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

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

29 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Feel part of the / an economists community JQ?
    Andrew Gelman says “I don’t think that statisticians and epidemiologists—or, for that matter, sociologists or political scientists or computer scientists—have the sense of being a community in the same way that economists do. Economists can, to first approximation, “speak with one voice.” They identify with their profession. Even the “heterodox” economists seem keenly sensitive that they are part of the economics community, even when feeling they are in the minority on some issues. This is a strength (or, sometimes a weakness) of the economics profession, that economists think of “economist” as their primary identity.

    “Economics as a community”

  2. On that score, I wonder what the resident Professors of Economics and graduates of economics think of this paper?

    Can you repost as a link to a web page, please. At the moment the entire paper opens in the comments thread – JQ

  3. Merry Judaean taxes

    Come, come, where’s the festive spirit? For the Christmas season, physics blogs will give space to pieces about the relativistic speeds needed by Santa’s sleigh to visit all the children in the world in one night. Mathematics blogs may speculate on the computability of an optimum reindeer route. This is an economics blog, so I’ll give you taxes in Judaea under the Roman empire to savour with the mince pies..

    Readers will remember this passage from old carol services.
    Luke 2:1-5, KJV:
    And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

    The passage is massively problematic. The first problem has nothing o do with Luke but his translators into English. Modern English Bibles all replace “taxed” with “census”, “registered”, or ”enrolled”. Fair enough. The Greek word is ἀπογράφεσθαι (apographesthai) – notice the “graph” root, to write. There is a perfectly good Greek word for tax, φόρος (fóros), which Luke did not use. Census it is.

    The taxes come from the great Tyndale (1526), followed by English Protestant bibles until quite recently. He did not get the idea from Wycliffe (ca. 1390), who used “described”, which is wrong in a different way. Tyndale ‘s wording is an imaginative stretch. But he cut to the heart of it. A modern census is carried out to allow better planning of public services, public expenditure and electoral representation. The Roman Empire was not in the least interested in these purposes, but only in pinning down the tax base, or else. Jews remembered Qurinius’ tax clerks all right.

    Which brings us to the chronology problem with Luke. In Chapter 1 he puts the Annunciation “in the days of Herod the king”. Herod the Great, a client monarch subordinate to Rome, died in 4 BCE. His kingdom was then split between three sons. Gallee, including Nazareth, went to Herod Antipas as tetrarch, until he was deposed in 39 CE. Herod Archelaus inherited Judea, Samaria, and Idumea as ethnarch. He did not last as long. Augustus got rid of him in 6 CE and incorporated these territories into the Empire under a Roman prefect (best-known incumbent Pontius Pilate). That’s when and why Publius Sulpicius Quirinius* carried out his tax census in 6 CE (Josephus). Client kings paid lump-sum tributes, and how they raised the money was their own affair. Directly ruled provinces had to apply the standard Roman tax system. There is at least a nine-year gap between Herod’s death and the census, so one of the date benchmarks is seriously wrong.

    Wikipedia piles it on
    “There are major difficulties in accepting Luke’s account: the gospel links the birth of Jesus to the reign of Herod the Great, but the census took place in 6 CE, nine years after Herod’s death in 4 BCE; there was no single census of the entire empire under Augustus; no Roman census required people to travel from their own homes to those of distant ancestors; and the census of Judea would not have affected Joseph and his family, living in Galilee. [….] Most critical scholars have therefore concluded that Luke’s account is in error.”

    A different Wikipedia page (I’ve lost the link) suggests that Joseph may have had property in Bethlehem that had to be registered in person. Apart from the total absence of evidence for this proposition, Joseph was not a taxpayer in Judaea but in Galilee, and he would have paid his taxes to the Herodian king or tetrarch not the Roman prefect. And why take his heavily pregnant wife on a risky trip just to sort out some red tape?

    Here is my suggestion. Warning: this is also without direct evidence and I am totally unqualified, but it’s much more fun.

    Assume a birth date in Herod’s reign. Herod was a flamboyant and ruthless tyrant, and working-class Jews would be abut 20 times more likely to remember his doings than those of a standard-issue Roman bureaucrat like Quirinius. So we’ll assume a birth date for Jesus shortly before 4 BCE- This leaves us with two possibilities. One: the story of the trip to Bethlehem is pious fiction, designed to make the story fit Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5:2). If that’s so, why make the fiction so incoherent? Two: Mary and Joseph did travel to Bethlehem for the birth – but for a quite different reason than taxes.

    The aha! clue is the clause about “the house and lineage of David”. Tax collectors have never had any interest in the ancestors of taxpayers, and that holds for Herod’s minions as well as those of Quirinius. We know that Joseph was proud of the claim, which is how it has come own to us. One other player in the story could easily have been interested too: Herod. As a merely convert ruler and quisling, he had every reason to worry about messianic Jewish cults. At the very end of his life, he had two radical teachers, Matthias and Judas, burnt alive for inciting their students to cut down the sacrilegious golden eagle he had placed over the gate to his rebuilt Temple (Josephus, Jewish War, Book 1, chapter 33). Herod also executed one of his wives and two of his sons, not to mention setting up the same fate for the last Hasmonean king Antigonus. The Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2) is not attested by non-Biblical sources, but nobody argues it was out of character.

    So here’s the scenario. Herod – who has read Micah too – gets wind of, or imagines out of paranoia, a messianic conspiracy based in Bethlehem involving a descendant of David. He summons everybody in his kingdom claiming Davidic descent to Bethlehem to nip the conspiracy in the bud, perhaps with a few executions |pour décourager les autres\. (Not going makes you an object of suspicion in Galilee.) The murder of the infants comes later, but it´s part of the same story.

    And would he have been entirely wrong about Joseph and especially Mary?
    Luke 1, 52-53, NIV, from the Magnificat:
    He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
    He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

    In context, these are dangerous fighting words. Mary’s son did go on to found a messianic Jewish cult, which did end up taking over the mighty Roman Empire and overthrowing its gods. Of course, the price of this victory was sidelining the egalitarian side of the message: though it’s still there to be rediscovered from time to time by the likes of Francis of Assisi, William Tyndale and Martin Luther King.

    *Footnote: Quirinius’ great achievement as governor of Syria was crushing a handful of bandits in the Cicilian mountains. With three crack legions at my command, i would have fancied my chances of success too.

  4. J.Q.,

    I plead incompetence at linking. Here’s a second attempt.

    I am interested in replies from card-carrying Professors of Economics and other economics graduates. Clearly, the article makes some strong attacks on “conventional economics” as depicted in Mankiw-style textbooks. It needs a reply IMO. Obviously, my bias is that I already think Mankiw-style ecoomics is balderdash. The Capital as Power school IMO has developed (not only in this paper) a strong scientific and social science critique of classical and neoclassical economics. The economics academy (again IMO) needs to engage, not ignore. Who knows, something might come out of constructive critical interactions.

  5. “Let this sink in— worldwide cumulative Omicron spiked up 31% in just one day. You can try to delude yourself that a slightly “milder” virus won’t kill many people — but only if you lie to yourself about how exponential math works.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

  6. @James W. Interesting points. But the Herod theory seems to assume that Jesus was in fact the Messiah. Otherwise, why would there have been an upsurge in rumours precisely at the time of his birth, rather than when he began preaching.

    I’ve always assumed the Bethlehem story was retconned to give Jesus the appropriate ancestry, despite coming from the wrong part of the country and having a question mark over his legitimacy. Similarly with his entry into Jerusalem into a donkey, though this may have been a conscious symbolic choice by Jesus rather than a retrospective invention

  7. Palestine (and Galilee in particular) was a hotbed of religious radicalism at the time, as Persian universalism (Zoroastrianism), Greek philosophy and Judaic prophetic traditions merged and clashed. Galilee because it was an area of Greek and Persian settlement and on the main inland route from Syria and Mesopotamia to Egypt. All the Gospels were extensively retconned to fit long-standing Judaic narratives of the Messiah, with Syriac and Persian motifs thrown in (virgin birth, sojourn in the desert, angels and so on). This does not mean Jesus did not exist – at the core he was a standard Judaic prophet, if with an unusually strict view on divorce. There’s enough near eye-witness testimony to his life, and documented arguments over what he said within the lifetimes of those who knew him.
    The writers would not have thought of what they were doing as falsifying the record. It was another kind of truth – a record of what was plainly meant to happen as much as what did.

  8. PS: If Herod did summon Joseph and others to Bethlehem, it would have been easy for him to concoct a legend blaming the whole thing on he Romans. This would have been very credible, coming from an overt Roman stooge. 50 years on, this blurry story gets confabulated with Quirinius’ entirely factual and memorable tax census. I’m not suggesting my conspiracy theory is more believable than the pious fiction. It’s striking that none of the Gospels, even John, suggest that Jesus (or his adversaries) made any claims or counter-claims during his ministry about his birth. Nor IIRC does Acts suggest this played any part in the preaching of the embryonic Church, which was not shy about making the equally extreme claim about the Resurrection.

    The incident of Mathias and Judas recounted by Josephus illustrates Peter T’s point about the febrile messianic atmosphere in Palestine at the time, indeed right up to the disaster of CE 70.

  9. @KT2 Gelman is right about economists. We disagree violently among ourselves, but everyone agrees on who is an economist (even a heterodox one) and who is not. Same for philosophers. But if he’s right (he usually is) not for other fields

  10. According to the Urban Dictionary, I am an economist:

    “economist – one who, starting from a position of over-educated and under-informed logical supposition, commences making erroneous and devastating judgements about the functioning of the world, and then formally codifies their misunderstanding in dogmatic and arrogant absurdity.

    Example – “Man, that guy is such an “economist”.

  11. James Wimberley, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post with the innocence of a 3 or 4 year old hearing stories about stories and not having heard about Luke xyz No before. The best Christmas magic story I’ve come across for a long time. Not even the word “tax” disturbed my fantasy land enjoyment.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  12. Is there even such a thing as a standard path to becoming an epidemology graduate?
    The only formal training program i´ve ever seen started at the Ph.D. level and was probably established recently due to corona. The epidemiologists that show up on TV seem to have trainend all over the place before at least to a master level, medicine, physics.

  13. Thanks Ernestine, and best wishes of the season to you and yours!

    My Josephus link for some reason does not work. Here’s a different one from Project Gutenberg:
    A thought about the extreme punishment. Josephus puts it down to the amour-propre of a dying tyrant. But Herod was always calculating, and something else could have been at work. Not placating the Romans: Augustus was no doubt happy to see Judas and Matthias executed, but why the OTT theatre of cruelty? The particular point of burning is that you don’t leave a body that can be entombed and become an object of veneration. The Tanakh does prescribe death by burning for incest and approves of it for idolatry. You have to wonder whether Judas or Matthias were not just traditionalist agitators but made messianic claims about themselves. Cf- Jan Bockelson and Bernhard Knipperdolling in Munster in 1535.

  14. This quote has a fractal quality – self similar at all scales, from one human, especially Scomo, society, the market.

    “Quote of The Day (WIDA)geoff goodfellow

    *”A society that values attention over integrity will eventually self destruct.”*

    The RISKS Digest
    Volume 32 Issue 95Tuesday, 14th December 2021

  15. The Grand Experiment in NSW continues apace…3057 positive Covid tests. No PCR testing except in limited cases, hence loss of visibility into the rise of new variants, and the spread of the omicron variant. No QR codes, so linkage of positive cases is broken, making contact tracing a much more difficult and error prone task—if they are even doing it. Mask wearing, and so on, is left up to the individual to decide; kind of like making it optional whether to have seatbelts, let alone wear them, or drunk-driving isn’t a good idea but we won’t ban it, ’cause, you know, “personal responsibility,” and all that.

    Masks greatly decrease the viral load in shared air. P95 masks, tightly fitted, are very effective in cutting down airborne transmission, even if you sneeze or cough. There is only a modest cost to having fairly good masks, and they are reusable in a jam, so we should be making use of the better masks if we can, and cloth ones if that’s all we can get hold of.

    Economics: During a pandemic, there are two things that can kill a business stone dead. If the government does a lockdown and fails to support the businesses through that period, that’s one way of killing a business. If you let the virus rip, and then people panic and vote with their feet, pulling out of every social engagement because they see other people taking no care, and businesses collapse as a consequence. If people hear of a recent outbreak linked to a particular business, that too can sink an individual business, even if it was a once-off occurrence.

    So, the question is: what should governments do, in order to sail between those two economically damaging shoals? I would have thought the range of solutions would involve compulsory wearing of masks in all group settings at business venues, except when eating or drinking. Some rapid antigen testing, QR codes, easy access 24 hour test sites, and a stable set of restrictions, so that they become habit forming, and people become acclimatized to those restrictions, while still being able to go out and do things, economic things.

  16. I don’t see why Augustus has to be involved. Judas and Matthias were not Roman citizens but Herod’s subjects. Conflict between the Phil-Hellene Jews and the traditionalists was of long standing – as were conflicts among the different sects (even when under siege by the Romans in 69/70, the sects were throwing each other off the walls). A more or less unified rabbinical Judaism comes after the fall of Jerusalem – and its centre shifts to Mesopotamia (where it stays until the 19th century).

  17. With all due respect (and I had my little jokes too) I am not sure that we can justify too much waffling on about 2,000 year old myths while our political economy system and its architects insist that we all get infected with a dangerous, mutating virus. It seems to me as concerned citizens we might have these more important matters to think about.

    One of the most important things is to not be continually duped by the lies and false assumptions continually trotted out to minimize pandemic dangers before proper data are available. The “Omicron is Mild” myth is a prime example. It has already been debunked in a number of ways by real data all pointing the other way. Most data show that Omicron is at best only slightly less dangerous than Delta which by the way was and is several many times more dangerous than the original Wuhan strain. “Danger” being a compound of infectiousness and lethality and also highly influenced by immune escape and vaccine escape which are both happening to a large degrees with Omicron. In compound effects and likely impactes, Omicron is far more dangerous than any previous variant. One can already say this with about 99% certainty.

    It’s more dangerous for children and young people as new data show.

    “New hospitalization record for kids age 0-5 for #COVID19–now up Upwards arrow 39% in England Flag of England in children 0-5 years old in just one week. This is consistent with #Omicron being 20% more severe in children, along with high infections in younger people.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    To people who (implicitly) say COVID-19 child death rates are acceptable from Delta and now Omicron, Feigl-Ding points out the death rates are now matching those from child cancers. Walk into any relevant forum, especially one with parents present, and try to tell them child cancers at current rates are acceptable. So why are we implicitly accepting COVID-19 child death rates by saying we have to “live” with the virus?

    COVID-19 has the potential to be vastly more dangerous again than it has proven even to date. At every stage of the pandemic, the real developments have greatly exceeded the worst prognostications of almost everyone, both experts and lay doomists like me, alike. Why do we continually think it can’t get worse when it has gotten vastly worse in each major iteration so far? Our optimism bias and even just our conservatism bias is sorely misplaced. Our bias must now be one of extreme realistic pessimism but one which actuates rigorous action to defeat and eradicate the virus. This pathogen has the potential to destroy our species if left unchecked. That has to be our assumption at this point. There appears no near upper limit to the evolution of its lethal threat to humans.

    SARS_Cov_2 is now spilling back into animal and wild animal populations. Epidemics have occurred in at least two known species. Minks and now white tailed deer (US). Felines and canines have shown sporadic infections thus far. Epidemics are predictably certain or highly likely in bats and in other species such as pangolin, foxes and racoon dogs “The common raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), also known as the Chinese raccoon dog, Asian raccoon dog, mangut (its Evenki name), neoguri (its Korean name) or simply raccoon dog is a canid indigenous to mainland East Asia and northern Vietnam. It is one of two extant species in the genus Nyctereutes, alongside the Japanese raccoon dog (N. viverrinus). Despite its name, its closest relatives are the true foxes, and not the American raccoons. ” – Wikipedia. It is even thought in some quarters that the intermediate host of SARs_Cov_2 (if it had one) between bat and human was the Asian raccoon dog.

    In addition, at least one pre-print paper is available which floats the theory, with considerable genetic marker evidence, that Omicron evolved in mice, not lab mice but feral mice, living as commensual pests with humans. In other words, if this theory is true, SARs_Cov_2 jumped from humans to mice, got a lot of its nasty mutations there and then jumped back to humans as Omicron. This would explain why it popped up seemingly without human fore-runner variants, precisely because the forerunner variants evolved in mice. It’s just a theory with some marker evidence at this stage but it is indeed possible. Sooner or later this process will happen or happen again, almost for certain and vastly multiply our problems.

    This spill-out and spill-back to humans, potential and soon real if not real already, exponentially changes the “game” yet again. This can easily spin out of all control. Denialism of the harsh realities and dangers of this pandemic only makes disaster more nearly certain.

  18. NSW winning – if a higher R0 is your criteria.

    “If we look at the reproduction rate, that is also up in NSW, where the positive test rate is 2.23%. In Victoria, it is 1.86%.

    “Anthony Macali 🧬(@migga)

    🔵 Victoria #covid19vic
    1.86% positive test rate
    392 hospitalised (-14)
    73 ICU active (-8)
    6 deaths

    ⚫️ NSW #covid19nsw
    2.23% positive test rate
    284 hospitalised (+23)
    39 ICU (+6)
    2 deaths

    “December 20, 2021”

  19. I hope you don’t suffer the same JQ.

    Discoving the singularity enabled Karl Schwarzschild to Concieve of societal Wiemar black holes “actually taking place in the Fatherland.”

    On my list.

    “The Ecstasy of Scientific Discovery, and Its Agonizing Price

    [ This is one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2021. See the full list. ]

    By Benjamín Labatut
    Translated by Adrian Nathan West

    “In December 1915, while serving on the Russian front, the German astronomer and mathematician Karl Schwarzschild sent a letter to Albert Einstein that contained the first precise solution to the equations of general relativity. Schwarzschild’s approach had been simple. He had plugged Einstein’s equations into a model that posited an ideal, perfectly spherical star, in order to calculate how its mass would warp the surrounding space. Schwarzschild’s solution was elegant, but it revealed something monstrous: If the same process were applied not to an ideal star but to one that had begun to collapse, its density and gravity would increase infinitely, creating an enclosed region of space-time, or a singularity, from which nothing could escape. Schwarzschild had given the world its first glimpse of black holes.

    “In “When We Cease to Understand the World,” a gripping meditation on knowledge and hubris, Benjamín Labatut describes how Schwarzschild was seized by a sense of foreboding over his own discovery. “The true horror” of the singularity, he told a fellow mathematician, was that it created a “blind spot, fundamentally unknowable,” since even light would be unable to escape it. And what if, he continued, something similar could occur in the human psyche? “Could a sufficient concentration of human will — millions of people exploited for a single end with their minds compressed into the same psychic space — unleash something comparable to the singularity? Schwarzschild was convinced that such a thing was not only possible, but was actually taking place in the Fatherland.”

    “Schwarzschild, who was Jewish, did not live to see Hitler rise to power and concentrate the collective German will to catastrophic effect. But a different premonition came true within months. The “void without form or dimension,” which he told his wife had invaded his being, took shape as a rare disease that would cover his body in pustulant blisters and kill him mere months after his scientific breakthrough.”…

  20. A more fitting title would be “When we lose the illusion that we understand the world.”

    Karl Schwarzschild both won and lost the genetic lottery. As an Ashkenazi Jew he inherited genes which made him a genius, something more common among Ashkenazi Jews than among any other ethnic group on earth. At the same time he died of a disease probably related causally to the mutations which helped him be a genius. These mutations are also more common among Ashkenazi Jews than among any other ethnic group on earth. When I have more time I can post a little more on this.

    But really life is just one big lottery. Nobody should be proud or ashamed of what they are or became. It’s actually none of their own doing. Acceptance of oneself as one is, is probably the key to a little peace of mind.

  21. @Ikon on Bichler and Nitzan. Thoroughly unimpressed. I’m happy to predict that if the government introduces a tax on orange juice, the price will go up and the quantity produced and consumed will go down. This prediction follows straightforwardly from the supply-demand framework. For all their huffing and puffing B&N never come to grips with this basic point.

  22. John Quiggin,

    Thank you for taking the time to examine it. From any economist other than yourself and Ernestine Gross that rather peremptory judgement would have drawn a snort of derision from me. However, I’ve lost enough stoushes with E.G. and your good self over the years to have learned more than a little circumspection and more than a little respect for your intellects and learning. It’s like when I was a young man. At 18 I thought my old man was an idiot. At 21 I thought it was amazing what the old fellow had learned in 3 years. Actually, I gild the lily, I was an idiot, er um “late bloomer”, until about 28.

    There is, to my way of thinking, still something rotten in the state of economics. Or rather, there is something that just doesn’t add up. My unease about “conventional” economics continues. Of course, it all depends on one’s definition of “conventional” in this context. The real problem to me is the blurring and mashing of prescriptive and descriptive economics and the further “iterative overlay” problem of describing outcomes of the prescribed without properly questioning all the assumptions of the prescribed. I will try to elucidate this problem and my unease about it some time soon in a sandpit. I feel like yourself and the CasP mob both have some fair points. Perhaps their main book is better than that essay. Economics is like the elephant the blind men touched.

  23. KT2: – “NSW winning – if a higher R0 is your criteria.

    Yep. Matt (@crudeoilpeak) tweeted a comment (including a graph that looks like NSW may be on the path to 25k cases before end-January):

    @claudialongsays An emergency meeting should be immediate. #NSW case numbers went past the daily 500 mark on Dec 10th. The lifting of #covidnsw restrictions on Dec 15th (masks, QR log-ins) should have been reviewed BEFORE that day. Now its 12 days delay @ScottMorrisonMP Late!

    It looks like Dominic Perrottet (and NSW residents) need to learn the hard way.

    Professor Al Bartlett reportedly said: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.

  24. Yep, Domicron and Scomicron are fools as are sadly the people who believe any word that comes out of their mouths. We are headed for a disaster of the scale of a semi-collapse, at least, of our medical system for the next 6 months or longer.

    My GP confirmed everything I already thought without my prompting or priming him at all, other than mentioning I was vaccinated. Basically, he said “The next 4 to 6 months will be a big problem for the entire medical system from GPs through to major hospitals. Don’t attempt to schedule any check-ups or any elective procedures.” (Which was why I was blood tested weeks ago and finishing my check-ups now). “Basically, be vaccinated and boosted at appropriate times. Stay home if you can. Ring-fence yourself as much as possible. Omicron is at least as infectious as measles (the previous most contagious disease known to man). Everyone will get COVID-19 eventually. Try to avoid getting it in the first massive wave (much harder to get medical help if you need it.) Nine out of ten hospitalized will be the un-vaccinated and most of the other tenth will have some medical pre-conditions probably. So chin-up, since all your tests are good.” He looked composed, acted reassuring, but was no-nonsense serious in conveying that what is coming is bad and he clearly felt very sombre about it.

    All of this is so unnecessary. Australia could have suppressed the virus indefinitely with proper quarantine, stern but fair border controls plus all the other measures if and when necessary; as in test, trace, isolate, mask and don’t be a denialist, anti-science anti-vaxxer. The Federal Government has sabotaged and betrayed all of us. This is a calculated betrayal of the most callous kind. Many avoidable deaths will occur, mainly among vulnerable and disadvantaged people and all for the almighty dollar and forms of frivolous consumption which would be better curbed for reasons from personal health to the now deadly serious issue of climate change.

    Capitalism, at least of the market fundamentalist variety, has shown its true colors. People are expendable to the requirements of wealth accumulation by the rich. Nothing else matters to the elites in charge. Large sections of the petty bourgeoisie have complied and assisted in the “open up” propaganda: the small scale merchants and proprietors “whose politico-economic ideological stance in times of socioeconomic stability (and even early crisis) is determined by reflecting that of a haute bourgeoisie with which the petite bourgeoisie seeks to identify itself and whose bourgeois morality it strives to imitate” (Wikipedia.). Even the ABC has become a propaganda outlet for the sanctimonious, self-righteous, “sef-made” petty bourgeoisie, operating often enough even in good times on subsidies. A culture this degraded and decayed seems to have no hope of understanding what it is doing wrong even from an adaptation and survival angle. The parties, sporting events, extravaganzas and celebrations will continue while people die needlessly. Pray tell, what are we celebrating exactly?

    Re exponential growth.

  25. @Ikon There is plenty wrong with economics, as my Zombie Economics book showed. But as Stephen Jay Gould said in relation to evolution, it is unlikely that a well-established research program will be overthrown by the discovery of logical defects in its foundations. This is what Bichler and Nitzan are attempting

  26. J.Q.,

    “… (said) in relation to evolution, it is unlikely that a well-established research program will be overthrown by the discovery of logical defects in its foundations.” – J.Q. quoting Stephen Jay Gould.

    Interesting claim but the theory of evolution and the theory of economics are not quite equivalent. The first uses unimpeachable empirical evidence and the explanatory and predictive power of the theory is continually expanded successfully. Economics (classical, neo-classical, orthodox) has problems with all of empirical evidence, explanatory power and predictive power.

    The theory of evolution is clearly scientific, the theory of economics is… well it is not quite clear what it is. I will come back to that in more detail soon-ish in a sandpit, hopefully. Suffice it to say here that economics appears to be a hybrid discipline of the real and the formal, of the descriptive, the prescriptive and even further of descriptions of the outcomes of prescriptions. If we prescribe private property laws and market rules, as we do, and both in multi-varaite forms, then what kind of discipline is the description of the outcomes of our prescriptions? I think it’s a valid question.

    With reference to “logical defects”, I would go back further and first examine for ontological defects. Logical or mathematico-deductive conclusions from flawed ontological assumptions are going to be flawed even if the logic and mathematics are flawless. I am most impressed when your reasoning, economic and other, deals with “the real” and I am indeed often impressed. Just trying to be fair here, not trying to curry favor.

    However, this requires me to define what I mean by “the real”. By recourse to the hard sciences, I would say whatever the hard sciences identifies as measurable and comparable in the scientific dimensions of the current SI Table of International Units is the “theoretical minimum” of the (physically) real. But we are forced to deal with the social sciences too without wholly leaving the realm of science. And there resides “economics”, a colossus and yet a discipline seemingly at odds with the much of the rest of the social sciences academy, or at least that is my outsider’s impression.

    The social sciences, including economics, require us to expand our definition of “the real” or we cannot deal with many of the phenomena the social sciences are most concerned with. How do we deal with human social and cultural creations and their interaction with the physically real? It’s a key question. I refer here to the issue of dealing with the interaction of the socially, culturally, conceptually real with the physically real. Even a fallacious idea or model of the phsyically or socially real is real, even though it is false.

    We need, I contend, to be very clear whether each “ontological object” (really an object or process) that we name is real in the physically real sense or real in the formal conceptual sense. Then we need to be careful how we combine ontological objects of different classes. Thus, supply is real (physically real) and demand is real (physically real at least when manifested processually). A supply of oranges is real and demand for oranges is real at least when manifested in observable behavior (expressed demand).

    But price? What is price? That’s a very interesting question. It’s clearly not an ontological object in the same category or class as a supply of physical objects. Demand for physical objects seems a little more tenuous than a clear standing supply of objects, but can be observed over time. How many oranges do I pick up? These are all clearly physical things and physical processes. But price is a formal quantity, not a real quantit,y and now we intend to put formal and real ontological “objects” on the same graph with a real dimension (number of real objects of certain type) on one axis and a formal dimension (price in the numeraire) on the other axis. What could go wrong?

    That’s a rhetorical question at this stage. All I will say here is that I have strong suspicion, or bias if you like, to suspect that a lot can go wrong which will render the exercise unempirical in one sense (the sense of aggregating and pricing unlike objects in the fictitious dimension of price in markets of multiple types of objects) even though empirically markets do exist and do work to offer and usually partially or wholly clear goods. But what happens elsewhere, to the people, to the environment looks like a terminal ****show to me (especially from the vantage of 2021) which is where I get ideologically judgemental, I guess. In axiological terms, prices supplanting other values IS the problem, IMHO. Not to mention that the claim to efficient allocation of scarce resources looks like a total farce at this juncture in history.

    But as I say, I need to summarize and yet properly flesh out my ontological arguments: a difficult and antithetical task. I’ll see if I can find a way to do it. I don’t follow Bichler and Nitzan at every point by any means. I have my own approach. Yet, on at least one key issue I think they have made a ground breaking advance: that money and financial capital do not measure value, they instantiate power, operationally, performatively. This turns the world upside for conventional economic thinkers or simply looks to them like a bizarre rabbit hole. It can be hard to get one’s mind around a truly revolutionary but empirically validatable concept. Witness the theory of evolution. I don’t mean to be condescending here. Your intellect is better and better educated than mine. However, it’s much easier for a person (like me) who truly hates the “world-as-it-is” (while not hating people at personal interaction levels) to entertain revolutionary and anti-conventional theories. I’d rather die wrong than easily accept what I feel so viscerally, and also intellectually to my limited ability, to be so wrong.

    “A truth is permitted only a brief victory celebration between the two long periods where it is first condemned as paradoxical and later disparaged as trivial.” – Arthur Schopenhauer.

  27. “Joan Didion and the Opposite of Magical Thinking

    “You didn’t have to agree with her, but you had to submit to her sentences.
    By Zadie Smith

    “”In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions—with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.””

  28. Don’t really know how to react to that Joan Didion statement. Other than read the rest of the article.

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