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May 03, 2006

Comments

gene berman

I used to frequent the site, atrentino.com, of one David Mandel of NYC, a whimsical essayist with free-market convictions and a fine distaste for Galbraith and other edjicated idjits.

David died this past December. His "Conning Tower" essays of Dec. 3rd and 23rd the previous year were both concerned with JKG and well worth the look-up and the read. I don't know how to link it but you can Google "atrentino.com" and find a listing for the archive index (which links the essays).

Josh

So if JKG was a dinosaur but also part of the establishment, it raises the question to those of us not so intimately versed in economics: how to we recognize the sound economists and shun the head-in-the-cloudists and crackpots? As a science (esp. bio) geek, I'm comfortable identifying frauds such as creationists and reflexologists. I can look up their claims in journals I trust to see what studies have been done. I don't know how to handle economic, foreign policy, criminal justice or other "soft" subjects with the same confidence.

radek

"Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite."

You sure that's he the author here? I always thought this was a very old Soviet bloc joke, along the lines of 'they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work'.

Oh and the other versions of it are "Under capitalistm it's dog eat dog. Under communism, just the opposite." and
"Under capitalism, those who have the money have the power. Under communism, those who have the power have the money."

Abiola

"it raises the question to those of us not so intimately versed in economics: how to we recognize the sound economists and shun the head-in-the-cloudists and crackpots?"

By learning the fundamentals for oneself, and putting one's skepticism-meter on red alert when someone says something indicating planners can do better than markets? It's really not all that different in principle from how things work with biology, and in any case the analogy between evolution and market competition is both rather good and as old as Charles Darwin himself (that's where he got the idea of natural selection). One should be as dubious of claims of the superiority of "intelligent design" in one case as in the other.

"You sure that's he the author here?"

It does indeed appear to have been a J.K. Galbraith original, as several online sources indicate, e.g.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4960280.stm

No one ever said J.K.G. couldn't coin a memorable phrase: that's what his entire career was based on, after all (that and the height which lent him "gravitas").

gene berman

Josh:

Interests in biology and economics are neither mutually exclusive nor contraindicated. The core concept uniting the two is the universally-recognized fact of the higher productivity of specialization of function. In biology, this ontological fact is expressed in cells, tissues, organs, etc. of increasing complexity and specialization; in human economic life, in increasing specialization of ever-more-finely-divided performance of the tasks "everybody" wants accomplished (each for their own individual reasons--called ends--and manifested in entirety at any given moment and continually by the collective expression we call "the market"--which, itself, reflects the values attached by the participants to all those things--goods and services--capable of serving as means for the attainment of their individually-chosen ends). In that sense (and in that sense alone), "the market," through the intermediary of money and the use of economic calculation (comparison of inputs and outputs expressed in monetary terms), acts as the unifying "brain" of the entire species, Man, in maximizing, without conflict, the obtainable ends sought by every last one of its participants.

The widening of the area and the growth of populations subject to the market and the advance of civilization (including the efforts and attainments of scientists and inventors of every type) are not merely coincident phenomena; essentially, they are the same thing and entirely inseparable.

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