Keynes saw through his fears… by facing them.

An OP-Ed in today’s Sunday Review section of the NY Times, by Sylvia Nasar, Keynes: The Sunny Economist missed the real source of Keynes ability to see silver linings where most others saw failure.   Keynes faced economic failures having studied how nature uses the end of one thing to begin another.

He saw sunshine by seeing through the darkness,

not by denying it.


It’s fun to play up myths, but yours would be spoiled by the reality of a strange intellect like J M Keynes.    In order to see the “sunny side” of things Keynes unabashedly faced the deepest darkness behind what ailed the economy.   He smashed or poked holes in the darkness he saw, as a way to find the light, rather than by clinging blindly to some faith in optimism, as you suggest, a kind of sunny silliness.

Starry Night
To be alive in nature is itself, a world of bright light in a vast darkness

You have not read Chapter 16 of The General Theory.    It’s quite obvious.   You’re in good company, of course, as virtually no one has.    In Chapter 16 Keynes steps right into and through the deepest darkness, the end of the road for his own growth theory.    Of course, there is also an extremely sunny side too, but if you don’t face the “darkness” of the natural facts at hand, you won’t see it. Continue reading Keynes saw through his fears… by facing them.

Can we shut down the system for repairs?

My response to George Mobus’ last reply to me, got a little long, so I only posted the first few paragraphs as a comment on his discussion of “The Goal – Episode I: The Basic Requirements”

Can we shut down the system for repairs?

The first learning steps beyond the impasse, on a new path.

Well, shutting down the world for repairs would be conceptually neat, but does not seem to use the path finding mechanisms that nature typically uses.   She offers myriad examples of how run-away growth systems can change by maturing to become stable self-managing ecologies.  That’s what we need to do, and learn how to mimic, that our culture knows little about, importantly because science has avoided studying the opportunistic learning of natural systems all but entirely.

I know this approach is problematic for someone accustomed to representing systems with equations.    Real ecosystems are niche making learning and development processes, though, largely involved in “rule making” not “rule following” .    The far better conceptual models for them are of collective learning and environmental development.   Collective learning and development systems can cling to one systematic behavior while it is useful, and the break from it to find and cling to another model, when that is opportune, because the parts are actively learning as they go. Continue reading Can we shut down the system for repairs?

Sustainability by design

John Ehrenfeld’s nice blog post on the ethics of sustainability, “On the Merits of Fishing“,  prompted this short response.  It leads to a good way to describe economic sustainability by design, as Keynes envisioned:

“this more favorable possibility comes to the rescue”.

It’s curious that the metaphor of growth has yet to be connected with nature’s general process of making things that reliably work by themselves. Her process invariably involves systems become comfortable with themselves at the end of growth, something like the fisherman’s ethic described here. Continue reading Sustainability by design