Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Economics of Eternity and the Core Catastrophe

Warning: I am not entirely sure this post is fully half-baked. While there is no doubt something to it, I didn't have time to give it the once-over to make sure it makes perfect nonsense. So, proceed at my own peril.

As Sowell says -- and it's amazing that anyone actually has to say it -- "life does not ask us what we want." Rather, it "presents us with options."

Again, there are scarce resources with alternative uses, and economics deals with making decisions about these alternative uses.

Which got me to thinking. If truth calls out to Truth, then what Sowell just said should resonate in a higher key, i.e., the Octave of Spirit.

Now, what would be the scarcest resource of all? As far as I am concerned, it is my life, because there is only one. But this immediately extends to the people I care about, because there's only one of them too.

More generally, Christian metaphysics begins with the principle that the individual is of infinite value because he is an individual, but in any event, we see an economic principle at work here, since value is linked to scarcity.

I suppose if I could walk over to the Quickie Mart and find a wife identical to the present one, she wouldn't be so precious to me. This no doubt sounds a little coldblooded, but she would have the same option at the Bobstore, who knows, maybe even a newer model.

Now, a human life is the ultimate in alternative uses, at least under conditions of political and economic liberty. Most political systems constrain those alternative uses, which, even when not done directly, is accomplished indirectly via the economic system.

What I mean is that in the past we have discussed the the psychoanalytic concept of "idiom." According to this notion, everyone has his own particular idiom, a "psychic organization which from birth forms the self's core," and furnishes an implicit logic "of the familial way of relating into which we are then raised."

Here is the link to economics: "As adults..., we spend our time looking for objects of interest -- human or material -- which can serve to enhance our particular idioms or styles of life -- perpetually 'meeting idiom needs by securing evocatively nourishing objects.' Being willing to risk exposure to such transformational objects is for Bollas an essential part of a healthy life: the readiness to be metamorphosed by one's interaction with the object world."

To express it in economic terms, we begin with our intrinsically scarce self, which is not so much an individual but an on-the-way to it, i.e., individuation. Or in other words, it exists in form or potential, and it is up to us to spend or allocate our time wisely by choosing the objects and relationships that actualize our latent selves.

"The contrast is a refusal of development and self-invention, of open-endedness: the state of psychic stagnation. Bollas saw in what he called the anti-narcissist a willed refusal to use objects for the development of his/her own idiom, and a consequent foreclosure of the true self. The result can lead to what Adam Phillips called 'the core catastrophe in many of Bollas's powerful clinical vignettes... being trapped in someone else's (usually the parents') dream or view of the world.'"

I don't remember the term "anti-narcissist," but it is surely a vital concept, for just as the person can be trapped inside his own reflection, he can be trapped in someone else's. Either one results in a foreclosure of development and a loss of real freedom. Life is literally reduced to a waste of time, and a waste of time is a waste of life.

For what is a human life? From the perspective of pure abstract (modern) liberalism, it is time + freedom. But neither of these has any real meaning at all, because they have no ground and no telos. Thus, they are reduced to the nothingness of existentialism, AKA nihilism. Thus the credo of the left: come for the nihilism, stay for the power.

(Hetero)paradoxically, this leads to the conclusion that life is either of no value, or only of the value we -- or the state -- give it. Which goes directly to why the left has no compunction about diminishing our freedom or about turning us into anonymous wards of the state. Everything follows from one's initial assumptions.

Which leads to the Economics of Religion. What's that about? Clearly, a religious person and a secular person will have radically different ideas about the value of the individual and the proper use of time.

For example, we used to have a leftist troll who made much of his theory that free will doesn't actually exist. However, Marxists have been making this argument ever since they first climbed out of the toilet, just as radical Darwinians make it today. Indeed, you could probably trace it back to some ancient Greek sophist, but if man isn't free, then time has no value, because we don't really have a choice in how to use it.

This pathological idea permeates the left. For example, one of the ineradicable clichés of the left is that "poverty causes crime." This contains the buried assumption that the criminal has no alternatives as to how to spend his time. Rather, he is just a machine. But if he is just a machine, please remind me why we are supposed to give a fuck about him?

Again, the value of a person is predicated on the idea that he is certainly not a machine. It is the left that turns individuals into machines, or classes, or genders, or races. I don't do that, although I will acknowledge that leftist anti-narcissists do this to themselves by the millions.

For example, I will sadly concede that Al Sharpton, or Barack Obama, or Louis Farrakhan, or Eric Holder, are "just" black men. But I deny all responsibility for reducing them to such a paltry category, or inflicting this core catastrophe upon them. Rather, I want all men to have the opportunity to be one.

I suppose you could say that time is the economics of eternity, in the sense that eternity cannot be scarce, but renders itself scarce in its temporal reflection herebelow. It is because of this dialectic between time and eternity that life is precious, and that there are good and bad ways to spend our allotment of time.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anti-narcissism is perhaps one step down the road to idolatry. As the Presbyterian minister Timothy Keller notes in his book on the subject, an idol can be something intrinsically good, a gift--one's children or spouse, for example. But whether good (or bad, like a chip on one's shoulder) we too often let them sprout and grow until the breadth of their shadow makes us forget God's radiance.

7/09/2015 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes. This is why it's important to join a church because one has one's eyes on God, and not on the preacher or any particular church leader. For instance, had I become Catholic out of love for JPII or Benedict, I might be losing my faith over Francis. But none of them are the point.

...being trapped in someone else's (usually the parents') dream or view of the world.'"

I'm reminded again of all the tales coming out about the horrors of helicopter parenting, and the resulting stuntedness of kids who had only to relentlessly do as they were told, even far into what should have been adulthood, and once the constraints come off they fall apart.

7/09/2015 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Fully half-baked or not, the batter is certainly rich enough. The left and the their deluded followers want a programmable machine. Their main complaint against God is probably that He is a Person and not a machine.

7/09/2015 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

I've been looking for the right description, for a long time, for a person I know, who willfully refuses to grow up. He's been given ample opportunity to do so, but he's squandered it all. He's like a black hole, and sucks the life out of everyone who comes into contact with him. When I'm around him, I want to curl up into a ball and just survive until I can get away.

Quote: "The contrast is a refusal of development and self-invention, of open-endedness: the state of psychic stagnation. Bollas saw in what he called the anti-narcissist a willed refusal to use objects for the development of his/her own idiom, and a consequent foreclosure of the true self."

7/09/2015 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

OT:

"The blessing in life is when you find the torture you're comfortable with."
~ Jerry Seinfeld

7/09/2015 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

It just dawned on me whether or not the information age requires a tweak to Sowell's idea of scarce resources. Why so? For instance, the digitizing of media makes it infinitely reproducible at no extra cost. Can a mp3 of a song that I can copy and send to a 100 friends mean that it's scarce? I suppose the intellectual property rights places some constraints on this, but otherwise it's everywhere.

7/09/2015 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It just means that if something isn't scarce, then it doesn't fall into the domain of economics, since it needn't be economized.

Meanwhile, I was watching Duck Soup the other night and noticed something interesting.

7/09/2015 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha - it took a second, but I'm not at all surprised to find that Groucho was a furbear...

7/09/2015 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This pathological idea permeates the left. For example, one of the ineradicable clichés of the left is that "poverty causes crime." This contains the buried assumption that the criminal has no alternatives as to how to spend his time. Rather, he is just a machine. But if he is just a machine, please remind me why we are supposed to give a fuck about him?"

Precisely. And, needless to mention, if it were indeed true that poverty causes crime, then the crime rate would shoot through the roof and well into Mad Max territory.
And why do some weathy people commit crimes? Does wealth cause crime too?

The same ill logic is on display when idiots complain of guns causing violence. If that were true then every inanimate object causes violence since virtually every tool or object has been used to hurt or kill people.

7/10/2015 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Whenever leftists try to make everything less scarce they make it more scarce.

7/10/2015 05:59:00 AM  

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