Prof. Heeserman's 'the broken world of sacrifice,' came out about 20 years ago. At that time very little work had been done on the application of gauge invariance theory to Economics. This is a link to Smolin's recent paper on the subject and here is a short sharp take-down of Smolin, by (the rabidly right wing) Lubos Motl, whose kernel I extract below-
On page 16, he claims that the neoclassical Arrow-Debreu model has the following "gauge invariances":
- prices get rescaled by a constant, Lambda
- utility functions are rescaled by different constants, lambda_a, that can be chosen to differ for different households because their evaluations of utility are independent
He seems to claim that these "gauge invariances" are extremely deep. However, they're not deep and they're not gauge invariances, either.
Any symmetry that should be called "gauge invariance" must have time-dependent parameters describing the transformations; otherwise it is not a "gauge symmetry" but just a "global symmetry". Clearly, if prices are rescaled by a function of time, we deal with inflation which has a profound impact on expectations in particular and the economy in general. This time-dependent rescaling is surely not a symmetry.
The problem here is that a Muth Rational General Equilibrium theory, or an Evidential Decision Theory consistent with Rational Expectations, isn't really concerned with dynamics in the manner that Motl or, in a different way, Smolin (both being Physicists) naturally assume.
In any case, a Physicalist interpretation of Neo-Classical Econ would move in the direction marked out by Kenneth Boulding, or proceed on the basis of ditopology or else, in so far as gauge invariance cropped up, it would be in terms of asset pricing & risk, in which notions like negative probability have a different interpretation, or else the theory of index numbers (where I believe it fails) or some other such sophistry.
Returning to the topic of this post- viz. gauge invariances & the meaning of the Vedic sacrifice- it is important to note that Twentieth Century interpretations of it- including that of Mauss- arise out of a Classical paradigm concerned with surpluses and apportionment. It is still within this context that Heeserman writes as follows in the introduction to his book-
But what sort of Economics was going down at these sacrifices? We know a lot about co-ordination and matching problems, so we can predict that these barbecues would become a big deal because when you have a surplus you badly need to know where to take it to trade it most advantageously. There's also a matching problem- wives for husbands, horses for riders, stuff like that- again you need a Schelling focal point plus expert-cognition guys to expedite things and get people to lock into correlated equilibria (coz. the expert cognition guy is hovering around giving out a public signal). So whichever way you slice or dice it, the big Vedic barbeque had the potential to go big time with lots of priests and poets and other expert-cognition guys milling around.
But, since the Yagnya generates a surplus simply by coming to be- i.e. there's oodles of consumer and producer surplus sloshing around- it can't be a potlatch- it can't be about destroying a surplus so as to avoid social tension- because the quicker way to ensure we all stay poor and barefoot is to never like meet up for a barbeque and get to swapping stuff.
Let us now speak of warriors and Kings- sure, being a King means having to throw a good kegger for the local rowdies- no question about that at all. But, killing is not cool at the kegger- it is cool when raiding cows from them guys across the way. You don't kill the cows while stealing them but you do kill men. Once back home, kill the cows and eat them but don't kill the men who helped you on your shrautha raid.
So, the question arises- what is this shite about the 'broken world of sacrifice' when aint nobody getting killed here? Fuck is Heeserman on about?
The answer, I think has to do with the crap mainstream Economics people were taught in the Twentieth Century. The very word 'surplus' conjures up the 'general glut' of the Great Depression and talk of the Marxian 'Final Crisis of Capitalism' and how it made Hitler do real mean things to like the Blacks and Yids and Gyppos and Slavs and Homos and so on till finally Germany starved in between getting raped coz urm...well, there's like this Economic Law which says that must happen. Nothing at all to do with the fact that Hitler was a fuckwit put in power by more fuck-witted yet Prussian Generals and that's the kind of shite goes down when Generals meddle in politics.
So what actually happened at the Vedic Yagnya? Okay there's some thymotic status competition- but that stuff's best settled by wrestling matches and Archery competitions and so on- okay, there's some socio-political legitimating function being discharged- and in that sense the Yagnya lives on- but what is the nature of surplus and how does it become central to Theistic Hinduism?
Let's go back to Econ. for a mo. What's it really about? Well, Econ don't exist unless there's some but not too much preference diversity and some but not too much on-the-fly mechanism design. One way to get this to happen- as for example happens when Management Consultants run exercises to get different Depts. to play nice with each other- is for role playing exercises of a particular sort- one with an imaginary dimension which takes up a metaphor that is pure fantasy (e.g. we are soldiers fighting a war when actually we're clerks running away from truly horrible home lives) and makes it the basis of a meta-metaphoric extension of what previously obtained with respect to our mutual 'entanglement'- i.e. capacity to spot Muth rational outcomes and move seamlessly towards them.
It is there, in that last clause of that last sentence, that such Economic 'gauge invariances' as can 'restore the broken world of Sacrifice', or mend the broken mirror of mimetic-desire, actually arise.
Not that anybody ever noticed. Soma will do that to you. Soma and Sama Vedic chanting. Actually, scratch that, it's Soma and no shagging coz there's all this fucking Sama Vedic chanting going on. Put on some Nicki Minaj (asli desi kudi, yaarah) and open a nice Merlot and even the Vedic Yagnya don't look so bad.
Nicki Minaj celebrating a Vedic Yagnya on Ellen.