Posts tagged ‘economics’

November 22, 2012

Individualism and nuclear families prevent people from achieving economies of scale in housing, child rearing and consumption; and so they remain dependent on a continuous flow of income (poor).

June 30, 2012

Think of the economy as the unconscious, government as the superego, and the ego as something that does not yet exist.

November 26, 2007

the (little) faith of the scientists

from the Paul Davies at the NYT:

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that physics “got religion” but only that science can never explain everything and must always assume (on faith) somethings. I am not sure Davies here is using a very strong notion of faith. in end effect all he wants is for scientists to dig deeper within science. This is no existential faith (ie one that might change how you live) but only a scientific one (ie one that influences how you do science).

This objection does not then even reach the level of Kuhnian or other relativizing of scientific knowledge.

I don’t think that the concept of faith has any productive role to play in the field of natural sciences. If anything, faith should be sought in the practical realm (politics, economics) where it might actually play a significant role in upholding our societies (we need to have faith in democracy and in the Euro for them to work – gravity does quite well with or without our faithing it, thank you very much).

thanks ed.

February 26, 2007

religion & welfare

A paper that wants to show that church attendance and state welfare programs are negatively correlated. 3QuarksDaily pulls the paper apart on grounds that many relevant variables were left out of the regression analysis and that neither religion nor welfare are as easy to measure across countries as the authors claim.

I only purused the pdf and will thus not add anything to the 3QD analysis. It can be remarked, though, that even the broader thesis that secularism and technological development go hand in hand, though seemingly substantiated by Western Europe, decidedly falls afoul of the United States. This does not mean that the intuition is wrong, only that we have no clue as to how to formulate it – and even less today as twenty years ago.

February 16, 2007


Slate is pushing philantropy hard; and that’s a very good thing. Even better is that they’re being intelligent about it. They have a top-60 list of the year’s greatest givers (with Warren E. Buffet at the top, of course); they’re covering innovative web-based charity ideas like DonorsChoose; and they’re even putting their own ideas out there, like:

Re-brand the “estate tax” as the “un-American activities tax,” the “Scrooge tax,” or the “keeping America great by motivating your lazy-ass kids tax.”

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February 12, 2007

global warming

another off-topic post. It is refreshing to hear one of those no-nonesense people we call economists weigh in on the global warming issue. Finally a bit of balanced sense. Posner himself:

The global warming skeptics point out that there are natural climate fluctuations, that anticapitalists are enthusiastic beaters of the drum for action against global warming, and that global warming would have good effects on agriculture in northern climes. These points are correct, but do not support the skeptical position. The existence of natural climate fluctuations increases the risk from human-caused global warming, because increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide increase the amplitude of the fluctuations. The fact that the motives of some of the people who are worried about global warming are political is irrelevant to the scientific issues, not only because scientists use apolitical methods of testing their hypotheses, but also because there are politics on both sides of the global warming debate: if leftwingers exaggerate the danger of global warming, rightwingers belittle them excessively. As for improving agricultural yields in northern climes, the transitional costs of relocating agriculture from (at present) tropical to arctic climes would be immense. Nor would improvements in agricultural yields respond to the effects of inundation of low-lying land areas, the migration of tropical diseases to temperate climates, the effects of increasingly violent weather, and the possible deflection of the Gulf Stream, causing Europe’s climate to become Siberian.

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