Monday, July 06, 2015

Meta-Economics or Econo-Metaphysics

I am about to attempt something that probably can't be done, but human thought should always flirt with the impossible, shouldn't it? Otherwise it's like... like what Lao Tse says about the best way to control a bull: just give it a large pasture. The fences are still there, but the bull doesn't notice.

Similarly, any leftist who imagines he's a "free thinker" is simply unaware of the fences. A conservative is someone who ventures out a little further and notices all the barbed and electrified fences with snipers standing by ready to prevent escape to the NorthWest. A PC liberal, like the East Germans, would call the fence an "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart."

Fortunately, I wasn't really paying much attention in school, so I never fully assimilated the perverse ways of the Conspiracy. Therefore, I never internalized the Wall, or at least it remained rather porous. Now it's just a tourist spot, like Hadrian's wall.

It started yesterday, when I glanced over at Thomas Sowell's doorstop, Basic Economics. It's one of those books that is so full of ideas and information that it's impossible for the non-specialist to take it all in. So I thought I would thumb through it and try to refresh the old memory.

But then I got another idea from left field (or right brain), which was to scan the book from a higher perspecive. In other words, the first time around it was necessarily a view from the ground. But what if we take flight and reframe it from the perspective of metaphysics? This is something Sowell himself would never do, and yet, the book is so full of "essential truth" that it would be a shame to confine it to economics.

Indeed, even though they have nothing else in common, Sowell and Schuon do share the characteristic of being so extraordinarily essential, meaning that they always get right to the essence of things, with no extraneous equivocating, excess verbiage, or academic BS. As a result, they provoke a similar sensation in my nonlocal resonator thingy, despite the radical difference in subject matter.

"I wonder," asked Bob, "if one essential truth speaks to another?" One difference between them is that Sowell is describing the exact dimensions of the real fence that surrounds us, being that we are unavoidably clothed in finitude.

On the other hand, Schuon is clearly speaking from beyond the fence, or better, deploying the forms of universal metaphysics to express formless insights that transcend it: he is using language to say what cannot be said, whereas Sowell uses it to say the most that can be said on this side of the Wall.

But even Sowell would say it's not really an impermeable wall. Rather, one of the points he makes in the book is that the state fails (among other reasons) because it imposes binary or categorical law in an incremental universe. Therefore, it can never reflect the reality of things.

As for Schuon's essentiality, Nasr captured it well, writing that his works "always go to the heart and are concerned with the essence of whatever they deal with. Schuon possesses the gift of reaching the very core of the subject he is treating, of going beyond the forms to the essential formless Center."

As such, "To read his works is to be transplanted from the shell to the kernel," or "from the circumference to the Center."

Now, this is utterly at cross purposes with the left, in that it insists there are no essences and certainly no Center, no Absolute, and no Universal -- with a few incoherent exceptions, for they do regard homosexuality and "whiteness" as essences, the former a sacred one, the latter demonic.

Let's consider Sowell's rock-bottom definition of economics (via Lionel Robbins): Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. That's it. Can't get more essential than that.

Why is it essential? Ironically, he alludes to the Garden of Eden which, whatever else it was, wasn't an economy. Why? Because there was no scarcity. Therefore, one of the consequences of the fall is to plunge us into economics! Which gives new meaning to the "dismal science."

Now, the first thing you clever readers will notice is that the left, in denying the fall, also denies economics -- or economic reality, to be precise. You can't actually deny economics because the ineluctable truth is that the things we want are scarce and have alternative uses. Or in other words, this isn't Eden or Heaven. You could even say that Genesis 3:17 introduces man to grim economic reality, i.e., toil and sweat if you want to eat.

Back when I was a liberal, I was sadly influenced by a loon on the radio named Michael Benner. This was back before meaningful talk radio, and when radio stations had to devote a portion of their airtime to "public service." They would do this during hours no one was listening, usually between midnight and 5:00 or 6:00 AM on Sunday and Monday mornings.

Being that I often worked the graveyard shift in the supermarket, I would imbibe his political and spiritual wisdom while stocking shelves. One of his key principles was that there is no such thing as scarcity. If I recall correctly, he said something to the effect that scarcity is just a mental limitation produced by the capitalist mindset.

Sounded good to me! For it meant that I was entitled to be prosperous, but that someone was just stealing it from me. Indeed, it looks like he hasn't changed one bit since I listened to him in the late '70s and early 80s. Speaking of essential truths, one of his is that -- and this is weird, because he even clothes it in a Schuon-like appeal to the Perennial Philosophy, Esoteric Philosophy, and the consensus wisdom "from all cultures and all times about the Spiritual Reality."

In any event, one of the essential truths is that we may magically "manifest and refine form," or turn wishes to horses. For example, the only real challenges to abolishing world hunger forever are "fear of change and the will to do it anyway."

Not only is there no scarcity in his world, but he also has the secret to ending war. How? "The Great Dichotomy of Life is not so much a conflict between good and evil as it is a choice between harmony and discord, between Unitive Love and separative fear." As such "We must feed and educate our 'enemies' — give them bread and books." ISIS is not evil, just in need of a happy meal and a good summer read.

Enough of that grotesque nonsense. Here is Sowell's pithy definition of scarceness: "It means that what everybody wants adds up to more than there is." Simple as.

However, what is the real source of this disconnect between "want" and "have?" It is that human desire is infinite, while the objects of this desire are finite. Therefore, all economics, from Adam Smith to Barack Obama, is a way to allocate the resources. If it isn't done via prices, then it will be done in some other way, e.g., rationing by state bureaucrats.

Liberals like to ridicule "supply-side" economics, but consumer-side economics is just a mob of open mouths and empty hands. In other words, What I Want does not magically transform into What I Have. If that were the case, then Haiti would be the most affluent place on earth.

In order to get from want to have, there is a little thing alluded to in Genesis which comes down to being productive. The things we want don't produce themselves, as in Eden.

You could say, with the the left, that we have a "right" to healthcare. No doubt true in a sense, in that you have the right to take care of yourself. But you do not have the intrinsic right to compel someone at gunpoint to care for you. The trick is to induce this person to, get this, voluntarily do something for your health, i.e., to get him to produce the desired output without placing him in chains.

Well, we didn't get far, and now I gotta get some WORK done. To be continued....

16 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

In any event, one of the essential truths is that we may magically "manifest and refine form," or turn wishes to horses.

Ah, a classic bit of Deepaking the Chopra right there.

In other words, What I Want does not magically transform into What I Have.

In a sane world, the majority of people would learn this lesson early, and figure out that if what they want is worth having, it is best to figure out how to earn it. Also that some things are simply not possible, no matter how much we may want, in which case it is better to learn to live with what we have and make the best of it.

7/06/2015 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There is a reason why a state education doesn't go near economics. LoFo = High turnout for the left.

7/06/2015 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To discover economic reality is to unveil the naked self-interest of the state.

7/06/2015 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Left wing economics in defiance of all reality.

7/06/2015 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I bet if someone made a map of that region and marked it solely with liquor stores, you'd easily find Pennsylvania's borders. Unless any of its neighbors have their own liquor licensing boards.

7/06/2015 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Rather, one of the points he makes in the book is that the state fails (among other reasons) because it imposes binary or categorical law in an incremental universe.

Bob, I know this statement is some great insight, but da brain can't wrap itself around it. Can you help unpack it?

7/06/2015 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Good article on culture wars!

Culture wars are at their best when both sides have to rely on persuasion to win people’s hearts and minds. Culture wars are at their worst when they turn into an excuse for censorship and conformity.

7/06/2015 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ted: I will no doubt expand upon that as we proceed. But it seems to be another way of expressing the adage that the Law is an Ass.

7/06/2015 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

ISIS is not evil, just in need of a happy meal and a good summer read.

The bad news for hungry ISISians is that swine are very efficient converters.

I started on Basic Economics earlier in the year but got distracted. Sowell's explanation of the way the Soviet economy used to work was great.

The Law is an Ass all right. The law has only incremental responses. I remember one of the characters in Dune arguing that a benevolent monarch is better than law. It's been close to forty years since I last read it. I could be wrong. I think it went something like one is more likely to get appropriately scaled justice from another human than from a code. Did you break the law or didn't you? Binary.

What if I only broke it a little? What if there were mitigating circumstances? Sometimes that is more judiciously administered by a competent and intelligent judge. How common are they? As Ned Pepper told Mattie, "I don't need a good lawyer. I need a good judge."

7/06/2015 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Sowell and Schuon do share the characteristic of being so extraordinarily essential, meaning that they always get right to the essence of things, with no extraneous equivocating, excess verbiage, or academic BS.

Call it a sort of psychospiritual triangulation, where one provides the horizontal coordinates and the other, the vertical. Because both are speaking in essential truths, it is very unlikely that they wouldn't meet up and resonate at some particular sweet spot or another. Or many.

7/06/2015 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ted - thanks for the link. I hadn't read that one yet. As time goes on, I become ever more convinced that the long-term key to gaining a hold on the culture is, once again, to enter into the culture, particularly to the arts, and create good music/stories/imagery/entertainment that also happens to be Christian (as opposed to Christian alternatives to pop culture, which always fall flat with non-Christians).

7/06/2015 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"But what if we take flight and reframe it from the perspective of metaphysics?"

YESSS!!!

7/06/2015 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ted, this may not be the very same point, but it's related.
1) Good decisions require interested attention, relevant and timely facts, and a grasp of the context involved.
2) The degree to which decisions are made without these, is the degree to which such decisions will be indistinguishable from stupid decisions - no matter how smart the decision maker might (seem)to be.
3) The further the distance is in time and place from the point on which a decision is being made, the less substance these three factors can contain.

And a correllary point: The smarter the bureaucrat considers himself to be, the less respect he will have for these factors, and the more likely he will believe that force of law will enable his intrinsic intelligence to shine through and carry the day.

Hence in regards to economies laboring under regulatory law the stairs quo is S.N.A.F.U.

7/06/2015 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ummm 'stairs quo' should probably be 'status quo', but then stairs are also conducive to a fall....

7/06/2015 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

""I wonder," asked Bob, "if one essential truth speaks to another?" One difference between them is that Sowell is describing the exact dimensions of the real fence that surrounds us, being that we are unavoidably clothed in finitude."

I think they do and are there to see for anyone who might notice. Certainly, when the same first principles are the foundation of all essential truth's they will speak to each other and complement each other.
Truth recognizes truth. Perhaps not always as deep, at least at first glance, but the Otential is still there.

7/06/2015 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

I appreciate all the smart Raccoons out here, but so smart that you can't see through the clever mind. :)

7/07/2015 08:56:00 AM  

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