Re: CAMREC: Egalitarianism in a world of power-law distributions

From: the Campaign for Real Economics (
Date: Sun Dec 17 2000 - 16:28:14 GMT

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    From: the Campaign for Real Economics <>
    Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 08:28:14 -0800 (PST)
    Subject: Re: CAMREC: Egalitarianism in a world of power-law    distributions

    Ok, and on it goes... (not that I am not enjoying

    Allow me little remark on an older topic:
    You mentioned that economists decided to refer the
    decison about the goals of society to
    This is where economics is loosing its credibility,
    because economists tend to be pretty good at framing
    their statements in such a way as to control the
    outcome the process...remember the statement about
    politicians and defunct economists?
    So if economists want to become scientists they have
    to actually get rid of their impartiality assumption,
    get involved and face reality. Seems like economists
    discovered consulting before those guys in suits did
    But consultants are yielding to that criticism by
    To answer your questions:
    > >I
    > >could also form pretty strong convictions about sth
    > >like an attractor where the issue would end up in
    > the
    > >end... which sometimes was not too much off the
    > mark.
    > What is this 'sth' attractor.

    Good question. I don#t have a good term for it, so I
    used a concept from dynamical systems theory and
    fuzzified it, thats all. There is a political
    scientist at Harvard dealing with political processes
    in this framework...
    > It is pretty common to describe Adam Smith as a
    > 'reformer.'

    Ask F. List about this! But he focuses in his
    criticism maybe too much on the theory and not the
    problems and how to deal with them of Smith's approach
    (as a lot of other economists do for the application
    of Smith's ideas) - but I am only very faintly
    acquainted with both positions, so please dont nail me
    on these statements. I know, its a shame for an
    economist, but then most curricula dont give enough
    room for history of thought in economics and
    methodology courses...

    He has
    > identified several problems and advocates a reform
    > program. The reform
    > program is largely based on assumptions about the
    > value of egalitarianism.

    Could you explain that?
    What about the historic context of such a position,
    and is it still valid? Or only applicable in a world
    of highly educated knowledge workers, or maybe even
    only in a world of economists subscribing to a certain
    worldview? - Have a look at Charles Ferguson's High
    Stakes, No Prisoners - it describes the dilemma of an
    strategically schooled economist in a world of
    So, if you show the "social value" of
    heterogeneity/differences in economic actors and that
    these differences need to associated with inequality
    then A Smith would be "dead" wrt this issue?
    What I was sometimes reminded of in this mail exchange
    was - probably not surprising with my German
    background- the concept of Soziale Marktwirtschaft.
    But here inequality is associated with the working of
    the market process. people don't have perfect
    foresight or knowledge, so you (as statesman) have to
    protect them via law/setting the rules of the game -
    which is arguably a patriacharic position in its root.
    Additionally you have to redistribute some of the
    proceeds of the successful to the losers of the game
    for humanitarian reasons, or if you want to buy their
    > Though economist like to think of themselves as
    > something like 'engineers'
    > trying to keep the 'train' of state on track, their
    > energy comes from the
    > reform agenda, not the science (if there is any).

    Does it? Seems like I have never been educated to be a
    real economist (bad schooling?)or maybe I ditched some
    of the important things in favour of some
    non-economist topics, or it's just a cultural
    difference thing: Anglosaxon vs. German (continental?)
    > For econophysics to get out of the banks and mutual
    > funds where it help a
    > minority, it would have to link into this reform
    > energy.

    OK, I finally get behind the motivation for your
    question. Why should econophysics want to save the
    world? People are usually very good at messing up
    their lives if they don't like to be
    helped, it makes a lot of sense to just make money for
    yourself and have a good life (if thats your
    definition of "good life", and if not, it still helps
    a lot). You could rephrase this statement also in more
    idealistic terms as: it is better to start cleanning
    up in front of your own door than to tell your
    neighbor how to do it (which would be in line with A.
    Smith explanation of the working of a market process
    (society?) as driven by appeal other peoples'

    Have fun,


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