September 12th, 2016

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

Categories: Economics - General Tags:
  1. September 12th, 2016 at 09:19 | #1

    I’m unsure if this has been discussed here before so I apologize if this is redundant . . .

    I have some thoughts on the labeling of economic systems. I think that is an artificial concept and not scientific. I dislike applying the label capitalist or socialist to an entire national economy. I can identify individual initiatives that may be capitalist or socialist but deny that the label could be applied to the entire economy. Even the Soviet Union had a thriving black market which probably represented a significant proportion of the economy. Even capitalist “free market” nations have social programs. What about non-profit or not-for-profit initiatives and organizations? Neo-mercantalism? Crony capitalism?

    A for-profit venture is capitalistic. A government sponsored, taxpayer funded initiative is socialistic. The presence of either in a national economy does not require the application of a label of a nation being socialist or capitalist. We should move away from that method of terminology. I live in the US, so perhaps this is a non-issue in other places? Please enlighten me. Wikipedia is little help with this type of thing.

    Yes, I realize this question has been politicized, but perhaps a change in the fundamental teaching and textbooks would be a start. Let us depoliticize as much as possible. This should allow technocratic decisions to be made.

    Do economists even care about such labels?

  2. Ikonoclast
    September 12th, 2016 at 12:24 | #2

    For sure, we have mixed economies. However, for the most part, the interests of capital are predominant, especially since the rise of neoliberalism or economic rationalism or market liberalism (choose your favoured term).

    Marx is continually being proved correct in his diagnosis and prognosis for capitalism. Each new stage of capitalism validates the overall thrust of Marx’s theories.

    After the Great Depression and World War 2, and with the policies of Keynesian economics and welfarism well established, is was thought by many persons of a social democratic persuasion (including me!) that capitalism was tamed and humanised permanently. How wrong we were! The “Golden Age” lasted just a few decades and then capitalism’s remorseless system logic reasserted itself. This is the thing that has to be remembered about capitalism (and which Marx understood), namely that capitalism is a complex adaptive system. Like all complex adaptive systems it exhibits a set of complex system properties.

    Of course, all political economies are complex adaptive systems. But each variant of political economy, as a complex adaptive system, has its own set of internal laws. The political economy system is influenced by the environment (external factors) and indeed it is ultimately dependent on that environment for energy and materials. Within those constraints however, the complex adaptive system will persist and evolve, then reach a final set of crises and decay, in a manner which is in accord with its own intrinsic or endogenous laws. This is the essential meaning of Marx’s philosophy and proto-science of “dialectical materialism”. The term “dialectical materialism” seems quaint and discredited now. Yet dialectical materialism is nothing else but an early development of complex systems theory. Marx, if properly recognised, can be seen as an important early figure in the development of systems science.

    The discrediting of dialectical materialism stemmed in part from the Soviet theorists who misunderstood it and made of it a dogmatic, deterministic pseudo-science. The subtlety of dialectical materialism is that, like complex systems theory of which it is a philosophic precursor, it recognises that complex adaptive systems embody embryonically various possibilites for emergent properties and emergent behaviours (novelties). Some emergent behaviours and novelties are indeed unpredictable. This is uncontroversial now in most quarters. Chaos theory and considerations of micro-indeterminacy (especially, but not only, in the role of generating human behaviour) suggest that;

    (a) highly complex and extremely difficult (to practically impossible) to predict deterministic behaviours can emerge from tiny changes in initial conditions (chaos theory).
    (b) micro-indeterminacy can feed up into macro-indeterminate developments.

    Having said this, macro-determinancy still exists too. Colloquially we could express all this simply by saying, “There are predictable developments and there are unpredictable developments.” Complex adaptive systems possess both these characteristics. That is to say complex adaptive systems can exhibit both predictable and unpredictable developments. Marx’s advance was to uncover some of the internal laws of capitalism which in turn permitted certain predictions to be made about capitalism. Capitalism’s exact path and all its exact productions, historical crises and historical achievements could not be predicted. But its general path, its general tendencies could be predicted. This is much as the Gas Laws (Boyle’s Law, Charles Law etc.) can be derived from the kinetic considerations of (random) Brownian motion. The behaviour of individual atoms cannot be predicted but the behaviour of the gas body or gas system can be predicted overall, albeit by making certain idealised assumptions, setting allowances for tolerable error, and deriving a “macro” or “probabilistically determined” law.

    In the same manner (very broadly), some inner laws of the capitalist system could be deduced. Of course difficulties arise. A political economy system is far more complex than a laboratory gas system experiment! In addition, the “laws” involved are different. Physical system laws are those immutable (in this universe) laws which we discover to be universally regular and dependable (relating to matter-energy and time-space). Political economy “laws” are a complex of formal laws and natural laws. The political economy is a hybrid system. The real economy is a real physical system. It must obey the laws of thermodynamics, for example. It is a dissipative system. A dissipative system is a thermodynamically open system which is operating out of, and often far from, thermodynamic equilibrium in an environment with which it exchanges energy and matter. Marx recognised the fundamental dependency of the economy on nature in his theories of the emerging “metabolic rift” between capitalism and the natural, sustaining environment. Marx anticipated ecology as a science just as he anticipated complex systems theory.

    However, as well as being a real system, the political economy has another aspect, and this aspect is as a formal system. In society, we develop moral laws (as rights-obligations systems), customs, institutions, formal laws (legal laws), transaction systems with contractual rules and finally financial system(s) with axiomatic rules. Firm formal rules (of these types) begin to exert a hard “law-like” (meaning a somewhat hard-physical-law-like influence) on the system. The system develops hard law-like behaviour which is relatively consistent while the firm formal rules continue to pertain. A clear example from a modern economist is the law which Piketty obtained from his detailed researches into capital. This law describes an invariable tendency if a certain condition is met. If r (return on capital) is greater than g (growth) then inequality (say as concentration of wealth in the highest percentile) increases. This tendency is axiomatic under capitalism. The capitalist financial system (an axiomatic system) buttressed by the ideology and reality of minority ownership of productive apparatus can ONLY operate in this manner when r is greater than g.

    What Marx recognised, at least implicitly, is that when a powerful formal system is in conflict with a real system, the formal system will perpetuate and intensify itself while it can but it then must run up, sooner or later, against, real limits in real systems. One real limit, already mentioned above, is the ecological or biospheric limit alluded to by Marx as the metabolic rift. This is a little known aspect of Marx’s work.

    The better known aspect of Marx’s work hinges on the real physical limits of humans and by extension on their psychological limits which are reached before their real physical limits. In mentioning the real physical limits of humans I am referring to the reproductive cost of labour. This is the minimum cost humans need to be able to meet financially to eat, live, domicile, work and produce and educate children to at least replace themselves as workers. If capitalists take so much that the worker does not have enough to live on and to biologically and socially reproduce, then the system is unsustainable. Of course, humans reach psychological limits before such final straits and will, if they can combine effectively, revolt against the system.

    The full system (including the government system) in turn develops stratagems to “save capitalism from itself”. This was what happened in the Keynesian-welfarism era and still happens today with both welfare for the poor and welfare for the rich (bank bailouts, QE etc). In turn however, capitalists are so greedy, so rapacious it finally emerges they do not want or do not understand that they need to be saved from themselves. Hence we have the neoliberal era. The neoliberal era is the predictable result of once-again unfettered capitalism. Capitalism is not sustainable and will collapse. This is predictable. What is not predictable is how many times it can reinvent and transmute itself and resolve its crises. Given past history, WW1, WW2, and now the endless war on anyone the American oligarchy regard as a threat to their wealth and power, it would seem likely that a breakdown into fascism, war and destruction will once again be the capitalists’ chosen method of resolving such a crisis. This crisis is too deep to resolve by any other method except (heaven forbid!) a permanent recasting of the ownership and management of production such that workers and non-working citizens substantially own and manage the greater proportion of production and distribution. This does not entail crude state capitalism of the Soviet Communist type. That is a straw man objection.

    Soviet Communism arose in its particular form (namely as state capitalism) in response to the uncompleted nature of the global capitalist project and in response to (private) capitalist nation aggressions. Capitalism must first transform the entire world (as it is now doing with Russia and China more or less “in the fold”). This apparently (given its actual coming to fruition) is necessary for capitalism to fully exhaust its internal dynamic and run up against its inescapable internal contradictions. Piketty has certainly uncovered conclusive empirical evidence of one inescapable internal contradiction. If capitalism cannot grow faster than the plutocratically imposed rate of profit then the system gravitates to unworkable levels of extreme inequality. Given our approach to the limits to quantitative growth, if not qualitative growth, and the wide emergence of secular stagnation in the developed world, we can rightly deduce hat neoliberal capitalist policies are only partly the cause of secular stagnation. A deeper cause arises from both the internal contradictions of capitalism qua capitalism (not just as neoliberalism) and its contradiction (as a need for endless growth and an imperative to ignore negative externalities) with the environment itself.

    Technocratic solutions are moot when the capitalist political economy prefers and subsidises fossil fuels, heavily propagandises against impact science (the war on climate science) and uses productive science to make automobiles, tanks, warplanes and bombs (the West’s prime consumer items of choice). Technology so misused is a net negative to our survival chances. Capitalism is systemically incapable of applying science and technology wisely.

    We don’t know what genuine socialism and full worker and people democracy can do… because we haven’t tried them.

  3. Ivor
    September 12th, 2016 at 13:48 | #3

    @Zed Hogan

    No – a “for profit” venture is not necessarily a capitalist venture.

    Anyone can profit from their own labour.

    On the other hand, a “capitalist economy” accumulates Capital by [critical point] fixing workers wages so that a surplus is separated out and scooped up by Capital.

    Read Marx.

  4. GrueBleen
    September 12th, 2016 at 16:48 | #4

    Your #2

    A lovely ‘stream of consciousness’ essay, Ikono. I suppose you just sat down and dictated it into Siri.

    However, as Lenin didn’t actually say: “If you would execute a capitalist, he will try to sell you the rope to hang him with.”

    Or, as Samuel Johnson apparently did say to Bishop Berkeley, “I refute it thus !” as he committed the logical fallacy of argumentum ad lapidem.

    Now you do understand the sorites paradox in all of its manifestations, don’t you.

    And do you yet have Ernestine’s approval for all this psycho-socio-economico theorising ?

  5. September 12th, 2016 at 17:53 | #5

    @Iconclast there is a way to get rid of predatory capitalism, and that is to show it for what it is. It is a grossly inefficient method of allocating savings that produce a low-value return on savings.

    The existing capitalist system is inefficient because it props up the idea of capital as being something separate from what produces capital namely a surplus on a given exchange of goods and services. Our idea of capital comes from double-entry book-keeping. In double-entry book-keeping, we had to do something with the surplus of costs over income. We invented the idea of calling it capital and making it fungible. We then went further and said we would give people our surplus provided they gave us back more than we gave them. We called that extra capital interest, and we made the way we repaid the capital so that it compounded by requiring the interest to be paid first. Compound interest made it doubly profitable. As if this was not enough we then made it even more profitable by only allowing those who already have capital to get debt money by creating capital out of nothing.

    This is an extraordinarily profitable business to be in if you can get away with it. You can afford to pay a lot of people a lot of money to preserve the fiction. You can get whole professions to line up behind you because they are all on the gravy train.

    Capitalism, as it exists today, is a parasite on the real economy of goods and services host as so well explained by Michael Hudson in his book “Killing the host”.

    Its strength and power is also its point of weakness. We can quickly destroy it by providing an alternative to interest-bearing debt and removing the cost of inflation. Here is one way to do it for Water.

    We can do the same for all cases where we have debt.

    It turns out that creating systems like Water Rewards is an easy and low cost if we use modern software tools and the existing Internet systems. I have great hopes that we will see a rapid change so that everyone who produces a surplus becomes a capitalist.

  6. Ikonoclast
    September 12th, 2016 at 18:08 | #6


    Which statements do you disagree with? I want to understand which part(s) of the argument you disagree with.

    1. With the policies of Keynesian economics and welfarism well established, is was thought by many persons of a social democratic persuasion that capitalism was tamed and humanised permanently.

    2. Then capitalism’s remorseless system logic reasserted itself. (Rise of neoliberalism or market liberalism. US wages and incomes for bottom 90% almost stagnant in real terms since 1979 to 2012 (plus 15%). Income of top 1% up by 138% in same period. 1973 to 2013, productivity up by 74.4% while workers’ hourly compensation up by only 9.2%: the productivity / wages disconnect.)

    3. Capitalism, including RECD (really existing capitalist democracy) is a complex adaptive system.

    4. All political economies are complex adaptive systems.

    5. Any political economy consists of (a) a formal system and (b) real system. In today’s context that means (a) the legal, institutional, political and financial systems and (b) the real economy.

    6. The real economy is a physical system.

    6. Real systems (physical systems) exhibit dependable Laws as discovered by scientific method.

    7. Formal systems (customs, rules, laws, political systems, financial systems) can exhibit some law-like behaviours (in the physics hard law sense). Piketty’s discovery of “If r greater than g” then oligarchic / dynastic wealth grows in a manner to increase inequality” is a case in point.

    The combination of finance system axioms plus the action of certain extant laws and institutions (esp. laws of ownership and inheritance as standard conditions) act to ensure that “Piketty’s Law” will obtain while these “standard institutional conditions” obtain. This is the realisation of “law-like” behaviour in a formal system.

  7. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 02:32 | #7

    Your #6

    Hmmm, I wonder how my previous reply named Ivor – I just clicked on ‘Reply’ on your comment as I normally do and somehow got ‘Ivor’ rather than ‘Ikonoclast’. Oh, mysterious are the ways …

    Anyway, you do understand I hope, Ikono, that basically I was just trying to inject a little humour into proceedings, hence my (non)reference to Lenin and the insertion of some “homage” to argumentum ad lapidem. The only comment that was vaguely serious was my inclusion of “the sorites paradox”.

    So, to your 7 points above, I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree with all or any of them. “Agreement”, as such is irrelevant really. My considered response to assertions and propositions generally ranges from Pauli’s “not even wrong” (which may apply to some of your propositions) to “probably as right as humans can be”.

    And given that, the “sorites paradox” comes into its own. Not the ‘simple’ sorites – ie how many grains of sand do make a beard – but rather the composite effect of many ‘near truths’ (yes, I normally use the ‘Correspondence Theory of Truth’ in estimating truthiness). Unlike the ‘errors’ in a scientific experiment that may counter each other as well as reinforcing each other (as I’m sure Charles Sanders Pierce would attest), the uncertainties in a sorites argument are always reinforcing, thus even though each conclusion/proposition along the way is possibly more right that wrong, the totality of wrongness over the whole argument invalidates the end conclusion.

    Or so I say. But I haven’t the time, or frankly the passion, to critique each of your 7 ‘arguments’ in detail. So, just an example using No 1. My reaction to this is simply “so what ?”. Who are these “persons of a social democratic persuasion” and does it matter a damn what they do, did, or don’t think – and that’s assuming, for the moment that you have interpreted their “thinking” correctly. But really, Ikono, what is your No. 1 supposed to achieve in the grand scheme of things ? Other than perhaps setting the scene so that you can interpolate the very portentous phrase “Then capitalism’s remorseless system logic reasserted itself.” into the ‘argument’, as though ‘capitalism’ is somehow capable of “reasserting itself”.

    But sufficient unto the day, yes ?

  8. Julie Thomas
    September 13th, 2016 at 06:38 | #8


    “Hmmm, I wonder how my previous reply named Ivor – I just clicked on ‘Reply’ on your comment as I normally do and somehow got ‘Ivor’ rather than ‘Ikonoclast’. Oh, mysterious are the ways …”

    Are you serious? You clicked on the reply button in Ivor’s comment. Why do you tell lies to yourself and us? 🙂 It’s such a clear indication to a student of human nature that you missed something important about fooling yourself and if you do it so blithely in this instance imagine how many times you fool yourself in more important circumstances. lol

  9. Julie Thomas
    September 13th, 2016 at 06:44 | #9


    “And do you yet have Ernestine’s approval for all this psycho-socio-economico theorising ?”

    And this? What is your point here? What did you mean? Why did you say this?

    “Zenghi said: The government has deviated from the righteous way of leadership and the people have long been left to their own devices. If you can finally uncover the truth behind the making of a crime, you ought to be sympathetic toward the criminals instead of being delighted in your ability to solve crimes”.

  10. Ikonoclast
    September 13th, 2016 at 06:46 | #10


    Good points. My point 1 was a rhetorical scene setter so criticising it when it ostensibly purported to be point 1 of a deduction series is justified.

    Point 2 has an assertion followed by some data. It’s debatable whether the data prove the assertion. They might tend to lend some credence to it if one is already inclined to think that way.

    Your ideas of errors compounding from “deductions” of a string of half-truths and the issues of “sorites paradox” are also valid. It would be worth my while thinking about those issues.

    I watched a video lecture by John J. Mearsheimer, political theorist and social theorist where he expounded his theory of “offensive realism”. He then applied it to the USA and to what China might as it eclipses the USA economically. I noted he made the point that his ideas were theoretical; “We have no data from the future.” He did not claim certainty but did claim “I think my theory is right (predictive) about 75% of the time.” Then he said essentially it was a simplifying theory and “what it leaves on the cutting room floor can jump up and bit one in the hynie.” It’s an interesting approach to creating and defending a social-political theory. He was basically saying “all great powers act the same”.

    Then I watched a video by Dr Martin Jacques, “Why China Will Be a Very Different Kind of Great Power”. One sees immediately the different theses. If Jacques is right one of the big factors Mearsheimer leaves on the cutting room floor (he might not even be aware of it, his scholarship might not extend to these factors) will jump up and bite his theory on the ass.

    In my case, I simply am not prepared to non-theorise just because I might be wrong. That leaves the arena to the current dominant theories many of which are demonstrably myths in their own right (not recognised as such simply because a lot of people believe them). What I need is a correction method for reasoning faults that lead me into errors, I hope. Of course, this is Quixotic project but it’s interesting to me.

  11. Ikonoclast
    September 13th, 2016 at 07:35 | #11

    @Kevin Cox

    I don’t think the scheme(s) you mention will get rid of predatory capitalism. They seem to be linked to regional public utility monopolies. The Rewards scheme you propose is short on details. It seems to suggest a kind of co-operative funding within the public sphere but extending no further than the users of the regional monopoly. To get the discount, one must be in the zone of the service.

    Given the shortage of details I infer the following for the “pure” model.

    (1) The authority will not borrow from banks or money markets.
    (2) The authority will offer 10% discounts for pre-payment.
    (3) The 10% discount appears to apply in perpetuity (Not sure.)
    (4) Pre-payment for the service could function as capital raising.

    In this model, I wonder how reliably pre-payment would function as capital raising. There is the question of uptake. There is no guarantee that uptake might be small, erratic and insufficient to raise the necessary capital, say for an expansion or upgrade. Creating all these little secondary markets in rewards vouchers or shares looks messy to me but as you say, modern computing can handle it. I wonder about security and validation though.

    But the main objection seems to be the uncertainty about the adequacy of capital raising under this model. I grant that if it worked it save interest payments.

    To my mind, a better model for municipal (and maybe state) capital raising for utilities would be a state (national) development bank. Gee, we used to have one of those called the Commonwealth Bank when it was a federal government institution before privatisation. I would advocate that we progressively renationalise the Commonwealth Bank and then use it, among other uses, to provide development and maintenance finance for municipal, state and national infrastructure projects.

  12. Julie Thomas
    September 13th, 2016 at 07:42 | #12


    Did you hear about the “human headline” naming those paedophiles in parliament? How obvious was it that this was the reason he got himself elected. Talk about single issue fanatics.

    This sort of obsessive behaviour was once a bit suspect, politically incorrect and the press would not touch it but now …. because news has to be profitable we get sensationalism that for some people is more salient than for others. You can imagine how vulnerable to these messages uninformed young parents are. They don’t just irrationally choose to become helicopter parents.

    The point is I think I want to make is that with respect to the changes in the way we raise our children compared to the way we were raised this is just one of the many ways that some dangers are exaggerated while the really dangerous things out there are the society denying individuals whose only aim in life is to make a profit from other individuals.

  13. Ikonoclast
    September 13th, 2016 at 08:02 | #13

    @Julie Thomas

    Yes, good points. It is very complicated all this. I could make a number of points at a number of levels. My problem is paring down my blog posts to a length that someone might read. Certainly modern news encourages or induces everyone to catastrophise all the time. I have a derogatory saying about commercial news (partly plagiarised). “If it bleeds it leads. If it burns it earns.” It’s pointless watching commercial news. There is the car accident. Then there is the house fire. Then there is the pedophile story. Rinse and repeat. Swap the order sometimes. Then have the sports stories where boofheads talk about boofheads. Throw in a bit of hagiography about “J.T.”. If you are a Queenslander you will get this last reference. He kicks an ovoid inflated leather object between two raised sticks and throws his sweaty headgear to little hero-worshipping children. OMG! He is a hero! 😉

    One can satirise the SBS too. At one stage it was suggested that SBS stood for Soccer Bloody Soccer. These days it probably stands for Syria Bloody Syria. Syria is a tragedy of course, largely created by our stupid Western governments. But the SBS is terribly selective about its news. One would get the impression from the SBS, most of the time, that only the Middle East exists. Forget about the rest of the world.

    The first Congo war 1996-1997 caused 250,000–800,000 dead and 222,000 refugees missing. The second Congo war 1998 – 2003 (about) caused according to differing estimates, 2.7–5.4 million excess deaths (1998–2008) or 350,000+ (violent deaths 1998–2001). I recall little in the way of SBS or any media reportage on this or analysis of why it was happening. At the same time, headlines like 6.9 billion people lived in peace today but 1 billion are extremely poor, do not appear at all. It’s certainly selective reporting of reality.

    Sorry, that was a bit of a rave.

  14. Julie Thomas
    September 13th, 2016 at 08:18 | #14


    This is a sandpit right? People can scroll and ignore pixels on a screen? If not it is possible to see a friendly psychologist and if people can’t afford to pay for some help coping with freedom of speech then they can access some free sessions if their need meets government regulations.

  15. Ivor
    September 13th, 2016 at 08:59 | #15


    Why? it must be a conspiracy.

  16. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 10:05 | #16

    @Julie Thomas
    Your something or other

    Ah Grasshopper, you begin to understand yourself at last.

    Keep up the good work – membership in the great cohort of Homo Sapiens sapiens may yet one day be yours.

  17. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 10:07 | #17

    @Julie Thomas
    Your other or something

    Ah Grasshopper, these are the great mysteries that you must strive to understand.

    So it goes.

  18. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 10:24 | #18

    Your #5

    Of course, Ivor. Why didn’t I think of that ?

  19. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 11:05 | #19

    Your #10

    They can be more than “half” truths, just not necessarily “whole” truths – though i have no idea how to formulate a scorecard and ranking in that respect..

    Basically, I have no problem with the broad thrust of your exposition Ikono (though that doesn’t mean I wholeheartedly believe it either), but proving such ideas is just not easy. The only extended arguments that are trustworthy are mathematical – like the ‘beginning to end’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Andrew Wiles didn’t actually have to produce an ‘end to end’ proof because so much of his reasoning had already been proved.

    Now, if you can get to that state … 🙂 But I guess you may think you have by using what you consider to be theses alraedy proven by Marx. Unfortunately, Marx doesn’t rank as highly as a huge sorites of proven mathematics.

    Anyhow, this business of China “eclipsing” the USA according to the IMF (with slightly different numbers for the World Bank and the CIA’s World Factbook), the current standing in terms of PPP GDP (in Geary-Khamis Int$) is:
    China $20.853 Trillion
    European Union $19.205 Trillion (still including Britain in that number)
    USA $18.558 Trillion
    India $8.6 Trillion
    and so on.

    But, in terms of PPP GDP per capita, we have:
    Quatar $132 k
    USA $55.8 k
    China $14.1 k

    So, to even reach USA parity on PPP GDP per capita, China needs to almost quadruple its current PPP GDP. But there is a wee problem: as GDP increases, PPP drops (because of higher wAges and costs and so forth). This is known as the Middle-income trap that all developing nations face: easy-peasy (sort of) to get up to a middle level of GDP percapita, much harder to go on increasing from there.

    However, places such as Japan, South Korea, Australia etc have managed it, so maybe China will too, eventually – and probably just a little while sooner than India.

    So, just perhaps, the futuere isn’t any more easy to predict than it ever was.

    Anyhow, let me be as clear as I can: I enjoy reading your stuff (well, almost all of it), and I respectfully applaud your project, I just don’t always agree with, or believe, all of it.

  20. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 11:21 | #20

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #12

    “Talk about single issue fanatics.”

    Do you ? Often ? And do you have a list of your favourite SIFalytics ? Other than Derryn, of course.

    “They don’t just irrationally choose to become helicopter parents.”

    Yes they do, and quite a few of then irrationally decide not to vaccinate their kids, too.

  21. Ivor
    September 13th, 2016 at 11:36 | #21


    The sandpit is made for conspiracy.

  22. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 11:41 | #22

    Your #13.

    Re news, you forgot the “Car crashes into house (or shop or office or whatever).

    And SBS stands for Sex Before Sleep, now and forever. Except for when it stands for Super Beaut Soccer, which appears to be a lot of the time.

    As to the Congo Wars, well they’d certainly been well trained by that great statesman, King Leopold II of Belgium. Maybe as many as 10,000,000 Congolese slaughtered under his personal reign. But then it only went on up to 1910, and we all became civilised after that.

    Except for the USA, of course, and it’s little war in the Philippines. Whereas the rest of us just got on with killing each other.

  23. GrueBleen
    September 13th, 2016 at 11:47 | #23

    Your #21

    I respectfully bow to your superior experience of these matters, Ivor. I clearly have much to learn.

  24. September 13th, 2016 at 11:52 | #24

    @Ivor I have read Marx . . . about 25 years ago I admit. My conclusion was that he was a good observer of the world but that his predictions and solutions were just as speculative as anyone else’s, perhaps less accurate in some ways. We find that economies can be controlled to a certain extent, but only within limits, and not in the ways he imagined (i.e. the persistence of black markets).

    I don’t recommend trying to understand the world only in terms of a single thinker. Everything should not be referred back to Marx. You might as well refer back to the bible, etc.

    I take it you do not accept the idea that a worker’s potential output could be considered capital. I personally think of my time and effort as an investment, but then, as I said: American.

    I’ll ponder your point some more though.

  25. Ivor
    September 13th, 2016 at 13:58 | #25

    @Zed Hogan

    Marx’s predictions (which is not how he presented his case) have been fully validated in the modern world as his counter-vailing tendencies have reached their limits.

    It is not possible to control a capitalist economy as Christine Legarde and Central Bankers are now learning,

  26. Ikonoclast
    September 13th, 2016 at 17:37 | #26

    As is clear from above, I am pursuing some of my own theories, purely for my own interest. I am looking at complex systems in a particular way using only word based arguments. I am no mathematician. The “particular way” I refer to is to look at the interaction of formal systems with real systems. Formal systems may be descriptive or prescriptive. A theory in physics, for example, is a descriptive formal system which seeks to describe or model a real system or an aspect of it. Boyle’s Law could serve as an example. The Laws of Thermodynamics serve as another example. A prescriptive formal system could be a piece of legislated law, a manual or a rule book. Another example is the set of financial accounting rules we use including those for national accounts.

    Prescriptive formal systems then can be divided into normative and axiomatic. (Yes, I know there is a naming issue here with “prescriptive” and “normative” having close meanings in standard language. This is my system but it may not be original except for the idiosyncratic terminology.) A law which says “You shall not unlawfully take (kill) human life.,” and then goes on to define “unlawfully” etc. is a normative law (system). An individual can transgress the normative law. The normative laws do not make an axiomatic system. There is nothing that axiomatically links “you shall not unlawfully take (kill) human life” with “your car will be towed away if you park on the yellow line”. An accounting system is an axiomatic system. All permitted operations in the system are axiomatically linked by calculations or calculation rules.

    My interest is in looking at how formal systems operate on real systems and vice versa. Clearly human formal systems operate through human agency. It is only by implementing them in practice that we operate on real systems in some manner. My more particular interest is in formal systems which are in conflict with real systems either immediately or in long term tendency. We would tend to say such a formal system is unsustainable and will sooner or later come into conflict with a real system. An example would be if I became a “Breatharian”, someone who believed he could and should live on air and not require food. That would be a normative formal belief system which would come into conflict with a real system (my physiology).

    Of course there is much more to this. I am interested in feedbacks between these formal and real systems and how such feedbacks work (and don’t work). Formal systems are actually encoded in real systems, in brains, books, computers and so on. At this level they are real systems. The next question is how can formal systems operate to create fallacies and errors, in a word to be incongruent with real systems? That’s where the investigation gets interesting when one assume everything is a monistic real system of all real subsystems. How does the transfer of matter, energy and information across interfaces generate errors (incongruences) as well as congruences as a correspondence mapping of “truth”? Lost information must be one issue.

  27. September 14th, 2016 at 05:40 | #27

    @Ikonoclast You say that formal systems become real, and that is true. The problem is that they become real, but they are not true. Formal systems are models or representations of reality.
    I work in the areas of identity and transfer of value. In both these areas the models are deemed to be true, and we go to great expense and effort to maintain the fiction.
    In the area of identity, the most common formal system represents an identity by a token. Because an identity is much more than a simple attribute or token, it is expensive to maintain the fiction that it is only a token. Finding a better formal description and making that real reduces the effort to maintain the real, but made up, formal system.
    In the area of money, the formal system (economics and accounting) assumes that money tokens are a store of value. That is a fiction and maintaining the fiction is extraordinarily expensive. The lower bound of the cost is the sum of all interest plus the cost of inflation.
    The theory that has helped me make sense of all this Promise Theory from Mark Burgess.
    What we are doing in identity is to change the building block of identity from a single token to the connection between two identities and then we build the formal system to make it real. It turns out this system is lower cost because the model is closer to the real world.
    For money, I am proposing something similar. The building block for the formal system of money is the transfer of value between two parties or peer to peer credit. Doing this will remove the cost of interest and inflation. The formal system becomes real when we build systems like
    Of course, the new models of identity and money are not true, but they result in a lower effort (cost), so I expect they will do well until something better comes along.

  28. Ikonoclast
    September 14th, 2016 at 06:39 | #28

    @Kevin Cox

    I am not familiar with promise theory and I cannot understand the Wikipedia entry. It seems very general and vague. I would have to read up on promise theory but I already have a reading list as long as my arm.

    There are hints in what you say which indicate that the thought systems we are considering might have some links. But my focus is philosophical at this point, specifically ontology.

    For example, you write “You say that formal systems become real, and that is true. The problem is that they become real, but they are not true.”

    I agree with that statement but I would add several more wrinkles. Also, the reasons I agree are too complicated to write into a blog entry.

    You also write; “What we are doing in identity is to change the building block of identity from a single token to the connection between two identities and then we build the formal system to make it real. It turns out this system is lower cost because the model is closer to the real world.”

    This also makes sense to me based on my thinking and writing. The Universe is a single, entangled real system. Identity, like any characteristic is relational. Thus viewing and constructing any identity as relational to all identities in a given system would make sense.

    As I said, I can’t comment on the details of promise theory. Also, you haven’t answered my questions in my post number 11 where I sought detail on Water Rewards and raised concerns about it.

  29. September 14th, 2016 at 09:57 | #29

    @ICONOCLAST Apologies for not answering your questions. I do not see them. I will answer now.

    Promise Theory explains why the approach taken on identity and money reduce costs. It was important to me because I could not understand why the models we were building were so efficient. Complex Adaptive Systems and Computational Modelling is the methodology. What we do is to build models of interacting autonomous agents, change the rules of interactions and see what happens.
    The models of the formal systems we build become operational systems. We can then experiment with the operational systems to see the effects of policy changes.

  30. Ikonoclast
    September 14th, 2016 at 15:46 | #30

    @Kevin Cox

    Thanks for the answer, sincerely, however it is a back of the postage stamp size answer. Your site gives back of the serviette size answers. These answers probably make sense to you as you have a lot of background knowledge in these matters. To an outsider, they are too brief to give any good picture of what is meant or what is going on. I don’t expect a huge screed on J.Q.’s blog (he probably doesn’t expect it either, LOL) but some links to papers which explain these concepts would help. Any paper less than 2,000 words and maybe even less than 5,000 words is not going to do justice to your subject area or research topic . I just can’t get a handle on this theory from such brief summaries.

    Note: I am the main culprit for posting screeds here, some of which are only tangentially related to economics or topics of social democracy. I am trying to tone myself down. I certainly don’t want to encourage others to post excessive screeds. 🙂

  31. GrueBleen
    September 14th, 2016 at 16:03 | #31

    Your #30

    You say: “I am trying to tone myself down.” No no no, don’t do that, especially if you mean that “I certainly don’t want to encourage others to post excessive screeds.” because the best way to discourage them is to keep posting your own very long screeds. They (we ?) will see what they’re up against, and opt for brevity.

    But to slightly revise Peter Sellers (‘So little time’): “So much to say, so little time.”

  32. September 14th, 2016 at 17:13 | #32

    @Ikonoclast I am not proposing a theory. I leave that up to others. I try to understand why what we propose works. I do something and then look for the theory to explain why it works.

    I am proposing we change the way we transfer value. At the moment we transfer value using debt or money with interest. What if we transferred value using money without interest attached? How could we do this? What would happen if we did it?

    Well, we can do it by taking savings and giving investors a return through more goods and services. If we do this, it eliminates interest, and we can also adjust the value of goods and services to remove the effect of inflation.

    It turns out that to transfer value without using debt requires a few more things to make it work. We had to work out how to reliably identify the parties exchanging value. We had to make sure we could retrofit the approach to existing systems without those systems having to change. We had to find the tools that enabled autonomous computational entities to communicate. We had to work out how to present it decision-makers in ways they could accept. I had to find programmers who could write the systems.

    It has taken eight years and several million since I first proposed the idea of Rewards. Last June I finally felt I both understood it and knew how to sell the ideas to those who could make it happen. Putting the ideas in places like this is part of the exercise of making people aware that it is possible. I am also hoping people will start to imagine what they think will happen when if it is widely adopted.

    When you make a new tool, you have little idea of the consequences. It would be good to anticipate a negative impact before it happens.

  33. Ikonoclast
    September 14th, 2016 at 18:59 | #33

    @Kevin Cox

    Well, I am sorry then. I cannot understand the idea from your extant documents. They seem very short on detail.

  34. Ikonoclast
    September 14th, 2016 at 20:27 | #34


    Careful son, or I will start linking to Derek and Clive tapes;

    “I said to him, you………………..”


  35. September 15th, 2016 at 10:53 | #35

    @Iconoclast Here is another attempt. It is not difficult to understand. It is difficult to know the consequences or emergent properties of the widespread use of the approach.

    Here is the idea

    I give you some money for some goods and services. If you give me the goods and services at the same time as I give you the money, the value of the money is equal to the value of the goods and services.

    If you give me the goods and services before you receive the money, I receive fewer goods and services for the same amount of money.

    If you give me the goods and services after you receive the money, I receive more goods and services for the same amount of money.

    In the exchange, the amount of money stays the same. The value of the goods and services exchanged changes.

    Here is what happens now

    With interest-bearing money, if you receive the money later I pay more money. If I pay later, I pay less.

    Exchange of value this way is debt money, the amount of money changing hands varies on whether it is early or late. The value of the goods and services exchanged stays the same.

    If we use the new system it means the money we use for exchange does not need to have a value due to the passing of time (interest). It means if the value of money changes due to inflation we can adjust the value of goods and services exchanged. Interest and inflation are both costs. Varying the value of goods and services is low cost and happens all the time. Removing interest and inflation reduces the cost of exchanging value.

  36. GrueBleen
    September 16th, 2016 at 02:50 | #36

    Your #34

    Countered by The Misty Mr Wisty: “May we dominate you ?”

  37. Donald Oats
    September 16th, 2016 at 18:20 | #37

    Bob Roberts claims \href{}{CSIRO have never released the data} “proving” Greenhouse Gases cause global warming, and they have decided to give him a briefing. Prediction for Bob Roberts comments after the meeting: “They didn’t have any data. It was corrupted. The manipulated it. They used fake NASA data. Lies, damn lies! One World Government. The conspiracy runs deep.” Seems we don’t even need to waste the time of CSIRO’s staff, we can just cut to the ending straight away.

  38. Donald Oats
    September 16th, 2016 at 18:21 | #38

    @Donald Oats
    Oops, used LaTeX not HTML for the link. Link is here.

  39. Ernestine Gross
    September 17th, 2016 at 02:16 | #39


    @ 26

    It seems to me what you call ‘formal system’ I would call ‘institutional environment’. What you call ‘real system’ I would call ‘natural or physical environment’.

    In my theoretical framework, at any one time there is only 1 natural environment but there may be different institutional environments in the same natural environment, called earth (some may prefer a broader context – the universe). Over time both environments (within which humans and animals and plants) live evolve.

    In one of your many well written posts, you wrote something to the effect that we all try to make sense of the world, using whatever means or knowledge available to us. I agree.

    You say words are your means to think and explore ideas – theorise. Writing words doesn’t come easy to me.

    GrueBleen says words to the effect that words aren’t good enough to theorise.

    My background is in math econ and finance. In a sense I agree with GrueBleen. However, I also know that pure mathematicians, who became interested in economics, didn’t just come up with their theoretical models, plucked from thin air. They read the writings of economists and then applied their knowledge. This involves – roughly speaking – finding appropriate mathematical objects to represent ideas – ie translating into a universal language with a lot of known rules – weeding out overlapping or duplicated terminology, such that one can tell the difference between a new theoretical result and inventing new phrases for an old result (a literature review dressed up in new jargon). Beliefs, held by economists, were exposed to checks for logical consistency (for example, if ‘freedom of choice’ is a desired aspect of an institutional environment then a theoretical condition is required which ensures everybody has enough power – wealth in some institutional environments – to be able to give expression to this freedom of choice. Practical implication: Policy makers who promote ‘freedom of choice’ but give tax cuts to the top end of the income distribution and taking away some income from the bottom are not credible).

    Who knows, one day your written words may be picked up by mathematicians, leading to new results, new insights. Perhaps GrueBleen is already working on it!

  40. Ikonoclast
    September 17th, 2016 at 08:01 | #40

    @Ernestine Gross

    In the past, I might have criticised you for “over-mathematicising” economics or reality. My own continued theorising, with input from others including yourself, has convinced me of the language relationship between word language and maths. To cut a long story short, the generic charge of over-mathematicising does not hold up. A theorist using words can equally be criticised of “over-languagising” reality. (No doubt there is a point to certain meditation practices, for example Zen, where the student is taught to stop languagising reality.)

    You write:

    “This (the economic maths project) involves – roughly speaking – finding appropriate mathematical objects to represent ideas – ie translating into a universal language with a lot of known rules – weeding out overlapping or duplicated terminology, such that one can tell the difference between a new theoretical result and inventing new phrases for an old result (a literature review dressed up in new jargon).”

    That sentence now makes excellent sense to me. I believe I understand very well what you mean. I wouldn’t have reached this insight without my stumbling and bumbling attempts to explore philosophy as an autodidact. The feedback does help though. Conclusion? Darn, I have to start respecting mathematicians again.

    My focus on formal systems and real systems is perhaps roughly the same as a focus on institutional systems and natural systems at a broad brush level. At the fine detail level, it is something more and I hope it refines matters. I start with an a priori justification (or assumption) that the Universe (the largest natural system in your terminology) is;

    (a) all that exists; and
    (b) that it is a monistic real system.

    Real system is used here in the sense that physicists would use the term. Thus this is a relational theory. “In physics and philosophy, a relational theory is a framework to understand reality or a physical system in such a way that the positions and other properties of objects are only meaningful relative to other objects.” – Wikipedia. In other words, I am saying the universe is a single, entangled system. Implicit in this monistic view is the argument that there is no mind-body problem, no consciousness-physicality problems as found in dual substance philosophy or dualism.

    Following this and remaining consistent, I get an odd result, namely that ontologically formal systems are also real systems. This would seem to undermine my whole approach. After all, I make a contention that we must analyse formal systems and real systems in relation to each other. If the distinction disappears ontologically what remains of the contention? But let me first demonstrate my “odd result” with a simple notation I have developed.

    I regard the universe as a single, entagled system. It is a real system, so every sub-system of it must be a real system. It follows that consciousness as a sub-system of the real monistic system is also a real system. I regard sub-systems as interacting through interfaces represented by the pipe symbol thus “||”. Illustrating a set of real sub-systems of the monistic universe system in this manner I get;

    Universe || Earth || Biosphere || Ecosystem || Humans || Minds || Formal Systems

    Thus a formal system (so-called) like Euclidean geometry is still a real system according to this analysis. We can see that Euclidean geometry is encoded in real objects. I mean in books, in PCs and in human brains for example. Euclidean geometry exists nowhere except in these physical encodings and the interacting operations of these encodings.

    The pipe symbols “||” above indicate that matter, energy, information and perhaps field effects can be transferred between systems. Field effects will include but not be limited to space-time. There is an unresolved question here for me, namely to consider whether field effects are transferred (transmitted) or whether they are the ubiquitous conditioning “field” in which matter, energy and information effects occur. But that can be set aside for now.

    The only differences I can find between formal systems and real systems are;

    (a) formal systems are related to (embodied in and bodied forth from) life (defined biologically) or at least some forms of life;
    (b) life and thence formal systems developed by some life are characterised by both a high ratio of information content to matter-energy content and by the application of encoding and decoding algorithms to operate on the information.

    These are still somewhat tentative “findings” on my part. Intelligent life (and not only intelligent life) makes models. That’s we do. Our brain reconstructs sight data for example. We do not see the world we see a model of the world that is reconstructed in our head. Insofar as this model is “accurate” – meaning accurately correspondent enough or isomorphically congruent or homomorphically congruent – we do not bump into things when we walk around.

    Our formal systems are models too. This includes language and maths constructs as formal systems. The value of a model is that it seeks to replicate the essential relations in some real system and the model does it in a way that is informationally dense. By this I mean there is a high information content relative to matter-energy content. Thus with models we manipulate analogs of reality to test what might be the case in reality and we are able to do this economically, with matter-energy economy. That is the value of models. Thus the difference between formal systems and real systems resides not in an ontological separateness of substance (as implied by philosophical dualism for example) but in as I said above “a high ratio of information content to matter-energy content and by the application of encoding and decoding algorithms to operate on the information” and in the value of these processes for understanding and manipulating reality (real systems).

    The next issue I would deal with of course is inaccurate models. If we have inaccurate models and attempt to apply them to the world then we get stuff-ups basically. The issue with inaccurate economic models (you rightly refer to the need to check for logical consistency in freedom of choice arguments)- in our economic system is that these inaccurate models can persist for a long time buttressed by internal socio-economic “logic”; indeed buttressed by axiomatic ownership systems, law system and finance systems. The ignoring of resource limits is another case in point. We can ignore resource limits while they are not near limits. Our current economic system has an internal logic which ignores resource limits by and large. Our model in some senses is accurate enough (meaning workably congruent with reality or the biosphere system it is embedded in) while it is distant from limits but not as limits are reached and overshot.

    But that’s enough for a blog.

  41. September 17th, 2016 at 09:21 | #41

    @IconClast The problem with formal models is they often work well “in the small” but fail when systems become large and more complex.

    It is a general issue in all information systems. We make the symbols used in the information systems have a reality that works well “in the small”. Maintaining that reality becomes expensive when the systems get large. Of the two I have worked in – identity and money – this is certainly the case.

    Promise Theory explains why.

    Burgess explains it this way.

    Let us assume we want to put Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms together. We find that we can put them together in stable ways H2O, (OH), H2O2. What we can’t do is make a tightly coupled million H with a half a million O. It doesn’t happen without a lot of effort and energy. However, we can put together billions of H2O molecules with loose couplings between the water molecules to form water or ice or steam. We scale the problem of combing H atoms and O atoms by combining a stable combination of a small number of H and Os.

    With identity, we find that if I give you a unique number denoting your identity, and you do the same to me, then this works well when there are only two people. If becomes expensive if everyone uses the same unique number to represent either of us. A lower cost solution is to make an “identity” molecule of the two ids and treat the combination as a molecule. We can now make mass identities cheaply using these identity molecules.

    With money, when two entities transfer value they both can agree on the value and represent it as money. It works well when there are only a few entities involved. It becomes very expensive when we use the same value for money over many entities for many reasons. That is, we make money fungible. A solution to make money work at scale is to make money tokens zero value and keep value localised but still transferrable but not fungible.

  42. Ikonoclast
    September 17th, 2016 at 11:10 | #42

    @Kevin Cox

    Interesting thoughts. I do take seriously the issues of complex systems philosophy and complex systems science. I mean insofar as I can understand them as a layperson and mere autodidact, amateur thinker. I am careful about taking your particular ideas here (which I take provisionally and at a self-educated guess as basically valid in complex system terms) further into economic prescriptions about revolutionising the money system. That part I am not sure about but I maintain an open mind.

    I think unorthodox thinkers need to attempt to share ideas. This process must cause great amusement for academics and there is always the chance of serious foolishness arising out of it. I can imagine an amusing essay titled “When Cranks Take Each Other Seriously”. Or jokes about “What happens if you put an MMT theorist, a Marxian, A Promise Theorist and Complex System Monist philsopher in the same room and ask them to design an economic system, or more properly speaking, a political economy system?

    Of course, I can only term myself a crank. I am not terming you one. Ernestine is not a crank and yet (with sensible selectivity) takes maybe some things I say seriously. Tim Macknay and GrueBleen take me seriously enough to caution me against my more crankish flights of speculation. What is a “crank”? My definition is “a person who maintains huge enthusiasm for an idea in the absence of confirming or even vaguely supporting evidence for that idea”.

    By this definition, I term all fundamentalist religious people cranks. And my definition of “fundamentalist religious” is very broad. Much of widespread, institutionalised religion meets that definition for me. The fact that a crank belief is shared by a lot of people does not rescue it from being a crank belief. UFO-ology and Anti Climate Science beliefs are a case in point. Another way anyone can become a bit crankish is to take a valid idea and try to apply it in a field where it does not and cannot work. Of course, one does not always or even often know when an idea is inappropriate to a field. The process often has to be tried, the research project undertaken. Failed research programs (dead-ends) are part of the price we pay for attempting to navigate the maze and attempting to find principles for navigating the maze.

    With respect to your specific ideas applied in the field of economics and money “creation”, meaning something more than money creation in standard economic parlance, I would have to read and think a lot more about it.

  43. September 17th, 2016 at 14:35 | #43

    @IConoclast Thank you for thinking I may be a crank. I certainly believe I am one according to your definition. However, I may be a fake crank or alternatively extra cranky, because I am pursuing the ideas with considerable supporting evidence.

    I think you are right when you talk about models becoming real when they are implemented. That is both an explanation and an opportunity. It is an explanation because the models describe ways that autonomous entities interact and this becomes an explanation for evolution. We won’t discuss how the first things entities (atoms) appeared or even if they were atoms. We do know that there are atoms and we do know that they interact. We can explain evolution by stable entities randomly interacting and exchanging information about themselves. Some of these random interactions create new stable structures and we call this evolution.

    The opportunity is that we can create new models and these – if they are successful – become part of the new reality. We can do this in a directed way. We can speed up evolution and we can direct it. We have a model called economics including money tokens with value or interest and that is real. It exists and it always will exist. Evolution happens when we change the model in some way that changes its nature and makes whatever it does require less effort.

    That is what we have done with identity and have built the systems to prove it. The idea that identity is a property of a single thing does not go away and will always be with us. The idea that there is another type of identity that uses the combination of identities as the building block for a new theory is interesting and proves to be much less effort to maintain and so we can expect it to replace the old theory in the real world. The old theory does not go away but it becomes less useful and less used.

    Similarly with money. We have invented a theory that money is a store of value and because it is a store of value it can earn interest. This happens and is real.

    What I (and many others) are doing is saying that perhaps we can have a lower cost system if we change the theory so that money is not a store of value and does not earn interest. In other words, money is not fungible but is something just used to exchange value. That theory now exists and is real. It will replace the old theory if it is lower cost and it will become the dominant reality. The evidence is strong that this will happen.

    What is exciting about this is that we have a way of understanding how we can direct evolution. We can do it by creating new realities by taking the symbols of the old reality and combining them to become the new building blocks of a new theory.

  44. September 17th, 2016 at 16:15 | #44

    @Iconolast I forgot to mention that theories only become real when they are implemented and tested in the “real world”

  45. Ikonoclast
    September 18th, 2016 at 08:49 | #45

    @Kevin Cox

    I am sorry, I am stuck. I still don’t fully understand your ideas. That just might mean that because I have no background in these ideas, I can’t even get basic concepts.

    I don’t foresee reading any books specifically on this in the near future. Perhaps you can link me to academic articles about the topics. I assume the core topics are Promise Theory and Interest Free Money. I am currently reading your blog, “Stable. Productive Money” – “Submission to Senate Inquiry on Small Business Access to Finance”.

    Okay, finished a quick read of that submission. My first general thoughts are;

    (a) big corporations, big capitalists and governments which support the plutocracy will never go for this idea, therefore submissions to government will likely be of no use;

    (b) as in Switzerland the only way to get such an idea going will be a cooperative enterprise;

    (c) perhaps as in Switzerland it will find a niche.

    (d) regulation of the finance industry and better managements the labour/profits ratio could achieve many of your goals in the current system;

    (e) such regulation is unlikely too for reason (a) above.

    I actually think collapse will occur unless we radically and yet peacefully change this system. How this might be done is a post in itself and requires a lot of theory and even wishful thinking. I am not hopeful.

  46. GrueBleen
    September 18th, 2016 at 15:10 | #46

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #38

    I’ll read Ikono’s very long reply to your comment real soon now and see if there’s anything else to add. I would simply point out that I do accept – and try to use – words for communication, that being the limit of their usefulness. But yes, if you want rigour, it’s mathematics or nothing. What a terrible problem we’ve caused ourselves by inventing words before we invented numbers (other than Mene mene tekel upharsin perhaps 🙂 )

    Otherwise, though science is necessarily reductionist, existence is seamless.

    Incidentally, your ‘institutional’ versus ‘physical’ is very close to N David Mermin’s famous ‘explanation’ versus ‘description’. However, Mermin was referring to physics and cosmology where ‘description’ may be a lot easier, but also harder, to come by than in economics.

    Otherwise, my participation in the grand adventure ? Sadly, too little talent and too little (life)time. But I guess you knew that 🙂

  47. GrueBleen
    September 18th, 2016 at 15:17 | #47

    Your #39

    “I regard the universe as a single, entagled system.”

    Ok, then, what is the universe’s quantum wave equation ?

  48. Ikonoclast
    September 18th, 2016 at 19:27 | #48


    “I regard” not “I have solved”.

  49. Ikonoclast
    September 18th, 2016 at 19:43 | #49


    “I regard” not “I have solved”.

    This below seems to lend support. Indeed, it is from such papers I derive the “I regard”.

    However, thanks, as the word “entangled” may be the wrong one in the context anyway. I need to revisit that.

  50. Ikonoclast
    September 18th, 2016 at 19:46 | #50


    “I regard” not “I have solved”.

    This below seems to lend support. Indeed, it is from such papers that I derive the “I regard”. I go by the words and rely on the maths and science to be peer reviewed, just as all we non-physicists do re the IPCC reports for example.

    However, thanks, as the word “entangled” may be the wrong one in the context anyway. I need to revisit that.

  51. Ernestine Gross
    September 18th, 2016 at 20:26 | #51


    Regarding philosophy, I am at most related to those whom Robert Heilbronner aptly called ‘The Worldly Philosophers’. Heilbronner’s work belongs to the category history of economic thought in Economics. I leave the universe to physicists and science fiction writers and, I suppose, to philosophers.

    However, I can make a few technical points, which may or may not be relevant to you.

    a) Systems (eg the ‘price system’ in say the Arrow-Debreu model in Economics, computing systems in physics) are generally not conceived of as ‘sub-systems’ of another system but are related to ‘an environment’. Hence boundaries of the system need to be specified. That is, the description of the boundaries determine the class of system (eg open system, closed system, etc).
    b) The universe is classified as an isolated system (defined in terms of no material and energy exchange).
    c) I did not use the term ‘system’, I enquired whether you use the word ‘system’ where I would use the word ‘environment’.
    d) If you wish to deviate from a quite well established conceptual framework (including nomenclature) of ‘systems theory’, then, I would imagine, you need to say why. Moreover, some kind of argument, if not proof, would be required to establish (in the case of proof) that your approach is indeed more general then the existing framework (ie to show that the existing framework is a special case of your framework).
    e) Economic models, which use a systems approach (eg all general equilibrium models – various equilibrium concepts, agency models – but excluding the DGE applied models using national accounts data) do NOT ignore resource constraints (confined to the Earth).

    Gut feel reactions:
    1. The dualism philosophy is, I believe, no longer interesting because of progress in scientific research, even though we still use the word ‘mind’ and the word ‘body’, and the word ‘mind’ is quite meaningful in specific contexts (‘in my mind’ meaning in my conceptual framework or the way I see it or in my opinion).
    2. You once asked whether ‘free will’ is assumed in economic theory. I didn’t reply. I now have a hunch as to why you may have asked this question (you wanted to relate economic theory to some philosophical writing and put economics into one of your category boxes). I still don’t know how to answer this question because ‘free will’ is a nebulous concept to me. I can say that in none of the mainstream economic models is it assumed that people are ‘free to will’ having more wealth or income or power. On the contrary, individuals are assumed to be intelligent enough to not believe in magic. (They are worldly fellows, so to speak.) If you know of a society which is totally governed my magic that removes hunger, thirst, ….., then I’d say this is a ‘free will’ economy.
    3. Not sure I read enough about ‘monistic’. The way you set up the ‘sub-systems’ of the universe (which, as said before, deviates from ‘mainstream’ systems theory), suggests to me that you will end up with a deterministic model. But why would, what you call, ‘wrong models’ not be simply part of a deterministic process? Watch out you don’t write a lot of words and introduce notation, which you don’t use analytically, to basically say this is what I believe is the truth from the universe. To repeat, this is my gut feeling response.

  52. Ernestine Gross
    September 18th, 2016 at 22:53 | #52


    “Incidentally, your ‘institutional’ versus ‘physical’ is very close to N David Mermin’s famous ‘explanation’ versus ‘description’.”

    Of course I don’t know about Mermin’s famous ‘explanation’ versus ‘description’. But I do know my ‘institutional’ and ‘physical or natural’ environments refers to mundane stuff economics is concerned with. The latter, the natural environment on planet earth, is the subject material of natural scientists. At times, the natural environment is treated in economics in an extremely simplified manner – ‘resources’ and these are finite. The institutional environment refers to how a society organises the economic problem of ‘resource allocation’ (akin to your question: Who gets what when and under which conditions.) Societies differ at any time and over time. Hence there are many observed, or conceivable institutional environments at any point in time and over time.

  53. GrueBleen
    September 19th, 2016 at 02:59 | #53

    Your #48

    Your linked article is way too heavy for me, especially at this time of day – all those mathematical equations ‘n’ stuff.

    But it seems that ‘entanglement’ is identical with gravitation: after all, every small pool of energy (aka ‘quantum particle’) has a gravitational effect on every other small pool of energy in the universe. But because there are numerous energy pools all over the place, it’s only the very localised attractions that have any measurable effect.

    In the meantime, I would imagine that you know of a gentleman named Sean M Carroll, yes ? Because if you don’t you should, and especially of his blog, thoughtfully named ‘Sean Carroll’ (which is slightly confusing because of Sean B Carroll, of course). And indeed you might find Sean M’s latest post, titled ‘Consciousness and Downward Causation’ to be of some interest.

  54. Ikonoclast
    September 19th, 2016 at 06:39 | #54

    @Ernestine Gross

    Thanks for the reply. It is food for thought. You correctly point out the central mistakes I risk: “Watch out you don’t write a lot of words and introduce notation, which you don’t use analytically, to basically say this is what I believe is the truth from the universe.” I would keep that wording as a warning to myself except that I “hypothesise” not “believe”.

    With regard to specific issues;

    (1) You write, “The universe is classified as an isolated system (defined in terms of no material and energy exchange).” I accept that definition.

    (2) Any system within a system is a sub-system. The “environment”, as a standard definition, is simply a catch-all term for everything outside a given sub-system, be that given sub-system a human being or the economy (as examples). The “environment” itself is properly regarded as a system of systems and the biosphere system in turn as a sub-system of larger systems. Of course, the word “sub-system” gets unwieldy. Writing sub-sub-system and so on would get even more unwieldy. I imagine a notation could be derived for this specific issue.

    The catch-all definition of “environment” (meaning a system of systems around the specific sub-system under consideration) is fine for the specific task. That is, when you are examining a specific sub-system internally and as a system and taking all environmental (outer systems) influences as givens. However, in an attempted philosophical endeavor of my kind, the nesting of many systems and many levels of systems, in one monistic system is one of the key factors under prime consideration.

    (3) I do mention boundaries and also mention that they are interfaces when matter, energy and information can cross them.

    (4) I don’t at all agree that the way I set up my systems model need lead to a deterministic model. However, that argument will get too long for a blog.

  55. Ikonoclast
    September 19th, 2016 at 07:59 | #55


    Well, of course, the maths was far, far too heavy for me. I know from comments you and Ernestine have made that each of you is a mathematician, in different arenas, though not in physics. Ernestine has correctly characterised me as someone who can do arithmetic but not mathematics. I did grade 12 maths so I can remember algebra and calculus; as subjects, not in great detail.

    However, the point is that the complex calculations and models of specialists, for example of cosmologists or climate scientists, are beyond most of us, even beyond many of us who are mathematicians in other arenas. We rely on the peer review process, successful predictions and successful constructions, for support and then proof. If an A-bomb blows up we accept the theory and calculations must have been substantially correct. If an enormous bridge stands up, if a jet airliner flies, if a computer, monitor and peripherals work then we accept that the science and calculations involved must be substantially correct.

    In short, we accept the output of the black box. In a highly specialised world, each of us is in the position of having to accept that what is in many of the various black boxes of science and technology is valid. When the science and technology work, correct inputs lead to predicted and desired outputs, within margins of tolerance. As an amateur philosopher, I feel in the same position. When scientists sum up a paper, in a respected journal, with the title “Everything is Entangled” then I, provisionally at least, take their word for it.

    However, the first thing I need to be sure of is that I understand, at least in general terms, what they mean by “entangled”. Your questions have led me to question myself on this matter and on further reflection I find my understanding wanting. I even question whether I should have used the word “entangled” at all in my original statement. Almost certainly, I should have used a phrase like “completely and complexly interconnected” which does not mean at all what “entangled” means as a defined physics concept.

    “Entangled” as I used it incorrectly could mean something like your “identical with gravitation” at least as one linking effect in the universe. I don’t think “entanglement” as physicists use it means this at all. Wikipedia will have to do as a reference source for a schmuck like me. So really, I meant “completely and complexly interconnected”.

    The recent success in detecting gravity waves from a distant source certainly impressed me with the notion that everything in the universe is connected and everything influences everything else either nearly or distantly, either strongly or weakly. This statement must not be understood mystically. I make no mystic inferences from this. The statement, in itself, tells us nothing. What kind of explanation is “everything influences everything else”? What kind of predictions could follow from such a statement? The answers are “no kind of explanation” and “none”. Nevertheless, the statements “the universe is a monistic system” and “everything influences everything else” are corollaries. Taken together they may function as a priori justification for a philosophical system. In turn, making an a priori justification of them seems supportable given the scientific evidence in that direction. Once an a priori justification is set up, a series of logical deductions can be made, if one is good enough at this “game”. The final deductions, if consistent, will be a model generally congruent with reality. However, it will not be a proof that reality is as the congruent model suggests it is. There are no proofs in this game so far as I can tell. However, there are pragmatically useful and pragmatically useless models. I follow the American Pragmatism school in this. Charles Sanders Peirce is my current philosophical influence.

    As I footnote, I only have to take out the rubbish to be convinced that “everything influences everything else”. I lift the lid on the bin while looking at the western evening sky. I might see the evening “star”, Venus. If it’s later in the evening, I will see the southern cross high in the sky. I stop to look and marvel. The light from all that distance in space and time has influenced my behaviour. QED. Everything is connected, at least by links of influences.

  56. GrueBleen
    September 19th, 2016 at 09:37 | #56

    Your #53

    Yes, I quite agree that “entangled” is both too vague and too specific to be used in a general sense. Just as an indicative question, have you ever wondered why the night sky is (mostly) black ?

    I would love to claim to be a ‘mathematician’ but the truth is I did some 2nd year maths at Melb Uni before becoming a hippy dropout, and later I did a 2 year Associate Diploma in Mathematics at then RMIT (not yet a Uni at that time. But I also passed my ‘humanities’ subject- Logic – with a final mark of 97 out of 100 BOC, and learned the Algol programming language 🙂 ). However, I have never used mathematics professionally, though having some idea about ‘Normal’ and ‘Log-Normal’ probability distributions and their implications did help from time to time.

    And don’t forget to read Sean M Carroll’s post – you really will find it useful.

  57. Ernestine Gross
    September 19th, 2016 at 10:42 | #57


    I mentioned my background is in math econ. Some famous people in math econ are mathematicians. I am not one of them. There is a difference between people who understand a particular branch of math well enough to get a theoretical result, requiring say an original lemma, and people who advance an entire research program because they tackle a problem that requires the application of mathematics that had not been used before. I know only of one contemporary person who was not a post-graduate in pure mathematics before studying economics. There may be a few others of course.

  58. Ikonoclast
    September 19th, 2016 at 11:53 | #58


    Yep, I have read that essay. It’s very interesting. I really should read his book that he refers to. I don’t know quite what I think on some of these matters and this is a position that Sean Carroll says is perfectly reasonable to hold.

    My basic thoughts on consciousness at this stage are these;

    1. Consciousness is not special. By this, I mean consciousness is not a special philosophical problem. It may be a philosophical problem but it is not a special philosophical problem. All problems of ontology are equally difficult and indeed in this sense (reason for existence as existence) equally unsolvable. Why substance or “processes” (from process metaphysics) exist is just as ineffable a question as why consciousness exists. I hold that we can say nothing about why anything exists in the primary sense. It simply does exist. This is the brute fact thesis common enough in philosophy. I consider that we cannot solve this issue.

    2. I hold that there are no causes in the strict sense. Although, we can use “cause” as a useful concept in everyday and practical scientific use (for macro objects anyway) in both the hard and soft sciences. I hold strictly; “There are no causes only Laws”. I mean “laws of relation” in both the strictly deterministic sense and in the probability sense. It follows from this approach that a search for “causes” and “explanations”, again in the strict philosophical sense, is fruitless. We must search for laws of relation (which turns out to be more a scientific endeavour than a philosophical endeavour).

    3. The idea of downward causality (sic) really interests me. However, to be consistent with my approach I would be searching for laws of relation, not causality. In turn, my rejection of causality in the strict sense must run up against problems too, for which I hope there is a logical solution. We tend to see causality in an “arrow of time” sense. Do this at t1 and that will happen at t2. However, at any instant in time (if such may exist) two events must happen simultaneously (by definition) and must be related by us (if they do indeed appear reliably related) by a “Law” and not by a “Cause”. However, time delay, the time delay for propagation of an effect, would seem to present a problem to my system. How could this be resolved? It must be to do with the propagation of information, I think. At its most fundamental, information here can be defined as any propagation of influence ( crudely called cause and effect) through a system over a duration/expanse of space-time. Laws operate or pertain in the infinitesimal present. I would think we would need to apply a kind of calculus by combining all the infinitesimal data of the Laws operating over a given expanse of spacetime to find a “Cause”. Thus I am tempted to say: “Causes are derivatives of Laws”. This may be taking thinking by analogy a bit too far. What are “Laws”? They are the brute fact relations which exist in a universe which has dependable relations. What is cause and effect? They are the derivative outworkings of the Laws. All this is provisional. All this is mere words in a made up order. I have no idea if this makes sense or if it could possibly make sense. I am at the edge of what I can do with my very considerable limitations. If I sound out of my depth it is because I am. 🙂

    I continue with my naive project to work out something from loose snippets and my own general experience before I read heavily of too many authorities. After I have made my attempt, then I will read the authorities. I am a “contrary”.

    “You see, Younger Bear had become a contrary, the most dangerous of all Cheyenne warriors, because the way they live drives them half-crazy. Except for battle, a contrary does everything backwards. He says “goodbye” for “hello”, “yes” for “no”, walks through bushes instead of on trails, and washes with dirt and dries with water.” – from Little Big Man.

    Not that I am warrior, but I am half-crazy. 🙂

  59. Ikonoclast
    September 19th, 2016 at 16:01 | #59


    Main reply above. Reply to a question here.:”why the night sky is (mostly) black”?

    I have wondered that and my semi-educated guesstimate, though it may be that I recall something, is that it is because the universe is not infinite, or at least that part within which light could have reached us since the big bang is not infinite. This assumes, I think, an early inflation of space-time at greater than the speed of light, which does not break any rule re speed of light. Nothing was travelling in space-time at over the speed of light. The space-time field itself expanded, for a period, at greater than the speed of light.

    If the universe was an infinite size and of infinite age and we could see all of it right now, the night sky would be all light I assume.

    Now, must go check my answer.

  60. GrueBleen
    September 21st, 2016 at 16:29 | #60

    Your #59

    According to my best recall, your answer is basically correct. In essence, in an infinite universe containing an infinite number of stars then any direction in which you wish to look there would be an infinite number of stars – one behind the other, of course – providing light. But in a finite universe, with a finite number of stars – and most of those concentrated into galaxies that are, effectively, point sources at that distance, then most of the sky has no illumination – as you can see by examing those famous Hubble shots taken in directions with virtually no local (Ie Milky Way) stars and count the almost ‘point source’ galaxies – some of which are 13+ billion light years away.

    But of course, spacial travel FTL happens all the time* – it’s ‘information’ that can’t exceed light speed.

    * You don’t believe me ? Well, since “everything is relative” it is perfectly reasonable to take the surface of the Earth as a stationary frame of reference – which, in fact, we do for almost all of our lives. But if that is so – ie it is ‘stationary’ – then there are quite a few stars out there – millions of light tears away – that travel 2pi*millions of light years every 24 hours. Ipso facto, much faster than light speed.

  61. GrueBleen
    September 21st, 2016 at 16:33 | #61

    @Ernestine Gross
    (really a reply to your #52 in Edison in reverse)

    If/when you make it over here, below is the bit I was most interested in (but anything you are interested in expanding on):

    Perhaps you could be prevailed on to expand on this a bit:

    the ‘corporate finance model’ belongs to accumulated incompetencies on a high level, which could be equally well be described as extreme naive market economics.

    I’m not sure I grok you on that.

  62. Ernestine Gross
    September 21st, 2016 at 17:02 | #62


    Not sure what “grok” means in this context. But you didn’t ask me to explain that and I assume I’ll find out what you mean.

    I suppose we should start with something about ‘the corporate finance model’.

    1. Objective: Shareholder wealth maximisation (also sometimes called ‘value maximisation’)
    Corporations say ‘the market is ‘competitive’.

    If one looks up a theoretical model of a ‘competitive private ownership economy’ (developed after the mid-1950s) then one finds that:
    Unless ‘the market is complete’ (the state space is spanned by the payoffs of financial securities, such that any corporation can deduce from the price information what it should do to achieve its stated objective) the corporation either cannot achieve its objective or it is not competitive (not a price taker).

    But, if one looks at the Fisher Separation theorem (ca before 1930) (taught in Corporate Finance texts), then corporate finance’s job is to maximise the ‘net present value’ of the firm. (NPV methods are the standard tool of corporate finance to make decisions).

    Viewed in the light of post 1950s theoretical results, relying on the Fisher Separation theorem is a form of ‘incompetence’. No?

    This is part 1. I’ll wait for your reply and then get onto the next level. (With some delay.)

  63. Ikonoclast
  64. Tim Macknay
    September 22nd, 2016 at 11:49 | #64

    My point remains the same, Ikon – object to her policies all you like, but none of it justifies your conspiracist turn when it comes to questions of her health. 🙂

  65. Ikonoclast
    September 22nd, 2016 at 13:47 | #65

    @Tim Macknay

    I think some, like you, are too quick to call “conspiracy theory” on certain matters. There is an enormous difference between a “9/11” conspiracy theory and a claim that could be called “an HRC health conspiracy”. The 9/11 conspiracy theory involved a claim of an enormous governmental conspiracy, a claim of difficult technical operations carried off secretly and claims about building collapses which are refutable by experts using empirical evidence. The HRC health conspiracy claim, if you wish to call it that, is much more modest. The “conspiracy” is much smaller being just Hillary’s team. It involves issues that are not black and white. People can convince themselves that Hillary’s entire health status has private components. The central claim is not empirically impossible. Sixty-nine year old persons can have Parkinson’s disease or other neurological conditions.

    But some people just trot out “conspiracy theory” as a handy catchall for anything they don’t believe. A reply of I don’t find it credible would have sufficed. But I get called “sexist” wrongly, others jump on this bandwagon and GB suggests I might need LevoDopa (which is not a demntia drug in any case. These are personal attacks. The LevoDopa one I don’t care about. If I was on that I would self-disclose right now, on and for this blog. There is no shame in having and beign treated for a condition one cannot help. The “sexist” slur I do care about. Every time I happen to criticise a female politician in matters which have a political bearing, and when I have criticised certain male politicians more trenchently, a certain party who appears to regard female politicians as above all criticism, calls me “sexist”. It’s a slur and you jumped on board.
    My harsh criticisms of certain male politicians are allowed through to the keeper without a peep. It’s a hypocrtical slur pure and simple and I refuse to accept being impugned or gaslighted expecially when people start to try to gang up on me. Over the years, some have tried, none have succeeded.

    Someone who is part of the drone strike business, i.e. Hillary Clinton and many others of course, has no moral standing whatsoever. Quibbles about their personal rights, apart from international law and a fair trial at The Hague fade into nothingness. She’s a war criminal. It’s a case of swallowing a camel and straining out a gnat. A massive loss of ethical perspective and realism on your part on on the part of others’. I completely reject such distorted, inverse ethics and lack of logic.

  66. Ikonoclast
  67. Tim Macknay
    September 22nd, 2016 at 15:36 | #67

    The reference to conspiracy was a comment on the sources you are relying on, not the inherent plausibility or otherwise of the claim. I agree a supposed HRC health coverup cannot be compared with a September 11 conspiracy theory, but I don’t think it can be compared with a manufactured pretext for invading Iraq either, which is a comparison you have explicitly made. What’s in contention is not whether HRC and her minders have an incentive to be evasive about her health, or whether she is capable of being deceptive. It’s that the specific health claims you are making are based on speculative Republican talking points echoed in conspiracy web sites, sources you would normally criticise others for relying on. That’s what I find weird about this, which is why I keep going on about it.

    And defensively getting on a high horse and accusing me of lacking ethical perspective doesn’t really help you case – it looks like deflection. I haven’t even tried to defend HRC’s foreign policy record – I’ve merely pointed out that the health claims are based purely on speculation from right wing and conspiracy sources, and you’ve responded by bringing up her foreign policy record and accusing me of lacking perspective. Not very convincing, Ikon! 😉

    Frankly, I don’t know why you’re still digging in about this. You’ve set out the substantive reasons why you think HRC is unfit to be president (foreign policy). So why not just admit that the Parkinson’s stuff is just speculative rumour-mongering?

  68. GrueBleen
    September 22nd, 2016 at 17:44 | #68

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #67

    Spot on, Tim. I too am just a tad bemused by Ikono’s modus operandi here.

    And if you could work into the conversation with him that ‘hinting’ someone might need Levodopa (not necessarily Ikono, but maybe some of the ‘sources’ he seems to be relying on – and yes, definitely not as an anti-dementia, but as an anti-shaker) is actually just a throwaway small jest, not a personal attack. Sensitive little bvgger, isn’t he.

    Incidentally, I have experienced vasovagal syncope (VVS) quite a few times in my life, I wonder if Hillary does too. Among the causes for VVS are: “Various circumstances are triggers for VVS including prolonged standing, especially when combined with warm temperatures, confined spaces, and/or crowding;”

  69. GrueBleen
    September 22nd, 2016 at 17:49 | #69

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #62

    Interim reply: by “grok” I basically mean what Robert Heinlein meant when he coined the word in ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, basically: “to understand intuitively or by empathy, to establish rapport with” (especially the “rapport” bit).

    Now I shall go and try to grok the Fisher Separation Theorem and to remember what little I used to know about NPV and the corporation..

  70. Ivor
    September 22nd, 2016 at 19:44 | #70

    Tim Macknay :
    My point remains the same, Ikon – object to her policies all you like, but none of it justifies your conspiracist turn when it comes to questions of her health.

    How do you identify conspiracy?

  71. September 22nd, 2016 at 20:16 | #71

    Ikonoclast #51 in previous thread
    HRC is completely corrupt and objectionable on moral grounds as is Trump. But many of the faux lefties are tribalist (as per J.Q.’s terminology) and blindly support her and/or say it is forbidden to criticise her or raise concerning issues because she is a woman.

    Let me just decode this for anyone who doesn’t get it: according to ikon, women, and those who support women as political candidates, are not capable of reasoned thought or critical judgement. We support candidates on the basis of emotion only, because that’s the way we are.

    You – and others here – have made this kind of criticism of me before, because I said that Julia Gillard was not as bad you thought. I was basing my judgement on two years of working with her, while you were basing it on gossip and prejudice, but I was the one who was unreasonable in your eyes – because I’m a woman who defended a woman against your prejudiced crap (I didn’t even politically support her FFS, I’m a greens voter).

    I would say that as our society judges these things (academically) I’m actually more capable than you of critical judgement. I don’t say that to be rude or patronising, but just to introduce some reality into this conversation. In fact I think at some level you may even know that, but when it comes to female candidates your sexism gets the better of you. You simply cannot admit that people can support a female candidate because they think she is the better candidate (even against Trump you still can’t accept this FFS!) – because they have made a reasoned, critical judgement. Nope in your eyes it can only be because they emotional and naive and they can’t admit that the person they emotionally identify with has any faults.

    Where are these fucking “faux lefties” who refuse to admit that Hillary Clinton has any faults? Just show me one of them, Ikon – just one. Or otherwise grow up and stop peddling this contemptible shit.

  72. paul walter
    September 22nd, 2016 at 23:45 | #72

    Ernestine Gross, I grok as to that neat little comment of yours gruebleen mentions.

    Yet further emphasis on the evergreen observation that folk rise or fall to their own level of incompetence, which is we are posting to blogs and the likes of Dutton and Michaelia Cash are in cabinet. Wondrous, how history is confirmed and traced through repetition

  73. Tim Macknay
    September 23rd, 2016 at 11:39 | #73


    How do you identify conspiracy?

    Well, on Mondays and Wednesdays it’s a twisted horn and the word ‘Tristero’;
    On Tuesdays and Thursdays it’s the blanched face of an anthropologist on hearing the name ‘Yog Sothoth’;
    On Fridays and Sundays it’s the Eye of Providence and the words ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum’;
    and on Saturdays it’s the Great and Ever-Growing Brain that Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld.

    You grok?

  74. Tim Macknay
    September 23rd, 2016 at 11:48 | #74


    Incidentally, I have experienced vasovagal syncope (VVS) quite a few times in my life

    It can be a bugger when you’re trying to donate blood..

  75. Ivor
    September 23rd, 2016 at 12:06 | #75

    @Tim Macknay

    So you conspire to find conspiracy under every bush right through the week.

    What a strange world you inhabit.

  76. Tim Macknay
    September 23rd, 2016 at 12:52 | #76

    There is a slim possibility I may not have been serious.

  77. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2016 at 13:13 | #77


    “according to ikon, women, and those who support women as political candidates, are not capable of reasoned thought or critical judgement. We support candidates on the basis of emotion only, because that’s the way we are.” – Val.

    I did not say that. You are putting words into my mouth once again. Because I have criticisms of specific women candidates you immediately call me a sexist and jump to these conclusions. You might have noticed over the term of this blog I have made many trenchant criticisms of many male politicians. I have called Howard, Blair, Bush 2 and even Obama war criminals. They are that in my judgement. I don’t need to repeat myself on Trump. I criticised him severely very recently on this blog. On none of these occasions have you criticised me for criticising male politicians. However, as soon as I criticise a female politician (in the two cases I remember) I am, ipso facto, a sexist. In Gillard’s case I never used abusive terms but criticised her deal with the mining bosses and her disloyalty to Rudd. In HRC’s case I did not use personal abuse either though I did impugn her mental capacities. That is also regularly done to male politicians in the argy-bargy of public criticism. I have critiqued Kevin Rudd’s personality and operating style BTW and that did not draw rebuke from you either. You demonstrate a double standard over and over.

    I have made many pro-women remarks on this blog, especially supporting and praising them for their unsung, unrewarded roles in child-rearing and unpaid labour. I also fully support their rights to paid work, equal pay and other rights. I have indicated how I fully shared baby care and child rearing with my wife (including when she was at work for many months and I at home).

    I don’t think you realise that you do it but as soon as a male criticises a female politician (in whom you might be emotionally invested in a supportive way, I don’t know) you immediately jump to the sexist slur. You did it to J.Q. in the past too. You are heavily alienating real supporters, not from a genuine feminist cause, but certainly from your misinterpreted and disturbingly fundamentalist version of it.

  78. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2016 at 13:27 | #78

    @Tim Macknay

    Even without the Parkinson’s stuff, HRC’s health is bad and her behaviours are very odd. I still think it credible from circumstantial evidence that she may have an as yet undisclosed neurological condition. The right wingers exaggerate it and the small-l liberals underplay it. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle, so no, I am not just looking at conspiracy sites but assessing all views across the spectrum.

    Also, Trump is a bizarre person and his behaviours are very odd too. All these people have far too much wealth and/or power. I mean people in the US political and wealth elites. Basically, this excess wealth and/or power sends them a bit crazy. To put it a bit more broadly, we all have failings and disturbances in our psyches (using the term in the psychoanalytic sense) which very often can become exaggerated and pathological when in the possession of excessive wealth and power relative to our fellow citizens. These people have gone crazy on power basically. They are all dangerous. The fault is that of we the citizenry for not making full democracy and equality a reality and not controlling these sociopath, over-privileged, over-rewarded out of control egomaniacs in our midst.

  79. Tim Macknay
    September 23rd, 2016 at 14:39 | #79


    so no, I am not just looking at conspiracy sites but assessing all views across the spectrum.

    Except that all the neurological claims are coming from rightwing speculation echoed in conspiracy sites. So you’re assessing views ‘across the spectrum’ about speculative claims made by rightwingers and conspiracy theorists. Unsurprisingly, small-l liberal and other pro-HRC sources tend to be dismissive of those claims. Of course, on first principles, it’s not inherently implausible that someone of HRC’s age may have a neurological condition. But to suspect that she does have such a condition, on the basis of deliberate rumours started by her opponents, based on ‘diagnosis’ from interpreting video footage, is to give far too much credence to rightwing rumour-mongering. I cannot help suspecting that if you actually approved of HRC as a candidate, you would give those kinds of claims short shrift.

    The same goes for Trump and the ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ stuff. Obviously Trump is an egomaniac, but then so are a great many very wealthy and powerful people (as you point out), so that doesn’t prove anything in particular. I’m not even sure that having narcissistic personality disorder (or being an egomaniac) should necessarily disqualify someone from high office, for that matter. At least, it should be less significant than other things about the candidate, like their values, their judgment, their intellectual capacity, their policy preferences and their experience. Obviously a candidate should be sane enough and healthy enough to do the job, but it would be foolish to be too prescriptive about these requirements.

    It’s largely the difference in policy preferences, and to some extent, values, that cause me to think that it would be better for HRC to be president than Trump (although I have concerns about her foreign policy hawkishness). Not that I have any say in it, contrary to your nonsense about ‘we the citizenry’ being at fault. 😉

    Still, you’ve walked your argument back a fair way, without admitting you were wrong. I suppose that’s the most I can expect just before a long weekend*…

    * I am in WA. We have a long weekend here this weekend.

  80. September 23rd, 2016 at 14:50 | #80

    Ikon, I’m actually surprised that JQ let my comment be published – it pushes the boundaries that he tries to maintain here I think, and now that I’m calmer I apologise for the swearing (on this blog, not per se, I don’t think it’s always wrong). However I really wanted to express my actual feelings on this.

    Like I’ve said, I’m sure you’re not a bad guy, but I almost despair of trying to make you see how awful your comments are sometimes – I don’t use the word contemptible lightly. Search your soul and try to understand what it is that makes you accuse a whole class of people of not being capable of critical judgement. Be honest with yourself.

    Or, alternatively, as I said, produce one example. And be aware that I am not an example. I have always acknowledged that both Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton have faults and have made mistakes. For example, I was a passionate critic of the Iraq war. Do you really think that I would somehow blindly ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton originally supported it, even though she has since admitted she was wrong and apologised? Of course I don’t. But I still think she is a better candidate than Trump – far better.

    It’s not because I “blindly” support her, or won’t allow any criticism of her because she’s a woman, it’s because I have exercised my critical judgement, and for you to keep saying otherwise, to keep saying I am purely driven by emotion because she is a woman, is profoundly insulting. The fact that you don’t get that just proves that you are coming from a sexist position. You are treating me as an inferior person but you haven’t the honesty to admit that’s what you are doing.

  81. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2016 at 15:27 | #81


    Swearing is okay by me. I understand your position is strong. However, I don’t understand how you say I have accused a whole class of people of not being capable of critical judgement. I assume you mean I have accused women. Where in heck have I done that? Literal quotes please. I have not accused any whole class of people with one possible exception namely the plutocratic class. I sort of wonder if you are reading what I write or interpolating extra assumptions of your own. I have indeed accused certain individual male and female politicians of faults. I have even attacked the ruling and plutocratic classes verbally and in writing. That’s the only class or category I have attacked.

    BTW, a medical condition, if it is real, is not a fault, it’s simply a known fact if diagnosed. I add “if diagnosed”. HRC has not been diagnosed with a neurological condition so far as we, the world public, know. I admit that. However, she has had a serious concussion. I believe it took her 6 months to recover properly. Even one serious concussion can do permanent damage. This is well know. However, it also might not do serious damage. If it has done damage this is a known fact (if diagnosed). It’s not a moral judgement on a person then. It would be a medical assessment of a person.

    Scurrilous rumours are part of politics. Not a good part but they are there. Any politician can get out ahead of some scurrilous rumours if they are of the type which can be objectively refuted. This rumour can be objectively refuted by HRC if she is fine and if she wishes. Claims against Trump can be refuted if he comes out with the evidence too. For example, claims about his payment or not of taxes and claims about his business incompetence. There are even serious assault claims against him. These possibly could not be fully refuted because it is not always possible to prove innocence and prove alibi even if innocent.

    HRC and her campaign committee will make a judgement. If she has no further undisclosed medical issues of nature which would have any bearing on her presidential aspirations, she could in theory consent to independent medical examination. They (HRC’s camp) will decide which course plays better in their opinion. All options are open to them. “She shouldn’t have to”, doesn’t wash. She doesn’t have to. She does however have to decide how much she wants the Presidency. For the record, I hope she drops out, Bernie Sanders is put in, if HE is healthy, and the Bernie wins. I mean among the even remotely possible scearios. Hillary and Trump are both extreme, right wing hawks. The USA will be little different under either.

  82. Tim Macknay
    September 23rd, 2016 at 17:37 | #82


    However, I don’t understand how you say I have accused a whole class of people of not being capable of critical judgement.

    I don’t mean to speak for Val – no doubt she will answer in her own time. However, in response to the suggestion of myself, Val and several others that your beliefs about HRC’s health conditions may not be entirely, well, rational, you responded with the following pieces of commentary about what you imagined we were thinking:

    “I am amazed at the binary thinking (or is it limited Boolean thinking?) that says;
    If B is corrupt then A must be clean. This does not follow…

    But people so often seem to fall for the Manichean good person/bad person narrative…

    many of the faux lefties are tribalist (as per J.Q.’s terminology) and blindly support her and/or say it is forbidden to criticise her or raise concerning issues because she is a woman…

    It’s tribalist groupthink plain and simple…

    Clearly, a lot of the faux left and the fashionably liberal and liberated don’t understand the first thing about what is really going on in American or world power politics…

    The naivety is staggering. It represents a complete lack of critical thinking…

    These are personal attacks…

    A massive loss of ethical perspective and realism on your part on on the part of others’. I completely reject such distorted, inverse ethics and lack of logic….

    your misinterpreted and disturbingly fundamentalist version of [feminism]”

    This is what could be politely termed a “massive overreaction”.

    I’m not sure if Val, myself, Gruebleen and a couple of others constitute “an entire class”, but I am quite confident that epithets like “binary thinking”, “Manichean good person/bad person narrative”, “tribalist groupthink”, “don’t understand the first thing”, “staggering naivety”, “complete lack of critical thinking”, “massive loss of ethical perspective and realism” and “disturbingly fundamentalist” quite clearly convey a conviction that the targets are “not capable of critical judgment”.

    The question is: why such a huge overreaction instead of answering your critics by simply presenting the “good evidence” or, as you later put it, “circumstantial evidence” that showed your belief was well founded? It remains unanswered (and the “evidence” remains unrevealed).

    And one more thing – earlier on you stated that HRC or anyone else who is “part of the drone strike business” has no moral standing whatsoever. This formed part of your basis for asserting that I had a “massive loss of ethical perspective”. You now say that your own hope is that HRC drops out of the race and that Bernie Sanders is elected president.

    Given that Bernie Sanders is on record as supporting the policy of drone strikes against identified individuals and would doubtless continue this policy were he to gain office, is it that you have succumbed to “binary thinking”, have you fallen for the “Manichean good person/bad person narrative”, or is it simply that you have suffered a “massive loss of ethical perspective and reality”?

  83. GrueBleen
    September 23rd, 2016 at 17:54 | #83

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #74

    Strangely, I’m not so affected by my own blood as by that of others – if I see more than just a few drops of somebody else’s blood. I’m head down on the floor in no time at all.

    Mind you, I do normally take a lot of care – eg when being sampled for a path test – to look the other way when the needle goes in.

  84. Tim Macknay
    September 23rd, 2016 at 17:59 | #84

    Lest my last comment be seen as unnecessarily provocative (which I now fear it is), let it be said that the last paragraph was rhetorical smart-arsery, and I don’t actually think you’ve “succumbed” to any of those things or that your preference for a Sanders presidency is an unreasonable one. Also, I think we’ve sufficiently plumbed the riveting question of the factual basis for HRC’s alleged neuorological complaints and I don’t really care that the “evidence” is “unrevealed”. That was a piece of smart-arsery also.

    All my comments were intended in goodwill, and hopefully, good humour.

  85. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:20 | #85

    @Tim Macknay

    No, it was fair enough. I didn’t know that about Bernie Sanders. My bad.

  86. September 23rd, 2016 at 20:18 | #86

    There’s a lot I could say, but I will just say a few things for now.

    I’m glad that we can still have a civil conversation.

    Psychologists suggest, I think, that underneath anger is often hurt. I am hurt that you (and people like you) can treat me (and people like me) with such contempt. Women have had to put up with being treated as inferiors by men for a very, very long time, and it is utterly infuriating that when we are finally achieving positions of political influence, there are men who will go out of their way to find fault with female candidates (and those who support them) even when they are clearly better than the alternative

    If you had a two horse race between a man on the (broad) left who was clearly imperfect, and a man on the right who was awful, I don’t think you would waste your time dredging round right wing hate websites to find reasons to attack the (admittedly imperfect) left candidate. So why do you do that to a female candidate?

    Even if she did have a neurological complaint, which I don’t believe it doesn’t f-ing matter

    She has a deputy, he could take over. So why do you waste your own and everybody else’s time dredging this stuff up?

  87. Ikonoclast
    September 24th, 2016 at 08:39 | #87


    Where do I treat you specifically or women generally with contempt? Quotes please.

    Hillary is not a left candidate. She is another hard right candidate. I equally fear and loathe all hard right wing candidates. I think I have made my fear and loathing of Donald Trump equally clear. I have also referred to scurrilous rumours and serious possible issues against him.

    If people are hard right (i.e. fascists and/or war criminals), they lose all rights other than the right to a trial at The Hague. It’s kind of ridiculous to say “Don’t be horrible to the fascists.”

  88. GrueBleen
    September 24th, 2016 at 17:15 | #88

    Your #87

    Ah, so in your political “world”, HRC is “hard right”. That explains much.

    So, is HRC to the “right” of Trump ? Or to the “right” of Dick Cheney ? Or Newt Gingrich ? Or Rush Limbaugh ? Or what exactly ?

    Anyway, I thought I’d just throw in this contribution from Kevin Drum of Mother Jones -who I find frequently, but not always, makes a lot of sense (and he does Friday Cat Blogging too):

    “… in 1980, when I was 22, I voted for John Anderson. That sure was stupid. Eight years of Ronald Reagan because Jimmy Carter didn’t quite meet my idealistic standards of excellence for presidents. I’ve never made that mistake again.”

    Kevin will be voting for HRC this year.

  89. paul walter
    September 24th, 2016 at 20:00 | #89

    With Ikonoclast all the way.

    What is this sookish drivel from the rest of you?

  90. September 24th, 2016 at 22:23 | #90

    The tone you adopt about Hillary Clinton is exactly like the tone you used to adopt about Julia Gillard – ‘she is not of the left, she is of the right – the hard right, even. Beware her attempts to deceive you. I am a man, I can see through her wiles and pretences. The only reason you benighted fools can see any good in her is because you are women, blinded by loyalty to your sex, or weak willed men, ruled by the feminist dominatrixes, who won’t allow you to say a word against their beloved queen Hillary’

    I may explain later – more seriously – why your comments show contempt for women, but just for now I have to go and bang my head against some walls, because it’s more productive.

  91. Ernestine Gross
    September 25th, 2016 at 00:21 | #91

    Val, I do believe you are misinterpreting Ikonoclast regarding sexism. I am also a female and I had many exchanges with Ikonoclast.

  92. GrueBleen
    September 25th, 2016 at 01:47 | #92

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #62

    I have been working on this. I think I understand the words but I’m having real difficulty with groking the totality.

    I can get the ‘maximise NPV’ objective, though I always thought the real-life objective of the corporation was to maximise the remuneration of the senior executives – both pay and bonuses – though supposedly Jack Welch achieved both things at the same time. And I’m not sure where the likes of “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap come into the picture.

    But ok, management’s ‘production opportunities’ are separate from owner/entrepreneur’s ‘market opportunities’ and opportunities are separate from enterprise finance, but it still isn’t coming together for me (hence a ‘no grok’ state).

    But other than failure to correctly analyse and/or optimally choose, ‘opprtunities’ (which would appear to be a common failing), I don’t quite get the ‘incompetencies’ aspect.

    As the famous lady once said, “please explain”.

  93. GrueBleen
    September 25th, 2016 at 01:56 | #93

    @Ernestine Gross
    Your #91

    Yes, but you’re neither Hillary Clinton nor Julia Gillard.

  94. GrueBleen
    September 25th, 2016 at 02:10 | #94

    Your #87 and previous

    Now trying to cut through all the “sookish drivel” that we have all been supposedly producing, I’d like to query you on a couple of things that kinda slipped by me at first:

    1. In your #77, in reference to Julia Gillard you talk about “her disloyalty to Rudd.”. What exactly do you mean by that ? Did Rudd have some kind of ‘divine right’ to be PM ? If so, why ? IMHO if a leader is under-performing, then he or she should be dispensed with, so Gillard could only be “loyal” to Rudd by being disloyal to we, the people of Australia. It would be different if we directly elected the PM, but we don’t.

    2. In your #81 you say: “Hillary and Trump are both extreme, right wing hawks. The USA will be little different under either.” When I read this, I think I really can see what Val is getting at. Do you sincerely believe that Clinton and Trump are so much alike that they could be substituted for each other seamlessly ? That there’s really no difference between them ?

  95. September 25th, 2016 at 05:54 | #95

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine, I too have had many interesting and productive exchanges with Ikon on many issues. It is on the issue of female politicians that he becomes unreasonable, sadly.

  96. September 25th, 2016 at 06:15 | #96

    Tim has quoted some of Ikon’s statements above. Anyone who doubts that Ikon loses perspective on this issue should read them. He was the same with Julia Gillard, he could not allow her any redeeming feature, anyone who tried to reason with him was similarly described as naive or blinded (particularly women, who he thought were only demonstrating blind loyalty to Gillard because they were women).

    The statement that really got to me this time (a continuation of the theme) was

    “many of the faux lefties are tribalist (as per J.Q.’s terminology) and blindly support her and/or say it is forbidden to criticise her or raise concerning issues because she is a woman…”

    in combination with the claim that the so-called “faux lefties” are incapable of critical judgement.

    Now ok, this is ostensibly non gendered criticism, it could apply to both male or female “faux lefties”. However I’ve been reading Ikon’s comments for some time and have only ever seen him make these kinds of comments about supporters of female candidates. I have never seen Ikon suggest, for example, that supporters of Kevin Rudd or Donald Trump blindly support them because they are men, refuse to allow any criticism of them because they are men, and are incapable of critical judgement.

    It is only with female candidates that he makes these claims. Now sorry to get a bit technical in language here, but I need to – ikon is acting here as the imagined agentic normative subject, who is male, whereas women are the ‘other’ – that which is not normal, that which is different from the norm.

  97. paul walter
    September 25th, 2016 at 06:24 | #97

    Don’t some of you see?

    It’s not about attacking Clinton or Gillard, it is about the political structures that determine the effectuality of politicians. Very little to do with sexism except when sexism can be used to drag down a politician who comes too close to undermining oligarchic interests.

    Removing rose coloured glasses, Hillary Clinton has been accused of being beholden to entities like Goldman Sachs as to campaigning finances, but, newsflash, an entity like GS may not support Hillary Clinton out of a sense of public spiritedness. Recall the example of John Stumpf of Wells Fargo, exposed by Sen Elizabeth Warren as an example of Wall street altruism. Curiously, Warren short of funding short for her Presidential race, perhaps..altruism is a funny thing sometimes. This is not to suggest that GS and certain Lobby groups were not behaving with a contrasting generosity, perish that thought!

    And of course the home grown example of Rupert Murdoch and Tony Abbott in the destruction of Rudd and Gillard, nothing to do with tax evasion and IPA agendas?

    Hence, the examination a Clinton candidacy is not to do with sexism (except for morons), but an effort to understand whether she is a candidate likely to run America on rationality alone, without fear or favour, on both domestic and massively expensive, by the example of recent history, or be as useless as Trump.

  98. paul walter
    September 25th, 2016 at 06:27 | #98

    Not again, last sentence, massively expensive foreign policy (who benefits, Bush Cheney etc)

  99. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2016 at 07:27 | #99


    Do I really have to say I think supporters of Trump are naive, especially working class supporters of Trump? Given my avowed Marxian stance that would be taken as a given. Anyway, as I have said, I have made many trenchant criticisms of male politicians. When I get hot under the collar I call supporters of male right-wing politicians naive too. It’s not a rhetorical tactic that will win me any friends or influence. Obviously, I should stop doing it. It’s insulting to all, female and male. For that I apologise. However, I have not acted in this manner only re female politicians. That is simply cherry picking. I reject that and will have no more to say on the matter.

  100. September 25th, 2016 at 07:35 | #100

    Give me one example of someone who has said that Hillary Clinton or Julia Gillard have no faults, or have forbidden you to criticise them. Just one actual example.

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