822. Notes for August 30, 2011

Martha Nussbaum has been one of the best at bringing serious disciplined humanistic thinking to the social world and public policy.


Martha Nussbaum’s Creating Capabilities

by INGRID ROBEYNS on AUGUST 29, 2011     


the book also ignores all the questions related to measurement, which is, in my experience, the #1 question asked by economists who want to understand this framework, and by policy makers looking for an answer to the question whether the approach has any bite.


Sad, because anything can be measured. "On a scale of 1 to 5 you prefer today or yesterday?". The problem is the people’s desire for measurement has an element of bad faith in it, driven more by hearsay than thinking through the implications. I am reading Michelle Serres on Lucretius and the flow of fluids where the early atomic theory was not quantitative at all but brilliantly descriptive.



Nussbaum describes the capabilities approach as a new theoretical paradigm in the development and policy world, which poses the questions: “What are people actually able to do and to be?” Put differently, the capabilities approach asks which genuine opportunities are open to people.


This is terrific but there feels something awkward to me in the idea of capabilities. Compared to Gary Wills  Inventing America with his analysis of happiness coming from Scottish enlightenment and the idea of engaging activities, happenings, that bring our talents into contact with reality.



the substantive freedoms or opportunities that are created by a combination of the abilities residing inside a person (like capacities and skills) with their social, economic and political environment.


Interesting that the natural world is left out.


According to Nussbaum, there are two different purposes of the capability approach, namely as a theory of social justice, and for comparative quality of life assessment, whereby Nussbaum’s work exemplifies the first purpose, and Amartya Sen’s work the second purpose. The two purposes which Nussbaum distinguishes are obviously closely related, and she argues that both share some essential elements: (1) the principle to treat each person as an end, rather than looking at averages; (2) to focus on choice or freedom rather than achievements; (3) to be pluralist about value, which entails that different capabilities are incommensurable; (4) to be deeply concerned with entrenched social injustice and inequality; and (5) and to give a clear task to government and public policy.


Which seems to me just terrific.


Nussbaum has developed a theory of universal fundamental political entitlements. Those entitlements are given, in general terms, by a list of ten central capabilities: Life; bodily health; bodily integrity; senses, imagination and thought; emotions; practical reason; affiliation; other species; play; and control over one’s environment (pp. 33-34). These entitlements impose duties on the governments, who must ensure that all people meet minimal thresholds of those capabilities.



Leads to Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative 


And the question: where does development economics fit into general economics? Seems to me dev econ is inherently a story of destabilization Yet standard economics is the story of stabilization.




The Local-Global Flip, or, "The Lanier Effect"

A Conversation with Jaron Lanier [8.29.11]


Pasted from <http://edge.org/conversation/the-local-global-flip>


"If you aspire to use computer network power to become a global force through shaping the world instead of acting as a local player in an unfathomably large environment, when you make that global flip, you can no longer play the game of advantaging the design of the world to yourself and expect it to be sustainable. The great difficulty of becoming powerful and getting close to a computer network is: Can people learn to forego the temptations, the heroin-like rewards of being able to reform the world to your own advantage in order to instead make something sustainable?"


See his 2006 Edge essay "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism."


Pasted from <http://edge.org/conversation/the-local-global-flip>


Google has done something that might even be more destructive of the middle class, which is they’ve said, "Well, since Moore’s law makes computation really cheap, let’s just give away the computation, but keep the data." And that’s a disaster.


Pasted from <http://edge.org/conversation/the-local-global-flip>


Essentially what happened with finance is a larger scale, albeit more abstract version of what happened with Wal-Mart, where a global system was optimized by being able to build data that could be concentrated locally using a computer network. It tremendously enriched the people who ran the network. It seemed to create savings for people initially who were the end users, the leafs of the network, very much as Google, or Groupon, seem to save them money initially. But then in the long-term it took away more from the income prospects of people than it could offer them in savings,


Note: Keith Hart’s (editor) The Human Economy just arrived from Amazon. I’ll have more in coming days about this important – and maybe disappointing – book.

Back to Lanier.


One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how computation is a human-centric concept. In the abstract, aliens don’t recognize our bits. There has to be a cultural setup for us to recognize stored information. And that cultural setup can bring into it all kinds of fundamental ideas which could have a huge effect on how society runs, how the economy works, and how our lives are put together.  …I’m concerned that it’s not a matter of the Internet doing some good, but not enough good to undo unrelated coincidental troubles. I’m afraid the Internet, as we’ve conceived of it thus far, has been part of the problem. I’m also interested in the idea that if we conceive of it differently, it could be a solution.


Just to recap where the argument is so far, I’ve described two ways to cope with machines getting good.

One is a Marxist way, where you have some form of socialism, some institutional attempt for everybody to get along and use politics to arrange for their own liberty instead of some more abstract mechanism like money, and I’m concerned that that’s not realistic given human nature.

A second way is for people to just suffer, and for the poor to wither away through attrition, as they can’t afford medicine or some scenario like that over time. I should say that this notion of the poor withering away does seem to be normative right now, and it concerns me a great deal.

I believe there is a third way, which is a better way, and it happens to have also been the initial idea for the Internet, interestingly enough. My poster boy for expressing this is Ted Nelson, the eccentric character who initially proposed the Web, or something like it … it wasn’t called the Web then … as early as 1960, which is over a half century ago, amazingly, when I was born

 Ted’s idea was that there would be a universal market place where people could buy and sell bits from each other, where information would be paid for, and then you’d have a future where people could make a living and earn money from what they did with their hearts and heads in an information system, the Internet, thereby solving this problem of how to have a middle class, and how to have liberty. To expect liberty from democracy without a middle class is hopeless because without a middle class you can’t have democracy. The whole thing falls a part.

Pasted from <http://edge.org/conversation/the-local-global-flip>


Read it and weep and hope.


He also talks about cars as robots and how good they are  getting. I’d like to integrate the with my idea of going from highways to liveways, turning four-lane highways in the country side into one line for robots and three lanes for houses and gardens and public squares.




Nobel laureate praises Argentina; tells US and EU spending is the way out of recession


asted from <http://en.mercopress.com/2011/08/30/nobel-laureate-praises-argentina-tells-us-and-eu-spending-is-the-way-out-of-recession>



United States and the European Union “are using the same recipe that the IMF applied on Argentina” to address the current global financial crisis and this only leads to “stagnation” said Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz attending a gathering of Nobel Prize recipients and young economists in Lindau, Germany.

“The only people benefiting from the delay are speculators — the very people who European politicians tend to blame for their problems. Europe is providing the framework for the volatility off which they live” Stiglitz said.


“Saving doesn’t help,” said Stiglitz. “The [German] government can still loan out more money. Germany’s growth would then boost the Euro zone’s economy.”


“Of course it will cost money to preserve [the Euro]. But it will cost even more money if it falls apart,” he said, adding that a German currency would rise in value, “making business more difficult for German industry” and trade.



Which makes me nervous, like micro-lending does, because it encourages debt. This may be a path to go on but not to stay on, but how is it possible to get off that path?





Steve Jobs Broke Every Leadership Rule. Don’t Try It Yourself.  Joe Nocera.




More on why the possibilities for tech are ruined by cash mindedness. (think Carlotta Perez)


Failing at Innovation? Bank on It

There’s less entrepreneurship today than 20 years ago. Chris Farrell blames the rush for a fast buck

By Chris Farrell


Pasted from <http://www.businessweek.com/finance/failing-at-innovation-bank-on-it-08282011.html>


At the turn of the 20th century, the board of directors of the Cleveland Trust Co. met weekly to go over the bank’s loans. The minutes show the directors carefully scrutinizing loan applications, especially from local entrepreneurs. Yet toward the end of the 1920s, the minutes start reflecting a board less interested in local business lending and more absorbed with sending money to New York to play the stock market. “There was none of the careful oversight of before,” says Margaret Levenstein, executive director of the Michigan Census Research Data Center at the University of Michigan, who examined the minutes as part of an ongoing research project. “They wanted to speculate.”


America’s largest companies have boosted their cash holdings for the past 10 quarters in a row, to a record $963 billion. That’s 58 percent over the comparable figure in December 2007. Even as those big businesses bulk up, the number of new companies that create jobs for more than just the owner has fallen 27 percent since 2006, according to Litan and Reedy. Coincidence?


There isn’t any simple, single answer to America’s declining entrepreneurship. The question is, without greater efforts to reverse the trend, will the U.S. economy go the way of Cleveland, from a center of innovation starting in the 1870s to a symbol of the Rust Belt in the 1970s? It’s a chilling thought.


Pasted from <http://www.businessweek.com/finance/failing-at-innovation-bank-on-it-08282011_page_2.html>



From Delande to




‘A Model Garden for Two Cars’ (Almere 1997).


Pasted from <http://www.alamut.com/proj/97/garden_for2cars/conceptNew.html>



The following is very important for GardenWorld


The man-made garden has evolved through time from:

a) an imitation of a sacred grove

b) to an erotic enclosure

c) to a sanctuary from the evil world

d) to an idealization of nature e) to an idealization of culture (man’s nature).

Now I’m being led all over today .




On Nietzche.


This is how Klossowski brings together the thought-experiments of the later Nietzsche:


The ‘overman’ becomes the name of the subject of the will to power, both the meaning and the goal of the Eternal Return. The will to power is only a humanized term for the soul of the Vicious Circle, whereas the latter is a pure intensity without intention. On the other hand, the Vicious Circle, as Eternal Return, is presented as a chain of existences that forms the individuality of the doctrine’s adherent, who knows that he has pre-existed otherwise than he now exists, and that he will yet exist differently, from ‘one eternity to another’ (p. 70).


Pasted from <http://www.alamut.com/index.html>


If we link this with Lanier’s interview on largeness, we can say an emerging theme about the Internet and the Superman and in the background Is the Musil’s novel, Man without Qualities.


I realize this is fairly obscure but the underlying issue is, what is our vision of where we are going and where are our actions actually taking us?



What? That’s how he describes himself. In a speech to his party on Monday, Yoshihiko claimed: "I’ll never be a goldfish in a scarlet robe, but like a loach in muddy waters, I’ll work hard for the people, to move politics forward.


Pasted from <http://news.google.com/>


So many new defenders of the people and the resurrection of Marx. The issue of inequality has gained a real foothold. It is amazing how marks the unmentionable is being quite widely discussed without anxiety, without apparent anxiety. After Marx, is Freud next?





A further link, a journal of culture.



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