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05/28/2015

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it seemed as if Deck was contending for advertizing alone being the cause of recent social decline

No. Not my contention at all.

Art Deco, so your idea is that he might have felt responsible for not having prescribed a different, more common drug, but that his choice of this particular less common drug cannot have been influenced by his having the brand name constantly before his eyes?

From my time in Texas (early 80s) I also remember that Dr Pepper was not always all that easy to find, especially in soda machines, but in those instances there was an equivalent knockoff called 'Mr Pibb' that folks would drink instead.

"I can't really see myself how to distinguish media and advertising: they exist in almost complete symbiosis."

A friend of mine insists that TV programming exists only to fill the time between commercials. :-)

but that his choice of this particular less common drug cannot have been influenced by his having the brand name constantly before his eyes?

In the U.S., pharmaceutical representatives show up at doctor's offices all the time. That's one way they hear about new medications. Another is to read practitioners' journals like American Family Physician and Pediatrics. That he's in thrall to his prescription pad beggars belief.

The GP I know best (who has a geriatric clientele, which conditions his thinking to a degree) tells me the following: "you know there's an x percent chance that this medication will produce y percent improvement in this patient. You also know that it will likely do nothing at all and may have disagreeable side effects. What do you do?" You're doctor faces dilemmas like this every day, and I'll wager does not fancy being told he told you to do something which injured you.

One wonders why pharmaceutical companies should bother with such freebies, if they don't expect them to have any effect.

"Whenever I say "Why did so and so bad thing happen?" he says, "Genesis 3.""

Apple-gate!

"I remember at one of Stratford Caldecott's conferences Peter Hitchins gave a talk and said you should not let your kids watch TV if you want them to grow up to be Christian. I thought that was sound common sense, but the audience was simply appalled."

I'm certainly inclined to agree with Hitchens. We don't have TV stations in the house. My children probably do watch too much in the way of movies etc. I watch next to nothing at all -- because I'm on the 'net. :P

Rob G, I can reliably inform you that Dr Pepper is now widely available in Texas. I'm not sure this information will be in any way useful.

If you drink Diet Coke, which I do, you can be sure that sooner or later you will be given a Dr. Pepper by mistake. The only think nastier than drinking Dr. Pepper is drinking Dr. Pepper when you think it's going to be something else.

AMDG

"...a slightly similar wondering reaction to adults discussing their taste in fizzy pop. I know it's just a cultural difference..."

It is, and it's a reflection of just how big a part of the culture those stupid and unhealthy drinks are. Even someone like me who rarely drinks them has an opinion. Offhand I can't remember when I last had a Coke or Dr Pepper, but nevertheless I voice my preference. There are similar discussions about the merits of fast food restaurants: Macdonald's, Burger King, and all the rest.

Paul, I think the conversation about which is our favourite soft drink came up after the discussion had become a bit abrasive. It was a way of pouring oil on troubled water - moving the conversation on to something non controversial. Probably happened unconsciously.

"The only think nastier than drinking Dr. Pepper is drinking Dr. Pepper when you think it's going to be something else."

I have to take issue with that. It would be considerably more unpleasant to get Diet Coke when you thought you were getting Dr Pepper.

Diet Coke, now--that's the one I don't understand. That anyone would drink it regularly baffles me the way Dr Pepper baffles some people.

The remark about cultural differences reminded me of Marmite and Vegemite. Just thinking of either makes me shudder.

They make me think of breakfast.

I'm getting toward the end of the Vegemite, finally. It's ok but I like Marmite better.

"Diet Coke, now--that's the one I don't understand."

Ditto. Oddly enough, I've heard from quite a few people that the best tasting diet beverage (the one that tastes the least "diet") is Diet Dr. Pepper!

As I said above I've never been much of a fizzy drink person, but lately I've been drinking a fair amount of bottled iced tea, which is not really good for you either. Better to make your own, I'd say -- either that or lemonade.

"I have to take issue with that. It would be considerably more unpleasant to get Diet Coke when you thought you were getting Dr Pepper."

That may very well be true, but I can assure you I will never have that experience, so I can only speculate.

As far as soft drinks are concerned, my friend Fr. Robert always says that the motto of the South is "Coke--it's not just for breakfast anymore." I loved everything about Coke when I was little: the wooden cases in the corner of the kitchen, the green glass bottles, looking on the bottle to the bottle to see where yours came from (sometimes it said Memphis!), the openers that hung on the wall (I have one in my kitchen that's been here for at least 40 years.), the enormous coolers (big enough for a few kids to sit in) filled with half-melted ice that we had at picnics, and the fact that you had to have a nickel and a penny to get a coke out of the machines. So, I can't drink regular cokes anymore, but it's hard to give it up altogether.

Actually, lately I have been drinking more tea and fewer soft drinks, and the soft drink I prefer is Fresca.

AMDG

I'd say that this reflects what might be called technocracy:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/former-master-we-are-all-slaves/


Indeed. I also thought of the mostly anonymous people who wrote the Obamacare law. And the arrogant guy (Gruber?) who admitted that the whole thing was deceptive while profiting handsomely from his consulting role.

Individual comestibles are not 'good for you' or 'bad for you'. Obesity (commonly derived from a mix of compulsive eating and inactivity) is not good and a mix of excess and deficiency in your overall diet is not good.

"They make me think of breakfast.

I'm getting toward the end of the Vegemite, finally. It's ok but I like Marmite better."

Do you really? I definitely prefer Vegemite. Marmite is a little too bitter for me.

"As far as soft drinks are concerned, my friend Fr. Robert always says that the motto of the South is "Coke--it's not just for breakfast anymore.""

Ha! I love Coke. I *really* love it. But I don't drink it much. An excess would certainly be bad for me. I like the fizz of fizzy drinks, so by way of having something a little more healthy when I go out for dinner, I often drink orange juice with mineral or tonic water. The fizz is very pleasant and it's not too sweet.

"Individual comestibles are not 'good for you' or 'bad for you'."

Oh dear. You are a heretic against the New Religion of Eating Right.

Your contention is what, Rob G? That we should not have a financial sector, or that it should not be run by people with expertise, or that the curious place of the financial sector in the economy is a novelty?


the way the system chewed him up and spit him out

How was the man 'chewed up'? He was certainly 'spit out', but treating late middle-aged men as expendable is characteristic of a number of sectors (and notorious in tech). See Clayton Cramer on this point. No clue as to whether it reflects real changes in productivity as a worker ages or it's a fallacy which does not injure competitiveness because it's so universal in a sector.

It turns out that the filmmaker, Marc Bauder, set out to interview a number of German investment bankers about their world, post-crash, but none would talk to him — none, other than Voss.

Which strongly suggests a somewhat atypical perspective will be forthcoming, because he's given up on his trade.


He was a company man from the start, rising from fairly humble beginnings (his father was a heating engineer) to a position in which he was making around $1.5 million yearly (on the advice of his lawyer, Voss doesn’t mention the specific banks for which he worked). And from the beginning, the finance industry owned his soul.

Dreher's just the sort who confounds his rhetorical flourishes with reality.


He talks about how if you want to get ahead in high finance, you have to live for the company. Your family must come a distant second. The only time Voss gets visibly uncomfortable in the film is when the director presses him on his relationship to his children. Voss uses the classic self-justifying dodge of the high-flying workaholic: What matters is not the quantity of time I spend with my children, but the quality. You can tell that even he really doesn’t believe that anymore, but can’t bear the emotional consequences of calling it a lie.


This man he's referring to is derived from a tiny self-selected minority. There are benefits and costs to any course of action you take, and senior corporation executives and attorneys often work abnormal hours. The injury to their children depends on their capacity to have salutary interactions with those children to begin with.

I assume Dreher has crossed paths with a medical resident, and certainly with a common-and-garden GP. Their children generally do not see much of them either.


He says that the industry changed dramatically with deregulation in the 1980s, when Americans with “strange suspenders” came over to teach the German bankers about all the fabulous new financial products they could be putting together and selling to clients. Voss says that he and his colleagues viewed the Americans “as gods.”

Oh, so it's our fault. Why does this not surprise me from the world's faux populists?


And they learned. Voss says that one dirty little secret of the industry is that the only people who really make money are large institutional investors; private investors simply do not have the technical capability to know when they are being screwed over by investment bankers.

"Large institutional investors" would be people managing pension funds, mutual funds, money-market funds, insurance company portfolios and philanthropic endowments. The insurance company portfolios largely consist of bonds which appreciate and depreciate very little (as a rule) and the money market funds contain commercial and municipal paper (which pays low returns and neither appreciates nor depreciates much). Now what sort of people benefit from mutual funds and pension funds? Computer programmers from Mobile, perhaps? Postal workers from Youngstown?

While we're at it, you likely will find little in a private investor's portfolio sold in an IPO. People buy equities in a secondary market because they fancy they're undervalued. If there is someone scamming here, it's likely money managers, who get paid fees even though their clients might be just as well off investing in index funds. Now, you do have some high-fliers in that trade (e.g. hedge-fund operators), but the common-and-garden investment counselor, financial analyst, financial planner, &c. likely is not much better off than a typical insurance agent. I bet there's an insurance agency in St. Francisville. He may even double as a money manager.


In fact — and this is the freakiest thing about the film — nobody knows anything

Again, reporters write like this. Non-brain-dead people do not.


Voss says globalization and the technologization of trading has created a system so vast and complex that nobody can really master it.

Shades of William Greider. There must be someone 'at the wheel' of 'global capitalism' or world go blooey. (The younger Paul Krugman offered that Greider should have a competent economist review his books before they're published). Why would you expect a given person to 'master' an entire economic sector world wide, or, really any sort of trade or profession? Why would you want a discrete public or private entity to 'master' an economic sector? (And why would I expect Dreher to have any idea of the implications of the words he spews?)


The system has mastered us all. Control is an illusion.

Welcome to adult life, Mr. Dreher.

would force the bankers to change, e.g., compel them to stop making money off the potential economic failure of certain countries. But nobody will.

Yeah, the world will be a much better place if you cannot short sell Greek government bonds (to someone else in your trade who fancies you've misjudged their value).


The film is at its most penetrating when Voss talks about how much control the financial industry has over the lives of ordinary people, and even entire nations.

The financial sector controls nothing in your household. They influence your behavior to a degree, consequent on your circumstances and choices. That's mortgage lenders, credit card vendors, miscellaneous consumer lenders, and credit reporting agencies. This fellow Voss was not engaged in that type of finance.

They do not 'control' entire nations or influence them much unless the nations in question are in extremis from bad financial decisions or odd events. You have money to lend, you influence corporate bodies who wish to borrow. Does Dreher fancy there is some alternative to this?


Voss speaks evenly and unaffectedly about how bankers at his level will speak openly to each other about making money at the expense of tearing other countries and societies apart.

Can Dreher think of a single example of some body of individuals having done that? Which 'society' or 'country' was 'torn apart' by bankers?

In fact, says Voss, they considered him nothing but a mercenary. A gun for hire. It was only business.

Employers have partial and contingent relationships with their employees. This is a revelation?

covering their predatory, nihilistic behavior.

Do you think Dreher could, without looking it up, define 'predatory' or 'nihilistic'.


I have a friend, an American banker who was at Voss’s level.


Dreher uses this shtick so often only the gullible assume the 'friends' are non-imaginary.

"Your contention is what, Rob G? That we should not have a financial sector, or that it should not be run by people with expertise, or that the curious place of the financial sector in the economy is a novelty?"

Now today, boys and girls, we're going to learn about the False Trichotomy! It's just like the False Dichotomy but it has THREE parts!

Louise: the New Religion of Eating Right

These people are so obsessive! People started saying a year or so ago that the real problem is not fats, its sugar. But now sugar has become demonic poison. Of course people should eat sugary things as treats, not all the time. But treating them as demonic poisons is just fanatical.

Now today, boys and girls, we're going to learn about the False Trichotomy!

--

I assume you'll get around to telling us what the true option is that I concealed.

==

This fellow Voss worked in a part of the world few of us have palpable experience of and which is from a distance disconcerting if not disgusting. You could argue it should operate under a different regulatory architecture for reasons of pareto efficiency or distributive justice. However, Dreher hasn't the chops to make that argument because he doesn't know anything but how to eat stuff and shoot his mouth off. So, we get the usual Dreher: laments, accusations, and imaginary friends.

"I assume you'll get around to telling us what the true option is that I concealed."

Why bother?

"Your contention is what, Rob G? That we should not have a financial sector, or that it should not be run by people with expertise, or that the curious place of the financial sector in the economy is a novelty?"

Art, it sometimes seems that you're willfully misunderstanding, or maybe just being contrary for the fun of it. If I think Jonathan Gruber is a dishonest son of a bitch who has parlayed his expertise as an academic economist into an opportunity to help run the lives of those whom he apparently holds in contempt while pulling in very healthy rewards for himself, it doesn't mean that I don't believe we should have a health care sector.

OK, but his reference was to an article by Rod Dreher on a disaffected investment banker. The problems with Dreher's theses noted (with some complaints by me about Dreher's usual modus operandi).

If your complaint is about people with little integrity, I get that. If it's about the terminally arrogant, I get that. If you're interest is in exploring the problems posed by the New Class (see Alvin Gouldner), I get that. I'm just not seeing how that's illuminated by Dreher being Dreher and offering a misconceived whine about a practitioner in a field of which he knows nothing.

"I'm just not seeing how that's illuminated by Dreher being Dreher and offering a misconceived whine about a practitioner in a field of which he knows nothing."

I'm not sure you have to know much about the minutiae of investment banking to intuit that something's rotten in this particular state of Denmark. My posting of the piece was based on the observation that in general, the sort of thing that Rod is describing here is a good example of what certain critics refer to as technocracy -- rule by technique. One need not agree with every particular in order to support the general contention.

"If I think Jonathan Gruber is a dishonest son of a bitch...it doesn't mean that I don't believe we should have a health care sector."

This line of argument always baffles me. It's like raising the issue of highway deaths and being answered with, "Oh, then you don't believe in automobiles?"

Being warned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater is one thing. Being told that a complaint about the dirtiness of the water implies a rejection of baths is quite another.

Right. It's an all too common form of argument.

Art, I wonder if your dislike of Dreher causes you to overreact. I'm not especially a fan myself, but I read the thing Rob linked to not so much as a Dreher opinion piece but a news story about a technocrat which raises about the strong possibility (at least) that, as Rob says, there is something really rotten in our financial system. As I'm sure you know that view is not hard to find in conservative circles. It's not just liberal anti-capitalism.

On further thought, I think the people who run things like the Federal Reserve Bank fit the definition of "technocrat" better than an investment banker, who is after all pretty up-front about being in it for the money. "Technocracy" in my mind can be defined as "rule by experts", keeping in mind the distinction Paul (I think it was) made between expert advice and expert diktat. It's an idea beloved by experts.

Louise, I wouldn't have used the word "bitter" to describe the difference between Marmite and Vegemite, but I seem to like a bitter edge in some things, for instance beer. The "Veg" part of "Vegamite" is the distinctive bit to me--there's a vegetable-y flavor that Marmite doesn't have, and is what I don't like as much.

I used to work with a Jesuit who said "Coffee should be like life: black and bitter."

which raises about the strong possibility (at least) that, as Rob says, there is something really rotten in our financial system.

Dreher's not the person to make that argument and the argument cannot be made with a personal story (though aspects of that might be illuminated by it).

Dreher does allude (vaguely) to a conflict of interest incorporated into the operations of a securities firm or universal bank when the investment bankers therein are underwriting a securities issue and the investment counselors and brokers therein are promoting certain securities to their clients. I think 'Chinese walls' are supposed to guard against that, but it would seem to me that if two people in your firm cannot speak to each other, you're really saying that they perform functions which should not be in the same firm.

A different question, which Dreher cannot address, is whether we have and could possibly erect institutions which could rapidly roll up bust securities firms. FDIC's book is deposits-and-loans institutions and they did not have the institutional memory to handle a universal bank or the resources to handle a bank which had 2/3 of its deposits domiciled abroad, which is why Citigroup was treated to an ad hoc rescue rather than the standard package Washington Mutual recived via the FDIC (at least that's what I've read). That leads to the question of whether the sort of universal banking practiced elsewhere should be permitted and permitted here.

Another question has to do with the incongruous intramural behavior of firms like Goldman Sachs, which had a history of peddling collateralized-debt-obligations to their clients while their trading desk was taking short positions on these instruments.

There's more people in the business can explain to you. I know some conventional trusts and commercial banking mavens in Rochester who were aghast at some of the stuff casino bankers in New York were getting away with post-1999. Do not know the angles myself.

Apart from that, you just had a mess of bad business decisions, some of which were not accounted for (if I understand correctly) because you had derivatives with huge notional values being traded in dark markets. Or, as one lapsed Merrill Lynch employee told my brother, "AIG was a great company destroyed by five guys in London".

If you want something rotten, look at the mortgage maws and the nexus of political connections they maintain. Dreher's an alt-right partisan, and their business is trashing the conventional right, not taking apart crony capitalism as practiced by Johnson, Gorelick, Raines, Frank, and Moses, so Dreher isn't motivated to discuss Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (who received huge cash injections the 'bailed out' banks had to pay back with interest.

The Federal Reserve is an example of what you've been discussing, bar that Timothy Geithner is Mr. Connections more than he is Mr. Expertise. The problem is one of alternatives. The specie based currency or an updated version thereof favored by paulbots would be almost indubitably a disaster. Economists like John Taylor have been critical of the Fed for exercising too much discretion in lieu of following formulae and rules. About the mechanics of monetary policy, it's hard to see that elected officials have much to bring to the table (other than a complaint about overall results).

I'll take Wendell Berry's short version: a bet on a debt is not an asset and shouldn't have been sold as one.

"Dreher's an alt-right partisan, and their business is trashing the conventional right, not taking apart crony capitalism"

Dreher has talked about cronyism, both left and right, fairly often. But the mainstream right's attack on "crony capitalism" is largely a dodge. By laying all the weight on the adjective they free themselves from having to look critically at the noun.


I generally avoid discussing "capitalism", because its definition is so slippery. But with that in mind, that's a fair criticism of some on the right.

I am not at all competent to discuss finance. But it is hard to look at economic events of the past 20 years or so and not get the feeling that there is indeed something rotten.

I can speak from personal knowledge of the effect that a focus on stock market performance can have on an enterprise. It's a very distorting effect, forcing a short-term perspective--week-to-week or day-to-day fluctuations in stock price become all-important. And when you reflect that the people determining those prices are in some large percentage mere gamblers, it sort of makes a mockery of that storybook version you get in school (at least I did) of how the whole concept came to be: someone invents a better mousetrap, and his neighbors see its potential and put up money for him to produce and sell it, then when it succeeds are rewarded in proportion to their investment.

Whether Dreher is "a good person to make that argument" or not wasn't a factor to me in reading that piece. It's what's said in the film that's of interest. I assume Dreher is accurate enough in reporting that.

Dreher has talked about cronyism, both left and right, fairly often.

No, Dreher strikes a pose once or twice a year in which one or another character string figures. You would be hard put to find a single example of Dreher offering a critical assessment of the social nexus around the Democratic Party on this issue. The thing is (and to those of a certain vintage who were billeted in political science classrooms devoted to American domestic politics), you can hardly discuss the mundane business of the Democratic Party in Washington without making reference to it as a collection of patron-client relations.

The most in-depth treatment of 'cronyism' you'll find courtesy Dreher is an article published nearly ten years ago in National Review concerning Michael D. Brown, the hapless hack running FEMA during Hurricane Katrina. The only article you'll find on the mortgage maws (which have been tremendously important and incestuously tied to the Democratic Party) was an attack on George W. Bush's Treasury secretary.

Other people can figure Dreher out even if you cannot. The man will post more food porn photos in a week than he has remarks on these aspects of political economy in the last decade. Michael Kinsley was a serious student of the Democratic Party. Dreher is not.


But the mainstream right's attack on "crony capitalism" is largely a dodge. By laying all the weight on the adjective they free themselves from having to look critically at the noun.

I've been waiting for years for a 'critical look' from you that wasn't perfectly vaporous.


Art, I wonder if your dislike of Dreher causes you to overreact.

The man is capable of provoking a discussion and turning in copy on time. He's so insufferable in every other way that 'over-reacting' to him would be quite a tour-de-force on my part. On the other hand, I'm told by those proximate to me that I'm a fine specimen of the Victor Meldrew type on our shores, so maybe I've managed it.

"I've been waiting for years for a 'critical look' from you that wasn't perfectly vaporous."

The stuff's out there, man. The Skidelsky's, John Medaille, Herman Daly, Fr. Albino Barrera, Brad Gregory, William Cavanaugh. Fr. Barrera is especially interesting, as he holds advanced degrees in both theology and economics.

Tolle lege.

John Medaille

I've had exchanges with Mr. Medaille in fora like this. If you want to go there, you're lost.

Herman Daly is a purveyor of a peculiar subdepartment of resource economics associated with the infamous Club of Rome. You may want to go there but I doubt many will be pleased to follow you.

When you're done name dropping, let me know.

Recommending writers is not generally described as name-dropping. Not generally and not accurately.

"[Dreher]'s so insufferable in every other way..."

It amuses me that you share this passionate detestation of Dreher with a certain friend of mine whom you also detest. I know several other people who share it. The intensity of it puzzles me somewhat.

"Recommending writers is not generally described as name-dropping. Not generally and not accurately."

True. And furthermore, you do not have to agree with a writer's entire "project" or his associations in order to call on his ideas for support.


Recommending writers is not generally described as name-dropping. Not generally and not accurately.

Not generally, but perhaps when the name of the writer is all you ever see.


And furthermore, you do not have to agree with a writer's entire "project" or his associations in order to call on his ideas for support.

John Medaille is on the record as saying all of economics is nonsense. For some strange reason I'm not inclined to 'call on' any other flotsam and jetsam in his head. Herman Daly's signature 'idea' is 'zero-growth economics'. I have not clue what else on which you imagine you are calling. Does he write a gardening column or something I missed?

Sorry, Art, but your previous comment crossed the personal attack line. I've un-published it, which means it still exists but doesn't appear. I can either edit it down to something I consider acceptable and re-publish it, or just let it go--your call. But my "acceptable" is probably not going to be yours. I would say this via email but the one you supplied with the comment doesn't appear to be valid.

Let's keep this at the level of ideas, not personalities.

"John Medaille is on the record as saying all of economics is nonsense."

Having read him (but not having any books or articles at hand) I know for a fact that you're taking that statement out of context, misquoting it, or both.

"Herman Daly's signature 'idea' is 'zero-growth economics'. I have not clue what else on which you imagine you are calling."

The thing that springs immediately to mind is his observation that modern economics has ceased being what it was classically, a moral/humane science, and has instead become largely an exercise in number crunching. He puts it in Aristotelian terms: oikonomia has collapsed into chrematistics.

Of course Daly is neither the first nor the only one to have pointed this out, but he is one of the first economists that I came across who did so.

You brought this subject up, not me. Is it a 'personal attack' for you to say I 'detest' someone I've never met in the flesh, never injured, and give no thought to from one season to the next?

You say I 'detest' Daniel Nichols and it's a 'personal attack' for me to dispute that and tell you what it really is I do not like about what he's said time and again and how that contrasts with my opinion of Dreher's collection of stances. I know nothing of Daniel's viewpoint bar what he's said on his own blog and here and he makes no secret of his views on State Farm Insurance, the Ohio State Police, and the State of Israel &c, so I cannot figure how it's illegitimate to allude to it. (Unless it's your contention that it's illegitimate to refer to his habits and dispositions as manifested in saying these things).

As for Dreher, he keeps company (and has little compunction about quoting) Damon Linker; Linker is best known for drawing a salary from the Institute on Religion and Public Life for four years in order to collect material for an expose; that's not the sort of person an ordinary man might want to be around or cite as an authority, but Dreher brooks no criticism of the man, and I mean none. It's a reasonable inference that's because Dreher cannot see what's wrong with that type of behavior. (That's a 'personal attack' on Linker, I suppose, but if that's illegitimate, you cannot ever discuss the police blotter either).

Having read him (but not having any books or articles at hand) I know for a fact that you're taking that statement out of context, misquoting it, or both.

No I'm not. He's said so in no uncertain terms in repeated paragraph length outbursts. Tito Edwards liquidated old comment archives the last time he updated The American Catholic, so my exchanges with him were erased, but yes, he said this. He cited Donald McCloskey as his authority and he went on and on about 'economists' failure to predict the financial crisis, as if more than a modest minority of publishing academic economists were specialists in general macroeconomics or finance.

The thing that springs immediately to mind is his observation that modern economics has ceased being what it was classically, a moral/humane science, and has instead become largely an exercise in number crunching.

It's hard to fix much meaning or value to complaints like this. If he wishes to have arguments on moral and ethical matters, he can consult works of philosophy. Economists will readily tell you that they do not handle normative questions well.

As for 'number crunching', you have theoreticians and you have applied economics'. Some do one, some do the other. Some are historians. You have a few who are intellectual historians like the younger Thomas Sowell. You cannot readily verify testable assertions without the use of statistical method.

Just for the record, since you are pressing the point, it was specifically the imputation of anti-semitism that caused me to block that comment. You didn't say "state of Israel," you said "the Jews." Now let's just drop it.

"He's said so in no uncertain terms in repeated paragraph length outbursts."

He has said things to the effect that all modern economics is nonsense, because he believes it's all built on a faulty foundation. But if he really believed that ALL economics was nonsense he wouldn't have written two books and numerous articles on the subject.

"It's hard to fix much meaning or value to complaints like this. If he wishes to have arguments on moral and ethical matters, he can consult works of philosophy. Economists will readily tell you that they do not handle normative questions well."

Precisely his point. The "numbers" aspect of economics has been artificially separated from the moral and ethical side of the science that used to be an inherent part of it. Chrematistics, which was once a small subdivision of economic science, has in effect become the whole.


He has said things to the effect that all modern economics is nonsense, because he believes it's all built on a faulty foundation.

You fancy this makes his statement less lunatic?

Precisely his point. The "numbers" aspect of economics has been artificially separated from the moral and ethical side of the science that used to be an inherent part of it.

No, Rob G. An economist undertaking a statistical study is attempting to answer a question which does not interest you. If it does not, read something else.

"Of course people should eat sugary things as treats, not all the time. But treating them as demonic poisons is just fanatical."

Quite right, Grumpy. Of course, it's not just the evil sugars in obviously evil things like sweets/candy/lollies, but even the insidious evil sugars which lurk in fruit and anything made of anything even remotely tasty.

Maclin, your preference for beer that is more bitter certainly makes sense in the light of your preference of Marmite over Vegemite.

An American guest we had at our house during World Youth Day in 2008 looked at the ingredients of Vegemite and declared the stuff to be solid beer. (With salt added I assume).

I'm pretty sure I read that Marmite began as a by-product of beer-making. Probably the same is true of Vegemite.

My Kiwi son-in-law will eat nothing but the Marmite that's made in England. My daughter, his wife, will eat nothing but the Marmite made here in New Zealand, which she says has a much creamier consistency. So far, no one in the family eats Vegemite, but it may be just a matter of time before my two grandchildren decide to be rebels.
And all poor Nana can do is sit by and shake her head over having such a sadly deluded family.

I forgot to mention that I tried Dr Pepper yesterday. It wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, but I doubt I'll try it again.

"You fancy this makes his statement less lunatic?"

Yes, because even if he really believes it and is not just hyperbolizing, he has a valid point if his initial observation is accurate. For instance, if he believes that all modern economics is off-base because it assumes a fundamentally erroneous understanding of human action, then he's got a point.

"No, Rob G. An economist undertaking a statistical study is attempting to answer a question which does not interest you. If it does not, read something else."

Sorry, but you are simply wrong. We're not talking about "a" statistical study. We're talking about statistical studies and other number-crunching activities crowding out the moral and philosophical aspect of economics that used to be a major part of the science. And "interest" in statistics has nothing to do with it: no one is implying that statistical analysis isn't important. It's just not the whole ball of wax.

Louise & Marianne-- I'm a little puzzled at reactions of shock and horror to Dr Pepper. I can see not liking it, but don't understand, for instance, Paul's reaction. But I'm not at all puzzled by that reaction to Marmite or Vegemite.

And by the way Marianne I'm intrigued by your mention of national variants of Marmite. Now I wonder if I'm missing something.

Americans, at least those who listen to pop music, heard of Vegemite back in the early '80s when it was mentioned in a song by the Australian group Men At Work. I recall someone at work wondering what it was, and someone else explaining, and adding "It's *awful*".

I started reading Medaille's "truly free market" book a while back and never finished it. I admit that I've been a little prejudiced against him because of the unpleasant tone of some of his online writings that I've come across here and there. But as I recall that wasn't present in the book, though I didn't get very far. When it's time to actually pick up a book and read, proposals for fixing the economy, or creating a new one, tend to lose out.

I have that one but have only dipped into it here and there. His previous book, The Vocation of Business, was quite good I thought. He is definitely more prickly online than in his actual published writing.

Yes, because even if he really believes it and is not just hyperbolizing, he has a valid point if his initial observation is accurate. For instance, if he believes that all modern economics is off-base because it assumes a fundamentally erroneous understanding of human action, then he's got a point.

Sir, a real estate agent from Dallas who fancies he can bring down an entire academic discipline is a textbook example of what is called a 'crank'.

Sorry, but you are simply wrong. We're not talking about "a" statistical study. We're talking about statistical studies and other number-crunching activities crowding out the moral and philosophical aspect of economics that used to be a major part of the science. And "interest" in statistics has nothing to do with it: no one is implying that statistical analysis isn't important. It's just not the whole ball of wax.

Again, their are economists who do theoretical work and those who do empirical studies. There are also historians. None of them would suggest that statistical analysis was the 'whole ball of wax', so what's the point of that complaint?

And, no, I'm not wrong. Your complaint is one against academic specialization, and that complaint is a waste of time. Economists have a full plate learning just what they do at this time, and it's one of the less heterogeneous social research disciplines. That someone with the label 'economist' slapped on him is not pondering some philosophical question is of no account unless the absence of philosophical discourses distorts lines of inquiry. Both Medaille and you are so confused about what economists do all day that you'd be hard put to assemble a cogent argument to that effect.

"Your complaint is one against academic specialization, and that complaint is a waste of time."

Wrong again, evinced by this total misunderstanding of the complaint.

"That someone with the label 'economist' slapped on him is not pondering some philosophical question is of no account unless the absence of philosophical discourses distorts lines of inquiry."

And if the philosophical discourse went missing far upstream and its absence has distorted the very lines of inquiry that brought said economist to the place where he now sits doing his current cipherin' and figurin'?

"Both Medaille and you are so confused about what economists do all day..."

This wasn't based on Medaille's complaint, but on Daly's. And he IS an economist.


Is Amartya Sen an economist?

This wasn't based on Medaille's complaint, but on Daly's. And he IS an economist.

Medaille is confused by what economists do all day, whether Daly has some complaint or not.


Wrong again, evinced by this total misunderstanding of the complaint.

I understand your complaint. It's just that the complaint is contrived and not worthwhile.


And if the philosophical discourse went missing far upstream and its absence has distorted the very lines of inquiry that brought said economist to the place where he now sits doing his current cipherin' and figurin'?

You're fixated on the notion that people in the economics department should be thinking about what you fancy is of interest (rather than characters in the philosophy department or in the theoretical wing of the sociology department). Why you expect this of economists, I cannot figure. (And why you seem unable to get your mind around the concept of what theoreticians do in academic economics I cannot figure either).

And you're not going to get much out of Daly on that score either. He's been around for decades, but the vast bulk of his verbiage has been arguing for the applicability of his notion of a 'steady state' economy. He tends to prefer monographic formats (i.e. to eschew conventional publishing conduits) and you'd be hard put to find a treatment of a normative, theoretical or epistemological question longer than a couple of newspaper columns.

"I'm a little puzzled at reactions of shock and horror to Dr Pepper. I can see not liking it, but don't understand, for instance, Paul's reaction. But I'm not at all puzzled by that reaction to Marmite or Vegemite."

I agree.

"It's just that the complaint is contrived and not worthwhile."

There are quite a few people of pretty high intellectual calibre who think it is worthwhile, so excuse me if I stick with them.

"You're fixated on the notion that people in the economics department should be thinking about what you fancy is of interest"

Please. I'm beginning to think you're just a contrarian. If someone you didn't like said the grass was green, you'd start an argument about what shade.

"Is Amartya Sen an economist?"

According to wikipedia, yes. And a philosopher too. I've not read him, but recognize his name from other things I have read.

Which reminds me of another name I forgot to "drop" -- John Mueller, author of Redeeming Economics, who is some sort of economist or economic analyst.

Please. I'm beginning to think you're just a contrarian. If someone you didn't like said the grass was green, you'd start an argument about what shade.

No, Rob, you fancy economists should focus their attention on things other than economics because Herman Daly made reference to some late 18th century figure who did so. Arts and sciences faculties are characterized by disciplinary specializations and people in department x do not do what's done in department y and x and y often involve the cultivation of incompatible skill sets. That's just reality in a world in which there can be a great deal to learn, and, no, Herman Daly is not some erudite practical philosopher. He's a bloke with an opinion and some eccentric ideas about sustainable development.

"you fancy economists should focus their attention on things other than economics because Herman Daly made reference to some late 18th century figure who did so."

Huh? Who would that be? I certainly don't recall mentioning any such figure, and the bit of Daly to which I was referring didn't either. In fact, I specifically limited my recommendations to contemporary writers precisely because I didn't want to hear the "he's-so-out-of-date" response.

You recommended Herman Daly, who is not who you fancy he is, and John Medaille, who be a crank, and paraphrased Daly as complaining that... oh, never mind.

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