Friday, June 17, 2011

Economics, the Gay Science

I'm under too many deadlines, so there's no time for an entirely new post. Yeah, you could say The Man's got me down, at least for the moment. But I'll be back. Large. In charge. Tights and cape shit. Winning!

However, in lieu of a new post, I've been holding in reserve this lightly soiled one from a few weeks ago, which was mysteriously disappeared from blogger only to return home to daddy a couple days later, landing among my drafts. I think it was only up for a couple of hours, so here it is:

Dismal science? How did economics ever come to acquire this pejorative appellation?

In reality, "dismal" is any discipline to which liberals affix the word "studies": e.g., Womyn's Studies, Queer Studies, Chicano Studies, Gender Studies, Hip Hop Studies, Peace Studies.

You want dismal? How about feminist economics, which combines the joyless wisdom of Marx with the penis-withering face of Gloria Allred?

It says a lot about liberals that they can reduce even the study of women to a dismal and tedious endeavor. But this is what feminism does: transform a light and beautiful cosmic mystery into a grim and oppressive political animal, a dreary cult of hectoring ex-wives.

Ironically, it says here that "dismal science" is "is an inversion of the phrase 'gay science,' meaning 'life-enhancing knowledge,' a reference to the technical skills of song and verse writing."

But the term was coined by the illiberal Thomas Carlyle, in the context of (mis)using economics to argue for the moral superiority of slavery. This is essentially a proto-Marxian stance that posits a zero-sum economy and rejects freedom because of the bad things people do with it. This results in the anti-gay and homophobic economics of the left.

I didn't always regard economics as so very gay. By now you all know the story of how I jumped or was pushed from business school, so there's no need to rerun that dismal episode. But as it so happens, one of my stumbling blocks was Economics. That and Accounting. And Finance. And Business Law. And Marketing. And Management. And eventually, showing up.

If I recall correctly, one had to complete four years of economics: Principles of Microeconomics, Statistical Methods, Money and Banking, and Macroeconomic Theory. All of this was so foreign to the Gagdad orientation -- my own truth as an economic gay man -- that I either dropped out or was suspended, depending upon whom you want to believe. Only later did I emerge from the closet and openly identify as homo economicus.

Like so many other young men, I was seduced into the lifestyle by an older gentleman I shall call "L."

L made it all seem so thrilling, even dangerous, not to mention transgressive! I remember the very first thing he told me -- that the gay science is not about numbers, statistics, and aggregates, but all about getting a little action.

Eventually I discovered that the gay science isn't even a science, at least in any straight way. For one thing, nothing about it is replicable.

But even more foundational than that is the fact that economics rests on a ground of subjectivity.

And not only that, for it is actually intersubjective, meaning that the real action of economics takes place in the transitional space between two subjects who together determine a thing's "value." There neither is nor can be intrinsic economic value. To a man dying of thirst, a glass of water is priceless. To a drowning man it is worthless.

I know what you're thinking: does this mean that everything is relative? In economics it does. In other words, when we "think economically," we cannot help but to think in terms of constantly adjusting relationships that emerge as prices, and prices are no more stable than the weather, or Keith Olbermann.

But by itself, economics cannot tell us about intrinsic or perennial value, which is why I ultimately had to break off with the older gentleman mentioned above. In other words, while there is a hierarchy of real values in the cosmos, it transcends economics for the same reason truth transcends the closed system of logic.

For beyond the sea of conventional economics is an economics that dare not speak its name. Frankly, I don't know that it has a name. Let us call it Cosmoeconomics, unless I come up with a better term before the end of this post.

Richards addresses this subject in an appendix to Money, Greed, and God, but almost as an afterthought -- like an appendix or something.

As touched on a couple of posts ago, "the creation of wealth has as much to do with spirit as with matter" (Richards). Thus, "Christians should be the first to understand this, since we know that human beings are a unique hybrid of the spiritual and the material" (ibid.).

Spirit and matter can't do much on their own. But incarnate the former in the latter, and you can really get something done down here.

The free market, which embodies the two, is, in the words of Hayek, "probably the most complex structure in the universe" (in Richards). Like anybody could know that!

That's the point -- that we know we can't know something that embodies an infinite amount of information that is dispersed throughout the system. Those who don't understand this -- who pretend to know what cannot be known -- are now called liberals.

Which is (intentionally) confusing, because that name used to go to the enlightened ones who understand this principle, not to the ignorantsia of the left who pompously presume to know the unknowable, which always results in the unthinkable.

The market is the most complex structure in the cosmos because it is constituted of billions of the second most complex structure, the human brain, all linked together.

In the anonymous bathhouse scene of the market, all of these brains are plugged into one another, engaged in the constant intercourse of processing information and making minute adjustments within the intersubjective space of value. Again, without human beings there is no value, because there is no valuing subject -- or subject with values.

"Seen in its proper light, the market order is as awe inspiring as a sunset or perfect eclipse" (Richards).

Which is a pretty dismal understatement. A sunset? C'mon, you can do better than that!

Here is what we believe: that ordered liberty is one of the means through which post-biological human evolution proceeds. It is specifically within the context of freedom and restraint that the human spirit evolves toward its proper attractor, its nonlocal origin and destiny.

In his raptured appendix, Richards reviews Hayek's argument that the market is a spontaneous order. This is surely true, but Hayek either failed to draw out the cosmic implications of this queer fact, or else simply began with materialist assumptions that inevitably result in materialist conclusions.

But materialist assumptions can turn even the most awesome sunset into the trivial side effect of an insignificant planet revolving around an anonymous star.

Obviously Hayek was on the right track -- or at least off the left one -- in writing of "the implications of the astonishing fact, revealed by economics and biology, that order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive."

Not so fast, Fred! Is it really true that the emergence of meaningful complexity becomes unproblematic if we just dismiss it as a side effect of open systems doing what they are constrained to do, i.e., generate all this fabulous order from such unstylish chaos and rigid necessity?

That is soooo ungay!


Blogger julie said...

If I recall correctly, one had to complete four years of economics: Principles of Microeconomics, Statistical Methods, Money and Banking, and Macroeconomic Theory.

And yet after all that study, many of those who graduate seem to know less about the economy than the average (non-union) working man.

6/17/2011 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

All I know about economics is it gives me a headache whenever I try to get my head around it.

People tell me I have big head, but I guess not in that way.

6/17/2011 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

-See Mamet's 3 ways to get rich ?

"You get rich through luck. You get rich through crime. You get rich through fulfilling the needs of another. You can be as greedy as you like. If you can't do one of those three things, you ain't going to get any money."

wv: adds --maybe thru feats of

6/17/2011 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Gloria Allred was seen at a news conference a day or two ago with the stripper from the Weiner saga. That really made me lose respect for the stripper.

Not only does Allred cause premature emasculation, her lack of shame would make a buzzard blush.

Now that I have that off my chest, I can finish reading.

6/17/2011 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

She renders any normal man heterophobic.

6/17/2011 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I took a quiz from the Mises site a few years ago. I came up about 70% Austrian and 30% Chicago. I think I've gone full Austrian in the interim.

If I had to sum up my own economic theory it would be: Things don't always work out necessarily for the best, but anything anyone does to fix it is guaranteed to make it worse.

6/17/2011 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom @9:53, awesome.

6/17/2011 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

wv: devcock

The Weiner jokes continue to write themselves. Even the machines are in on it now.

6/17/2011 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Glad you brought this post back, I missed it.
Economically.... I'm a proud Mushroomian.

6/18/2011 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger William said...

In a nutshell...

6/19/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Myth-mongering Marxian midgets. Is there anything they don't know?

6/19/2011 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...


6/19/2011 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Truly, it is a religion. No matter how much the state grows, it's never big enough. It never occurs to them that ever since FDR, massive state interference in the economy has been the problem, not the solution. At least Europe is finally getting it.

6/19/2011 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not that they deserve credit, for the Europeans are only discovering what economic common sense has long foreseen....

6/19/2011 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also interesting -- in a fiendish way -- how the left invented the pseudo-problem of "income disparity" to shift the argument from absolute to relative property, which is none other than the incitement to envy.

6/19/2011 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And ironically, in successfully inventing the pseudo-problem, they are creating true poverty out of wealth by penalizing success and subsidizing failure.

6/19/2011 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes -- that perverse system of incentives, combined with the rancid liberal educational establishment, creates losers, and then liberals wonder why there are so many losers -- as if people are automatically entitled to X % of some rich guy's national income, without knowing anything else about them as individuals. For all we know, they're paid too much!

6/19/2011 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Which is certainly true of government jobs (the only sector of the job market that Obama has grown). I have intimate familiarity with this population, and the level of dysfunction is breathtaking.

6/19/2011 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Indeed. Every government agency I know of directly is filled with people who know how to game the system, and encourage everyone they know to do the same.

Meanwhile, in the private sector, jobs are disappearing, everything is getting more expensive, and the general anxiety level for most people is ratcheting up. And it's maddening, because it doesn't have to be that way.

6/19/2011 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The only two recessions from which the economy did not (and will not) recover in the usual amount of time are the two that resulted in the most government interference. Obama repeated all of FDR's mistakes, and yet, cranks like Krugman and Reich prescribe more of the same.

6/19/2011 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Truly, it is a religion. No matter how much the state grows, it's never big enough. It never occurs to them that ever since FDR, massive state interference in the economy has been the problem, not the solution.

What nonsense. The US economy has demonstrably been helped by the massive government involvement, from FDRs programs to WWII to the creation of the Internet. The decline of the US in recent decades is directly linked to the Republican attack on any kind of meaningful government management of the economy (other than funneling money to favored industries such as defense and energy).

Tax revenue today is the lowest it has been since the fifites (as a % of GDP) and you can see how well that's working.

6/19/2011 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, the true level of taxation is the level of government spending, most conspicuously in the indirect form of inflation, which is just another tax on government greed and stupidity -- to say nothing of the misallocation of resources caused by government spending, which funnels money from the productive side of society and makes everyone less wealthy.

Also, this new left wing meme about how low our taxes are fails to take into consideration sales tax, property tax, gas tax, social security, phone tax, corporate tax (which is simply passed along to the consumer), etc., etc. Put them all together, and the real tax rate is more like 40%. If you block the state on one front, they'll find another way to get into your pocket.

6/19/2011 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Nice thought, but like most received wisdom on the right completely untrue.

6/19/2011 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Here's some further thoughts for you:

It is the refuge of a scoundrel to pretend to hate government, and further, to lie about the role that the American government — the richest and most powerful force for good in the long story of humanity — has played in the creation of the most profound economic engine ever, the America middle class. Notions of American greatness are inextricably intertwined with the American government, and anyone who claims that the government has only been an impediment to American progress is a liar, a fool, a rank opportunist, or a combination of the three. That GI Bill didn't create itself. That Interstate Highway System didn't build itself. Those astronauts didn't send themselves to the moon. Your grandmamma and them didn't get electricity in their farmhouse on their own initiative. Small business didn't create a vast system of free public education, because an educated population makes for good workers and consumers. That was the government. The miracle of the free market didn't end slavery, or solve the pernicious problem that followed of grotesquely institutionalized racism. Nor did the free market end child labor, and decide that food and worker safety were critical values to a civilized society, and essential to a civilized standard of living. That was the government, too.

6/19/2011 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...


Clearly, anon, you inhabit an entirely different reality. There is nothing you can say that will change a mind here, nor is there anything we can say that will change yours.

You're not here for an argument; just a fight. Ainchu got anything better to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon?

6/19/2011 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie, what else is a mind parasite going to do on Father's Day, but tend his lies?

6/19/2011 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Such simplistic manicheans. We prefer limited government, ergo, we hate government.

6/19/2011 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Right? I was going to note that nobody here is arguing for anarchy, but figured the point would be wasted.

6/19/2011 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You can't argue with these manicheans. If you're not a leftist, you're a fascist. It's all they got.

6/19/2011 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

"Massive state interference in the economy...' ??

"as if people are automatically entitled to X % of some rich guy's national income..." ??

You mean like today, under President Obama, the top marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans is 15% less than it was under Ronald Reagan during an economic recovery? ('82-'86: 35% vs 50%)

Today, under President Obama the wealthy are actually forking over LESS than they did under Reagan. What has changed is the level of greed, the right wing rhetoric, and the political party of the president.

Give more to the rich than Reagan saw fit and then yell 'socialism!!' when a Democrat proposes returning to that same tax level. Give more to the rich, tax the poor and middle class ... very Christ like. Uniquely conservative.

6/19/2011 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Clearly, anon, you inhabit an entirely different reality.

I thought it was supposed to be leftists who had this postmodern take on discourse, that one person or culture's reality is just as good as anothers. it's pretty amusing to hear this kind of talk from right-wing cranks, since it's a sure sign of having no actual argument to make.

You-all seem to be spending part of your father's day here, so I'm not sure why it is shameful for me to do the same.

6/19/2011 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I have a perfect recollection of having once believed all the dogmas put forth here by anon, William and their ilk.

But I have no recollection of the person to whom they once appealed. I don't think it's just to save myself of the embarrassment. Rather, it's for the same reason one doesn't remember infancy.

6/19/2011 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger William said...


Your whole world view is based on dogma which you gaudily, albeit transparently, rationalize to be "fact. "

Ironic that when confronted with actual facts, you describe them as 'dogma.'

6/19/2011 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I well remember believing that too. I suppose it was a projection of the unavoidable cognitive prison of secularism.

6/19/2011 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

BTW, I didn't intend "dogma" in any pejorative sense, as it is strictly impossible to think in its absence. I was referring to the content, not the mode.

6/19/2011 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, if one elevates fact to dogma, as you acknowledge doing, thinking is again impossible.

6/19/2011 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

You-all seem to be spending part of your father's day here, so I'm not sure why it is shameful for me to do the same.

I was referring to the motive, not the presence. Being that it's a holy day among holidays, I prefer spending my time trying to make it holy to picking fights with strangers.

As to "one person or culture's reality is just as good as anothers," that is patently untrue. We may be using the same words, but we speak an entire different language.

To paraphrase a quote from Vanderleun's page, it is impossible for me to speak to you in any way that I cannot be misunderstood.

6/19/2011 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

it is impossible for me to speak to you in any way that I cannot be misunderstood.
Think pretty highly of yourself, don't you? You seem to think that the only reason someone could disagree with you is that they failed to understand you.

6/19/2011 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You seem to think that the only reason you could disagree with someone is that you didn't fail to misunderstand them.

6/20/2011 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

On a serious note, the problem is that there is simply no conversation to be had, because at bottom it is an issue of ontology, not the language used to convey it. In the words of someone linked at American Digest,

"We no longer speak the same language. We don't recognize the same historical records. We don't share the same values, principles, hopes, dreams or morality. People like Maddow (as proxy for her ilk) are as fervent in their socialist dogma as we in our love of freedom. After years of agitprop by well placed activists they, and we, are past any possible rapprochement."

The best we can do is clarify our differences, and move on.

6/20/2011 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Besides, we are at a distinct disadvantage, being that "A vocabulary of ten words is enough for a Marxist to explain history" (DC).

6/20/2011 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger anon said...

Unfortunately we have to live in the same country, so at some point these apparent divergent realities have to converge.

6/20/2011 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Can't happen, for there can be no compromise between what reality is and what we wish it to be.

6/20/2011 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger William said...

Realities change. Influence changes. Values change.

Ronald Reagan taxed the top tier at 50%, and is a conservative godhead.

Barack Obama taxes the top teir at 35% and is a 'socialist'.

Try to get your mind around that, or you can completely ignore this reality and name-call, disparage, even refer to facts as 'dogma'. It's no wonder the level of denial and hypocrisy among conservatives is unprecedented. Yes, values do change.

6/20/2011 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

anunce said "Unfortunately we have to live in the same country, so at some point these apparent divergent realities have to converge."

Ehhh, no, they won't converge, one will replace the other, they cannot converge, blend or come to an agreement. Never has been possible, never will be. P.S. for the trolishly inclined, no it doesn't mean violence is necessary, but sadly it's the violent will have to decide that.

Here's a historical rhyme for you:

"If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South."

To apply the past to the present, simply replace 'slavery' with 'leftism', 'North as well as South' for 'Red State as well as Blue State', and the rest works out pretty well, afterall, the party that was for slavery back then, the democrat party, is still the party that is for the modern euphemism for slavery today, leftism.

6/20/2011 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To William's credit, he does remind me what it was like to be 18. Good times...

6/20/2011 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

willian said "taxed the top tier '

Though the progressive income tax is irredeemably evil, taxes aren't bad in and of themselves. What the taxes are for, is what makes them good or bad.

Taxes for the purposes of supporting the rule of law, defense, etc = good.

Taxes for the purposes of 'spreading the wealth around' (aka: theft to sooth vapid consciences), controlling the citizenry and buying influence and power = bad.

6/20/2011 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger William said...

Thanks for proving my point, Bob.

I guess he's got most of you fooled. Guess you have to do that to sell books.

6/20/2011 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Damn, three million words on this blog alone. There must be an easier way to sell a book or two....

6/20/2011 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I hear deepakin' the chopra is a good way to get on the bestsellers lists...

6/20/2011 08:47:00 AM  

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