communist dream was abandoned, ordinary folk are much wealthier and as far as I can gather much happier. Yes, some folk are exploited and pollution is a problem but I doubt you’ll find anyone who wants a return to the oppression, corruption and poverty inherent in state socialism. But one task still remains, that being the complete obliteration of all elements of the Vietnamese Communist Party …

  23. Dan
    March 1st, 2012 at 21:42 | #23

    Mel :
    that being the complete obliteration of all elements of the Vietnamese Communist Party…

    Heh, couldn’t help but read this in a Dr Strangelove voice.

  24. Ernestine Gross
    March 2nd, 2012 at 13:27 | #24

    1. March 2nd, 2012 at 08:09 | #7
    Chris Warren (thread “Lasciate ogni speranza”, 2 March2012) writes in reply to my post:
    “Its amazing how pundits in the blogosphere head-off in all manner of weird directions. “
    1. I never said that (1+r)^n was Cobb-Douglas. I would have hoped that people would have had enough knowledge to see immediately that Cobb-Douglas only makes sense in you assume infinite consumption. How else do you allow for constant returns to scale if profits are reinvested?
    2. Whether this is an aggregate production function is irrelevant.
    3. (1+r)^n is a standard production function used, for example, by Piero Sraffa, in “Production of Commodities by means of Commodities”. Even as an function of interest it still implies either infinite consumption, infinite inflation, or declining r [Marx's point].
    You cannot have a interest function without a prior production function, and the interest function can not contradict the production function.
    4. People wanting to consume as long as possible, in terms of commodities, is the same as consuming as much as possible.
    I am dismayed at the lack of rigor displayed by those who seek to practice “orthodox economic theory” or Keynesian practices in the long run. They run the economy into a debt-ridden bog and eventually into a GFC.”
    In reply, using your paragraph structue
    I agree with your first sentence, although I don’t know why you keep doing it.
    1. You are confused about the concept of a production function (a representation of technological knowledge) and the concept of resource feasibility. You are also confused about the distribution of ‘profits’ and properties of a production technology (in terms of returns to scale.
    2. I suppose your statement makes sense in your world of theorizing.
    3. Taking your statement in your sentence 1 at face value, it is a meaningless sentence because as long as n is finite than there is no implication about ‘infinite consumption’. I’ve said this before.
    You are totally wrong in stating as a matter of theoretical (or empirical) fact that one cannot have a compound interest rate function without a production function (of the same form?). Fair enough that you may not have read past Sraffa nad Marx. But have you learned nothing from the GFC, the latest financial market bubble?
    4. As I have said before, the notion of preferences (the primitive from which one derives indifference curves you seem to have come across) is a characterization of ‘a consumer’ (an individual). The life of individuals is finite.

    You can be dismayed as much as you like about your lack of rigour.

  25. Tom
    March 2nd, 2012 at 13:51 | #25

    @Mel

    And you just ignore the fact that hundreds of millions of people in the western society being pushed into poverty because of capitalism (wage is “too high” we need to suppress the wages to be competitive)? You’re ignoring the poor social moral and values in the societies when they become a capitalist country? I’m no fan of communism but if you can’t see behind the reality that capitalism destorys more lifes than it saves then you’re being nothing else than ignorant.

  26. Mel
    March 2nd, 2012 at 19:03 | #26

    Tom :
    @Mel
    And you just ignore the fact that hundreds of millions of people in the western society being pushed into poverty because of capitalism (wage is “too high” we need to suppress the wages to be competitive)? You’re ignoring the poor social moral and values in the societies when they become a capitalist country? I’m no fan of communism but if you can’t see behind the reality that capitalism destorys more lifes than it saves then you’re being nothing else than ignorant.

    It would help if you provided some evidence and detailed what you mean. How are these “lifes” being “destoried”?

    Certainly capitalism is associated with less violent death (see Pinker for instance) and increased longevity (see various texts on lifespans in pre-capitalist society). As always there are exceptions, for instance the atrocious conditions in early industrial Europe meant people in certain occupations died at exceptionally young ages and led hideous lives Stateless Somalia is capitalist but also a shit place to live with hunger, war etc killing many people but this only demonstrates that capitalism needs a few other ingredients to work its magic.

    Ultimately I think the best formula (or least worst) so far devised is freedom + capitalism + social democracy. No doubt a better option will present itself in the future but I suspect this will be in closer to 1,000 years than 10 years.

  27. Mel
    March 2nd, 2012 at 19:04 | #27

    Comment caught in mod thanks.

  28. Chris Warren
    March 2nd, 2012 at 22:55 | #28

    @Ernestine Gross

    No one is confused, but you need to realise that production can change by variation in both capital and labour, (nb) even if there is no change in technology. Also you cannot have production without replacing capital (if it is employed) and without using labour. Technology is in a different category. So your statement is false.

    You need to explain your claims over resource feasibility, because this was not referenced by me. There have always been constraints due to resources (if this is what you are trying to allude to). Companies expect to maintain their profits in spite of this and will adjust their plans accordingly.

    The question was – “How else do you allow for constant returns to scale if profits are reinvested?” Your answer does not match the question.

    How can ‘n’ be finite? This is a peculiar notion. Economies generally last forever. If capitalists get a return in the first year (n=1) they will expect expanded profit in year 2 (n=2) and so on. There is no finite number of years (or of any other accounting period for that matter). N can be as big as you can reasonably foresee.

    My statement was “You cannot have a interest function without a prior production function, and the interest function can not contradict the production function.” Why did you falsify this into something else? The GFC demonstrates the problems caused by attempts to grow money in contradiction to real production. Society collapses. QED.

    No-one can make sense of what you are trying to say in claiming that “The life of individuals is finite”. This ignores the fact that individuals have children who then also have children and have always done so since whenever production first started. The presence of individuals exists infinitely. Production is not restricted to just one set of individuals.

  29. Ernestine Gross
    March 3rd, 2012 at 10:35 | #29

    @Chris Warren

    Let me just quickly recall here the background to our exchange of comments.

    The report by Spratt, S., A. Simms, E. Neitzert & J. Ryan-Collins (2009), The Great Transition, New Economics Foundation: London, contains an outline of the state of economic affairs and how to improve these by 2050. I said in broad terms. I agree with their proposals as to what should change but I don’t agree with their statement: “Essentially, orthodox economic theory assumes the infinite consumption of finite resources”.

    I don’t know any contemporary economic theory which assumes infinite consumption of resources, although I can hear and see some people talk and behave as if they believe there is such an economic theory.

    As far as I am concerned you are arguing against something you believe others maintain. Incidentally, your arguments at present illustrate your assertion some time back that all theory consists of words is part of the problem.

    I am not sure as to what I should think about your assertion that “No-one can make sense of what you (ie Ernestine) are trying to say in claiming that ‘The life of individuals is finite’.” Do you really believe you’ll live forever?

    Similarly, your assertion that “The presence of individuals exists infinitely” difficult to fathom. Is this you in your role as God speaking?

  30. Chris Warren
    March 3rd, 2012 at 11:13 | #30

    @Ernestine Gross

    It may be best if you re-read previous posts. I do not think too many people will have difficulty understanding:

    “The presence of individuals exists infinitely” given this is just plain, simple, historical reality.

    You should know that there is no such thing as a God.

    As argued sufficiently now, it is clear that “orthodox economic theory assumes the infinite consumption of finite resources”. There are at least two simple ways of looking at this –

    maintaining a “r” for a continuing string of periods (ie a ‘n’) or

    assuming constant returns to scale when profits are reinvested in production models based on K and L.

    Alternatively, the Keynesian dream of a repeated ‘stimulus-to-be-repaid-in-the-future’, also requires more consumption in the future, again and again, ad infinitum.

    I don’t know why you have inserted the word “contemporary” into this issue. This blurring does you no good.

  31. Ernestine Gross
    March 3rd, 2012 at 12:35 | #31

    @Chris Warren

    “Maintaining an “r”….” gets you nowhere. Try out setting r=0 and n=3,000,000,000 or any arbitrarily large number as long as it is finite. Then try out the same with r>0 and repeat for various paramter values.

    I’ve inserted ‘contemporary’ to entice you to explore the possibility that Marx, while being an important author a long time ago, he was and is not the only important author in the history of economics.

    Yes, you have “argued” sufficiently now.

  32. Chris Warren
    March 3rd, 2012 at 12:54 | #32

    @Ernestine Gross

    Any undergraduate will explain that the limit of (1+r)^n; [r >0, n positive], is always infinity.

    This was also covered in high school maths.

    Where, in the real world, is r=0 ???????? This is possible only under value analysis.

  33. Chris Warren
    March 3rd, 2012 at 12:56 | #33

    … n positive integer] …

  34. Ikonoclast
    March 3rd, 2012 at 13:39 | #34

    To date, Marx is the “Shakespeare” ( or “Newton” or “Einstein” or “Hume” if you will) of Political Economy. He is the giant, the pre-eminent genius of the discipline. Daylight comes second. He has proven so extraordinarly prescient about the trajectory of capitalism that his methods of anlaysis appear close to being fully vindicated. Recent events have even provoked a number of the more thoughtful of bourgoise economists to ponder openly “Was Marx Right”? They are finding it very difficult, if they are intellectually honest, to avoid the affirmative answer.

    I for one will be (re)-purchasing the collected works of Marx as soon as I can and implementing a thorough course of personal study. I have found that the greatest authors and thinkers are best read and studied in the original, without commentary or interpretation. They are always, in the main, far clearer than both their supporters and their detractors. At a later stage, persistent confusions and ambiguities can be explored and possibly resolved by wider study.

  35. Mel
    March 3rd, 2012 at 14:18 | #35

    Ikonoklast:

    “I have found that the greatest authors and thinkers are best read and studied in the original, without commentary or interpretation. ”

    Oh, so you read German?

  36. Chris Warren
    March 3rd, 2012 at 15:45 | #36

    @Mel

    Marx lived in London and wrote in English, German and French.

    It is all available in English, on the internet, but is not an easy read.

    David Harvey and David McLellan are reasonable interpreters.

  37. Ernestine Gross
    March 3rd, 2012 at 18:36 | #37

    @Chris Warren

    Ah, new story. Now you want to take the limit!! I suppose this is the Weltall (cosmos) version of ‘the economy’.

    What’s wrong with having r=0? Where in the real world do you have only 1 commodity and 1 type of human service?

  38. March 3rd, 2012 at 21:33 | #38

    Sometime last decade there was a repetitive meme around the internet, and elsewhere, along the lines of “A rising tide lifts all boats.” From memory it is a libertarian/neo-con type ‘talking point’.

    Whenever I heard that I immediately pictured a nice little harbour with yachts and fishing boats of various sizes sitting at anchor on a low tide. In the picture was a small row-boat tied to the lower rungs of the ladder at the end of a pier.

    Of course, the rising tide sunk the boat tied to the lower rungs. It would also sink any of the boats which had too short an anchor chain on too heavy an anchor. The metaphor works both ways.

    On TAE today I was reminded of this review from 2007 about poverty:

    http://odewire.com/60038/two-myths-that-keep-the-world-poor.html

    Trolls need not read, but others might find it an interesting and prescient reply to Jeffrey Sachs’ book “The End of Poverty”.

  39. Chris Warren
    March 4th, 2012 at 08:04 | #39

    in approx 2008, when it was still trying to live the capitalist dream, Europeans were hungry, dressed in rags and miserably poor. In another, almost 2 decades after the capitalist dream is abandoned, ordinary folk are much wealthier and as far as I can gather much happier. Yes, some folk are expropriated and natoinalism is a problem but I doubt you’ll find anyone who wants a return to the oppression, corruption and poverty inherent in capitalism. But one task still remains, that being the complete obliteration of all elements of capitalist political parties, and ideologies …

    So Mel, which bridge will you be living under?

  40. March 6th, 2012 at 21:37 | #40

    John Quiggin @ #6 said:

    Give it a break, Jack. A church member giving to their own church is no more or less charitable than a social drinker buying a round for their friends. The only difference is that (unless they can write it off as a business expense), drinkers don’t receive public charity in the form of a tax deduction.

    Yes, because we all know that when we give money to clerical organizations they immediately take a break from their undemanding professional duties to go out on the town to paint it red, drinks on them. Why, I can’t tell you the number of times I have been bailed up by roving clergymen to be given the hail fellow well met treatment, clubbable fellows one and all.

    Oh wait a minute…that would be in the bizzaro world of secular liberals where churches are just like any other organization, only more dubious on account of innate political incorrectness.

    Back in the real world, most clergy generally take a vow of poverty or take pains to live an austere (“puritanical”) lifestyle to avoid the accusation that they are living high off the philanthropic hog. The etymology of sacred is linked to sacrifice, even the most profane liberal should be able to see that wearing a hair shirt and giving alms is not the easiest way to connect a quid to a pro quo.

    And of course the greater part of money given to churches and affiliated organizations goes, after covering overheads, to finance their privately organized welfare state, delivering health, education and income-support services to the faithful or needy. In short, progressive redistribution, which is why Christian organizations (outside the exceptional case of the US in recent times) have so often acted in association with trade unionists, socialists,philanthropists and the like. With no necessary reciprocation for altruism. I certainly haven’t received any cheques post-marked Africa in return for all the coins that I conscientiously dropped into cans on behalf of “the starving children”.

    And then there is the sacramental and pastoral function of religion, although I acknowledge that these sanctimonious forms of altruism should really count against them due to the blinkered, superstitious and reactionary world view of most churches. Ask Fran Barlow who will be only too happy to crank out the secular liberal party line on this.

    More generally liberal ideologists seem blissfully ignorant of the more worldly socio-biological (Weber-Durkheim-Darwinian) view of religion which explains it as an institutional adaptation to facilitate group selection (based on altruistic social and sexual behavioural criteria). Putnam’s monumental researches also show how religion apart from providing sacred services on its own part, functions as a social group force multiplier. It increases the quantity and improves the cohesive quality of affinitive secular organizations such as families, schools, hospitals, sporting clubs and finally states. It was no less than the founder of the modern welfare state, Chancellor von Bismark, who described his social insurance schemes as “practical Christianity”.

    This is the precise opposite of “diverting energies that might otherwise go to helping people”. The notion that religion somehow substitutes, rather than complements, altruism does not pass the laugh test. In reality the quantum of altruism has declined drastically in proportion with the decline of religion, with pervasive CCTV and fine-print poring lawyers filling the vacuum left by the atrophy of sacred sensibilities. Think “Greed is Good” and the “Me Decade”. You’d have to be a “New Atheist” to believe otherwise.

    But proper moral accounting is not the strong suit of secular liberals looking for an old-fashioned bogeyman to blame. The empirical evidence shows that religious people give twice as much as non-religious people, and mostly to non-religious charities:

    Religious people donate more than twice as much money to charity as those without a faith, according to research. The average amount given to charity by those who are religious was £576 over the previous 12 months, compared to the £235 contributed by those of no faith, the study by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) found. Only 31% of religious donors had given money to a religious activity, a spokeswoman said. CAF director of research Richard Harrison said: “These results not only show that those of faith are more generous to charity in general, but that their giving is not uniquely focused on their own religious activities. “If anything, people of faith broadly give in line with the rest of the general public – to a variety of different appeals.”

    This refutes Sablosky’s argument which depends on parsing the concept of religion to empty it of all altruistic attributes. One might as well try parse the concept of fire to empty it of all thermal attributes. BTW is it only me who notices that guys like PZ Myers and Sablosky don’t seem to brim with the milk of human kindness.

    Its no doubt true that charity begins at home or the ‘hood, but for most churches it rarely stops there. How else but by performing “good works” to all and sundry can they build a stairway to heaven?

  41. March 6th, 2012 at 21:38 | #41

    John Quiggin @ #6 said:

    Give it a break, Jack. A church member giving to their own church is no more or less charitable than a social drinker buying a round for their friends. The only difference is that (unless they can write it off as a business expense), drinkers don’t receive public charity in the form of a tax deduction.

    Yes, because we all know that when we give money to clerical organizations they immediately take a break from their undemanding professional duties to go out on the town to paint it red, drinks on them. Why, I can’t tell you the number of times I have been bailed up by roving clergymen to be given the hail fellow well met treatment, clubbable fellows one and all.

    Oh wait a minute…that would be in the bizzaro world of secular liberals where churches are just like any other organization, only more dubious on account of innate political incorrectness.

    Back in the real world, most clergy generally take a vow of poverty or take pains to live an austere (“puritanical”) lifestyle to avoid the accusation that they are living high off the philanthropic hog. The etymology of sacred is linked to sacrifice, even the most profane liberal should be able to see that wearing a hair shirt and giving alms is not the easiest way to connect a quid to a pro quo.

    And of course the greater part of money given to churches and affiliated organizations goes, after covering overheads, to finance their privately organized welfare state, delivering health, education and income-support services to the faithful or needy. In short, progressive redistribution, which is why Christian organizations (outside the exceptional case of the US in recent times) have so often acted in association with trade unionists, socialists,philanthropists and the like. With no necessary reciprocation for altruism. I certainly haven’t received any cheques post-marked Africa in return for all the coins that I conscientiously dropped into cans on behalf of “the starving children”.

    And then there is the sacramental and pastoral function of religion, although I acknowledge that these sanctimonious forms of altruism should really count against them due to the blinkered, superstitious and reactionary world view of most churches. Ask Fran Barlow who will be only too happy to crank out the secular liberal party line on this.

    More generally liberal ideologists seem blissfully ignorant of the more worldly socio-biological (Weber-Durkheim-Darwinian) view of religion which explains it as an institutional adaptation to facilitate group selection (based on altruistic social and sexual behavioural criteria). Putnam’s monumental researches also show how religion apart from providing sacred services on its own part, functions as a social group force multiplier. It increases the quantity and improves the cohesive quality of affinitive secular organizations such as families, schools, hospitals, sporting clubs and finally states. It was no less than the founder of the modern welfare state, Chancellor von Bismark, who described his social insurance schemes as “practical Christianity”.

    This is the precise opposite of “diverting energies that might otherwise go to helping people”. The notion that religion somehow substitutes, rather than complements, altruism does not pass the laugh test. In reality the quantum of altruism has declined drastically in proportion with the decline of religion, with pervasive CCTV and fine-print poring lawyers filling the vacuum left by the atrophy of sacred sensibilities. Think “Greed is Good” and the “Me Decade”. You’d have to be a “New Atheist” to believe otherwise.

    But proper moral accounting is not the strong suit of secular liberals looking for an old-fashioned bogeyman to blame. The empirical evidence shows that religious people give twice as much as non-religious people, and mostly to non-religious charities:

    Religious people donate more than twice as much money to charity as those without a faith, according to research. The average amount given to charity by those who are religious was £576 over the previous 12 months, compared to the £235 contributed by those of no faith, the study by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) found. Only 31% of religious donors had given money to a religious activity, a spokeswoman said. CAF director of research Richard Harrison said: “These results not only show that those of faith are more generous to charity in general, but that their giving is not uniquely focused on their own religious activities. “If anything, people of faith broadly give in line with the rest of the general public – to a variety of different appeals.”

    This refutes Sablosky’s argument which depends on parsing the concept of religion to empty it of all altruistic attributes. One might as well try parse the concept of fire to empty it of all thermal attributes. BTW is it only me who notices that guys like PZ Myers and Sablosky don’t seem to brim with the milk of human kindness.

    Its no doubt true that charity begins at home or the ‘hood, but for most churches it rarely stops there. How else but by performing “good works” to all and sundry can they build a stairway to heaven?

  42. Dan
    March 6th, 2012 at 22:33 | #42

    Zzzzz.

    If the welfare state is doing its thing properly, charity is a bauble.

    Since a lot of religious people (somewhat inexplicably, to my mind) vote for politicians who cut holes in the social safety net, about the best I can say is that perhaps the extra charitability of the religious goes some way to offsetting the social damage they do come polling time.

    (I realise I am generalising, but then again so are you.)

  43. Chris Warren
    March 7th, 2012 at 07:30 | #43

    @Jack Strocchi

    The research could just mean that within a normal distribution of generosity, that those who give more may also tend to religion.

    So without religion, their gifting may well continue. In fact, based on civil needs, its efficiency may well increase.

  44. Ernestine Gross
    March 8th, 2012 at 20:28 | #44

    Chris Warren wrote:

    “Unfortunately it is invalid to separate “institutional” forms from “theoretical” forms.

    The marginal theory is a theory for extracting surplus from workers – irrespective of the institutional superstructure.

    Under modern conditions, workers wages are theoretically set at marginal productivity of labour, but capitalist institutions obtain “average productivity of labour”. This creates a contradiction which leads to a GFC.

    Institutions and theories can only be understood as they occur in an environment, where they act in combination.”

    In reply:

    Paragraph 1 is empty.

    Paragraph 2 is incomprehensible.

    Paragraph 3 contradicts paragraph 1

    Paragraph 4: Do you mean ‘understood by you’?

  45. Robert (not from UK)
    March 8th, 2012 at 20:28 | #45

    I found this SLATE article, on think-tanks, interesting. Gives quite a good insight into what think-tanks do, or, more often, fail to do. Also supplies a potted history of how “brain boxes” (as they were originally called) arose in the first place:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/03/koch_brothers_take_over_cato_what_actually_happens_at_think_tanks_.html

  46. Chris Warren
    March 8th, 2012 at 21:53 | #46

    @Ernestine Gross

    You are trapped by your own propaganda.

    If a paragraph is “empty” how can it be contradicted?

    It is obvious that marginal theory is a theory for extracting surplus. This is a direct consequence of institutions being set up to set wages at the so-called marginal productivity of labour.

    If you choose to find the obvious “incomprehensible”, then this reflects on you – not the facts.

  47. Ernestine Gross
    March 9th, 2012 at 06:49 | #47

    @Chris Warren

    In answer to your question in line 2: By assuming you think your paragraphs are not empty (talk).

    (The remainder of your reply consists of assertions.)

  48. Chris Warren
    March 9th, 2012 at 07:40 | #48

    @Ernestine Gross

    This is just denialism.

    As everyone else knows, I am just quoting modern capitalist theory. Capitalists claim wages should equal marginal productivity of labour and this is reflected in the wage setting institutions within society.

    Even blind Freddy, knows that marginal productivity of labour for the last worker hired is less than average productivity of labour.

    This is similar to the dynamic by which marginal cost, for the last widget sold, is greater than average costs – (where production is viable).

    Don’t blame me – this is basic capitalist theory manifested in capitalist wage setting and price setting institutions.

    It is obvious that the marginal theory is a theory for extracting surplus. Those economists who expect remuneration of factors to equal their productivity at the margin, have led to the GFC, and the situation where we have so much contradiction (debt) that it could not be paid, even if we saved $10 per day every day, since the Big Bang.

    Only denialists cry “assertion”.

  49. Ernestine Gross
    March 9th, 2012 at 08:16 | #49

    @Chris Warren

    You are making (yet again) an assertion in line 1. (To other people it is known as proof by contradiction).

    Please provide a reference for your quote (which you have not stated) from what you call ‘modern capitalist theory’.

    Blind Freddy is apparently blind to the conditions under which it makes sense to talk about ‘marginal productivity’.

    It seems to me you have your own mental model and you are happy with it. That is fine with me as long as you don’t try to say your mental model is ‘the model’.

  50. Chris Warren
    March 9th, 2012 at 08:30 | #50

    @Ernestine Gross

    Any text by Paul Samuelson (and derivatives), or authors otherwise inspired by the dogmas of such as J Bates Clark and Knut Wicksell will do.

    Any capo theory that eclipsed the “wage = disutility of labour”, is essentially ‘modern capitalist theory’, so this include Keynes.

    It always makes sense to talk about the difference between marginal productivity\costs and average productivity\costs. There is no circumstance when this is not relevant.

    It is not my model – it is the zombie model of slow-learning capitalists.

  51. Tom
    March 9th, 2012 at 08:48 | #51

    @Ernestine Gross

    I want to reply on your first comment in the “Mrs Beeton, the Voltaire of caffeine ” thread regarding to neoclassical economics is different to capitalism.

    I can understanding what you’re stating, however I believe most people that have knowledge in neoclassical economics believes that it is one of the economic theories that generates the most benefits to the capitalist and least benefits to the general public (workers, pensioners, students, unemployed etc.). Hence people including me believes that neoclassical economics is linked to capitalism because it’s theory will tend to create a society where the capitalist will hold the most power and the majority of the population will suffer depending on the state of the economy; also in the long run neoclassical economic theory will reinstate ‘slave labour’ using the argument it’s market force.

    Because of that quite a lot of people (including me) tend to link neoclassical economic theory to capitalism as although their goal ‘maybe’ different, they tend to create the same sort of economic state. For example, unemployment benefits, pensions and austudy etc. are policies which are linked to the general wellbeing of the society but are similar to socialist ideology hence the rightwing and capitalist will accuse these policies or similar sorts as socialism, even when the society is not living in a socialist society.

  52. Ernestine Gross
    March 9th, 2012 at 10:10 | #52

    @Tom

    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it a lot. Your post indicates to me communication (other than exchanging insults or trying to ‘convert’ others) is possible.

    I concur with you regarding how people often associate some economic theory with some political ‘position’ or aim or both. Being a possibly hopeless optimist, I try to assist in disentangling these associations with the aim of refocusing endless debates among ‘schools of thought’ in economics to policy that is under the control of elected governments.

  53. Dan
    March 9th, 2012 at 10:28 | #53

    @Ernestine Gross

    Joseph Nye talks about ‘cooptive power’ to describe the setting of the political economic agenda by the dominant culture/ideology in (in the words of Rosemary Foot), “a manner that makes actors fail to express some preferences because they seem to be too unrealistic.” I think neoclassical economics has this particular effect (and certainly think we should be aware of its possibility), and would say this is probably why Chris is so riled up about the matter.

  54. Tom
    March 9th, 2012 at 10:44 | #54

    @Ernestine Gross

    I understand your motive, the use of language is quite important as noted most obviously in politics. But please do give your understandings to people as a blog debates people can choose the wrong word (happens to me lots of times).

    As to my thoughts on economic theories, any theory that ignores psychology, history, philosophy, world studies, cultural studies and environmental studies is deemed to have faults in it’s theories. But taken those in consideration would meant that it would be impossible for human intelligence whom only live for mere one hundred years to develop a ‘perfect’ theory that would fit even just ONE society. But in the recent decades, the neoclassical economic theorist not only ignore evidence, history, cultural studies and philosophy in developing their theory; they are also attempting to ‘implement’ their theories upon the rest of the world. One would be ignorant to ignore the intelligence of history, as they believe that through out thousands of years of human civilisation, only their generation is ‘smart’ enough to develop a perfect economic theory and claim to ‘conquered’ the business cycle. Nothing is more dangerous than these economist as they underestimates the difficulty and importance economic theory and go out and destory hundreds of millions of people’s lives.

  55. Ernestine Gross
    March 9th, 2012 at 11:24 | #55

    @Dan

    You’ll have to take up your argument with the cultural/political people who set the political-economic agenda. I am not one of them.

    “neoclassical economics” may be something different from the theoretical results known to me as being often classified as ‘neoclassical economic theory’. Incidentally, these theoretical results are very old. The macroeconomic version of this theory is, to the best of my knowledge, only taught for historical reasons. Some micro-economic results are still useful for some practical problems.

    It seems to me ‘neoclassical economics’ might have the effect you think it has because of literature outside economics. (A theory about a theory, so to speak). But all this is really outside my area.

  56. Ernestine Gross
    March 9th, 2012 at 12:42 | #56

    @Tom

    Ah, communication is not easy after all.

    I beg to differ regarding your point about the choice of language, particularly on blog sites. Surely if people make statements about ‘neoclassical economic theory’ then it is fair enough for the reader to assume the people know what they are talking about.

    Your second paragraph seems to contain two separable arguments.

    It seems to me the first approximately 5.5 lines contain the suggestion that the demands expressed by some people, who come from various sub-disciplines of the Humanities, on what an economic theory should be able to take into account is unrealistic. Assuming my reading of these lines is not wrong, then I agree (noting that I am not sure whether you also wish to include the natural sciences with your reference to ‘environmental studies’). Nevertheless, the link between moral philosophy and economic theory is well established and during the past 20 years or so there seems to have been quite a bit of progress in interdisciplinary research that uses the theoretical framework of game theory, a mathematical theory that has been used in economics for a long time.

    The second part of your paragraph 2 seems to be concerned with a rather strange phenomena that occurred during the past 20 to 30 years. I describe it as an anachronistic phenomena because, IMHO, the instititutional changes ignored theoretical research in economics since the 1950s. It was, so to speak, a leap forward to the past. JQ’s book on Zombie ideas contains milestones in this leap forward to the past. I have no evidence that ‘neo-classical economic theorists’ (who among them is still alive?)) are responsible for this. For example, would you regard Eugene Fama a ‘neoclassical economic theorist’? I wouldn’t. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Fama for what other people think on this topic and see JQ’s book on Zombie ideas.

  57. Chris Warren
    March 9th, 2012 at 13:25 | #57

    @Ernestine Gross

    So, is;

    …policy that is under the control of elected governments.

    another source for economics, independent of theory and institutions?

    I would hope that any advice from ‘economists’ to governments (elected or not) is based on a theory or knowledge, that can be examined.

    If the theory is wrong – the advice could lead to a GFC.

  58. Ernestine Gross
    March 9th, 2012 at 18:58 | #58

    @Chris Warren

    @50, p 1. Finally you give me a few names of authors to provide a pointer to what you seem to have in mind. Surely you agree J Bates Clark and Knut Wicksell are not contemporary authors. I have to admit to knowing approximately nothing about Clark. I would not consider Knut Wicksell’s theoretical work to be dogmatic. IMHO, dogma enters the discussion when later generations (not necessarily economists) take theoretical results from almost100 years ago as prescriptive without even examining their relevancy in the light of theoretical research results published during the last half century.

    It may well be that “It always makes sense to talk about the difference between marginal productivity/costs and average production costs.” But I wouldn’t be interested in talking about these differences but rather in whether these ‘costs’ are measurable, and if so, under which conditions. Moreover, I am not convinced the old argument about marginal cost versus average cost is particularly important for the corporate form of business, given current corporate laws, industrial or labour market laws and international financial capital markets and their associates, the rating agencies.

    @7 p. 2. The word ‘theory’ has many meanings, For example: http://www.theory.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory

    Chris, it seems to me I am not a suitable debating partner for you.

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