Jay Hanson’s post to EconCritique@yahoogroups.com that “Economics is rotten at the center: The “Math/Logic Paradigm.” was passed on to me. He basically found that economics is a social construct, of ideals that can’t be discovered in nature, and prompted this [edited] reply.
Jay, I like how you aim at finding the conceptual errors. It’s a good clue that problematic assumptions are neither possible to prove or disprove, suggesting they are just social constructs or definitions, rather than principles of nature discovered by observation.
A still greater fault may be found in our expectation that the world follows our abstract models at all. That nature would follow our social ideals itself seems to be a pure social construct unsupported by observation. Our beliefs we construct of our own abstract ideals are quite unable to articulate many features of how the systems of nature work, so it’s a mystery we haven’t acknowledged it.
Most systems in nature are populated with actively learning parts… which do the exploratory hunting and dodging you see organisms doing that creates, cultures that hold their populations together, and allows networks to form for businesses or politics, etc. Environmental search and adaptation by the smallest units of natural systems appears to be source of emerging design and behavior for net-energy systems generally.
That makes it a rather glaring oversight that scientific abstract models in particular are built as if to treat nature as following deterministic rules, of our own invention, which notably lack such parts. It confirms that our way of representing nature is more the product of social agreements than of sincerely trying to shape our thinking to the forms of nature.
If the ultimate subject of our social constructs is other social values, rather than fitting the forms of nature, it leaves us blind to the world we live in. It leaves our social constructs without any means of adjusting to change in the world around us.
We all know the big one there, how the world changed from responding as an infinite source to responding as an inadequate source. Our culture hasn’t responded to that at all. It displays a profound learning deficit and mental handicap, a blindness to the reality we don’t make up for ourselves.
The best direct evidence I see of that is how people are trying to live by the social constructs of the past in our changed world of the present. Everyone is going to the limits of their resources and talents to get the world to act infinite again. It seems to be the main thing energizing the social and political movements, as well as the regulatory, finance, business and technology communities too.
Going to ever greater lengths to make old rules apply to a new situation just gets us deeper and deeper in trouble, of course, actively driving our society toward extinction. To improve our societal steering we’d need to acknowledge that reality is not our social construct but our relation with nature.
As the handicap appears to be a profound blindness, as for Helen Keller, the first two steps to better steering are:
1) slow down and
2) learn to grope around in the world we’re finding our way in.
Where might you start? I’d start with the easy way to connect the world of money to the world of nature, and go from there.
The main role of money in nature is our use of it to communicate requests between people for providing physical goods and services. You’d think economists might have thought of that, but how nature and money are connected isn’t the question they ask.
As how we pass on requests for physical uses of nature from each other, money is “information” that people use to manage the physical world. Thinking of it that way also lets me switch back and forth from considering money/economic questions and physical/natural world questions.
The big advantage is making it easy to understand the feedback pressure in the other direction, the resistance put up by the natural world to our mounting requests for services from it.