Wise in hindsight

My article on the failure of for-profit competition in human services included a hook to the recently published Productivity Commission report recommending more of the same. I haven’t had time to go through the report in detail, but I was struck by reports that the PC mentioned the FEE-HELP fiasco in the VET sector as an example of the way not to go about things.

It’s good to see some recognition of this but what matters here is foresight, not hindsight. So, I thought I’d check back to see what the PC was saying a couple of years ago, when the disaster was obvious, but was still being denied by those in charge of it. Here’s a quote from their submission to the Harper Competition review

The Commission’s study into the vocational education and training (VET) workforce (2011f) found that there had been a rising trend to harness market forces in the allocation of VET services, with principles such as user pays and user choice increasingly underpinning VET policy. The Commission suggested that, as the VET sector becomes increasingly competitive, a move towards greater managerial independence for public providers would give them the autonomy and flexibility they need to respond.
The Commission (2011f) also noted that opening up of the VET sector had not been a complete success, with some stakeholders raising concerns about quality assurance, monitoring and enforcement (especially in the international student sector).

Going back to the 2011 report, there is indeed a box referring to problems with international students, which drew a lot of attention at the time. But there’s nothing to suggest any awareness of the broader problems, which were already apparent*, let alone any capacity to predict them using the PC’s analytical framework.

* I wrote a report for the National Council on Vocational Education Research in 2012, making many of these points, and drawing on several years of evidence from Victoria. I was roundly derided for my pains by the private provider lobby.

50 thoughts on “Wise in hindsight

  1. I wonder if things might have been just a little better if it hadn’t been for the wave of crooks and grifters that flooded in to an established “market” with heaps of moolah to be snagged.

    From what I can see, this happens in every such case. If there is an established profitable market, the conmen, grifters and outright crooks flood in. Not just in VET, but consider ABC learning too.

    On the other hand, if it requires effort to build a market up, from a low level or even from scratch, well, ipso facto the grifters, conmen and crooks stay out until there are rich pickings to be had for virtually no effort or cost. And if the “market” is a natural monopoly – eg the British railways – then it’s a winner take all outcome.

    And could all of this have been foreseen ? Yes, but only by a species that has accessible memory and can reason – especially by analogy – to the current situation. The majority of species homo sapiens sapiens shows remarkably little of those attributes.

    But, and this is what really gives me the shuts (sorry for the phonetic NZ spelling) is the apparent assumption, time after time after time, that if it is the “market”, it will perforce be honest and above board and competent and honourable. Whereas the VET fiasco shows once again that an un-policed “market” is none of those things. Cf Rudd’s ‘Blue Batts’ for another kind of instance.

    So, here we go once again with the PC advising us to do the same thing over again, hoping it turns out better this time.

  2. # 1 GrueBleen

    So, here we go once again with the PC advising us to do the same thing over again, hoping it turns out better this time.

    Don’t worry mate, we’ll get it right this time, it just needs a bit of fine tuning 😦

    Die-hard free-marketers make ISIS jihadists look like atheists. They KNOW that competition and a free market always provides better outcomes and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. This mindset has lead to the Charter Schools fiasco in the USA.

    I think JQ is being a bit kind unkind to the Bourbons; they probably did not double down on polices that they had seem go tits up 10 years before. There was roughly a generation between the Revolution and the restoration of the Monarchy.

    They might have learned. The free-market mysticstotally believe in economic woo. I mean Friedman and Hayak proved the superiority of the free market. (Do not look behind the curtain)

  3. In this matter, I agree with J.Q. I am just following my policy of noting agreement as well as disagreement.

  4. @jrkrideau
    Your #2

    Oh yes, the USA Charter Schools fiasco has been (still is ?) a veritable cornucopia for the grifters and conmen, not to omit the outright fraudsters.

    As to the impact of “evidence”, the good ProfQ has posted a few times previously on the occurrence of ‘epistemic closure’ (qv: the Wikipedia article is entertaining) in the populace. Put simply, it’s like this:
    1. the free marketeer knows that free markets are perfect
    2. that free markets are perfect entails that free markets outperform every other arrangement
    3. therefore (competitive) free markets are the best way to arrange X (where X is whatever is being discussed at the time).
    It’s the ‘entailment’ that provides the ‘closure’. This is the kind of non-thinking that pervades the works of Hayek (and Friedman ?) et al.

    As well as that we have the usual maladies of ‘motivated thinking’, ‘mood affiliation’ (which is a favourite of Tyler Cowen) and the ‘halo effect’ (ie if something is good in one particular circumstance, it must be good in all circumstances – cf ‘epistemic closure’ as above).

    My own thought is more along the lines of ‘meme affliction’. A bacteria or virus can attack cells because it has ‘tentacles’ that can stick to ‘receptors’ on our cells. Similarly, memes (or even ideas) can afflict our consciousness because we have developed ‘thought receptors’ that offer natural entry points. However, we are immune to any meme (or idea) for which we have not developed ‘receptors’.

    So if we have already developed receptors that encapsulate the idea of ‘racial difference leading to racial inequality’, then the kind of utter nonsense espoused by Murray and Herrnstein’s ‘The Bell Curve’ has an easy passage into our belief system.

    The problem, as I see it, is that our ‘set of beliefs’ are largely acquired much like we acquire the vocabulary of our native language9s): (very) early, subconsciously, and in large lumps. So it seems to us that certain ‘beliefs’ have always been part of us and are therefore ‘inbuilt’ in us … or something.

    All of which is just a round-about way of saying that evidence isn’t evidence unless our ‘receptors’ will admit it into our consciousness. See also the “backfire effect”.

    Thank you for offering me the opportunity for this small rave 🙂

  5. A profound ignorance of history and literature is also a precondition of believing in a free market utopia. The slightest grasp for instance of nineteenth century British history reveals the callous inhumanity of unfettered capitalism e.g. The difficulty of preventing ship owners overloading ships because the insurance payout was worth more than their cargo and the lives of their crew, as well as the difficulty reformers had fighting for the introduction of the Plimsoll line is reminiscent of the recent Worksafe scandals where the handing over of claims assessment to private insurance firms for whom profit is the bottom line has destroyed claimants’ lives. Mrs Gaskell’s or Dickens’ novels explore the individual human cost of neoliberalism in practice. The stupefying lack of historic and cultural awareness of these so-called experts is astounding.

  6. @GrueBleen

    I agree. Try explaining the ideas of a particular thought system (be that system what it may but assume it will be found to have some validity when fully investigated) to people who have no education in those kinds of ideas. Ernestine Gross has had the same problems trying to explain some of her ideas to me and many others on this blog. It took me quite a while to get a (very) basic idea of what E.G. was saying. Only then did I start to realise that she was making sense and that those ideas could well have (very probably did have) considerable and extensive validity.

    We who try to explain Marxian political economy to people experience the same blanket incomprehension from them. The opposite is not true however. Being brought up, inculcated and semi-brainwashed in this system (capitalism) and then learning more about political economy we understand the orthodox arguments for the system. We just don’t accept them. But hardly anyone can understand the unorthdox arguments against the system. They are proof against the unorthodox arguments as they have no “idea receptors” for them. This being proof against the ideas is independent of the woth of the ideas. The ideas never even get accepted for preliminary checking. They can’t be. There are no receptors as you say.

  7. @Ikonoclast
    Your #6

    First you agree with ProfQ and now you agree with me ! Have a care, sir, lest you be re-ordained as Ikonoclast The Very Agreeable 🙂

    Notwithstanding your ennoblement, I do think there are basically two kinds of homo sapiens sapiens (us and them ? Ooops). Those who can, albeit with some difficulty, take on board “new” ideas, and as we agree, those who, if they haven’t already got a ‘receptor’ are just unreachable – and it is these who appear to be the clear majority.

    Maybe psychiatric therapy could help (cue call to Julie …).. Does IQ play any part in this ?

    Which query, of course, reminds one of Marilyn vos Savant and the Monty Hall Quiz Show problem. And the very large cast of people (almost exclusively male) who simply wouldn’t/couldn’t believe that Marilyn had solved the Monty Hall ‘change of choice’ question correctly.

  8. @Lindel
    # 5 Lindel

    A profound ignorance of history and literature is also a precondition of believing in a free market utopia.

    The stupefying lack of historic and cultural awareness of these so-called experts is astounding.

    You cannot expect budding entrepreneurs to waste time on airy-fairy things like history when they can be studying marketing, can you?

    And when they think they do know something about history, they are usually wrong. See Galileo’s Trial vs usual interpretation for a good example or the great statement I saw this yesterday (paraphrased): “The USA fought the Civil War, freed the slaves and went on to end slavery around the world”.

    Argh! No idea of who Wilberforce might have been or what the RN’s West African Squadron might have been doing and who know what all else.

    The lack of historical knowledge extends to many areas. One of my favourite introductory sentences in Scientific American is by two distinguished urban planners who stated,”As late as the end of the 19th century, even a visionary like Jules Verne could not imagine a city with more than a million inhabitants”. Jonas Rabinovitch and Josef Leitman Scientific American March 1996.

    Given that London UK had a population of 1.1 million in 1811, I don’t think Jules would have needed much imagination.

  9. @GrueBleen
    # 7 GrueBleen

    Maybe psychiatric therapy could help (cue call to Julie …).. Does IQ play any part in this ?

    Oops I’m not Julie but “psychiatric therapy” is unlikely to help though I am sure it must help somwhere.

    A major problem is what Daniel Kanheman discusses in his book “Thinking fast and slow”. Very roughly summarized, people most of the time ‘think fast’, using available heuristics to handle daily life.

    Thinking slow (really considering issues, problems, alternatives and so on) is hard work and uses energy. We avoid doing it as much as possible so getting to your “unreachables” means teaching them to “think slowly” which most of them, most likely, have seldom done or never done.

    Another problem is something that Bob Altemeyer discusses in his works on authoritarianism. His book “Authoritarianism” available as a free pdf discussed People high on authoritarianism don’t do analysis well and tend to follow leaders who tell them how to think. They don’t need to “take on board “new” ideas”; the leader has done this already—they just need to follow.

    People high on authoritarianismalso are good at compartmentalizing ideas so they can hold completely contradictory ideas and haul them out as needed.

    Good, broad, education probably helps in both cases. Lots of rest and good food really helps with deep thinking.

  10. Perhaps I am over-interpreting the content of JQ’s post when I note the PC’s conceptual framework is akin to what I had defined as the corporate finance model on a previous thread. While quality issues were recognised (in words) a couple of years ago, it is only when there is negative cash flow (recorded in the federal budget) that the proverbial penny drops that there something not quite right. Its too late.

  11. @jrkrideau
    Your #9

    Ok, the ‘fast-thinking heuristics’ I grant you as I’ve been a fan of Kahneman and Tversky for many years – though they are not immune from critique, of course.

    However, apart from the “cue call to Julie (which was basically just a reference in ‘jest’ to ‘electro-shock therapy’ from a different thread), the question of psychiatric therapy does arise. For instance, there is quite a bit of psych work done on ‘theory/belief perseverance’ which covers how beliefs (ie ‘theories’) become disconnected from the ‘facts’ that gave birth to them and thus ‘persevere’ despite contrary evidence.

    And because we can’t systematically list our beliefs (‘theories’) and compare them we can thus hold contradictory beliefs – and commonly do. However, we also have so-called ‘cognitive therapy’ which is described as: “…a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behaviour patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.” It’s also supposed to be good at getting you to overcome arachnophobia and aviophobia (amongst others).

    So the trick cyclists think they can reach into our minds and alter our beliefs – and they claim some success in fairly trivial cases (such as arachnophobia and aviophobia).

    As to authoritarianism, I thought it was that those high on ‘followership’ needed to be told what to think, not how to think. I’ll probably chase up the Authoritarianism pdf and in the meantime you may enjoy reading Thomas L Martin’s ‘Malice in Blunderland’ if you can find a copy somewhere.

  12. @GrueBleen
    Your #12. Yes (if one thinks of say a finite number of distinguishable qualities for students [eg pre-requisites or prior learning] and also for teaching [qualifications, etc]); incompleteness is a type of market failure [the other type is imperfect competition]; in the more applied literature, the term non-contractability is sometimes used. Strong Pareto inefficiency result for incomplete markets. During the past 20 years or so, policy focused on imperfect competiton only. Can’t condense any more than that.)

  13. @GrueBleen
    I missed the cue call to Julie element in the psychiatric therapy line. Duh.

    theory/belief perseverance’ which covers how beliefs (i.e. ‘theories’) become disconnected from the ‘facts

    True but I just don’t really see what that has to do with psychiatry. It’s been a research area, one way or another in psych for many years. Climate deniers and anti-vaccers are currently prime territory here, but unless we are moving to psychotic level delusions I cannot see the common or garden psychiatrist being relevant.

    It’s just that my background is psychology and except in a few minor areas—don’t rush me, I think of something––most psychologists I know are not particularly impressed with psychiatrists who in North America seem to prescribe a pill for anything and everything and who seem to want to put just about any behaviour imaginable in DSM-???. Not that they don’t do some good work, we just think they don’t know much about the wider range of human behaviour.

    In your quote, you seem to be conflating psychiatric therapy with “psychotherapy” when talking about arachnophobia and aviophobia. I would not even think of it as psychotherapy whatever that may be.

    To me this is simple applied behavioural analysis desensitization work. Heck, way back in prehistoric times my madly behavioural undergrad psych dep’t used to keep a boa constrictor and a tarantula or two on staff for this sort of work.

    I thought it was that those high on ‘followership’ needed to be told what to think, not how to think.

    Err yes. Sloppy wording on my part. I doubt there is any analytical thinking involved.

    fairly trivial cases (such as arachnophobia and aviophobia).

    Well, not trivial to individuals. As a medical analogy you might want to think of it as treating a nasty skin complaint vs finding a cure for cancer. Both have their place.

    At an individual level, aviophobia can have devastating effects on a career if your job requires international or trans-continental travelling. I had to look up ‘aviophobia’. I could not decide if it was a fear of birds or a fear of flying.

    There is a story of an NHL hockey goalie from long ago who was afraid of flying and always left early by train to get to the “away” games. He could not do that now given an expanded hockey league.

    Re Malice in Blunderland—local university and public libaries both have copies.

    Oh, if you are having a look at Bob Altemeyers book in its pdf format http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ be warned that it is a fun but annoying read. He has forsaken a lifetime of APA formatting principles and started sticking in masses of footnotes.

    I found that the best way to read the thing was by opening it in two pdf readers so that I could read the main text and jump to the footnotes “fairly” easily.

  14. @jrkrideau
    Your #15

    Before launching into some kind of response, let me just bring you up to date with some old wisdom renewed:

    Neurotics build castles in the air, psycholtics live in them, and psychiatrists collect the rent. But psychologists write the tenancy agreements.

    So I tend to see psychiatrists as ‘active interventionists’ in the human psyche – was Freud (and Jung and Adler) a psychologist, or a psychiatrist ? And if a psychiatrist was he (et al) a “common or garden” psychiatrist ?

    However, I do grant your point about North American psychiatrists. I always thought Bob Newhart, in The Bob Newhart Show (with the incredibly voiced Suzanne Pleshette) was more your typical psychiatrist than the psychologist he was presented as. Nonetheless, in my subconscious somewhere, I have equated ‘psychiatry’ with active intervention into the human psyche (especially with scalpels and electrodes 😦 ) and psychologists with a generally more ‘philosophical’ stance

    Some ‘therapies’ were/are mostly psychology though, eg cognitive behavioural therapy (I unfortunately ommitted the ‘behavioural’ word above) which I had some contact with many years ago – with one Dr Bob Montgomery who spent some time at Bond Uni if you’ve ever heard of him. Aah, the good old days of reformulating negative self-talk. But yes, having had very little experience with either, I tend to conflate both psychotherapy and psychiatry into the realm of non-medical intervention in the mind.

    It was in connection with Dr Bob – Montgomery that is, not Newhart – that I encountered ‘treatment’ for archnophobia and aviophobia – not that i actually have either, but I don’t gratuitously handle spiders, and I don’t fly unless I absolutely have to – which is basically never now that I’m no longer employed.

    But re your sensible hockey goalie, when I had to travel for my employment, I once took the overnight train from Melbourne to Sydney, and frankly, apart from having to leave late the night before instead of with the dawn patrol rush on the day, it was a much better mode of transport: a good night’s sleep, a leisurely shower and shave and breakfast in the morning and arriving in the centre of the CBD at 8:00am – thus missing the long, slow road-traffic crawl from the airport.

    Thanks for the pointer to Altmeyer, and the hint for best reading. It is most assuredly on my list … but then so are quite a few things, including this blog 🙂

  15. I think one of our differences is that what you call a psychologist is what I term a “clinical psychologist”, one of many specialties within the field of psychology . Often regarded as “probably useful” but “weird” by most psychologists. Oh and Freud was not a psychologist, Don’t know enough about Jung and Adler to say for sure but I doubt it. I’m not sure Jung was actually in touch with the real world from the little I know of him.

    Think of a clinical psychologist as the equivalent of a medical specially. All M.D.s are doctors; not all M.D.s are plastic surgeons. Or all engineers are engineers but an aeronautical engineer is not the same as a civil engineer. The American Psychological Association has 54 divisions (http://www.apadivisions.org/) (essentially specialist interest groups) and some of them don’t even speak the same language.

    Some psychologists are, now, calling themselves cognitive scientists or behavioural economists as the areas of study of human behaviour expands. I think the pay scales and/or grant money may be better to0. I have printed up my Behavioural Economist business cards just in case a lucrative consulting contract comes by. 🙂

    I don’t think I ever watched a compete Bob Newhart show so I have no idea of what he was supposed to be and his writers probably had little idea of the differences between clinical psychologists and psychiatrists . His recorded monologues are fantastic though.

    As an old train fan, I agree train travel almost always beats flying for anything under say 1,000 km. Well it beats flying almost any time, any where, as long as one has the time and is not trying to cross an ocean.

  16. @jrkrideau
    Your #17

    Yes, quite right: “clinical” psychologists as a distinct subspecies. But then, if he was not a psychologist, not even a ‘clinical psychologist’, what was Freud ? You can’t be a psychiatrist without some theory and knowledge of the human psyche, can you ? And indeed Jung was a tad unworldly – even to the point of believing in some sort of variant of the Akashic Record (or so I interpret what little I know of him).

    If you didn’t ever see The Bob Newhart Show, or the later Newhart, you missed some fine comedy (and Suzanne Pleshette). Apparently, like Stan Freberg, Newhart began as an advertising man – a copy writer indeed.

  17. This would have to be just about as good (i.e. bad) as market information asymmetry gets. The buyer believes they are buying a skill that will get them a job and an intangible qualification. The seller is selling a course. There’s just about no feedback, except a decade or two down the track when someone notices that the whole thing is a pretty miserable and expensive failure. We are so inured to thinking and trading in aspirations that no one notices the obvious disconnect.

  18. @GrueBleen

    Freud was the “father” of psychoanalysis and famously was the only human to”self-analyse” according to the hagiographies. Alfred Ernest Jones was Freud’s official hagiographer, erm I mean biographer. 😉

    After Freud it was held that each disciple, a medically qualified person IIRC, needed to be analysed by Freud or by one of his “analytical children”. Thus all psychoanalysts after Freud were supposed to be analytically related back to Freud. I don’t know if this strictly holds true today. The one being analysed is the analysand. All practicing psychonalysts are trained medical doctors and have been analysed as part of their training, to the best of my lay knowledge. Indeed, psychoanalysts remain in analysis themselves even when practicing. This is actually a good idea because no human is perfect. Every human has weaknesses, blind spots and so on.

    It sounds like half a medical science and half a proto-science (at best) which is more or less what it is. At the same time, it also a craft and a kind of ethos. British philosopher and social anthropologist, Ernest Gellner was quite scathing about it in “The Psychoanalytoc Movement – The Cunning of Unreason”. Karl Popper was kinder stating that it was at best a proto-science which might become a science. A number of thinkers have pointed out that Freud’s basic theories rely on confirmations, thus they are very susceptible to confirmation bias among its theoreticians and practitioners. The situation is not quite as bad as that but it is fairly close in some ways.

    Freud was a brilliant man. An early work “The Interpretation of Dreams” is well worth reading. The late works “Civilization and Its Discontents” and “Moses and Monotheism” are also worth reading. I wouldn’t read much in between unless you are a scholar or a glutton for punishment. Some of case histories are now claimed to be fraudulent IIRC.

    A large work called “Why Freud Was Wrong – Sin, Science and Psychoanalsis” by Richard Webster is well worth reading. It’s almost a clinical detective story in a sense. My edition has a very amusing painted cartoon dust jacket art with Freud in the chair, Freud on the analysis couch and a head and shoulders picture of Freud hanging on the wall looking on at both.

    Much of Freud’s theory is now superseded by neurological discoveries and psychological discoveries and more sophisticated psychology theorising. Yet Freud holds a place as an early theoriser and “father” of the psychoanalytic movement which persists to this day. My own opinion is that a good analyst can help some people amenable to that kind of treatment. I believe that a combination of psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioural therapy combined would work better than either in isolation but that is just an “educated” belief on my part.

    Psychoanalysis is sometimes called the “talking cure” with implications of praise or negative criticism as the case may be. A point in its favour is that while people are talking to an analyst they or some of them anyway are not self-harming or jumping off a high ledge. This is a pretty big win when you think about it. Sometimes there are jokes about “analysis terminable” and “analysis interminable”. It can start to look like an interminable process to some.

    I’ll state it. There is no shame in mental illness. I was in the long, distant past in psychotherapy. An amusing factoid is that Melanie Klein was my “analytical grandmother”. Some will find it of valid amusement that one commentator has it that “Melanie Klein was a great psychotherapist who teaches us how to stop either idealising or denigrating others…” Clearly, I only half learned my lessons at best. I was one, extremely angry, mainly self harming male person in my late teens and twenties. It was probably 50-50 that I would survive. I certainly destroyed many of my life chances in that period. The main danger to others was as collateral damage from my thankfully all solo automobile and motorcycle accidents, a number of which were under the heavy influence of alcohol and drugs. Old Nick looks after his own. I walked away (rather I staggered away) from every one. I easily could have ended up dead or in prison at that time. Yet I am still free to this day and can walk, talk and think, except that I can’t think very well when I get angry. I don’t hit people. I haven’t done that since I was 19. And I ever only hit another male with fists, facing me, shaping up to me and equal or larger in size. Not that that is any excuse.
    ]My politics or ideology is that of angry young left wing man turned into cranky, angry old man. Because of a combination of my personality and experiences I hate all bosses and managers and I have a visceral hatred of the capitalist system. I just hate it. No other word for it. In the spirit of Sandor Clegane, although I am not as big and ugly as that character, “F*** Capitalism”.

  19. GrueBleen;

    Correction, Melanie Klein was probably my analytical great-grandmother.

    Analytic Descent (Reconstructed)

    Sigmund Freud – > Sándor Ferenczi – > Melanie Klein – > Unknown -> Name Withheld – > Ikonoclast

    Talk about a form of six degrees of separation. Kevin Bacon where are you?

  20. @ 22 Iconoclast
    /My own opinion is that a good analyst can help some people amenable to that kind of treatment. I believe that a combination of psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioural therapy combined would work better than either in isolation but that is just an “educated” belief on my part.

    From my almost total lack of knowledge of the field, I’d probably agree that some talk therapy might be useful in many cases but I think one could substitute a friendly social worker, well-trained clergy or sometimes a sympathetic stranger for a ‘therapist’ working from a disproved theory.

    @ 21 GrueBleen

    No Freud was definitely not a psychologist!

    Mind you, just how to define a psychologist in the earlier days of psychology as a separate discipline (late 19th & early 20th C) one often would not have studied or graduated in “psychology” in many parts of the world as it was still establishing itself as a discipline. I think my undergraduate university did not split psychology from philosophy until the mid-1930’s You could have people coming into the field from all sorts of earlier interests or specialties.

    For early psychologists you might want to look at Wundt in Germany, Spearman in the UK or perhaps Binet in France or Thorndike in the USA. For a slightly later but very influential figure you might want to look at B. F. Skinner.

    I would have suggested Sir Cyril Burt but the high likelihood that he faked a lot of his results make me reconsider—Sstill his example has been an inspiration to many scientists both within the field of psychology and in the wider range of scientific endeavour.

  21. @GrueBleen

    The answer to the question ‘Was Freud a psychologist?’ is, as jrkrideau has already explained, is ‘No, he wasn’t — at least, not in the modern sense of holding an academic or professional qualification specifically in psychology, although there’s no reason not to recognise some people from the period before those qualifications even existed as having been psychologists in some other sense, which might or might not include Freud’; and the answer to the question ‘What was Freud?’ is, as I already explained, ‘If you mean what was his academic or professional qualification, he was a qualified medical doctor specialising in neurology’ (although I could add that it seems there were no formally recognised separate academic or professional qualifications in psychiatry at the time, so he could be considered to be included in the category of the closest thing to psychiatrists that existed at the time).

  22. # @ 25 J-D
    The answer to the question ‘Was Freud a psychologist?’ is, as jrkrideau has already explained, is ‘No, he wasn’t — at least, not in the modern sense of holding an academic or professional qualification specifically in psychology

    I would also suggest that Freud looks more like a medical man seduced by his own ungrounded theories.

    My impression is that most psychologists back then actually liked to have some data to support their theories—poor as the data sometimes was and wacky as some theories may have been.

    This view is almost certainly fuelled by my prejudice that clinical psychology is a minor component of psychology, useful as a trade–like much of medicine as practices by the majority of doctors or engineering as practiced by the majority of engineers—but does little or nothing to advance our knowledge of human behaviour.

  23. @jrkrideau
    Your #24 and #26

    I’ll need to think a little more before responding to Ikono, however a quickie response to you:

    Freud, to my recall, was most ‘famous’ for his ‘topographical models’ of the human psyche: initially conscious-preconscious-subconscious and later id-ego-superego. My simple understanding was that Freud was the first to bring the idea of the subconscious into consciousness [haha] and that nobody much pays the id-ego-superego thing much attention nowadays – other than Freudian psychoanalysts, I guess.

    So, where stands thinking about the ‘subconscious’ and would that concept be part of the beginnings of psychology, thus giving Freud at least some part to play in its genesis.

    Otherwise, Binet I know something about, Spearman’s name I have at least heard of, but know nothing of Wundt or Thorndike. Does Havelock Ellis have any part in this pantheon (died in the same year as Freud, I believe) or is he just a continuation of the Freud-Jung-Adler ‘axis’ ? As to good ol’ B.F. yes, of him I know, especially Beyond Freedom and Dignity of which I still have a mostly unread copy. But if B.F., why not Pavlov ?

  24. Therapists of any ideology are our western way of trying to make up for the friendship of others that would exist if we lived in a functional society. In a functional society nobody would have to become a misanthrope and avoid their neighbours.

    The methods that the therapist use are irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things; it is the interaction between you and the therapist that creates a space in which the possibility of examining your own self becomes possible and one develops the motivation to change.

    Before psychology and psychiatry, there was philosophy and religion and astrology which was as effective as medicine in the C17 before the medical fraternity got together and created the belief that male doctors were superior to female astrologers and then, based on that, medicine went on to become so much more effective than astrology, thanks to the information about how the body functions from war wounds.

    But imagine what could have happened if all the work and effort that has been expended on the medical model had been expended understanding human dysfunction/illness physical and mental, behaviour in the more holistic way that astrology offered. How healthy would we be if our knowledge about ourselves had been from the beginning, situated in, and committed to understanding how people work within their environment, rather than examining the human body divorced from the brain/mind and the way the person ‘is’ in their world.

    The natural dynamics of small groups self-organising is sufficient to keep people as sane as they needed to be to fit in. n various societies that were too large for the natural group dynamic of small groups to work there were wandering monks with begging bowls, nuns in convents and the wise old woman in the next village. Back when we lived without madness

    In Madness and Civilisation, Foucault explain in his own idiosyncratic way of writing, that madness is not a natural, unchanging thing, but rather depends on the society in which it exists. Various cultural, intellectual and economic structures determine how madness is known and experienced within a given society. In this way, society constructs its experience of madness.

    I thought that the movie “A Dangerous Method” was an interesting examination of Freud and his personality and problems. Jung comes across as a far more intelligent and insightful investigator of human functioning and I have always been impressed by Jung’s ability to think outside the culture of the day that captured Freud, and be able to appreciate other cultural knowledge systems.

    Karen Horney is the antidote to Freud. Horney believed neurosis to be a continuous process—with neuroses commonly occurring sporadically in one’s lifetime. This was in contrast to the opinions of her contemporaries who believed neurosis was, like more severe mental conditions, a negative malfunction of the mind in response to external stimuli, such as bereavement, divorce or negative experiences during childhood and adolescence.”

    Horney also understood the fundamental importance of the early years of childhood for the development of the adult person and that all dysfunction in adults arises from poor socialisation of the adult as a child.

  25. @J-D
    Your #25

    Thanks for that very literalist interpretation, J-D, however I did fully understand the question I was asking and I am well aware that there was no formal qualification in psychology available to Freud, even if he’d wanted to pursue one.

    Though apparently the word ‘psychology’ began to be used in its modern sense after Christan Wolff’s two works Psychologia empirica (1732) and Psychologia rationalis (1734) – which I didn’t know, even though Mons Wolff on the moon is name after Christian, until I looked it up just now.

    Learn something new every day, don’t we. Or maybe it’s just like Monkey: “Daily, the clever man learns something. Daily, the wise man gives up some certainty. Perhaps.”

  26. @26 Julie Thomas

    Much better exposition than I could ever present.

    I must say I know nothing about Foucault and never heard of Karen Horney but my undergrad department were 75% behaviourists and/or learning theorists. I don’t think we had anything like a Freudian or Rogerian around. I totally missed anything about Freud as I was not in class that day.

    But if B.F., why not Pavlov ?

    I really don’t know but I think probably for two reasons. One, Pavlov was a physiologist I believe and it is likely that classical conditioning just was not his prime interest and two, operant (Skinnerian) learning is just a much more powerful and useful paradigm. Once you get the dog to salivate or a conservative politician to bark at the term “free market” there is not a lot more you can do with classical learning as far as I am aware.

  27. @jrkrideau

    It was just an idiosyncratic run down of the way I see that things fit together and make a story that makes sense. I never mean for my pronouncements to be taken as the truth; just one truth among many.

    I was incredibly lucky in the timing of my time at uni in the quality of the teaching staff, their interests and also my fellow students both the mature aged men and women and the younger people. The universe lined up to provide so many amazing experiences with people I had never known before. I came across ideas that I did know about but couldn’t integrate with what I knew and ideas that I hadn’t heard of.

    Mostly I learned how to do research and analyse things rationally and find out from libraries and later during my PhD, from the internet, what I want to know. It has always been part of my problem or the problem that other people have with me, that I want to know things that most other people do not care about.

    It cracks me up now when people talk about how society is too political correct when the political correctness that applied to someone like me asking questions in the past was so rigid and unquestioned.

    In my degree during the ’90’s there was freedom and support to explore all aspects of psychology and I suppose I was very motivated to go further than other students were, but some staff members were always willing to provide the support for me to go off in all directions. I didn’t notice the importance of that support at the time but I see it now.

    I was able to pull together so many loose threads of ideas and assumptions, expectations etc that underpinned my previous dysfunctional behaviour.

    I think that Rogers and his “unconditional positive regard” is a koan that all western practitioners need to consider.

  28. @jrkrideau
    Your #30

    But, but … Pavlov did have the idea of ‘reinforcement’ (though in a slightly under-developed way) and he did (albeit in Russian) coin the term ‘extinction’ which shows he was actually investigating the phenomena of conditioning in an empirical sense.

    Now human beings had been ‘training’ animals for tens of thousands of years before Pavlov without apparently discovering, or at least articulating, what Pavlov was finding.

    A journey of 1000 li (and the li is now standardised as 500m btw) must begin with a single step, and surely Pavlov was one who took some of these initial steps ?

  29. @Ikonoclast
    Your #22

    Hmm, welll I can’t dispute your account of psychoanalysis and analysands – it sort of accords with what I thought I once knew about it.

    When you say “It sounds like half a medical science and half a proto-science (at best) which is more or less what it is. At the same time, it also a craft and a kind of ethos.” I think that about covers it completely. However, i have read the odd critique of Freud over the years so I’ll probably give Richard Webster’s book a miss this time around (“so much to read, so little time”). But Freud (and Jung and Adler and Havelock Ellis and John Dewey and ….) are, thankfully, somewhat jaded subjects these days, and they don’t get splashed aound the general media as they did say 40 (and more) years ago.

    As to modes of therapy, well I try to adopt a simple “what works” approach – even some fairly simplistic recrafting of self-talk can help. But not with real sickness such as clinical schizophrenia, I’d say.

    But I am impressed by someone so close to ancestral fame – the nearest my very plebeian ancestors ever came to fame is that one of them may once have sung to a king. Perhaps … or maybe at a village fair or Passion Play.

    You have been very forthcoming with descriptions of your life and your travails – far more than I could be. But then, despite having my own episodes of teenage male anger and angst, I don’t think I ever climbed the escarpments you did. Some fairly standard Aussie binge drinking – and some fairly big binges at that, starting at age 16 – but I never went on to full blown alcoholism and eventually I just got sick and tired of waking up like that (and I think you’d understand what I mean by “like that”).

    My high point was an attempted suicide – so bloody asinine that I won’t embarass myself by recounting it. Suffice to say that though the psyche was willing, the brains (and the gas oven) were out to lunch. Just as well though that I didn’t live in an American ‘open carry’ state with a keen NRA father.

    But anyway, by way of just a little self confessed exposure, I thought I would post my one and only venture into poetry – from about 20 or so years ago:

    Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

    Will the darkness close upon you
    As a sweetly cooling rain;
    Will life go gentle from you.,
    Or will you swcream your pain.

    Did laughter fill your living
    And love your life entwine;
    Or did hurtings still your giving,
    Futility, your lonely sould enshrine.

    Did sweet music fill your lifedance
    Or was your singing but a mime;
    And were gods to grant the chance,
    Would you walk here one more time.

    Did you walk in happiness, strong amd pur[ose filled,
    Or bitterness your bev’rage, o’er brimmig every glaqss;
    Now all you’ve been and done and thought and willed.
    Is nothing piled on nothing, this too will pass.

    Yeah, I know; the scansion could do with a fair bit of improvement, but it does sort of say what I thought I felt.

  30. @GrueBleen

    Yep, you got it all about right. I mean about Freud et al. I also agree, if each person were to recount their “one darkest time” I doubt there would be many who did not have a “very serious event” to recount of either endogenous or exogenous origin. But we all have to pretend we are OK in general society. It’s de rigueur.

    Ah, juvenalia! We all wrote it. I had several exercise pads full which I had never shown anyone, thank goodness. Fortunately, I burnt it all one day at about age 19. Later I wrote a bit more and burnt that too. It became a theme. I was right to burn it all, it was really bad. I can remember some lines, won’t quote them.

    There was a great little book by Anthony Burgess Wilson who also wrote as Anthony Burgess – eg “A Clockwork Orange”. It was book on poetical form, discussed all the metres, rhyme forms etc. and then went into other topics. I can’t for the life of me remember the title and I can’t even find it on his extensive Wikipedia bibliography, but it is real… unless it was “English Literature: A Survey for Students” and I only read the sections covering poetical forms.

    It wasn’t a textbook of mine. Maybe my brothers had it. It was common for me at school and university to rapidly read all set books and then read many other tomes often on topics unrelated to any of my subjects. Indeed, I think I spent more time on autodidact projects than I ever did on any set subjects. Yet I passed well enough. Looking back, I have no idea why I didn’t formally study stuff I really liked. I think people told me those things wouldn’t get me a job plus what I liked changed every six months.

  31. GB

    “Now human beings had been ‘training’ animals for tens of thousands of years before Pavlov without apparently discovering, or at least articulating, what Pavlov was finding.”

    But what is the purpose and ultimate use of information about what dogs and humans do when in strange and unnatural environments? Some of the things he did to the poor dogs were truly barbaric and the results hardly worth finding out; they haven’t led to anything significant have they?

    lol Even the group Pavlov’s Dog only did one good tune.

    They have MRI’s for dogs now and have found some amazing things that dogs can do.


    My dog is better at training me than I am at training him. He is more consistent and motivated and much less easily distracted than I am.

  32. @Julie Thomas
    Your #35

    Hmm. As to what use Pavlov’s experiments were, perhaps I should mention the (apocryphal) meeting of the Royal Society attended by His Majesty, and sundry other ‘nobles’ as well, when Faraday was demonstrating some of the things he was finding out about electricity. “But,” His Majesty interjected, “of what use is this electricity ?”. “Ah, Your Majesty,” Faraday replied, “of what use is a baby ?”. Of course, i you were American, you’d swear on a stack of copies of the Constitution, that it was really Franklin who said that.

    Were Pavlov’s experiments as such very useful ? Yes and no: he did start off a field of study (IMHO, anyway) which kinda culminated in the work of B.F. Skinner without whose expertise a lot of Hollywood movies wouldn’t have had the meticulously performing animal stars that they frequently had (Skinner was a master at rapid training of performing animals – that’s any animals, birds, whatever – and did a lot of work training them for movies, apparently).

    Though yes, I’d agree that certainly some of what Pavlov did would never have gotten past a modern ethics committee. Skinner didn’t need to do any of that, of course, but then, Pavlov had already done it for him.

    As for you and your dog, well ‘mutual conditioning’ is how it always works. There’s some quite interesting material on how Skinner was ‘conditioning’ his young daughter, only to realise that she was conditioning him right back.

    The interesting creatures these days are crows and ravens (actually the whole corvus genus, apparently). Perhaps you’ve heard of the crows that drop nuts onto roads so that they’ll be run over by cars and cracked open ? Yes, well the really cute thing, apparently, is that some crows only drop the nuts on pedestrian crossings, then wait for somebody to use the crossing so that they can retrieve the cracked open nut in safety.

    The return of the sauropsids, and we synapsids better look to our laurels or we might be overtaken yet again. 🙂

  33. ““But,” His Majesty interjected, “of what use is this electricity ?”. “Ah, Your Majesty,” Faraday replied, “of what use is a baby ?”.

    Zed Hogan would call that type of question trolling. I think back in my hippie days we called it cultcha jamming, meaning that if you ask questions that critique assumptions that are so basic to a persons ‘self’ the cognitive dissonance created stops them thinking in their usual culturally determined and ‘straight’ way.

    But I did find that most hippies were the same as the straights they criticised; they just conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.

    it is difficult to answer these equivalence questions because there are so many possible responses but perhaps they will all lead to the same meeting point on the path to some sort of wisdom that has to begin with a focus on the baby and how that baby becomes an adult and who or what can reasonably be held responsible for the many failures we see around us in politics particularly.

    We all know what use a baby is, we can see it, we feel it. We are programmed by evolution to feel that way or we wouldn’t survive as a species. Our babies are so expensive and dangerous to produce and to raise.

    We need babies but we do not need light to continue to exist and it is only in the realm of imagination that electric light could have been understood to be valuable or the negative long terms effects could have been seen or felt.

    But perhaps these things are equivalent in that a baby can be a good or a bad thing. Did you ever read the adult stories by Roald Dahl? One is about a baby that goes through a lot to survive and right at the end, we learn the baby is Adolph Hitler.

    We do know now, and for sure there were groups of humans in the past who without written psychology knew enough about human development to avoid raising babies even those with the psychopath gene, who grow up into mad, bad or sad people.

    “Were Pavlov’s experiments as such very useful ?”

    I’d say you are trying to be unnecessarily ‘rational’ by ignoring the negative effects of the pain the animals suffered or you are assigning this factor a low score when you assess the value of the experiments.

    Have you heard of Temple Grandin and the way she can imagine being an animal and understand how they think. I’d say Skinner was on the autism spectrum and his success with animal training was because of his ability to understand animals and human babies without any need of the small minded trivial information that Pavlov acquired.

    And if Skinner noticed that his child was conditioning him, he was failing as her teacher if he didn’t understand that as the adult in the relationship he has a responsibility to make the effort to out think her and direct her behaviour so she will grow up to be a functional adult.

    The interesting thing for me is the way other cultures who do not regard themselves as masters of the universe as we western people do, think about their world. We have grown up with the belief that we should have the power to do what we like with the earth and it’s creatures and I can’t find any rational reason for that assumption about our ‘rights’ to be a good thing.

    I think we will only be overtaken by sauropsids if rich old white men – and the women who support them – with their patriarchy and all that ideology entails including capitalism are able to keep control.

  34. @J-D
    Yep, and furthermore was a strict materialist and reductionist – he believed those concepts of id, ego, superego etc would in time be found to have physical (anatomic or chemical)correspondents within the brain. Very unlike Jung.

  35. @Ikonoclast
    Your #34

    “Pretending” we’re ok ? Thing is, lots of us are mostly ok – as I usually was between binges and such. We can also be turned on by the ‘grand gesture’ betimes. But yes, I think many might have a “one darkest time” amongst their memories.

    As to your “juvenalia”, well it’s alright for you: when you’ve got heaps of exercise pads full of it, then of course you can burn it. But when you’ve got only one … actually it all happened because I accidentally rediscovered an old prinout, and there it was.

    Can’t help you with the Anthony Burgess Wilson book unfortunately, though what you’ve said does ring a very faint and distant bell in my fading grey matter. Experience shows that attempts to recover such phantoms never succeed, but I’ll have a bit of a look around later anyway – for my own curiousity if nothing else.

    Autodidacting is good – I’ve always believed that the best ‘teachers’ don’t ‘teach’ – if you take that to be an active interventionist pursuit – but act as mentors and auditors, allowing us to get on with the business of learning while providing us with an intelligent and sympathetic audience to try our our thinking on.

  36. @derrida derider
    Your #38

    You mean the triune brain where the ‘reptile brain’ is the id, the ‘mammal brain’ is the ego and the ‘human brain’ is the superego ?

    Well yes, that would explain everything, wouldn’t it. And it was certainly beloved of Arthur Koestler in his sillier moments.

  37. @Julie Thomas
    Your #37

    Ah well, I don’t think I’ll accept any responsibility for how Zed Hogan (any relation to Hec ?) applies his intension driven deconstruction of what people may say. Just advise him to reread his Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida Derider.

    Now “culcha jamming” sounds very positive to me – though your follow up critique of the “hippies” kinda belies that. But never mind, intellectual (as opposed to physical) shock therapy can’t be all bad … unless it motivates some to go in a vengeful killing spree, which is what I guess it does do quite often in the USA. Anyhow, being “conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.” is just the homo sapiens sapiens way, isn’t it ?

    Re “coming to a meeting point”, are you a Tielhard de Chardin fan ? I have to confess that I am not. And I wouldn’t want to live in a Noosphere, either.

    However, I believe that the meaning of the ‘Faraday question’ is just that a baby may have great potential, but you’ll never know unless you allow it to grow and learn and mature. Likewise electricity – and incidentally, Faraday was experimenting with electromagnetism, not light: he basically gave the world the electric motor which had simply enormous impact on the world and its citizens. As for babies, well Faraday was around in the mid 1800s which is quite a while after the times of John Graunt and the fact that approximately 60% of children born live were dead before the age of 16. The comparable figure in Farady’s day was that about 1/3rd of children were dead by the age of 18. So maybe children were either more, or less, precious back then, depending on your values and emotions. Incidentally, I understand that at the present time approximately 3.9 per 1000 of “quick” children are dead before their 1st birthday.

    Re “Pavolv’s experiments”, I rather think I was trying to answer the question “Were Pavlov’s experiments as such very useful ?”, not the question “What moral judgement should be passed on Pavlov.”. Frankly I’m not an expert in Pavlov and don’t want to become one, so basically, I can’t honestly answer either question – though I still think his work was ‘useful, even if not much more than a ‘conversation starter’.

    Yes, I had heard of Temple Grandin and even seen her on tv a couple of times – but not for quite a while. Whether she really “can imagine being an animal and understand how they think” I know not, but she does seem to grok them quite well. As to the autistic spectrum, I’ve always thought that we’re all on that, just that some of us are much closer to one end than the other.

    There are cultures that “do not regard themselves as masters of the universe” ? Which ones are they then ? Basically all of the cultures I’ve ever seen have some kind of belief that they can do what they need and/or want: hunt, fish, herd, slaughter, enslave, kill – whatever it takes. However, I agree that our “Judeo-Christian European Civilisation” (so-called) has a more arrogant view of this because our culture is the first to actually have a significant degree of mastery. A state that many other cultures are now working hard to catch up with. So I excpect that in the not too distant future, the rich old white men – and the women who suport them – will be significantly outnumbered by rich old not-white men – and the women who support them.

    So it goes.

  38. @GrueBleen

    “Anyhow, being “conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.” is just the homo sapiens sapiens way, isn’t it ?”

    I don’t think so. Saying meh that’s just what happens get over it is a great attitude for you and the Bourbons but like them you don’t have to live with the peasants.

    “are you a Tielhard de Chardin fan”

    I have never heard of this person and I’m not usually a fan of things.

    “I believe that the meaning of the ‘Faraday question’ is just that a baby may have great potential, but you’ll never know unless you allow it to grow and learn and mature.”

    I assumed that was the point you were making and I’m sorry it was not obvious that I was critiquing that simplistic and totally last century point of view. But meh, so it goes.

    It is disappointing that you cannot imagine a world in which Faraday never lived and yet something better than the electric motor was developed. Imagination is something I’m good at apparently, and I’m not really into stumbling and mumbling.

    “As for babies, well Faraday was around in the mid 1800s which is quite a while after the times of John Graunt and the fact that approximately 60% of children born live were dead before the age of 16. The comparable figure in Farady’s day was that about 1/3rd of children were dead by the age of 18. So maybe children were either more, or less, precious back then, depending on your values and emotions. Incidentally, I understand that at the present time approximately 3.9 per 1000 of “quick” children are dead before their 1st birthday.”

    I have no idea how this information is relevant to any of the things I was thinking were relevant to the conversation we were having lol. There were many many other cultures raising children in Faradays’ time and I’m quite sure that there were groups of people in places around the world who were providing their children to have better and longer lives than the poor people in western countries even when the rich in these countries had electric motors.

    I think your assessment of the benefits of things for people in general or in the abstract is biased by the things you like. But it doesn’t matter much to you that other people don’t find those particular things impressive and you find it difficult to accept that there are things that were once thought to be good for people have turned out in hindsight to be not so good or to have unintended negative consequences.

    There are cultures that “do not regard themselves as masters of the universe” ?

    Of course there are. It is incredible that you don’t know this.

    Only the Bible, the Torah and the Koran say that their male God gives them dominion over the animals and the earth. The many god religions do not make this claim and their prescriptions for living always provide for worship and appreciation of the power of nature which is usually female over people.

    “because our culture is the first to actually have a significant degree of mastery.”

    Your view of mastery is not my view of mastery.

    Let’s hope it doesn’t go.

  39. @Julie Thomas
    Your #42

    I am sorry, Julie, that I tend to forget that people “on the autistic spectrum” are just completely unable to recognise irony. My bad.

    However, I do enjoy the way you wander off down the byways and laneways of your own ‘universe’, always believing that you have taken the morally, if not intellectually, superior position.

    But I do have a couple of points of curiousity: firstly: so the idea that a baby may have potential that may not be appreciated unless it is allowed to grow and learn and mature is “a simplistic and totally last century point of view”. Ok, well what’s the complex and totally this century view of such in your universe ?

    Secondly, what makes you think that people pay any attention to what their “holy” (or other) books say when that conflicts with what they want to do. I grant that, for instance, some of the south Asian Indians have objections to taking animal lives at least some of the time – especially, I understand, the Jains. But has that ever stopped Indians killing, raping and enslaving ? Is this likely to ever matter to you ?

    But otherwise, yes, always a pleasure talking with you. One of these days maybe we’ll even try communicating too. I have a very good book on the skills of interpersonal communication that I can recommend: ‘People Skills’ by Robert Bolton. I have to warn though, that I once actually seriously tried the skills and techniques from the first part of the book, subtitled ‘Listening Skills’, and they really worked. But it wasn’t very successful because it was so one-sided: using Bolton, I found I could listen to people quite well, but they, not having the benefit of the book, couldn’t listen to me. So I gave up, and now I just yell my words into the growing incoherent hubbub like everybody else.

  40. @GrueBleen

    “Ok, well what’s the complex and totally this century view of such in your universe ?”

    babies do not just grow into people who automatically fit in to the society in which they are born. If the society is simple and the rules are clear most children will grow into good citizens but there will always be the outliers.

    But if you take the view that a human life is the most valuable source of wealth – human capital – then raising every child into a citizen who makes good choices, is the only way to change the world. Understanding the laws of human behaviour and before that accepting that there are laws of human nature – every life theoretically can be represented as an algorithm – and understanding these laws requires a different type of ‘intelligence’ and imagination than the intelligence and imagination that is sees landing on the moon as mastery – and what about mstrery .

    Some things can only be obvious to those of us who do lack social skills and more importantly do not want to acquire them. I think that the DSM diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder is relevant here. Not having to have bourgeois social skills is why I like living among my poors; they don’t judge me for this failure. 🙂

    Sometimes and with some people I can do irony but your communication style quite often grates on my irrational sensitivities and prejudices about men who patronise me – were you ever told by a outraged and angry man that you were too clever for your own good? it’s a bit scary for young girls and women.

    “what makes you think that people pay any attention to what their “holy” (or other) books say when that conflicts with what they want to do.”

    Living among poor people and reading a lot of anthropology and psychology. It seems obvious to me that most human beings want and need a religion or a philosophy that provides them with a somewhat systematic set of rules that govern their behaviour. Most people do not want to be free.

    Do you really not grok the difference between a philosophy that advocates owning the land as opposed to one in which the land owns you? Do you think that the Aborigines are making it up that their relationship to their land is the way they understand and create their ‘selves’?

  41. @Julie Thomas
    Your #44

    Hmm, well lots of people have a touch of ODD in their makeup, even if it only ever surfaces as ‘dumb insolence’ now and then. Anyhow, I don’t care if you do or don’t have “bourgeois social skills”, Julie because I don’t have to socialise with you, nor you with me.

    But I do have some confusion: I was talking about babies not being able to reach their potential unless they are allowed to grow, learn and mature. You respond by branding that as a “simplistic and totally last century point of view” and then you proceed to go on about something that is esentially a matter of allowing children to “grow, learn and mature”. Paticularly when, for instance, you talk about “raising every child into a citizen who makes good choices”. Now yes, I am not a genius, but for the life of me I cannot see how that objective can be achieved without the child going through a process which involves growth, learning and maturity.

    But I am all ears (err, eyes) Julie. Please tell me what exactly it is that you would subject children to instead of a process of growth, learning and maturity ? Degeneration, ignorance and permanent juvenescence perhaps ?

    As to my “communication style” grating on your “irrational sensitivities and prejudices” I’m not quite sure what I can do about that. From my point of view, I say what I think to be quite quotidian (not in the malarial sense) things and you react as though I’ve said something else entirely – or so it seems to me. Nor am I “outraged and angry” nor trying to tell you that you are too clever for your own good. I have no idea how clever, or otherwise, you are, but I am quite at home with clever people of all sexes and genders. Of course I do think you have some weirdo ideas, and you most likely think I have a lot of old, boring, plebeian ones … or something. Such is life – or so “they” tell me.

    But just let me illustrate with a Goonshow dialogue:

    G: “Do you like Kipling ”
    N: “I don’t know, I’ve never kippled.”
    G “Err, it’s Rudyard Kipling.”
    N: “Yes, I expect it is.”
    [You’ll possibly need to audibly recite it to get the full effect]

    So when I say: “Anyhow, being “conformed to a different set of confused and irrational assumptions.” is just the homo sapiens sapiens way, isn’t it ?”
    and you respond: “I don’t think so. Saying meh that’s just what happens get over it is a great attitude for you and the Bourbons but like them you don’t have to live with the peasants.” it is clear that you’re busy kipling, and that maybe it is ruddy hard to kipple.

    But when I’m presenting the proposition that children cannot reach their potential unless they can go on to grow, learn and mature, and then I present some numbers regarding the one way of absolutely guaranteeing that a child will not be able to do that – ie early death – with a view to thinking about what effect that kind of early death rate would have on people at the time, and you just respond by lecturing me on how in some other places kids lived ‘longer and better lives”. Of course they did – why would you think I didn’t know that ?

    Just one last small thing: “It seems obvious to me that most human beings want and need a religion or a philosophy that provides them with a somewhat systematic set of rules that govern their behaviour. Most people do not want to be free.”

    None of that implies that people actually take any notice of their “holy” books when the “set of rules” conflicts with what they want to do. Maybe you live among people who are perpetually reading their “bible” just to make sure that breathing, drinkinng and eating are ok and permitted by their god(s), but the people I know – mostly, but not exclusively Christian – have never read their “holy” book in their entire lifetime, and nor do they consult their priests as to what is within or outside the ‘set of rules”. Mostly they just do what they want to do, and hope to rationalise it later – just a kind of .”meh that’s just what happens get over it”, I’d say.

    In short, just “making it up” is the human way.

  42. The whole art of reform is controlling the default, the burden of proof. The PC quote is so telling. Yes, there can be problems, but competition is (other things being equal) a Good Thing. So you don’t really address things on their merits, the presumptions have all been set up, the direction of ‘reform’ has been specified. So it’s now just down to pesky ‘implementation’ questions as to whether it works out. If it doesn’t work out? Well it was just bad implementation. So then you have another go!

  43. @Nicholas Gruen
    Your #46

    Is that irony ? Or are you really turning into a late-life Pollyanna ?

    The only place that competition is, unequivocally, a “Good Thing” is on a sporting field. Everywhere else it’s a handicap race between the limited benefits, and the considerable costs, of competition. And often, it’s just not possible – or do you think that Einstein should have waited until he could dig up some competition in producing the theory of General Relativity because competition is always a “Good Thing” ?

  44. I’m going to delete the last few comments. Please Grue and Julie, take a break and don’t interact with each other for a while.

  45. @John Quiggin
    Your #54

    Acceded, of course. But will you please either moderate or do something with my #62 in the Homemaking thread – I really would like to see if Ernestine has any response to it. Merci.

  46. Re Nicholas Gruen, this sounds like the “Rasputin Option”.

    Eg, try poisoning the target. If that fails, go to the stabbing option. If the cutlery doesn’t work, repeat with strangulation, then to guns etc.

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