1600. Old thoughts – are we getting anywhere?

The discussion about society and economics and the goals of life are well discussed by Aristotle, Adam Smith and many others.  Take for example

There exists ample evidence that democratic industrial society has reached a cultural impasse of institutional practice. The anomie and alienation of the mass society, environmental resource problems, economic instability and injustice, and the general loss of faith in institutions all harbinger the need for a cultural reformation. A considerable part of this cultural transformation will involve the adjustment of the habits of economic thought and practice. It is increasingly evident that modern culture is moving along dangerous developmental path.

This is from J. Ron Stanfield’s  Economic thought and social change,  1979.

35 years ago.

We like to think that, though we are in whitewater, we are going someplace, we really are approximately stationary in a whirlpool of turbulence without any direction. If we really caught on to the fact that the vortex is not taking us anywhere, would we do anything differently?

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1599. Brain and rhetoric

Grey morning like
soggy granola
occasional bird sounds like
squeaky turntable
clock ticks
a desiccated heart
my space
all others by law and habit  out past lot lines
the cereal makes no sound.


We are making great progress in the neural/brain understanding. But as this article points out, we can be missing whole brain infrastructures.


I am much more concerned that we are missing out on what it is the mind/brain does. That is, our understandings of what thinking is that we are then trying to understand the brain functions of, are very weak. The brain is involved in art, myth, love, poetry, politics and power, and our understanding of these is weak. We tend to want to reduce it all to information processing. A little like assuming the universe to be energy and atoms and missing structures, like solar systems, galaxies, or outcomes like life.…our thought about what thinking is are way underdeveloped and we act as if we are not even interested. Compare for example information with rhetoric.
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1597.economists assume the frame

Most economists and those who comment on economic policy are trying to maneuver around a few variables, like tax rates, interest rates, money supply, to achieve better outcomes (for whom is a good question).  But they assume the shape of the container within which these forces play out, a bit like watching gold-fish in an aquarium.

The problem is, the interesting thing is, that the container is itself a result of forces, decisions, action by people and nature. So for example laws about land ownership, working hours, nature of capital should also be continually reexamined for false or modifiable assumptions. As the shape of the aquarium might change, what can happen inside it also changes. We need that degree of flexibility since I think we are all getting clear that here is no arrangement of contemporary forces within the shape of the container that can yield better results.

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1596. Alphabet

Only works in english..

Try publishing a novel with the title “alphabet”.

I have sensed that just as wndows, kleenex, , micckeymouse, all lead to copyerite issues, so we sill find the law comfortable with the idea that language, a thing, can be owned. Just as genes, why not memes?

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1595. Need from economics.



We need an economics that can help critique how we got into this mess, recognizing that it orchestrated a major civilization, but with terrible collateral damage: wars, slavery, colonialism, consumerism and extractive globalization that takes without giving back. We need help from economics on how to reconfigure the world for restorative tasks ahead for quality of life and a coherent relation between humans and nature. We need to be more concerned with humanity than in what’s good for the economy. The two have never ben quite the same but the divergence now is extreme. Economics still thinks of dynamic equilibrium. If everyone does what they want, a reasoned balance will emerge that satisfies the most people possible. But this belief is unexamined in sufficient detail. The dynamic of each person doing what makes sense given what they know leads to the dynamics of a concentrating and rising hierarchy – till the system breaks apart. It is easier for each manager for example to pass up budgets that please their boss they report to than to hand down wage increases to those who report to them. The dynamics of population – more workers or less – supports this process but economists have ignored the obvious – more workers lowers wages.

As a result, society is in danger of falling into the narrative of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Player Piano in which the poor live on one side of the river and the rich, with computers, on the other side, and it is illegal to cross the river. But all people have been coerced into thinking economically most of the time, defining the limiting possibilities their life’s fate. Rethinking economics after the increased visibility of crises in the economy after 2008 lead to one overriding question: is economics helping society provide for the people?

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1594. Hard to think and write when..

Everything we need people to be thinking about has been well written and thought though. Human nature as richly wonderfully emotional and aesthetic for example. The works of Diane Ackerman . But then the people we need to convince haven’t read her or others. So we are caught between our own inadequacies and the need to tell a more profound story that has already been told…

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1593. Need better narratives: expert culture leads to concentration, holding on, enough facts

Probably it is in  nature of an expert based culture to concentrate wealth since the professionals work for those who have the resources to pay them.

Our people no longer make luxury goods except restaurants. This shift in the basics means we may need a shift in the core logic of the system. The invisible hand turns out to be stupid, just following old routines of its own steady state operation. Quantity turns to quality.

Except for Saunders, all the candidates are trying to hold on but a tack is necessary.

We also have most of the quantitative facts we need to cope with the world problematique. What we lack are good narratives about those facts and analyses.  If we change direction we will need some new analyses, but to start we need better narratives of where we are and how we got here and what can happen.

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1592. Responding to the perfect storm. Government committees.

At this point it seems pretty simple. We have the perfect storm of jobs being replaced by robots making growth difficult and even if we had growth, with a  very negative impact  on the environment, unless the economy was completely re-oriented around some version of very serious screen. The problem with green investment is it supports the current financial structure which continues the concentration of wealth. This means that the financial structure  itself must change in order to get a green economy that could employ people and work with climate. Even with such measures we probably do not have enough ways to distribute income to those who need it. The transition from the current consumer economy to a deep  green economy is the task that confronts us. We do not know how to do it.

So I think it is obvious that governments, in the US, national and state at least, should appoint committees working on each of the serious problems with a lot of cross connection between the efforts. Imagine in California Jerry Brown sets up committees on how to shift to green, what it means for employment, what it means for land-use, and what kind of Safety-net is necessary to make the transition, what it means for financial reform, and how to use the education system to help make the transition.

Such committee structures should be mirrored by all organizations, commercial and governmental.

Most proposals want to keep the financial system and property values in place. I do not think it can be done that way. It would keep political power in the hands of those who would use the whole process to enhance their position which is already dominant. If we are to get serious, which I doubt that we will, no less is required.

All our best traditions, christian, buddhist, democratic, confucian, artistic and meditative, all point to  a need for compassion and direct caring for those hurting. Commercialization has separated us, as has militarization. These are going to be hard to reorient bringing us back to the best, but it is a major part of the task if people are to find hope and could  trust the transitions necessary.

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1591. Health, medicine and modern society

what we are told from health professionals is part of a complex social system that ends up making up the world we live in and are supposed to live in.

here is an important video

While this is important in itself, as a model of communication and belief in modern society it is even more important. Israel, Afghanistan, population, auto safety.. these are social facts with enormous industries and money behind them.

A saner world requires better conversation and more knowledge that is true and less that is false, which probably means more skepticism and less agreed upon knowledge.

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