29 November 2010

The pursuit of piety

The Modern Orthodox approach assumes the secular humanists have the wrong values but the better outcomes; the biblical regime approach assumes the secular humanists have the right values but unsustainable outcomes. 'Naked women' is not a bad outcome, it's a bad value; 'climate change' is not a bad value, it's a bad outcome. The biblical regime speaks to the best way to ensure the proper outcome. The values can take care of themselves. The pursuit of piety is a diaspora self-understanding. 

Out of Asia and into Africa

We often say the Israelites came out of Mesopotamia and went to Egypt and then were taken out of Egypt and ended up in the land of Canaan. We could just as well say the Children of Israel came out of Asia and went to Africa and then were taken out of Africa and ended up on the continental ridge known as the Arava. 

The resource curse working in real time

By removing Haredi youth from the workplace and from military service the Haredi leadership subjects its followership to a life of poverty and calumny. It is an enforced ghetto-ization of the Haredi community which guarantees that Haredim will remain dependent on their leadership for sustenance and devotion. This impoverishment of the Haredi population (economic dependency and servility) and this exclusion from military service (political dependency and alienation from the body politic) undermine the two basic pillars of political/economic life in the nation. 
Here is the resource curse working in real time. Here we can see the difference between alienation in diaspora, which is almost a foregone conclusion and nearly impossible not to experience, and alienation within one's own homeland, which is dysfunctional in the extreme and leads to having the resource curse descend onto the nation. 
The Haredi anti-work and anti-military-service program condemns the Haredi population to the sort of oppressed existence – limited work opportunities and a life of public humiliation – to which some cruel, foreign, anti-Semitic ruler might, in the past, well have subjected them. 

To elevate vengeance

Desert is the executive's brand of justice. It is often swift and furious. Fairness is more judicious and temperate. 
To try to eradicate the desert form of justice, as the left often wishes to do, is to leave it for the mean and cunning to embrace. The biblical regime incorporates talionis into its definition of justice so as to elevate vengeance into the divine realm rather than leaving it to the strongman rulers. 
The anger and the fury YHWH often expresses is not just an ancient world's anachronism. It is the display of desert being prosecuted as it was meant to be in a well balanced society. 

27 November 2010

The desert of the matter

When people follow the ordinary impulse to look for who's to blame for some loss it's because they are trying to parse out the desert of the matter. 

The unique contribution

Fairness measures the equality of the participants in the absence of some manifest distinction between them. That's why Rawls needs the veil of ignorance: to thrust lack of information into the matter of justice so that the circumstances of equality is all that can govern the judgments. Desert measures exactly the opposite: the credit or blame for what happened in terms of what was the unique contribution of each of the participants. 
Fairness is about consumption whereas desert is about production. Fairness applies justice to what we should get; desert applies justice to what we already gave. 
Desert applies to gratitude because gratitude is the appropriate response to giving. Fairness is not in the same domain as gratitude. 
Fairness measures how your allocation feels relative to what the other guy got; desert measures how your apportionment feels relative to your responsibility for what happened, positive or negative. 
As we move from civil society to mass populations we move from knowing the particularities of each person to knowing practically nothing about each person. As a result we move from an environment where justice as deservedness can function well to one where only justice as fairness can function well. 

25 November 2010

Praying for a more realistic future

Instead of wasting the Jewish people's spiritual energy in praying for the return from exile which has already happened it might make more sense to focus the Jewish people's attention on praying for a more realistic future for the nation. 

Owning only what you deserve

When we promote dignity in a population we are training people not to feel bad about themselves. People who feel good about themselves tend not to want to take for themselves what doesn't belong to them. Owning only what you deserve makes you feel good about yourself. Taking what's not yours, what you don't deserve, might perhaps improve your welfare but it degrades your well-being. 
A combination of inner and outer sensibilities is what needs to be optimized for one’s own true betterment and for the true betterment of society. That means it's not just material goods that need to be produced, not only ‘the what,’ but also the meaning of what is being produced, ‘the how,’ which also matters. 

The near future forebodes

The stakes are increasing. The forces of darkness are strengthening. The forces of light need correspondingly to become stronger as well: more forceful, more active and activist. The near future forebodes a more turbulent world from both sides of the moral divide. 

The speed of growth or shrinkage

To know how much is enough depends on how fast or how slow the society can incorporate the growth or the shrinkage. The speed of growth or shrinkage can be managed by the setting of the interest rate. 

Controlled forest fires

We tend to think in terms of smoothing out and diminishing the business cycle or the weather cycle or what-have-you. We seldom think in terms of replicating the cycle artificially, perhaps even to intensify it. It's the latter that makes for a healthier society – like controlled forest fires. 

24 November 2010

The essence of competitive culture is distrust

Free market economics extols competition as the basis for participating in the economy. Such a culture promotes the values of taking the most for oneself, of distrusting everyone. 
The essence of competitive culture is distrust. To believe that nothing is free, that everything has a price, that no-one does anything for nothing is to disqualify the possibility of caring and of gift giving, of beneficence, of higher values. 

The mandate

The mandate of the biblical regime was to devise a better way to occupy a sovereign homeland; the mandate of the rabbinic regime was to introduce a better way to live in exile. 
The destruction of the Temples demonstrated the failure of the biblical regime; first the spiritual and then the physical collapse of European Jewry demonstrated the failure of the rabbinic regime. 
The argument for the establishment of the State of Israel is not that the Jewish people had come to learn how properly to live in exile; it is that the Jewish people finally had failed in their exilic experiment. There was nowhere left to go for the Jewish people but back to the homeland, back to the biblical regime, back to the embracing of the responsibilities of sovereignty and dignity and national autonomy. 
It was not only the rabbinic regime that failed in diaspora, the secular Jews failed just as completely. By the middle of the 20th century, exile had been shown to be a failed strategy for national existence for any sort of Jew, be they traditionalist or modernist. 

To experience satiation is to know contentment

When it comes down to it our first objective is to define what might be the character traits of a righteous subject of a nation under the biblical regime. It comes down to people knowing how important is the achievement of enough, and to know how to promote to their fellows the beauty of sova
To have achieved satiation is to have acquired the key to redemption. All the decisions one has made on the path to satiation are redeemed when one arrives at the sense of having lived to achieve enough. After someone has achieved enough all is well with the world, and it becomes unclear which past decisions one has made were the ones that led to satiation and which not, so they all get the credit. 
To experience satiation is to know contentment, both in the present and about the past. 

Trust is earned

Trust is earned. Trust measures how much of the person's actions they deserve, and it is the expression of having faith in that measure. 

'The what’ & ‘the who'

Preferences are about ‘the what’ under decision; desert is about ‘the who’ under decision. Desert is about apportionment, about who is responsible for whatever happened; preferences is about allocation, about what someone wants or does not want. Desert is important to measure in a world where almost everything that happens is a team effort, where isolated individuals almost never get to take all the credit for any outcome, good or bad. Preferences are important to measure is a world where almost everyone has a basket of goods and services to choose between. 
A society interested in desert needs to retain the sense of responsibility for as far back temporally and as widely cross-sectionally as it is possible to go. Such a society cannot afford the fiction of contracts, which cuts off the recognition of responsibility because the cutting of responsibility and the measurement of desert makes it easier to organize the economy around anonymous transactions. God is there as the residual actor, personifying fortune's role in whatever happened. 
Because desert defines the apportionments it is really describing all the chuqim in the system (since chuqim refer to apportionments). 

Sustainability is the economist's equivalent of quality.

Services improve well-being

A trade receives what one party discards in exchange for what another party discards; so how is a trade different from a covenantal exchange where one order of being discards its waste in exchange for the waste of its symbiotic, covenantal partner? 
The answer is that covenantal exchange is of services, not of items. Covenantal exchange is on-going and durable over time; market exchange, in contrast, is of isolated items between anonymous traders, which exchange cancels out any durable prior claims that may be thought to be in effect. 
Covenantal partners thus need each other to remain in proper working order whereas market traders care not at all for the well-being of their trading partners. Covenantal exchange demands relationship, which enlarges the identity of the covenantal agents by incorporating a concern for the well-being of their partners. Sustainability that comes of caring about the continual availability of some partner's services implicitly requires relationship between agents rather than comparability between goods. 
Markets operate for goods; covenants operate for services. 
Goods improve welfare; services improve well-being. 

22 November 2010

The protections of private property

The way to deal with the problem of property engendering theft is to remove the value from the products that are stolen. We can accomplish that by removing the protections of private property from unearned material goods. 
When an economy matures it increases the proportion of the value that becomes unearned. Booms and busts could well be the result of too much abundance resulting in too much unearned wealth resulting in too much thievery. 
The shift from P&L to balance sheet is the shift from productive power to property. That is where the cashing out occurs. 

Both ends of the consumption process

Covenantal partners provide each other both the substances the other needs to sustain life as well as the purification of wastes so that their environments detoxify. I.e., covenantal partners complement each other on both ends of the consumption process: my waste is your food plus I get rid of your waste.  

The shift in mode

The shift from the mode of the P&L to that of the balance sheet, from flow to stock, from income to wealth, is a moment of dangerous instability in the life of an economy and an ecology. The shift feeds on itself and tends to overwhelm the delicate covenantal balance between the two modes of the measurement of value. 
Stable societies have to have developed the social mechanisms able to manage such covenantal shifts when they occur. Stable societies need to be able to recognize the shifts before they begin to take hold, and they need to manage the wrenching shifts in power and interests that accompany alterations in the economic and ecologic social order’s covenantal basis. 

Scarcity versus abundance

  • Scarcity determines the economic system; abundance determines the political system. 
  • Scarcity requires private property; abundance requires duty. 

Subordinating material product to spiritual process

The essence of gift exchange is the subordination of the material product to the spiritual process. The material product becomes a token, a concrete instantiation, of the relationship that is being fashioned and devised and exercised, the reinforcement of which relationship is the objective of the transaction. 
Once a gift exchange flowers into a tradition, which includes third parties as part of the currency of duty and trust, the collective comes into view and the benefits of standards and practices and institutional structure begin to operate. Then the transaction in gift exchanges (or their institutional counterparts – tradita) ceases to be performed in mere token acts and can become a flood of transaction whereby the bulk of what is being passed back and forth within the society, within the economy and ecology, is flowing through the institutional media that are propelled by abundance rather than scarcity. 

21 November 2010

Faith is trust based on grace

Duty is the cognate of trust. Duty is how we devise the future. On the basis of duty we transact with each other around the creative invention of what has yet to come into being. 
Duty is the ground on which covenantal partnership is erected. Duty governs action where information is scarce or where communication is foreclosed. One of the hallmarks of the otherness of the covenantal partner is that communication with them is difficult to nearly impossible but not entirely impossible. Communication with the covenantal partner is largely by surmise. That inclination to do on my own what I surmise on my own you need me to do because you are doing the same on your own is the essence of duty. 
Duty governs action in relationships like covenants where the bond is largely spiritual, where the experience of the other is highly attentuated. Duty is action in relationship in the absence of relationship. Faith is the bond in such occluded relationships as trust is the bond in relationships where the communication channel is robust. 
Faith is trust based on grace rather than on experience. 

A just income distribution entails common sacrifice

The resource curse is one path to undermining the society's respect for private property. Revolution is another path. Before a society gets to revolution it resorts to corruption and petty theft. 
In either case the property rights of society require legitimacy. An essential feature of legitimacy is a just income distribution, and a just income distribution entails common sacrifice before the society can afford efficient allocations as defined by the workings of the price mechanism. Hence too much abundance and too much scarcity both result in injuries to the respect people in a society will have for private property. 

Absence from the transaction

Covenants represent one or both parties when those parties cannot be present to defend their own interests. In the absence of one of the parties we get extremely narrow channels of information about the preferences that correspond to a sub-segment of the entire basket of endowments – we can’t tell what some of the parties would like to have happen to what belongs to them. 
Let us define private property as the assignment of tastes and preferences to each of the goods in the basket of endowments to be allocated. Absence from the transaction of some of the parties is one form of a failure in private property  because we cannot assign the absent party’s tastes and preferences to their endowment. Various other modes of property rights (as distinct from private property) assign other tastes and preferences to the basket of goods to be allocated. 
A stable definition of property rights, whether private or public or strongman or what have you, corresponds to a stable assignment of tastes and preferences to a given basket of endowments. 
Deservedness supports that assignment which corresponds to private property. Lack of deservedness, whether because there is too much surplus that is alienable or whether because there is too much deficit that is inalienable, undermines the institution of private property. 

What comes from an inalienable place

Financial capital has the character that it can produce income without the owner working for it. Financial capital thus is a substantial source of unearned income. Unearned value thus crowds out earned value. The type of value – earned versus unearned – thus has a quality parameter associated with it. 
The crowding out takes place not because of insufficient information but because of human nature. The application of the concrete, inner, personal will is something that works well in craftsmanship but not in trade. So the market favors the extractive endeavor while gift exchange favors creative endeavor. 
What comes from an inalienable place doesn't want to be sold, it wants to be given away because that inalienable place is experienced as a gift. 

Fungibility in the system

Fungibility is a measure of substitutibility. The more things are fungible, the more the market is a proper mechanism for allocation. The less fungibility in the system, the less effectively markets serve as allocators. 
Fungibility is the opposite of particularity. 
Inalienability in the production process – what we might call craftsmanship – is a measure of the lack of fungibility in the production of one unit relative to the production of the next unit.

20 November 2010

Respect for property not one's own

The free rider problem is, in effect, the same as is the open access problem. In both cases, each decision-maker ought to invest in a commonly held asset – in the free rider case it is, say, a park that would be non-excludable and non-rival; in the open access case it is, say, a thriving fish population that would be non-excludable and rival. The challenge is to create an institution that enables the possibility of respect for property not one's own. 
These (free-rider and open access) market failures occur because the definition of property extends only to the private. The critique of radical fundamentalist free markets is the critique of the curse of greed where the society countenances the arrogation to one's private property what by rights should flow traditionally. 
At the base of the argument for free markets is the implicit assumption that private property will foster craftsmanship. In fact, as we are seeing today, private property could just as easily foster the opposite of craftsmanship, the impulse to cash out. Indeed, the very intrusion of the free market and the restructuring of society to aggrandize private property is a form of cashing out where the tradita of quality and craft are cashed out by the purveyors of free market institutions and values. 
This impulse to cash out is a version of Gresham's Law where bad values drive out good values. Gresham's Law explains the action of private property and the free market driving out the high quality tradita of gift exchange. 
Cashing in and cashing out are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. In the cashing-in case, where the possibilities of growth and development are abundant, it makes for widespread investment in the future that results in a radical transformation of society and the unleashing of much pent-up creative energy in the population. In the cashing-out case, where the opportunities for growth and development are scarce, it makes for financial finagling that results in a radical re-structuring of society and the wastage of much built-up creative energy in the population. 
Private property works relatively well when the context is moderate general scarcity where each person must fend for himself but it's not a crisis. That is particularly true when there is not much in the way of social safety nets. Common wealth undermines the system of private property because it encourages free riding while it does not promote craftsmanship, because the market has already eliminated the traditional institutions of gift exchange. 

Under-produce public goods; over-produce public bads

If non-rival, non-excludable, public goods are under-produced while public bads are over-produced in a market economy then the covenant that maintains the ecological balance will be broken because that balance is a fund-service that is itself a public good. 
The political side of the question goes to how the resource curse works. The over-harvesting of natural resources that were granted by the grace of God results in unearned wealth. Unearned wealth is easy to transact in as unearned: 
  • One form of unearnedness is to withhold the transmission of the gift; 
  • the other form is to insist on corrupt payments for facilitating the transaction; 
  • yet another form is to violate the rights of private property; and finally, 
  • the ultimate form, is to alter the rules of society to make seemingly legitimate the enhancement of power of the incumbent power-holders. 
Query: how does the polluter fit into the resource curse? The polluter is the other side of greed. As the greedy man keeps as private what should be passed on, the polluter passes on what should be kept private. The unearnedness comes from the refusal to compensate for the production of the waste. 
How do you compensate? By honoring the covenantal mechanism by which the waste is purified. The polluter violates the mechanisms of purity in the society, and those mechanisms are all covenantal. 

17 November 2010

Something from nothing, and nothing from something

It is both impossible to make something from nothing, and nothing from something. Anything we produce must come of raw materials, and once we consume it, it results in waste. 
The raw materials and the waste must coordinate and articulate with each other or the system becomes unsustainable. Sheviit performs both functions. It recognizes the property of the raw materials as belonging to a higher authority; and it allows the land to process the waste matter that comes of a too-unrelenting exploitation of the soil. 
Sheviit is thus constituted of two aspects: the suspension of the exclusionary rights that come with private property; and the cessation of the cultivation of the soil even were it done as collective property. The cessation addresses the problem of pollution. 

Cashing in and cashing out

 The free rider problem is in effect the same as is the open access problem. In both cases, each decision-maker ought to invest in a commonly held asset – in the free rider case it is, say, a park that would be non-excludable and non-rival; in the open access case it is, say, a thriving fish population that would be non-excludable and rival. The challenge is to create an institution that enables the possibility of respect for property not one's own. 
These (free-rider and open access) market failures occur because the definition of property extends only to the private. The critique of radical fundamentalist free markets is the critique of the curse of greed where the society countenances the arrogation to one's private property what by rights should flow traditionally. At the base of the argument for free markets is the implicit assumption that private property will foster craftsmanship. In fact, as we are seeing today, private property could just as easily foster the opposite of craftsmanship, the impulse to cash out. Indeed, the very intrusion of the free market and the restructuring of society to aggrandize private property is a form of cashing out where the tradita of quality and craft are cashed out by the purveyors of free market institutions and values. 
This impulse to cash out is a version of Gresham's Law where bad values drive out good values. Gresham's Law explains the action of private property and the free market driving out the high quality tradita of gift exchange. Cashing in and cashing out are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. In the one case, where the possibilities of growth and development are abundant, it makes for widespread investment in the future that results in a radical transformation of society and the unleashing of much pent-up creative energy in the population. In the other case, where the opportunities for growth and development are scarce, it makes for financial finagling that results in a radical re-structuring of society and the wastage of much built-up creative energy in the population. 
Private property works relatively well when the context is moderate general scarcity where each person must fend for himself but it's not a crisis. That is particularly true when there is not much in the way of social safety nets. Common wealth undermines the system of private property because it encourages free riding while it does not promote craftsmanship, because the market has already eliminated the traditional institutions of gift exchange. 

16 November 2010

Where quality matters, traditions must rule

Quality is transacted traditionally, as tradita, while quantity is transacted through trades. The compensation for the traditting of quality is the bestowing of quality onto the person who tradits the quality forward. 
Where quality matters, traditions must rule. Where traditions rule, they must be respected and they must be cultivated. The respecting of a tradition is a choq; the cultivation of the tradition is a mishpat. The foundation of society is the covenantal relationship that respects the chuqim of each covenantal unit, which unit is defined by the currents of tradita that run through it and are cultivated by the tradition's mishpatim
Each class in society describes its own traditions. Inter-class relations must respect the chuqim that belong to those several currents of traditions. The relations between the classes must be governed by self-restraint, in the interests of diplomacy. When one class usurps the value that traditionally is circulating within another class's corpus, the society will collapse because the covenantal boundaries will have been violated and the resource curse will take hold.  

For their own sake

Tradita are compensated for in traditional coin. Prestige, reputation, honor, approval, respect, glory, etc. – these are the currencies by which tradita are repayed. 
Celebrity is the modern era's degenerate form of that currency. Celebrity is the acquisition of what is traditional – the reputation and prestige that is conferred by others – for use as private property.  
Tradita should be offered for their own sake and their recompense should likewise be offered for their own sake. That recompense ought not to be sought or cultivated. 
Celebrity, especially political celebrity, is the industrial production of traditional recompense. In so doing, it almost of necessity must become privatized. 

15 November 2010

Weakening and strengthening property rights

Market failure analysis should really be about how well the alternative systems to market allocations and price mechanisms work, and under which circumstances.
  • Excludable-rival goods are well suited for market allocation. 
  • Excludable-non-rival goods (like information) should be produced by tradition rather than by trade. Such excludable-non-rival goods gain their value from the quality rather than the quantity of the good, and quality is best engendered traditionally. 
  • Non-excludable-rival goods suffer from the open-access problem (the tragedy of the commons problem) which is really a covenantal problem. The good is over-harvested because the original owner is not being recognized. 
So in the one case property rights need to be weakened so that the matter of excellence can be passed on; in the other case property rights need to be strengthened across the covenantal divide. 

Division of labor is a measure of complementarity.

Complementarity rules

The implications of sexual privacy is that exclusion is for the sake of union. Substitutes and complements are complements and not substitutes. They work together. 
The message of the Bible is that complementarity rules. In the end there is covenant. 

Privacy defines identity

If we look at the sociology of sexuality we find that the sexual organs are deemed private parts for the sake of exclusive covenantal partnership. The privacy of the sexual organs excludes all but the covenantal mate, and to them the parts are decidedly non-exclusive. 
So privacy defines identity. What is private on one side of the border of identity is non-private on the other side. 

The direction and momentum of price movements

Financial capital might morph in its character according to the direction and momentum of price movements. That could explain the confusion between physical capital and financial capital, on the one hand, and stock-flow vs fund-service financial capital, on the other. 

Rival and non-rival goods

All stock-flow goods are rival and all non-rival goods are fund-service. Fund-service goods are true, creative capital while stock-flow goods are assets but not creative capital. 
Query: where does financial capital fit in? Liquidity, credit, insurance against failure or against loss in the face of risk – are these rival, non-rival, stock-flow, fund-service? 

The issue of the relationship is indivisible

Fairness lends itself to quantitative measures in a way that deservedness does not. To analyze the distinction between fairness and deservedness is to explain the difference between market exchange and covenantal exchange. 
Fairness presumes divisibility in a way that deservedness does not. Indeed, deservedness is often about the maintenance of the relationship precisely because the issue of the relationship is indivisible. Fairness answers the question of how do you allocate value given the dissolution of the relationship; deservedness answers the question of how do you preserve the relationship given the indissolubility of the value. 
Markets are solvents of covenants. Radical market fundamentalist advocates dissolve the bonds of covenant in the interests of promulgating the markets. That is the reason the Muslim world objects to the incursions of modernity. Modernity systematically and at the institutional level undermines and then violates the values of covenantal exchange.  

The limiting case of non-rival consumption

Rivalness implies non-mutual consumption. It is another metric of substitutibility. 
The limiting case of non-rival consumption is the covenantal relationship where the consumption on the part of the covenantal partner is experienced as a good by its mate.  

A zone of inseparability

Private property and the exludibility that comes with it forces all interaction to be transaction, which means that all decision-makers become substitutes for each other so that they can relate to each other exclusively through the trading and trading off value that can be quantified, value whose entire meaning can be captured by the quantity of some measure along some dimension. That is why trades in the neo-classical model need to be deemed anonymous: the dignity of an individual is more than what could be captured in its entirety by the measure of some quantity along some dimension. 
Dignity resists such quantitative measures. When two agents or two goods complement each other we get not only super-additivity, we get a zone where what the two can make together is inseparable. The story of Solomon cutting in half the disputed baby is the story of the non-quantifiability of such inseparability. The baby could not be divided into smaller units, and only the baby's mother was sensitive to that quality of the child's life. That meant the mother was willing to acknowledge a relationship with the other woman that the other woman denied. 
Spouses with children who are willing to divorce are willing to divide the integrity of their children in a way that true parents would never do because the objective of parents is to foster the integrity of the character of their children. The covenantal bond between the parents is embodied as the integrity of the character of their children. 

From fairness to deservedness

The conventional approach is to consider the ethical issue of fairness of allocation – the 'to each according to his need' side of the matter – rather than the implementation issue of earnedness of contribution – the 'from each according to his capability' side of the matter. The implementation issue addresses the systematic values. 
The move from fair to deserved is the move from output to input, and it is the move from what's good for individuals to what's good for society. It represents an entirely different way of looking at a host of moral philosophical questions. 
By moving from fairness to deservedness we can reframe a whole universe of moral philosophy. It's what the Bible is talking about – not the ethics but the effectiveness of a righteous social system. 

It's the property, stupid

The market transacts not in things but in claims. The claims are social artifacts. For the market to work, the claims must be honored. For the claims to be honored, power must be exercised. The market works on the basis of the power that guarantees the honoring of the claims that are made and submitted to. 
It is about the property, not the utility behind the property. 

14 November 2010

The telltale scent of ideology

The neo-classical model is defended by people who, deep inside, know the model is flawed. It's what drove me out of the study of economics. 
Every field of academic study has open questions that beckon to the young mind. The economics profession however had become infected by the ills of ideology. Ideology in economics masks the unanswered questions and focuses the profession's energy on promoting the conventional wisdom over the inquiry about how the conventional understandings are flawed. 
When ideology takes hold it gives off a telltale scent of intellectual insistence and of the need for order as being more important than the earnest testing of that order. Ideology in academia resembles, in the realm of intellectual action, the same resource curse that befalls ideology in politics, in the realm of moral action. 
Insecure power is the essence of the resource curse. What God teaches is the image of a secure power that is beneficent and untroubled by His children's challenges to His teachings. 

Consumption in production, and production in consumption

Property is not about the ability to consume, property is about the prohibition to consume. Property is about the management of surplus. The question is how does surplus translate into savings and investment, and what do you do with the surplus that goes beyond the ability to invest? 
The production side is not about consumption, it's about investment. The market model defines individuals as consumers, and corporations as producers. That model fails to recognize the family as the fundamental productive unit on the 'consumption' side, and it abstracts from the impulse to consume while in the guise of production so it posits all consumption on the production side, defined by technology, as inputs to the production function. In a perfectly competitive market, all that consumption on the production side would be auctioned away. 
The process of cashing out is the translation of investment back into consumption. Once the surplus becomes sufficiently large it becomes rational for decision-makers to spend their energy cashing out rather than striving to open new markets. It's the foundation of the business cycle. At the peak of the boom it becomes almost impossible, within the relevant time frame, to keep on growing but it becomes easy to cash out. The trade-off between growth and cashing out is at the bottom of the true Keynesian model which explains not just the persistence of booms and busts but also the mechanisms of boom and bust in the first place. 
The proper mode for the transmission of surplus is not trade, but tradition. When tradition is stopped by the accumulation of private property it brings a curse down onto the system. 

Flora and fauna are the two most essential covenantal partners on earth.

Plants and animals

With the advent of technology the fuel to power the work of the animals moved from carbohydrates to hydrocarbons because machines prefer the hydrocarbons to carbohydrates. In both cases (machine and animal) the organism strips off the hydrogen to combust it with oxygen to make energy + water. The oxygen is in the air and the hydrogen is in the fuel. 
The plant kingdom uses the energy of the sun to go in the reverse direction and strip off the hydrogen from the carbon to make the high growth-rate building materials that constitute vegetable matter. Plants are rooted, they are planted in the earth, as opposed to animals that move around. So animals use energy to maintain their bodies at a sufficiently high temperature so they can move around while plants use energy to build up structural  matter so they can keep growing. Plants keep on growing more structural matter even after they've been cut because the growth of structural matter is what they're about. They don't use energy to find food because the food is made directly available from the sky: water (rain) to provide the hydrogen, and sunlight. The rest they need merely to get from the atmosphere in their covenantal exchange of carbon with the animal kingdom. 

The carbon in the biosphere

The original design of the world is for animals to eat vegetables and for vegetables to breathe in the carbon of the animal kingdom by the addition of carbon to the dioxide of oxygen to make for carbon dioxide. So the carbon in the biosphere keeps on being passed back and forth: from animal to vegetable in the form of CO2, and from vegetable to animal in the form of carbohydrates. 

The pressure of the covenantal partner

There is an immediacy that comes of recognizing the ways of covenantal partnership. One can feel the pressure of the covenantal partner in a way that trying to penetrate into His otherness cannot accomplish. 

Where the presence of God is all gone

Apocalypses are situations where the presence of God is all gone and where His absence defines society's conduct. In that context, we might explain the Genocide as a manifestation of covenantal abrogation. It could be the Jewish people had a responsibility to demand their just deserts, to stop collaborating with those who undermined their dignity. 
Fortitude commands justice by insisting the demands of justice into the situation and then overcoming the resistance to those demands. Demanding justice and overcoming the resistance to those demands is the pathway to dignity. The consequence of the loss of covenantal partnership is fear. The manifestation of such fear is cowardice. Without an appreciation of what belongs to one's covenantal partner a people can easily lose a proper sense of what belongs to them on their own side. Failing to respect covenantal apportionments therefore ultimately leads to cowardice, indignity, humiliation, and, in the final event, extermination.

Traditions traffic in replacements

If markets traffic in substitutes, and covenants traffic in complements, then traditions traffic in a kind of hybrid combination of complements and substitutes – replacements. 

Unearned surplus

It is as important for the lower classes to earn their keep as it is for the upper classes not to be privileged. The source of social corruption is the unearned character of the distribution of the surplus, irrespective of which stratum of society is benefiting from that unearnedness. 

Covenantal abrogation

When God says He will turn His face from those who abrogate His covenant He does not mean He will punish or seek retribution for improper behavior. What God is saying is that if people don't honor the covenantal exchange they will implicitly be driving God's presence out of the processes that define the political/economic order. The covenantal abrogation would ipso facto conceal God's face because people wouldn't be taking God's presence into consideration in their decision-making.  

The difference between quantity and quality

The difference between quantity and quality is the difference between substitutibility and complementarity. The quantitative dimension is the one in which all measures are substitutes for each other. One unit is by definition a perfect quantitative substitute for any other unit. 
In the qualitative dimension the measures are complements for each other. One factor coordinates and collaborates with all the other factors to produce a single, optimal whole. 

The essence of heirarchy

The essence of heirarchy, the essence of authority, is reverence; and the essence of reverence is the honoring of covenantal partners. Heirarchy is not about upper and lower classes so much as it is about the covenantal relationship between the rulers and the ruled. 

The matter of market failure

To talk in terms of externalities and public goods and incentives is to (excuse the expression) 'buy in' to the market model of transactions. 
Once we open the field of inquiry to include tradita as the way to transact in matters of craft and excellence for its own sake, and to include covenants as a way to honor matters of otherness; once we open the field of inquiry to include ritual and the consecrated spaces of religion and war, then to talk about the issue in terms of incentives makes it seem almost trivial. 
These matters of market failure touch on the deeper virtues that define and constitute the culture. 

The measure of earning

Marginal costs = marginal benefit = price is the market's way of defining the notion of earning. The ecological economists need a different version of defining the notion of earning. To talk about what is earned is to talk about what is deserved. 
  • Query: What does earning look like in transaction systems that are traditional and covenantal? 
To understand where earning meets justice through fortitude, prudence and temperance would be a useful thing for our understanding of how virtue underlies our cultural systems. 
  • Query: How do prudence, temperance and fortitude operate with two sides of a relationship? 
Fortitude overcomes resistance; temperance is about desisting; and prudence is about the consistency between the inner and the outer world. Justice brings these three two-sided virtues into internal alignment, where the one side of the relationship matches the other side. Justice refers to outcomes whereas fortitude and temperance refer to inputs, and prudence refers to an input about an outcome. 
All these virtues entail some sort of judgment. 
The mechanism for judgment is balance or equilibrium. 

12 November 2010

Interlocking neuroses

A proper covenanting requires interlocking neuroses where the rocks in one party's head fill the holes in the other's. 
Neurosis is another way of talking about how to address not only the goods but the wastes.

Mutual purification

If we define covenantal partners as those parties that are so 'other' from each other that they are able to enter into symbiosis with respect to their mutual waste and life sustaining commodities, then the covenantal relation between the divine and the mundane turns on the waste and life sustaining character of identity. Identity is a function of self-understanding. The covenantal relationship is in the spiritual realm, where identity resides. The acts of mutual sustenance with respect to what is waste and what is life supporting revolves around the mutual purification of each other’s identity. 

Everything belongs to me

The exercise of raw power is the limiting case of excludibility. Raw power is in fact the imposition of excludibility into situations where it might otherwise not obtain. The exercise of raw power imposes an excludibility onto those social domains which could ordinarily be shared. 
Raw power institutionalizes excludibility into all transactions. It says everything belongs to me. There is no covenant. Whatever you have, you have by my largesse. 
Raw power eliminates the possibility of mutual autonomy. It transforms the distribution of excludibility into the centralization of excludibility. Raw power shrinks the space where people share things because they are uncertain.
 Raw power also violates tradita. It takes to itself what otherwise ought properly to be passed on to others. Raw power thus undermines the context for craftsmanship because craftsmanship requires for its own flourishing the possibility of tradita. That stopping of tradition might be the key to the curse's mechanism. The unearned value of the resource, by dint of its inviting power-wielders to violate God's covenant, undermines the corresponding covenant between the rulers and the people, which covenant is implemented via tradition, the passing along of things. By shutting down the covenant the resource curse shuts down tradita, which in turn shuts off craftsmanship. The improper use of resources results in the shutting down of craftsmanship, which is a curse.

Diplomacy is a meta-transaction

Diplomacy is a meta-transaction. Diplomacy is the exercise of self-restraint: a self-imposed exclusion from actions that, if performed, would have resulted in the exclusion of the other party from the benefits of some good or service. 

11 November 2010

The institutional framework of excludibility

Excludibility is either established legitimately, institutionally, or it is established illegitimately by raw power. That's where the resource curse kicks in. The resource curse is when the nature of a good is such that it alters the institutional framework of excludibility. As it pertains, for example, to oil the institutional framework is such that strongman rule siezes the natural resource and then expropriates it from belonging to the general population. In so doing the income from the trade in the natural resource accumulates in a sovereign fund and sustains the distortion in the debt markets rather than being distributed to the local population for it to be consumed in the development of the people's human capital. 

The push and pull of an ordered world

Sexuality, left brain-right brain, the mundane and the divine – these are all zones where substitutibility and complementarity operate in the push and pull of an ordered world. 

Substitutibility and complementarity

It might be fun to build a computer simulation where a space is defined parametricly by these two variables – substitutibility and complementarity. We could then simulate where markets develop behind private property and where covenants develop behind allotments, where trade vs. tradita vs. diplomacy define the social interaction and transaction. 

The line of 'me'

Non-exclusivity, whether on the demand side or on the supply side, makes for non-substitutibility. 
Substitutibility is the essence of competition, it is the essence of choice (as the neo-classical economist defines choice), it is the meaning of price, and it is what we mean by trade and by allocation. 
Private property allows for the distribution of things in the world such that they can be made excludible. Where things cannot be made excludible, where complementarity explains the phenomena better than excludibility, private property is not as useful an institution, the market is not as useful an allocation mechanism, and there is no point talking about prices as a measure of value. 
The very notion of an individual self has at its core the character of excludibility. Where the individual draws the line and declares to the world 'thus far is me, and beyond this is not-me' is the line of excludibility vs complementarity. All that is within the line of 'me' is explained by complementarity while all that is without the line of 'me' is explained by substitutibility. 
So the world is made up not so much of individuals and firms and clearly defined items we call goods and services and commodities and factors and resources as it made up of zones of substitutibility and complementarity and we build out institutions that depend on and service and exploit the inter-play between substitutes and complements. 
To what ends and out of which impulses? Good question. 

What is unearned cannot be brought to market

In the same fashion as non-exclusive consumption is one of the chief causes of market failure so non-exclusive production could likewise be the cause of a different kind of market failure – the resource curse. 
When the production function does not require human creativity to exploit or when there is no artificial limit to how great the supply is of some commodity then men cannot organize themselves to supplying it in an orderly fashion except by artifice. 
Natural monopoly is one form of such non-exclusive production because the pricing mechanism requires the competitive price to be predatory. The most natural of natural monopolies is the monopoly of the supply of commodities that are available through Nature's grace. The non-exclusivity of the supply comes from the free acquisition of that supply so that there is no natural floor to the price of the commodity. There are no barriers to entry in the equity side so the entry barriers must be set up in the output markets, which means the distribution and the marketing sectors. 
What is gotten for free must be shared for free, else the curse will befall those who partake of its wealth. 
The only thing that can properly command a price is the earning power of men. What is unearned cannot be brought to market.