Thursday, 15 April 2021

Sen & why Social Choice harms Public Welfare.

 Is there any necessary connection between Choice, based on Preference, and the level of Welfare attained?

No. Our Welfare may increase if someone else makes all our decisions for us. Indeed, in 'mission critical' aspects of our life- Health, Wealth management, Education, Protection of Person & Property- we prefer to 'outsource' provision to experts using 'transferable utility'- money- which we either pay through taxes or out of pocket.

It is true that we value being able to express our preferences as a matter of asserting our individuality and so as to 'stand out from the crowd'. But this is not necessarily connected with welfare. We may value things- e.g. being able to die for our country, but also being able to kill ourselves because someone snaked our boo- which are catastrophic for our Welfare.

In an earlier post, I showed- using Maskin's essay on Ken Arrow- that the type of Social Choice Theory which Arrow founded was fundamentally misconceived. It was based on a false analogy between markets and elections and defined as a Dictator a person who clearly was nothing of the sort. 

In this post, I want to consider Sen's approach to welfare economics. In particular, by adopting the viewpoint of an impartial observer at a superior vantage point, can actual choices made by Society be improved in a systematic manner?

Sen asked- in a 1999 lecture-

 How can we judge how well a society as a whole is doing in the light of the disparate interests of its different members?

One answer is to compare like with like. Look at a similar society and see whether 'disparate interests' are reconciled better or worse. Alternatively, compare sections of that Society against each other. Some areas may be performing better for reasons we can identify and which can help us formulate a 'Structural Causal Model' of the Society which can be used to improve matters immediately. 

The problem here is that our incentive to do this must always be less than that of people within that Society. Mimetic effects may already be ameliorating the situation more efficiently than any intervention of our own.

This was a familiar problem for Development Economics. Those countries which ignored this academic discipline did in fact Develop. Those that listened to these experts failed to do so.

Judging impartially and on the basis of all relevant evidence is a good thing if someone will pay you to do so. But if such judgments don't add value to society then such Judging will be disintermediated. There will be jurisdiction shopping or else some other resolution mechanism will gain salience. 

Judging is not the same thing as deciding. Deciding is not the same thing as expressing preferences. Both may arise in a manner such that people say 'there is no real choice here. Either we do the smart thing or we embark on the road to perdition.' 

Sen asks- 

How do we measure aggregate poverty in view of the varying predicaments and miseries of the diverse people that make up the society?

The answer depends on whether we get paid in proportion to the amount of misery we uncover. Recently, the Scottish Nationalist Party has been spending money on 'experts' whose job is to depict Scottish women as malnourished and unable to provide for their wee bairns.  The aim is to show Westminster as callously starving the Scots. However, even in the wealthiest boroughs of London we find billionaires who are suffering from food insecurity because of lack of access to arable land of sufficient quantity and quality to grow food for themselves and their mistresses and household staff. This is a truly scandalous state of affairs! Many ecological experts have pointed out that sustainable food security requires the provision of hundreds of square miles of topographically varied land and water resources so as to provide each person with adequate nutrition. 

Moving away from food to address other capability deficits, we find that- with existing technology- it would be possible to extend the life of the average billionaire by ten days just by spending one trillion US dollars. Moreover, many billionaires are not getting adequate training in twerking so as to fulfil their capability to be bigger than Beyonce. 

This does not mean we can't measure poverty as the deficit of some particular good or service and work out how to increase its availability. But that sort of thing happens anyway without the need for any abstract theory or wringing of academic hands. 

Sen asks-

How can we accommodate rights and liberties of persons while giving adequate recognition to their preferences?

The answer is we can do so by imitating those who are already acknowledged to have this capability. We can't invent some abstract mechanism which does the thing for us.  Still, some of us may earn a living by pretending to have this panacea or to have thought more deeply about it. But then astrologers too can make a good living thanks to their superior vantage point as impartial observers of the Stars and Planets. But out and out fraudsters can get yet richer- till they are caught and thrown in jail. 

How do we appraise social valuations of public goods such as the natural environment, or epidemiological security?

By looking at existing methods and trying to find ways of doing the same thing better. These are ideographic, not nomothetic, issues.  

Also, some investigations, while not directly a part of social choice theory, have been helped by the understanding generated by the study of group decisions

Is this really true? No. 

(such as the causation and prevention of famines and hunger,

Famines and hunger disappeared when technocratic solutions- which completely ignored 'group decisions'- increased the availability of food and improved 'last mile delivery' to the vulnerable. 

Saying, 'ensure women get the food. Don't give money to men- they will spend it on booze.' may feel good but it doesn't really help. Growing a lot more food, or ensuring there is less wastage in its transport and distribution, is the answer to this problem. 

True, for a political purpose, a Party may pretend that lack of access to arable land is what is causing 'food poverty'. But that is merely pretense.  

or the forms and consequences of gender inequality,

The evidence is that talk about 'group decisions' has been useless. Gender inequality has to be tackled directly by the enactment and enforcement of appropriate Legislation. Consider the manner in which Title IX was used to expand Women's sports in American Universities. Many more women were able to get scholarships. This more than paid for itself because female higher education is better correlated with higher incomes and thus a higher tax take for the Government. 

Gassing on about how 'attitudes' must change and men mustn't hold doors open for women and so forth did no good whatsoever. On the other hand, stiff penalties for sexual harassment and 'date rape' etc. changed actual behavior.  

or the demands of individual freedom seen as a "social commitment").

Such 'social commitments' get reversed pretty darned quickly because they were never genuine in the first place. At the time when Sen was writing this, plenty of countries were saying 'we are socially committed to multiculturalism' and were seeking votes from a particular religious minority. Then the pendulum swung the other way.  

The reach and relevance of social choice theory can be very extensive indeed. 

Whereas the reach and relevance of a fart is mercifully limited. But both are nuisances which should be curbed.  

Social Choice theory thinks Choice is related to Welfare whereas what matters is Competition which raises opportunity cost. When the opportunity cost rises for all members of Society, Poverty has fallen, Welfare has increased. True, there may be people who choose to starve. But the opportunity cost of their starving is not earning mega-bucks in a job. When opportunity cost rises, elasticity rises. This means 'rents' disappear. 'Exploitation' ends. Having good and effective laws greatly changes the opportunity cost of activities with high negative externalities- e.g. crime or imposing unconscionable contracts. But bringing about these desirable changes involve 'supply side' measures of an essentially ideographic and mimetic type. Abstract theory is less than useless- it is actively mischievous. It tends to increase the dimensionality of the decision space thus engendering concurrency deadlock or McKelvey chaos. 



Cancel, Racist David Napier- once he stops being against Israel

 David Napier is American of a certain age, and a certain degree of imbecility. He thinks we Brits will be cool with his Racist Stupidity. 

He is wrong. America has repudiated him thanks to BLM while we, on this side of the pond, are stuck with repairing a damage our people did not cause. 

What is strange about the following stream of consciousness from, the Racist imbecile, Napier, is that he advertises himself as not just an Anthropologist, but a Medical Anthropologist from University College London. 

How fucking Racist and Obsolete is his Discipline? 

Ten years ago Napier wrote-

the day before Britain’s post offices closed for their long Christmas break,I stood in a pavement queue outside one, just before nine in the morning.

Why? Because you are shit at your job or shit in your personal life. There is literally no transaction that can be made at a British P.O which can't be delegated.

What this guy is saying is that being a Prof of Shite at UCL causes him to be so widely avoided that he has to stand in queues himself.  I'm younger than him. Back then, I had students queuing up for tuition in things which made them rich and secure. I didn't have to stand in a queue for shit.

The queuers were all pensioners, older and cold, politely waiting for the office to open.

Why? By 2011, there was no need to wait- politely or otherwise for any Pensioner. The thing was online. 

 This fucking Anthropologist is missing a massive trick here- isn't he?  The fact is queues for us old Brits have elements of a 'participation mystique'- a methexis.

But fuck would this ignorant ugly American know about such ideographic matters? 

I wasn’t there to do last-minute festive business, but to ransom my rarely used car. This had been clamped by a predatory private company because it lacked a tax disc. The faded notice it pasted to my windscreen told me I first had to get a disc and then find their company somewhere in West London and pay hundreds of pounds to release the car. Doing this would save me another £200 in charges which would otherwise soon accrue (the actual clampers aren’t qualified to verify that the disc has been placed on the windscreen, or to accept payment of the initial fine). The office, however, weren’t answering their phone.

This is 'anthropological'. The stupid American cunt is just showing himself to be a stupid fucking American cunt who pretends not to get that 'tax discs' aint magic. They have to be renewed. Why did he not do so? Is it because he is stupid? Or is it because his profession has turned him into a Racist, Entitled, Cunt? 

Still, we get where this stupid Yank is coming from.  This type of shite was the premise of 'American Werewolf in London'- back in the Eighties, when Napier still had a brain cell or two.


I was determined to get the disc from the post office,

Why? Two years previously, provision had been made for the thing to be done online. How fucking stupid are you, you stupid, fucking Racist, American, cunt?  

locate the clamping firm and liberate my car for Christmas. 

Coz u iz Santa Claus- right?

As we waited, a man came down the street, went to the door of the post office, tapped on the window smiling broadly, and was let in.

Smiling broadly? Was he also eating watermelon? Cracker! How fucking Racist is your motherfucking ass?  

It was exactly nine o’clock, and I assumed he was an employee.

Why? Is it coz he got a watermelon smile? Or was it that he had nappy hair? Worthless American cunt, the guy probably owned that P.O and was similar to me.  

We all followed him inside, still maintaining our queue places, only to find him at the counter asking in very broken English about buying stamps.

Broken English! That's Racism right there!  The fact is, Britain decided to save money by selling off Post Masterships so as to improve efficiency at a time when this stupid cunt was studying here. 

I felt an urge to intervene, because I was annoyed by his queue jumping, especially ahead of the elderly.

No. You were angry that the guy got served before you. Why pretend you are the champion of the elderly? 

Walking to the window

thus breaking the queue  

I asked the postal worker not to serve him.

You were ignored. You had no locus standi.  

The previously silent queue then spoke up — no, shouted. “Don’t serve him,” they chanted. “Don’t serve him.”

Cool. This Racist found a bunch of elderly Racists to back him up. This was his apotheosis.  

It was too late: safely behind his glass-screened counter,

Safely? What is this Racist thug hinting at? That he would smash that counter and hurt the person of the ethnic minority serving the public? Perhaps. Sadly, the local community would have rallied against this worthless Professor. His head would have stomped in- unless the Police arrested him first. 

Why is this cunt pretending that London is all White? That peeps like me have to put up with a Racist Yank like him?  

the postmaster slid forward his stamps. As the interloper passed me,

what interloper? The guy got the P.O to open up. This stupid Academic doesn't know why that was the case. I do. I have emic knowledge. Napier has etic ignorance because it suits him- stupid Racist cunt that he is. 

I pointed out that he shouldn’t be so rude when a queue wasn’t of pensioners, because somebody might assault him. It wasn’t a threat, just advice.

It was nothing at all- neither a threat, nor advise. It was sheer stupidity. Why is this Racist cunt pretending he and his bunch of pensioners could 'assault' guys who look like me? Fuck is wrong with him? Does he not get that if one person in a shop gets attacked then everybody in every shop or minicab or whatever round there piles in and kicks in the heads of Racist cunts? Does this 'medical anthropologist' really not know the demographics of London? Perhaps. He is as ignorant as shit. To be clear, this is a City with a Pakistani origin Mayor.  

When I made my point, a woman from the back of the queue, who moments earlier had been jeering for justice, looked at me angrily and snapped: “Now you’ve gone too far!” “Yes, perhaps I have,” I agreed. The queue-jumper slipped away and we all silently returned to waiting in line.

Slipped away? Suppose this had happened to me when I opened up shops back in the early Eighties. I'd have looked at the cunt who was trying to make trouble. But, if he was a Sixty year old piece of shit, I wouldn't have given him the time of day.

This stupid cunt does not get that the 'pensioners' were against his Racist threat of violence. Had he acted upon it, he'd have had his head kicked in. Why? Retail of that sort aint in the hands of the KuKluxKlan. Anyway, in West London, non-Whites are the majority- or where they aren't , Whites are to well off and educated to be Racist.

Napier is not well off or well educated by our standards. He is poor- a fucking Professor and ignorant- a fucking Anthropologist! The fact that he is a Yank is immaterial. But the impression that he is a jerk is not.  

Not alone

Everybody in that queue felt that they were in a difficult situation,

Nonsense! They were Brits- not worthless jerks 

and they felt at that moment together in their aloneness.

Fuck off! We like being alone when we want to be. But we've got Pubs and Churches and all sorts which Yanky jerks will never comprehend, unless they see we are the same as them.

Nobody in England supports 'further immigration'. But we get along pretty well nevertheless.  

They could not have known how un-alone they were. In a recent survey of 5,000 people (the largest survey of such attitudes ever conducted), the Searchlight Educational Trust discovered that a lot of Britons don’t support further immigration: 39% of Asian Britons; 34% of white Britons; and 21% of black Britons struggle with the steady influx of people into the UK. Some 43% of Asian Britons, 63% of white Britons, and 17% of black Britons feel that immigration has been bad for the country; 52% agree that Muslims in the UK are problematic (1). These feelings were reflected in last year’s election; according to a Times Populus poll in February, some 48% would consider supporting an anti-immigration party. An article in The Guardian put a more positive spin on these figures, claiming that if you combined the 28% of “identity ambivalent” citizens with the 24% who call themselves “cultural integrationists” you come up with the very slim majority of 52% who might possibly believe that, under financially stable circumstances, immigration could be acceptable (2). Fix the financial mess and the problem of multiculturalism could just disappear.

Priti Patel is the second Gujerati speaking politician to crack down on immigration. The first was Bhownagree- more than a hundred years ago. 

This Racist cunt does not get that Econ is color blind.

These sentiments remind us that David Cameron, in making his recent statement about the failure of British multiculturalism, was naïve, at best.

Cameron had shit for brains. But us Brits know the right way to tackle Terrorism. Disintermediate cunts like Napier. Catch the bad guys. Turn them. Sell that information for leverage in Oil Rich places. 

He spoke in Germany, where Thilo Sarrazin’s Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab (Germany Does Away with Itself), has just outsold Harry Potter (3).

Oh dear. This stupid Yank just jerked himself off on the chain of factual inaccuracy. Sarrazin sold 1.5 million copies. Harry Potter had already sold ten times that and would carry on to sell much more.

In so doing, Cameron strengthened the idea that Britain’s downfall was the result of multiculturalism, and also the idea that Britain should be saved, for “us”, and from “them”.

This Racist cunt is simply lying. Cameron was good for 'BAME' peeps. Half the current Cabinet seems of that persuasion. 


Sarrazin’s wild success in Germany depends not only on his distaste for multiculturalism but his belief, as The Economist put it, that “the right sort of German women are having too few babies and that the wrong sort — Muslims and those with little education — are having too many. The result is not only that Germany’s population is shrinking, it is also getting dumber. ‘With higher relative fertility among the less intelligent, the average intelligence of the population declines,’ he writes. His defence of eugenics — through policies to encourage fertility among smart women — seems like a throwback to a grimmer time” (4).

Why does this 'Medical Anthropologist' not refute this shite? It is because he is a Racist cunt. 


You do not have to be of non-native origin to jump a queue or break other British behavioural norms. But when you clearly are not a native English speaker and you break a longstanding rule of fairness — and fairness attracts people to live in Britain — people will surely blame your faux pas on your “otherness”.

This jerk of a Yank is a an alterity- but one of stupidity and Racism. There are lots of other Americans here in London who are the opposite of this cunt. 

When you do so brazenly, as some fundamentalists do when they undermine free speech by shouting down harmless eccentrics at London’s Speakers Corner, people may ask themselves why we all stand by as the world around us falls apart.

Or they may tell you to fuck off, or- at least- not to be so fucking silly. 


Some people in that queue began openly to ask aloud if things might have been different had their upwardly-mobile neighbours-turned-life-peers also had to stand in queues, lost their jobs to illegal migrants, or been told that their feelings of despair and social degradation could easily be redressed by Big Society volunteerism, philanthropy and the reinstatement of the family as a core moral institution. I wondered if my fellow queuers were also asking themselves why it was no longer meaningful to object that something was “not fair”.

I'm not making this shit up. The cunt actually wrote the above. It was published by some French newspaper in its English version. 

Why is David Napier permitted to purvey his Racism and his Stupidity and his pseudo-science at UCL?

The answer, it may be, is the cunt is against Israel.  

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Rawls v Oikeiosis

What happens when we assume something impossible in order to make an argument about how things should be in the world? The same thing that happens if we just tell stupid lies. 

Suppose we are told that there is particular type of person who needs to kill in order to avoid unimaginable mental pain. Suppose further there is a particular type of person who needs to be killed in order to avoid unimaginable mental pain. If we are told there is a chance we might be one or other of this type of person, we might want a Justice system which holds this type of murder to be no crime at all. 

The problem, of course, is that every murderer will claim to have merely put someone who wanted to be murdered out of her misery. Hard cases make bad law. In any case, how can we be sure that people of the type I have mentioned must always exist? There is no way of telling all the possible types of people who might exist and how they should be ranked in terms of neediness.  Economists call this 'Knightian Uncertainty'. We can be sure about things in our past which make us the individuals we are- with all our passions and partialities and prejudices. This is the natural 'Oikeiosis' or belonging, or 'appropriation', which individuate us. We can't be sure about the range of future states of the world. This means though we have 'natural' interests of which we are aware- though, no doubt, we can change these interests- we don't have access to any similar unmediated knowledge or synoida of our 'natural' duties. 

Rawls says we have natural duties, including 

“the duty of helping another when he is in need or jeopardy'-

yet nothing in our nature tells us what that would involve or to whom that duty is owed. Oikeiosis does tell us what we owe to our family and those others who are tied to us 'by nature'. It does not tell us anything about an alterity which arises by exigent circumstances unconnected with us.

All we can say is that it would be nice if everybody helped everybody else when they needed help. But that which is nice is by no means the same as that which is natural.

Could

the duty not to harm or injure another;

be 'natural'? Sure. Suppose some 'externality' effect arising from a market decision by you caused you to feel pain because another was harmed or injured, then a 'natural' duty would have been breached. Thus, suppose I learn that I get a job which my brother is more in need of, I may feel that I harm him by taking it and thus have a duty to stand down so as to permit him to gain it. Here my sense of duty is 'natural'. However, artifice of a virtue signaling type is involved when I refuse to take a job unless no one else wants it. This is so even if I truly am a Stoic sage or Mahatma of some type. Why? The thing is unnatural. As a categorical imperative, it paves the path to chaos. The thing is as hypocritical as Gandhian mummery- unless people believe they are saving their immortal souls in the process. But in that case there is no 'normative bridge' here. There is merely a soteriological ladder out of this world to a much nicer Heaven. But that Heaven is not part of Nature. 

. . . the duty not to cause unnecessary suffering”

is no duty at all because what is necessary or unnecessary is unknowable under Knightian Uncertainty. This may be a shibboleth of a reputational type. But we dismiss it as cheap talk and not something 'natural' at all.  

and the duty of mutual respect.

is outright silly. If we have to respect the vile what good is done by showing respect to the virtuous? There may be some theology at the bottom of this, but it is far from the realm of human nature. 

Within the context of a theory of justice, however, the most important natural duty requires us “to comply with and do our share in just institutions when they exist and apply to us”

Because of Knightian Uncertainty, we can't be sure if an institution will be just under unforeseen circumstances. True, if we are agents, not principals, of a narrowly defined type, we may be said to have no duty other than what is specified. However, this duty is removed as the exigency fades. In other words, there is no natural duty, just an artificial constraint of a convenient, but not moral, type. 

and “to assist in the establishment of just arrangements when they do not exist”

again, we must say 'it would be nice if the world worked that way' but it doesn't. The thing is a fantasy. It has nothing to do with Nature.  

Life is a discovery process. Instead of signing up to a constitution for a priori reasons, or admitting that we all have all sorts of duties which are very nice in theory but which Nature- i.e. the facts of the world- will not permit us to put into practice, we would be better off sticking with what does obtain- viz. Justice as a pure service industry which represents some degree of value for money. The same might be said about Paideia or Religion or Science or Dentistry or Plumbing. It would be nice if they were constituted in some ideal way, but such ideals are at odds with the manner in which Nature is constituted. 

It might be argued that there are some principles that people consider 'fair' and which they would naturally follow. 

Consider the following-

a person is required to do his part as defined by the rules of an institution when two conditions are met: first, the institution is just . . . that is, it satisfies the two principles of justice; and second, one has voluntarily accepted the benefits of the arrangement or taken advantage of the opportunities it offers to further one's interests

Is this true? No. One may accept benefits because one has no other choice or because one wishes to exhaust the resources of the institution in question. Furthermore, one may approve of the purpose of an institution, or its observable behavior, yet reject its 'rules'. After all, they may be otherwise than they are without impairing benefits that flow from it.

It may also be the case that you are capable of accepting benefits but not of 'doing your part' according to the Institutions rules. 

This is not in fact a 'fair' principle at all. It is a devil's bargain. You are not committed until you say you are committed and even then only to the extent you say so. Even then there is wriggle room. Consider the deal Satan offers Homer Simpson. He gets pizza for his soul. But his soul already belongs to Marge. Our pre-existing Oikeiosis constrains any 'bridge principle' by which a duty is imputed to us purely because of a benefit received. We can imagine a Society where there is an opposite principle. In the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, the thieves refuse to eat any dish cooked with salt. This is because of a convention that existed such that receiving salt bound one to the recipient- as if one were a salaried employee. But Ali Baba is a fairy story. It is not a page from the book of Nature.  

The Social Contract, if it exists at all, is an incomplete contract where adhesion can't be presumed because consideration has been received. That would be unconscionable more particularly if the Institution has greater power. 

It may be argued that there is a certain sort of virtue which binds itself for reasons of higher rationality. But it is simply not rational to adopt a higher rationality at odds with it natural form. There is no 'bridging principle' here. It is never in our interest to accept stipulations which might turn out to have evil effects. An unconscionable bargain is not binding on Muth rational agents. Of course, we could pretend that, by some magic, everybody is given perfect information in advance and so no unconscionability arose. But, if such information were available, there would be no need for Economics or Politics or Jurisprudence or, indeed, Language for solving coordination problems. Magic would do all the heavy lifting for Society. There would be no need for 'Institutions' or 'Rules' or the word 'Fairness' or the word 'Principle' or the word 'Justice' or the word 'Rationality'.

Consider the following summary of Rawls's theory of Justice.

The original position is designed to be a fair and impartial point of view that is to be adopted in our reasoning about fundamental principles of justice. In taking up this point of view, we are to imagine ourselves in the position of free and equal persons who jointly agree upon and commit themselves to principles of social and political justice.

Free and equal people, with an ounce of sense, would refuse to commit themselves to any such 'principles'. They may be sold on the merits of 'risk pooling' of various type- i.e. Social Insurance- and so forth- but will wait to see how the thing works in real life. 

A conjurer may appear to do magic by forcing a card upon you. This is what Rawls is doing. The sad thing is that he believes it is magic, not stupidity.  

If human beings evolved, we did so on an uncertain fitness landscape. This means we don't agree to be bound by complex contracts which pretend to have envisaged every possibility and to be perfectly rational. If the future were indeed so predictable why don't we have mechanisms to tell us which scientific research program is bound to succeed and which is bound to fail? 

The main distinguishing feature of the original position is “the veil of ignorance”: to insure impartiality of judgment, the parties are deprived of all knowledge of their personal characteristics and social and historical circumstances.

But they are told about the various types of people who will exist. But, if Knightian Uncertainty obtains, this is impossible to specify in advance. This also it means it is impossible to pick out who is the worst off.  

They do know of certain fundamental interests they all have,

which is more than any of us actually know. It may be that our most fundamental interest is in staying the fuck away from cute kitty cats on Planet X. They spread a deadly plague which wipes out our species in the year 4022.  

plus general facts about psychology, economics, biology, and other social and natural sciences.

These 'facts' have changed greatly over the last 50 years. When Rawls first published, American anti-trust law was 'deontological'- i.e. rules based. Now, the Law & Econ school seems in the ascendant but Biden might be about to change all that.  One big problem with Rawls's theory is that it could justify anything including slavery or Thanos killing off half the population just by saying this was essential for the provision of basic public goods. 

The parties in the original position are presented with a list of the main conceptions of justice drawn from the tradition of social and political philosophy, and are assigned the task of choosing from among these alternatives the conception of justice that best advances their interests in establishing conditions that enable them to effectively pursue their final ends and fundamental interests.

Let Justice simply be a service industry. Keep 'social and political philosophy' out of it, the way it is kept out of Medicine or Physics. After all, that shite has a terrible historical record.  

Rawls contends that the most rational choice for the parties in the original position are two principles of justice: The first guarantees the equal basic rights and liberties needed to secure the fundamental interests of free and equal citizens and to pursue a wide range of conceptions of the good.

A principle can't guarantee shit. Rights must be linked to remedies under an incentive compatible bond of law. But, because Knightian Uncertainty prevails, this is always a discovery process. There will be times when Rights are curtailed because Remedies are unaffordable. But there will also be periods of prosperity when it appear that rights can be created willy nilly. 

One may as well say 'the first principle of Justice is that everybody should be immortal and able to do magic. The second is that everybody should be really nice.' 

The second principle provides fair equality of educational and employment opportunities

Education and Employment occur on an uncertain fitness landscape. They are themselves a discovery process, not a fixed resource which can be divided up equally. 

enabling all to fairly compete for powers and positions of office;

Competition is a discovery process. We genuinely don't know what will make us more competitive or end up as a handicap. There was a time when a guy who dropped out of Harvard was obviously a loser of some sort. Now, we're not so sure. He might be the next mega-billionaire. 

It may that fifty years ago people believed that there would be Computers like HAL in 2001 which would predict the future with considerable accuracy. Rawls Theory could be seen as a way to program that Computer which would then run Society. Sadly, the more we learn the more we see that Uncertainty prevails because it arises from complexity itself. One way to tame exponential complexity is through co-evolved processes. But such processes are based on uncorrelated asymmetries- not 'impartiality'. They represent 'bourgeois strategies' and their rationality is based on sequent calculi or directed graphs. This takes us back to notions of oikeiosis and our 'nature' as giving rise to defeasible, transactional, notions of Justice and Equity and Fairness and so forth. Much of the mathematical work in this context took off after Rawls's big book came out. But, by the late Seventies, it was obvious that problems of concurrency, complexity and computability made Rawls's contribution jejune. Yet this academic availability cascade flourished. Why? The answer, I suppose, is that Justice is something we don't really want to come across. As Hamlet grimly observed- 'Use every man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping?' 

Liberalism, as a political philosophy, should not be about Justice. It should be about Generosity and Forgiveness and helping people make a fresh start. Sadly, Rawls pointed Philosophy in the wrong direction. It was bound to end up an Identitarian ghetto where his basic assumption about a common, universal, 'human nature' was reviled. It is bitter experience which ensouls us in proportion to the degree that experience was engendered by a Social machinery which enslaves. 

Sen's Sakshi & Smith's impartial observer

The word martyr, or shaheed, means 'witness'. For 'Enlightenment' thinkers, like David Hume, what was witnessed by martyrs might not have been Truth. It may have been a delusion of a furious or bigoted kind.

The Indic religions have a different notion of the witness- the 'Sakshi'- which Alison Gopnik believes influenced David Hume in a Buddhist form. However, this Sakshi was not constrained to be human. It could be a Soul or a God or some unimaginable hybrid of both. By contrast, provided our species has a limited life-span, there must always be a way, after the fact, of arriving at a specification of 'human nature'. This conception, though computationally inaccessible to us, might nevertheless be a Schelling focal point whose general direction we might be able to agree on to solve a coordination game. This could be useful in practical matters. The Sakshi however is not constrained in any way. We may say that it is the reflection of  the Godhead- or we may believe it to be something yet more rich and strange. 

Instead of the Sakshi, one may speak of the soul- or Atman- as the ultimate experiencer of what is lived. It is natural to think of the human soul as being human in a way that an impartial witness of the cosmos is not. This is particularly true if we have a theory of karma which posits the Atman rising from lower to higher forms of life and morality. 

This raises the question- is Adam Smith's 'impartial spectator' like the Atman, in Vedanta, which merely looks on, while the Jeeva partakes of the fruit? Perhaps, Amartya Sen's fetishizing of this notion- which he thinks can do the work of Rawls's Original Position- arises out of Sen's undoubted, albeit shallow, Hindu antecedents. Interestingly, Sen makes a distinction between open and closed impartiality, valorizing the former, such that no specific group could ever agree that impartiality had been achieved. There could always be an outsider who might disagree. The great advantage of this approach is that one could make a distinction between an open Sen and a closed Sen. The open Sen can be a mermaid because there may be a planet populated by mermaids who are Sen. A closed Sen, on our planet, is a rigid designator which excludes mermaids. The Sakshi within Sen, properly considered, may be as much a mermaid as a Sen-tentious gobshite. This is particularly important when we are tabulating its capabilities. A realization focused conception of Justice must take account of Sen's capability to be a mermaid while entertaining ideas of Mustice (what? open impartiality could be dyslexic) or geseje pq cijjheet (indeed, open impartiality may be completely illiterate and might just happen to like bashing the keyboard at random.)

 For Smith, who was concerned to diminish concern with 'propriety'- which might involve a narrow, rigid, akrebia- so as to accord with Aristlelian oikonomia- perspective mattered, keeping things in proportion was important, but impartiality, as such, could go hand in hand with impotence- e.g being a buddhijivi gobshite. 

Smith says ' we  frequently find in the world men of great humanity who have little self-command, but who are indolent and irresolute, and easily disheartened, either by difficulty or danger, from the most honourable pursuits; and, on the contrary men of the most perfect self-command, whom no difficulty can discourage, no danger appal, and who are at all times ready for the most daring and desperate enterprises, but who, at the same time, seem to be hardened against all sense either of justice or humanity.'

Amartya Sen identifies the disheartened but Humane man with Arjuna, who does not want to fight. I suppose, he thinks of Krishna as 'hardened against all sense of justice or humanity'.

However, after Arjuna gains Krishna's 'visvarupa'- i.e. cosmic perspective- he becomes a happy warrior and slays his eldest brother unfairly while in the grip of 'manyu'- dark anger. 

Sen, however, thinks this outcome is avoidable. 

He says '‘If the discussion of the demands of justice is confined to a particular locality – a country or even a larger region – there is a possible danger of ignoring or neglecting many challenging counterarguments that might not have come up in local political debates, or been accommodated in the discourses confined to the local culture, but which are eminently worth considering, in an impartial perspective.'

The problem here is that by widening the discussion yet further, all arguments and counterarguments may be shown to be terribly silly. From the point of view of the multiverse, the problems of our Galaxy are very small potatoes. 

The first requirement of Yoga is gaining the company of the like-hearted- suhrit prapti. The problem is that this may be adversely selective. As Smith says 'The propriety of our moral sentiments is never so apt to be corrupted, as when the indulgent and partial spectator is at hand, while the indifferent and impartial one is at a great distance.' The problem with academic availability cascades and citation cartels, however globalized, is that you have 'partial spectators' vouching for each others brilliance and humanity. An impartial spectator might ask 'what good are you doing?' That would put an end to all such bonhomie. Justice is at best a Service industry. By contrast, if Heaven is a real place and our Atman can get there, then there is some point to Yoga and Bhakti and so forth.

Fetishizing Justice is no substitute for Religion. On the other hand, working to increase the Wealth of Nations may, Smith sometimes seems to say, lead one from morality to religiosity. But then again it may not. Still, if wealth has increased, some useful purpose has been served.

Smith's moral philosophy is largely anti-reductionist, suspicious of Utilitarian claims (like Hutcheson's 'greatest good of the greatest number), and shrewdly psychological. 

But it doesn't need an impartial observer at all. A better solution would be to talk to a psychologist with a good 'Structural Causal Model' of the emotions and sentiments as well as plenty of practical experience as a man of the world. Indeed, this is what Smith himself is doing when he writes-


In solitude, we are apt to feel too strongly whatever relates to ourselves: we are apt to over-rate the good offices we may have done, and the injuries we may have suffered: we are apt to be too much elated by our own good, and too much dejected by our own bad fortune. The conversation of a friend brings us to a better, that of a stranger to a still better temper. The man within the breast, the abstract and ideal spectator of our sentiments and conduct, requires often to be awakened and put in mind of his duty, by the presence of the real spectator: and it is always from that spectator, from whom we can expect the least sympathy and indulgence, that we are likely to learn the most complete lesson of self-command.

This is the problem with having an 'idea of justice' which is useless. The real spectator suggests that Sen's 'impartial spectator' is a verbose tosser.  

Are you in adversity? Do not mourn in the darkness of solitude, do not regulate your sorrow according to the indulgent sympathy of your intimate friends; return, as soon as possible, to the day-light of the world and of society. Live with strangers, with those who know nothing, or care nothing about your misfortune; do not even shun the company of enemies; but give yourself the pleasure of mortifying their malignant joy, by making them feel how little you are affected by your calamity, and how much you are above it.

In other words, get over yourself. Go out and get a job and rise up by your own efforts. 


Are you in prosperity? Do not confine the enjoyment of your good fortune to your own house, to the company of your own friends, perhaps of your flatterers, of those who build upon your fortune the hopes of mending their own; frequent those who are independent of you, who can value you only for your character and conduct, and not for your fortune. Neither seek nor shun, neither intrude yourself into nor run away from the society of those who were once your superiors, and who may be hurt at finding you their equal, or, perhaps, even their superior. The impertinence of their pride may, perhaps, render their company too disagreeable: but if it should not, be assured that it is the best company you can possibly keep; and if, by the simplicity of your unassuming demeanour, you can gain their favour and kindness, you may rest satisfied that you are modest enough, and that your head has been in no respect turned by your good fortune.

This is perfectly sensible. Show you know how to spend your money sensibly and people will stop assuming you spend all your time pimping out your ride or blinging up your pad. 

What about those who are rich, not in wealth, but reputation? Sadly, the real spectator is likely to tell the impartial observer within you that your head is up your own arse. This can be very triggering more particularly if you've paid good money to insert your head up someone else's arse. 

Smith lived in a realm which was growing in prosperity and power. Wealth was actually increasing. Providence- St. Paul's oikonomia tou mysteriou- was doing a bang up job for English speakers. Maybe this was because of 'synderesis'- i.e. the 'innate principle in the moral consciousness of every person which directs the agent to good and restrains him from evil'- or maybe the thing arose out of social interaction of a rational and sensible type. What mattered was that Wealth was increasing. The Nation was getting stronger and more secure. The 'katechon' was effective in fending off the 'eschaton'- though, no doubt, if you were a nigger being shipped to one of those plantations David Hume promoted, you might think the Day of Wrath had come and gone. Some of Sen's people began getting richer about this time, by working for the Brits. Later, Raja Ram Mohan Roy would lobby Westminster to lift curbs on White emigration to India so as to save the rapacious Hindu from the equally rapacious, but less cowardly, Mussulman. Sen himself was brought up in Shantiniketan, founded by the grandson of Roy's great pal- Dwarkanath Tagore. At that time Bengal was a source of great wealth. Now- not so much. However, one British import- viz. the Judicial system- continues to thrive there. Does it have anything to do with 'moral sentiments'? No. It is a Service industry like any other. Politics may feature some very fine sentiments- but politics doesn't seem to have made the great mass of the people any wealthier. 

It seems 'ideas of Justice' don't matter. Moral sentiments may matter but could destroy Wealth creation. The safer bet- and the course an impartial observer would recommend- would be to concentrate on building wealth for the Nation and leave a hypocritical concern for the poor to the truly rich. 


Pratap Bhanu Mehta's ignorance of Hinduism.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express

There was something incongruous about the moment when I read the news on April 8 that the district court in Varanasi had directed the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a study of the Gyanvapi Mosque. This day also happened to be Kumar Gandharva’s birth anniversary. It was hard to resist playing his composition in Raga Shankara Sir Pe Dhari Ganga. There is a moment where he adds an extra “gang” before “Ganga”. The resulting “ganga/gagana”, is one of the most incandescent moments in all of Indian music — that extra Ganga literally drenching you in the full freshness and redemptive flow of the Ganga.

If this is so, why get worked up about some Court order? Surely hearing a nirguni bhajan should purge your mind of mundane prejudices and knee jerk reactions of a virtue signaling type? You should be able to take a broader view of things and be more at peace with yourself. 

It is always tempting to follow this exuberant rendition of Shankara, with another more meditative one — Pandit Jasraj’s Shankara. He sings “Vibhushitanaga Riputammanga”, the penultimate shloka of Panditraja Jagannatha’s Gangalahari.

Hopefully, Mehta will go drown himself in any convenient body of water perhaps accompanied by a Muslim inamorata- or just Ram Guha if no one else is willing. 

Reading the news of the Gyanvapi order, while these played in the background, almost felt like a defilement, a reminder that the spontaneous and erumpent spirituality of Hinduism was about to be again derailed by sordid politics.

Spirituality can't be derailed by anything. Mehta's mind, however, is made of shit. It can get pretty damn sordid pretty damn quickly.

Why does Mehta not understand that music of a spiritual sort should be helping you rise above your bigoted opinions and paranoid ideas? 

The Gyanvapi order combined with the Supreme Court’s willingness to entertain a plea challenging the Places of Worship Act (Special Provisions), 1991 is going to open another communal front.

So what? Plenty of these keep opening every other day. The whole point about Spirituality is that it enables one to rise about such petty concerns.  

In the case of the Gyanvapi Mosque, there is no real dispute. It is widely accepted that parts of the Vishwanath temple were destroyed and its walls may have been raised on the plinth of the temple. One also does not have to deny that many Hindus experienced and have a consciousness of Aurungzeb’s reign as being characterised by religious bigotry. Historians can debate the context and the motives of Aurangzeb’s actions, and the complexity of his rule. But minimising the significance of his actions has always been a little historically incredible and politically disingenuous. If we rest the case for secularism in contemporary India on establishing Aurangzeb’s liberal credentials, then secularism will indeed be on rickety foundations. It will also legitimise Hindutva resting its case on Aurangzeb’s credentials. Secularism will be deepened if it lets history be history, not make history the foundations of a secular ethic.

Similarly Spirituality will be deepened if you leave the thing alone rather than drag it into a virtue signaling article for the Express. 


But there is no incongruity between accepting that a temple could have been demolished in the 16th century, and believing that the status quo on the shrines must be maintained.

Nor is there any incongruity to leaving this matter for the Bench to decide on.  

It’s hubris for me to think that Lord Shiva needs my protection.

No it isn't. Brahma Sutra says 

 The Sruti prescribes reciprocal meditation in Ait. Ar. II.2.4.6 because the texts distinguish (two meditations); as in other cases. Vyatiharah: exchange; reciprocity (of meditation); Visimshanti: (the scriptures) explain clearly, distinguish; Hi: because, for; Itaravat: as in other cases. The Aitareya Aranyaka says with reference to the person in the sun, “What I am, that He is; what He is, that am I” (Ait. Ar. II.2.4.6). A doubt arises here whether the meditation is to be of a reciprocal nature, a double one by means of exchange The Purvapakshin maintains that the meditation is to be practised in the former manner only and not in the reverse way also. He argues that the soul would be exalted by the former meditation and the Lord be lowered by the latter one! 

Mehta adopts the view of the Purvapakshin. Why? Because he is ignorant and stupid. A little thought would show that even for a Jain- for whom there is no Salvation by Grace- intentionality with respect to Arhats involves reciprocity. One takes and gives refuge to that which is spiritually beneficial. 

Spirituality is dynamic even if you subscribe to an Occassionalist metaphysics. Mehta, clearly, is ignorant of Indian philosophy. He can listen to nirguni bhajans but can't grasp their meaning. What about Western Paideia- has he grasped that, at least?

Let us see-

Yes, one can acknowledge a history of conflict, and believe at the same time that a new social contract has been written.

Only if a new social contract- i.e. a new Constitution- has in fact been enacted. This is not the case. The Bench alone gets to say what is or is not Constitutional. It may affirm a particular law, it may not. We must wait and see.  

In some ways, the Places of Worship Act, 1991 is a good expression of that thought. It freezes the status quo of all disputed religious properties as they were in 1947.

But it may not be constitutional.  

In the past, the destruction of religious shrines may have been the function of state power. But modern India cannot repeat the same logic.

Yes it can. It is perfectly proper for a State to knock down religious shrines for any lawful purpose.  

We cannot say that because political power has changed hands, so must the power to define the religious landscape.

Yes we can. Why? Because it is true.  

The demand that Kashi or Mathura be returned is exactly that. It is a raw assertion of majoritarian power.

Like the enactment of the Constitution or the declaration of the Republic. Mehta may not like 'majoritarian power' but such power is legitimized by the Constitution. He is not a Supreme Court judge. He has no power to give effect to his own prejudices in this matter. 

Now that power has passed to the majority, it must claim back or avenge wrongs committed five centuries ago. There is also a deeper logic. The purpose of reclaiming these shrines is not religiosity.

How does Mehta know? It looks as though this suit was set in motion on behalf of the deity of the shrine by a devotee of that deity.  

Bhakti for Kashi Vishwanath has not been impinged or diminished by the existence of the Gyanvapi Mosque.

How does Mehta know? It may have been diminished. It may not. But that is beside the point. Indian Law grants certain rights to temple deities. That is a matter for the Courts.  

The purpose of claiming it back is to claim that Hindus have power qua Hindus and they can now show Muslims their place.

This may be the case. But, equally, it may not. What is certain, is that the motive is irrelevant. The Courts will decide whether the rights of a particular deity have been infringed and what remedy can be applied if this is established.  

The purpose is not to craft a connection with Shiva or Krishna, the purpose is to permanently indict minorities.

How does Mehta know? We may think his purpose in writing this shite is to attack established Hindu orthodoxy by asserting the Purvapakshin's doctrine that there can be no reciprocity in spiritual practice. One must never take any step beneficial to the worshipped as that would be hubris. Indeed, one would be belittling God if one were to address the deity as 'Lord' or if one visited a place of worship because this would suggest that God is not present everywhere. 

It is to use a sacred place of worship as a weaponised tool against another community.

Mehta is weaponizing his articles in the Express against the orthodoxy of the Hindu majority of India. Is this what his own religion counsels? Or is this the result of his own hubris?

The new spate of lawsuits will stoke communal fires.

But communal fires exist in plenty anyway. 

Most political parties will be caught like deer in headlights, not knowing which way to turn. The fact that they are not defending the Places of Worship Act will further send a signal that the Indian state cannot make a credible promise to minorities.

So what? The minorities are disaffected anyway. In any case, the Executive can't make 'credible promises' which are unconstitutional in the view of the Supreme Court. However, the Legislature can then change the Constitution if there is enough support for the measure. 

It is also an indication that Hindutva in its present form can never be satiated; it is an escalation of power that constantly demands more.

This article is an indication that Mehta's hatred of Hinduism can never be satiated. He is furious that Hindus say 'Jai Shri Ram' and visit Temples. He will keep resigning from every job he gets in the belief that this 'escalates his power'. Soon he will demand that all Hindus change their name to Jesus Mohammad Confucius so as to clearly indicate their secularism.

Yesterday was Ayodhya, tomorrow Kashi, the day after Mathura.

So what? We are only speaking of property disputes. Such things happen all the time.  

It has been emboldened by the lack of resistance amongst Hindus

very true! Why are more Hindus not demanding that all Hindus be forced to change their name to Jesus Mohammad Confucius?  

and the increasing isolation of minorities. In the guise of settling a score with Aurangzeb, Hindutva wants to commit hara-kiri on the Indian Constitution, individual freedom and minorities.

In the guise of settling a score with the BJP, Mehta wants us to all change our name to Jesus Mohammad Confucius.  

Alas, we will let this pass too, with a judicial seal of approval to boot.

Judges decide property disputes every day. Why should we get worked up about it? Mehta says that if the Hindu religion is involved then 'God is belittled'. But Mehta is a cretin.  

Panditraja Jagannatha, author of Gangalahari, is a fascinating figure. He was from Andhra. He spent time with Dara Shikoh before reaching Benares. He was a phenomenal poet, aesthetician, and polemically engaged with Appaya Dikshita. The details of his biography are obscure. Legend has it that he fell in love with a Muslim princess. P K Gode’s monumental two-volume Studies in Indian Literary History, one of the most meticulous sources on Indian literary figures, argued for the plausibility of the story, based on 18th century sources. This legend was the basis of a Tamil film Lavangi (“His lover’s name”) and a Marathi play by Vidyadhar Gokhale. There are different variations of the legend.

So what? How is he relevant?  

It is said that the Gangalahari is connected to this love story. For marrying a Muslim, Jagannatha was declared an outcaste when he went to Benares. Even the Ganga receded and did not receive him. He composed the Gangalahari to appease Ganga. With each shloka, the water rose one step on the ghat to receive him. I have read dozens of Hindi introductions to the Gangalahari. It is interesting how the story changes. In some versions, Jagannatha wants to be received by the Ganga so that he can be cleansed of his sins of marrying a Muslim.

This is silly. The purification ritual for sex of this type is easy to perform. One leading Brahmin family of Hyderabad always had one Muslim wife so as to ease social intercourse with purdah-nashin Begums. Just by having a bath and chanting a mantra, the husband was purified to beget Brahmin children on his Brahmin wife. 

This is the more recent and more communal version. But there is an older version that held sway for a long time.

In this version, the Brahmins have declared him an outcaste. But after he recites the Gangalahari, Ganga rises and receives both him and his lover in its embrace, putting a seal of approval on their union.

They are drowned. Go thou, Mehta & Guha, and do likewise.  

The sin was not his love, it was making him an outcaste.

But the guys who excommunicated him lived long and prosperous lives. The poet drowned.  

What speaks to the majesty of “pinaki mahagyani”, as Kumar Gandharva called Lord Shiva, or the purifying power of Ganga more?

This is very silly. A guy who goes off and meditates for a hundred years in some Himalayan cave may be said to testify to the majesty of Lord Shiva- if he has gained all sorts of marvelous super-natural powers. Furthermore, if people find they can give up addiction and egotism etc. after 'Ganga Snan' then that is a testimony to the Goddess. A good song, sung by a good singer, may also be appreciated. But then songs about all sorts of things may be equally good.  

Moving on to build an inclusive, prosperous India?

Which entails telling Mehta & Co to fuck off to America 

Or being intoxicated by a majoritarian fantasy of revenge?

Mehta is intoxicated by a fantasy of revenge against the Hindu majority which is so evil that it says 'Jai Shri Ram' and goes to Temples. Why can't those stupid fools just all change their name to Jesus Mohammad Confucius so as to prove their secular credentials? To do less is nothing but naked majoritarianism! 

Looks like we are opting for the latter, and no Ganga will rise to redeem us of this sin.

I hope Mehta reaches America quickly and the Hudson river rises up to greet him and drowns the cunt speedily.  

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Pratap Bhanu Mehta's forthcoming book on the Mahatma

Seven years ago, PBM wrote in the Indian Express- 

As the Left parties in India stare at political oblivion, they might draw some consolation from the fact that, in economic terms, genuine rightwing parties don’t even get off the ground in India.

It is no consolation to know that the guy who gets the cushy job will be doing pretty much what you would be doing if you had been selected. 

The truth is, both the Marxist Left and the 'Libertarian' Right are irrelevant in India. They both cash out as saying 'first India must be turned into either China or America. Then our policies must be implemented because they worked in China or America'. 

Many supporters are finding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not quite the libertarian economic reformer they had hoped he would be.

This is like saying 'Modi's real name isn't Nicholas Maugham. I suspect he may be some dusky sort of native. Boy, do I feel swindled!'  

That is a good thing, too. Left and right, as pure ideological forms, have little prospect for success.

Which is why the subject PBM teaches is useless.  

Creating broad majority coalitions requires eschewing extreme positions.

No it doesn't. You can be as extreme as you like. What matters to Coalition stability is if the pie is carved up according to 'Shapley values'- i.e. relative bargaining power. Outcomes matter. Attitudes don't.  

Your ability to get people to go along with you is inverse to your doctrinal purity.

Nonsense! It wasn't lack of 'doctrinal purity' that brought down the Left Front in West Bengal. Nor was it just thuggery. Incompetent thuggery is what proves fatal.  

But it also has something to do with an intellectual style that leads them to repeatedly misdiagnose the tasks of the time.

Why not simply say they are as stupid as shit and leave it at that? But stupid people can show a shrewd appreciation of 'Shapley values' and contribute to a stable coalition in a self-interested manner.  


Both political tendencies are more at home with abstractions than with diagnosing the actual complexities of economic life.

Abstractions can be way more complex than reality. By contrast, coalition stability can be ensured by using simple heuristics re. 'Shapley values'. 

Their respective progenitors, Adam Smith and Karl Marx, were acute at historical diagnosis; even when mistaken, they were instructive.

No. Both described a more advanced economy in a manner which convinced officials in less developed countries that there was a 'shortcut' to growing strong and secure. Smith was a God to the 'beamtenliberalismus'- i.e. bureaucratic liberals- of Germany. Marx's silliness was attractive to the Russians who thought that the proto-Socialist 'Mir', or village commune, could be the germ of 'Soviets' which would by pass capitalist industrialization so as to get to the Socialist utopia more quickly.

Neither Smith nor Marx were instructive. However they did provide fodder for instructors in worthless University Departments.  

Their self-proclaimed disciples merely want simple formulas.

This is a simple formula. This guy is a self-proclaimed instructor in a self-proclaimed discipline.  

In a strange way,

Strange? No. Commonplace. This sort of thing can be found in the Old Testament.  

both have fetishised the market: the left in constructing an abstract enemy called neo-liberalism; the right in not understanding how so many sectors of the economy cannot operate on conventional market principles.

There are no 'conventional market principles'. That's why, as Coase pointed out, enterprises exist. Economics is ideographic. The correct economic theory prevents nomothetic theories creating hysteresis effects. Thus 'rational expectations' does away with the type of 'cobwebs' deducible from 'Economic Principles'.  

Land, education, health, finance, infrastructure, insurance, knowledge-based industries and energy require very complex forms of regulation.

No. They require a very simple form of contract enforcement. Regulations can make this cheaper and more effective. It is not the case that something very very complex can be regulated by something more complex yet. Why? The time class of the solution concept is exponentially higher. It can't be computed. The body is very very complex. But regulations pertaining to contagious diseases contained in it have to be very very simple- if they are to be effective.  


Environmental concerns can no longer be ignored.

They have never been ignored. But they are less and less relevant for more and more of the high value adding things people do.  

As Keynes suggested, abstract economic calculation made “the whole conduct of life… into a sort of parody of an accountant’s nightmare… We destroy the beauty of the countryside because the unappropriated splendours of nature have no economic value. We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend.”

Keynes was babbling nonsense. We are not capable of shutting off the sun just because it is a Monopolist.  

They may not pay dividends but the negative externalities their demise might impose can no longer be ignored.

Hilarious! Mehta says 'if the Sun disappeared we wouldn't be able to ignore the negative externalities that would arise'. He is wrong. We'd be dead. Corpses can ignore anything they like.  

These are now the mainstays of the economy, both in terms of their relative size and their importance for future growth.

No. The environment is less important now than ever before- though, very poor people living in backward shitholes remain as vulnerable as ever.  

Economists can be reviled for their abstraction and compromised economic advice. But the bulk of serious work, from Joseph Stiglitz’s early technical work

which says if the Government is really good, everybody will join the Government and so there will be no private sector. But this would also be true of a knitting circle which was really good. The Government and the Opposition and everybody else would join the knitting circle. It alone would 'internalize all externalities' and allocate all resources. But why stop there? Suppose the neighbor's cat's miaows can be decoded as the optimal solution to Society's transportation problem. Then the Neighbor's Cat would be the Messiah! 

Greenwald-Stiglitz and Sappington-Stiglitz assume transaction costs are all that matters and that no problems of computability arise as the data set expands and aggregation problems arise. 

They forget that that the Government faces a different type of concurrency or race-hazard problem. Stakeholders in a private company know that only the bottom line matters. This determines what is 'mission critical' and thus gets priority attention. This is not the case with a Government. Should it first tackle gender discrimination or just concentrate on the bottom line? 

Essentially Stiglitz throws away information relating to 'uncorrelated asymmetries' and simply assumes that the same correlated equilibria is available for tinkering with. This is obviously fucked in the head. 

Incidentally, Stiglitz thought Suharto should have been propped up by the IMF. He was wrong. Indonesia preferred to take some fiscal pain in return for getting shot of that gangster. 

to Jean Tirole’s contributions on regulation,

is more in line with common sense. Tirole and Hart haven't yet, in obedience to Rothbard's Law, turned into gobshites vomiting up stupid Op Eds in Stiglitz's manner. Give them time.  

is driving home one simple point: we have to think more carefully about conditions under which markets are effective.

We? Mehta is too stupid. The rest us have enough common sense to see that we need to be thinking more carefully about how we invest our meager savings. We shouldn't be worrying about the higher mathematics of complexity and concurrency and computability and so forth.  

In principle, the Indian left could have grasped this point.

Because saying 'Boo to Modi! He is a Fascist!' requires an advanced mathematical knowledge of 'the ten martini problem'.  

But grasping it requires nuance.

Mehta hasn't grasped shit. Why is he pretending his Maths is good enough to understand nuances in Tirole's research program?  Few people do and those that do aint in Politics or Government. 

And regulation also requires understanding state failure.

No. Recognizing how and why State actions fail is a check on mindlessly regulating the shit out of everything.  

The left has been far more comfortable with

paranoid bollocks  

totalising logic than discontinuous realities. It proposed an abstract conception of the state, unmindful of realities, as an abstract answer to an abstract entity called neo-liberalism.

No. The Indian Left proposed a concrete, Kalecki type, class analysis of the State in terms of an 'intermediate class'. But, caste based leaders were already using this model to shift the balance of power towards the OBCs. This was already happening when Mehta was a little baby.  

As Marx would have said, it confused its idea of the state with reality.

No. The Left may be paranoid, but its paranoia is based on things like the occult power of Brahmins and the evil effect of people saying 'Jai Shri Ram'. The Indian Left has not bothered with a purely economic theory of the State. This is because if those evil Brahmins or Jai Shri Ram chanting OBCs get their tushies on kursis, then we will all be fucked coz then India might start growing rapidly and, as Sen said more than 60 years ago, this would mean Fascism would be upon us! 


The right, on the other hand, was so obsessed with state failure that it forgot to ask the question: where was the state needed and how important it was for development?

The Indian right says that the State should kick the ass of Pakis and Chinkis and Naxals and terrorists and gangsters and so forth. It should tell foreign NGOs to fuck off because, as Edward Lim of the World Bank discovered when he tried to reduplicate China's miracle in India, it pays better to block development using foreign money, than to let this country grow and prosper. Manmohan was on side with this view. It was he who started kicking NGO ass and promising to get the Naxals out of the extortion business. Shame he couldn't punch Pakistan in the snoot. Had he done so, the dynasty would have feared he could get re-elected on his own. So they chopped him off at the knees. But Rahul did not step forward. Hence Modi was elected unopposed in 2014.  

The right also substituted abstract logic for historical judgement. The simple fact of the matter is that no economy has been successful purely on the basis of property rights and the night-watchman state.

Except Britain and America and every other successful state which had no mimetic target and which faced no existential external threat.  

All successful post-war economies,

had to do Reconstruction under a Bretton Woods straitjacket. Thus the external Balance had to be carefully watched over and Exchange Controls and 'Indicative Planning' etc were needful.  

from Germany to Taiwan, have relied on developmental states.

But shitholes like Burma, too, were 'developmental states'. What matters is whether the State is a good night-watchman.  

And all successful states have been welfare states of some kind.

But so have very unsuccessful states like Venezuela and Libya.  

The post-war success of the United States is unimaginable without the New Deal,

Nonsense! What Americans realized was that re-armament was better at getting the economy going than forbidding people to own gold and getting farmers to burn their crops and forming cartels and trade unions all over the place. 

On the other hand, fucking over Commies was a grand idea. It made everybody better off.

It was McCarthyism which launched the careers of Nixon, Kennedy and Reagan. Earl Warren, before presiding over the most Liberal Court in American History, made his bones as a Red-baiter. 

which had all the elements the right decries: industrial policy, public education, business regulation, labour protection, curbs on finance and so forth.

But the New Deal failed! Unemployment rose back to 19 % in 1938- just 5 % below its peak. It only started falling after the draft was introduced and then Pearl Harbor happened. 

The truth is many New Deal projects had zero, or even negative, multiplier effects because of 'class war' fears.  By contrast fucking over the Japs and the Krauts was something the nation could get behind. 

There are some areas where liberalisation is necessary. But what India needs more is a New Deal state, attuned to contemporary realities.

This cretin means a 'Great Society' state- like LBJs. The New Deal failed.  

Both the left and right also had an equally abstract conception of geopolitics. The left had a point in suggesting caution about the exercise of American power, not always benign. But it then fetishised its distaste for America to the point where it could not think of how to leverage American power for India’s gain. The right, on the other hand, in its zeal to emulate the nonexistent laissez faire utopia of the US, was not just prepared to hitch its star to everything American, it was happy to outsource all thinking.

Mehta has a point about the Left- which did try to hold up the 123 agreement till Manmohan put his foot down. But the pro-American 'right' has no traction on Raisina Hill.  We all know the Americans will suddenly demand we turn Christian or stop eating paratha and start eating bagels. America is a dangerous friend but a reliable enemy. 


Both also operated with abstract conceptions of historical agency. The left has always had this problem. It had assumed that the proletariat was the natural subject of history, and it then replaced it with other categories like peasants and so forth.

The Left believes there is some anti-Brahmin coalition of OBCs, Muslims and Dalits which is just waiting in the wings. Ultimately, Mehta too would subscribe to this view. He ended up demanding that Hindus stop saying 'Jai Sri Ram'. You are belittling God, innit? Kindly stop this nonsense!  

But it could not quite deal with the fundamental reality that political agency is almost never an automatic function of the category a theorist slots you into.

Almost? Why not say 'Voodoo almost never works'?  

Politics requires managing overlapping identities, commitments and often contradictory interests that run through each individual.

This requires no fucking theory or ideology whatsoever. Illiterate people can do it better than Professors of shite.  

The right fetishised individual agency to the point that it had no resources to think about collective action.

No it didn't. The Right wanted a strong Army and Police and so forth so that the country could collectively fuck up anyone who tried to fuck with it.  

Both, in a sense, don’t understand politics: the left sees it as an epiphenomenon, the right as instrumental to economic efficiency.

While Mehta sees it as an arena where he can shit over everything without actually saying anything substantive at all.  


The left’s dogmatism on history compromised its intellectual integrity.

What fucking intellectual integrity do paranoid nutjobs have?  

The right, too, looked for history in service of identity. Both converted history into a simplistic battle of medieval India: for or against?

i.e. was Aurangazeb sweet and kind to kaffirs? 

Ancient India: for or against?

i.e. were Brahmins evil bastards?  

The left, in the name of protecting minorities, sought to freeze their identities. Right-wing economic ideologues often hitch their star to reactionary forces.

Only Leftists babble about 'reactionary forces'. Mehta, it seems, had already chosen sides. He just didn't know it himself.  

The economic right has not been much of an intellectual force in India but it often taints itself with the odour of cultural majoritarianism.

Being Hindu in a Hindu majority country means, according to Mehta, that you smell bad. Chee! Chee! Go take shower. Don't put on janeo. Wear T-shirt which says 'Ram Murdabad!' Then people won't think you are a great big stinkpot.  

Neither has a stellar record on freedom. The Left’s institutional conduct in West Bengal left a poisonous legacy from which the state will find it hard to recover. The right, for all its fascination for economic freedom, has not been an arduous defender of civil liberties against the state. It does not see the tension between freedom and state muscularity.

Was Indira's Emergency Left Wing or Right Wing? Who cares? The fact is there is a tension between andolanjeevis being a big fucking public nuisance and the State calculating that this will cause a backlash in their favor. What history shows is that curbing public nuisances is a vote winner. Just don't be a dick about it.  

Mehta's core delusion now becomes clear. He thinks talking bollocks about 'civil liberties' keeps 'reactionary forces' at bay. Why not simply make a Voodoo doll of Modi and stick pins into it? 


It is not an accident that both the left and right come across as strangely deluded.

Nor was it any accident that Mehta, serial resigner that he is, would resign from the positions he then held before resigning from Ashoka. The guy is fucked in the head. He lives in a world where he is very very important. If he doesn't resign from whatever job he has, the World will be disappointed in him. Reactionary forces will triumph. People will say 'Jai Shri Ram'. Brahman hegemony will be re-established. Jains will be slaughtered. 

The sins of theory have been compounded by the sordid associations of their practice. If the Left parties are to play any constructive role in bourgeois democracy, they will have to go back to the drawing board.

Fuck that! They will have to do booth management and last mile delivery same as everybody else.  

And India’s economic right is living in a fool’s paradise if it thinks a libertarian utopia is about to unfold.

Nobody was living in Mehta's paradise where his essays were not regarded as utterly foolish. True, he got a job at Ashoka and- briefly- had a credulous audience. But he resigned quickly enough so no lasting damage was done.  

The script of democracy and the demands of development are a lot more open ended.

Like the asshole which shat out this article.  

A contest between the power of privilege and the claims of the poor will always matter to politics.

No it won't. The power to adjudicate the claims of the poor is a privilege. Modi worked hard to get it. Mehta shat the bed. 

But it will take more than ideological templates to negotiate those tensions. It will take the ability to craft a genuinely New Deal.

The New Deal was the wrong solution to the wrong problem. What mattered was that the monetary shock be speedily reversed. Stupid fiscal tinkering harmed the economy. 

India won't tackle the right problems- which have to do with reforming labour and land acquisition law and so forth- but will do stupid, populist, New Deal type shite till the country goes over a fiscal cliff and, as in 1991, a weak coalition pushes through unavoidable reforms. 

Mehta did not really absorb Western Paideia. He just got worthless Credentials. Returning to India, he was incapable of 'parrhesia'- speaking truth to power- because he believed all sorts of stupid lies- e.g. the New Deal was successful. 

At one time, Mehta and Guha &c seemed a welcome respite from the Lefty jhollawallahs spouting paranoid shite. But Mehta & Guha &c had low I.Qs. They were part of a bien pensant citation cartel of a deeply boring and irrelevant type. As they grew older they began to think of themselves as Mahatma Gandhis or even more tragically martyred Gramscis. The truth was they were nice enough kids who, sadly, didn't do Chartered Accountancy or Computer Programming and thus were doomed to be a glorified sort of child-minder in the 'safe spaces' of pretentious Campuses unless they could get by publishing worthless books. 

I suppose Mehta now has no other option than to write his own book on Gandhi- if he hasn't already. Indian imbecility tends to bottom out in that manner. I may mention, my Gandhi book came out in 2013.  

Saturday, 10 April 2021

David Napier's racist Aeon article- part 2

Why did the World see unprecedented lockdowns this time last year? The answer is that Wuhan was a place where 'gain of function' research on viruses was being done- i.e. Science might have created a Frankenstein. Previously, a simulation exercise had been carried out with Germany, not China, as the epicenter where a killer virus escapes the lab. That simulation indicated that the US and the UK would do well because of the CDC and NHS respectively. It may be that if Germany had been the epicenter then all the protocols would have been triggered in the agreed manner and so the epidemic could have been contained quickly. 

Alternatively, if everybody had believed- like the Swedes- that this was a 'natural' virus then there may have been no big lockdowns. 'Resilience' may have been valorized. Human immune systems mustn't be pampered too much. Let the old and the vulnerable protect themselves by all means but why should the rest of us have to give up our pursuit of happiness? 

Clearly, what has changed about stories of vulnerability and resilience is that our bodies no longer are the main locus of 'biological intelligence'. It isn't just Nature which is out to get us- making us more resilient in the process. Biological intelligence is now Sciencey stuff which happens in Laboratories. What if an enemy is doing 'gain of function' research such that a virus targets a particular ethnic group? This is the nightmare world we abruptly woke up into. 

David Napier, in an article in Aeon which I have previously critiqued, writes- 


the simple act of translating a biological story into a social one exposes a critical fallacy in the biology itself – this being that our otherwise inert genes possess the animated capacity for ‘selfishness’, even though they’re just bits of inert information to which our cells clearly bring life.

Selfishness, we are fine with. The problem is that Science may have found a way to turn that selfishness against the bodies that host those genes. 

Napier's critical fallacy is in denying that Biology is a Science which changes Biology.  

Here, the supposedly scientific argument about determinism emerges as animated fantasy – a tendentious fundamentalism bordering on religious fundamentalism; or a moral lesson, as E O Wilson thought of sociobiology, in which stress emerges as morally and allegorically conditional. The only problem is, well, that’s just not what’s happening.

Labs doing 'gain of function' research could wipe out specific ethnicities. They could impose a crushing burden on some economies with results of a destabilizing, geopolitical, type.  


Stress, to be clear, is neither good nor bad. It is amoral – or rather, its moral content is something we make together – socially, not biologically.

What is stressing us out right now is not Sociobiology or Social Darwinism. It is Frankenstein viruses. 

For social engagement is itself a form of extroversion – an act of accommodation, a belief in the value of difference – in short, an anti-fundamentalist, anti-determinist view of the merits of navigating uncertainty together.

Cool! Spring Break is not about getting drunk and getting laid and 'girls gone wild'. It's actually about combatting fundamentalism and affirming pluritropic values.  

But resilience can look Darwinian – both because the disadvantaged African Americans who respond to Brookings Institution surveys have already transcended significant challenges;

unless they are dead or incarcerated- sure. 

and because the uneven playing field on which they’ve lived has long since silenced, ruined or completely destroyed those lacking survival networks.

So morbidity is a function of access to 'survival networks' after all. If so, why harp on the subject?  

Such a story might even be corroborated by the unhappy fact that African Americans (and men in particular) live less long than their counterparts in other groups; and, when they do live longer, they’re more likely to spend time in prison if what stress teaches them is antisocial.

Or if what stress teaches them is pro-social but cops still shoot them and bang them up because it is safer to target civilians rather than tooled up gang members who can afford high price lawyers and big big bribes for Judges. 


Research on minority resilience must, therefore, be read differently. For it is social exchange – our very sociality, the ‘moral economy’ – that produces hope.

The 'moral economy' can produce dope which one ethnicity gets banged up for being caught with whereas another ethnicity gets let off if it promises to pay for rehab.  

Here, everything depends on social context. So, those who engage and exchange socially (by choice with families, or by default or of necessity in healthcare and service jobs) are better equipped to deal with the uncertainty of COVID-19 – and remain hopeful.

So, what is happening to them isn't unfair at all. The burden has fallen on those 'better equipped' for it. Hopefully, these guys will find others way to get by which don't involve higher risk of mortality. 

It’s the engagement part – by choice or necessity – that nourishes hope. Every time we look one another in the eye and nod affirmatively in a social setting, we create an informal contract with another person.

No. This is 'cheap talk'. Everybody can be busy high fiving and fist bumping all over the place while still viewing each other with dark suspicion. 'Costly signals' are required for a separating equilibrium which is genuinely 'high trust'.  

Dozens, sometimes hundreds, of times a day, we affirm our trust in others by this simple act, masked or not. We do this as an act of extroversion, hoping that we can survive and grow through creative engagement with what we learn on the edges of our community, and, if not, that our resilience can be nourished by those with whom we share common purpose.

Or we may simply be going through the motions.  


Black people in America might die more than three times more often than whites in the pandemic, but they’re also less socially isolated via their higher representation in public-facing jobs in which they have to engage with others.

Says a guy who hasn't had to do one of these minimum wage, dead end, jobs. Why not simply say 'African Americans like eating watermelons and saying 'have a nice day' as they fetch us our fried chicken? The souls of colored folk are so nice. Be sure to pat them on their wooly heads. They like it, you know. 

Like the military advance guard, or those cells at the edge of the Petri dish colony, they’re more likely to learn more from extroverted risk, and to adjust their expectations accordingly, emerging as more resilient in themselves and less vulnerable to mistrusting others. That’s not only why deaths born of despair are less common among them, but why isolation itself is a major driver of COVID-19 fatigue for all of us.

Poor, poor us! Them darkies have it easy getting to die more often when not attending each others' funerals and eating watermelon. 


It’s the engagement that matters. The so-called ‘healthy migrant effect’ offers a clear example. Migrant struggles are well documented, but migrants who enter into new communities often have just as good or even better health statuses than native populations.

Not if they have 'thrifty genes' because they come from more challenging environments. Us Tambrams are at higher risk of diabetes and strokes and so forth. Sad.  

Thus, second-generation Asian-American migrants are

not migrants. If you are born in a country, you are a native.  

more likely to excel in secondary school, and have much higher test scores, attend elite colleges and receive high-income professional degrees (eg, business, medicine, etc).

This may or may not be the case. Much depends on whether the first generation was educated and urban and if the place of settlement was 'rust belt'. Thus the trajectory of immigrants from Karachi who settled in London is very different from those from Mirpur who settled in mill towns hit by 'Dutch disease' high real exchange rates. As everybody knows- it's grim ooop North.

The point is that it’s not only the extroverted risk of migrating that matters: it’s whether that risk results in a sense of meaningful exchange within a social context. It’s exchange itself, it turns out, that’s important.

No. Migration based on getting more money is good.  Money matters. Meaningful exchange- not so much. 


What’s more, the more moral its content, the better the odds that such exchange will enhance resilience.

 Which is why Jonestown is doing so well. 

Most of the time, risks don’t work out as expected. And when they don’t work out, we all need a parent’s couch to sleep on and a shared meal to increase our sense of belonging and hope.

This is silly. Successful endogamous migrant communities pool risk and set up 'dharamshala' type dormitory accommodation for visitors and new arrivals. This may have a religious or 'caste' dimension. If it features 'costly signals'- e.g. tithing- then it may lead to exponential economic advancement.

It’s what the French sociologist Marcel Mauss observed almost a century ago about the value of reciprocity in his essay The Gift (1925):

Which fundamentally misunderstood Brahmanism 

that the giver gives a part of him or herself, and that the thing given implies a return.

This should be analyzed as a discoordination game, driven by hedging and based on costly signals, such that arbitrage or interessement opportunities of a particular type yield a rent. 

Which is to say that it’s the exchange relationship that makes an economy ‘moral’ in the first place.

Nonsense! It is perfectly moral to give asking for nothing in return. In the absence of scarcity, this is what would obtain in any case. 

By contrast, being alone undermines wellbeing.

As does never being alone. 

We know this from studying the impact of social isolation on mortality and morbidity. There’s lots of evidence here, and not just from studies of suicide: experiencing social isolation is a key reason why children who are wards of state, for example, often elect to return to families that are dangerous for them.

Because State run shelters may be even more dangerous. Better the devil you know & c. 

In fact, being socially engaged even trumps being equal to others when it comes to what we all need.

Being equal to others sucks if it means getting the same shitty service as everybody else. Social engagement could create a 'separating equilibrium' such that us guys get more goodies while the lazy and the stupid starve.  

Again, evidence falls readily to hand. Some recent work on isolation and healthcare in China, carried out by members of the Cities Changing Diabetes global academic network that I lead, shows just how much of a risk factor social isolation is. Asked if equality of access to healthcare contributed directly to an inability to manage disease, about one-third of the several hundred people we interviewed said ‘yes, equality matters’.

How was participation determined? The paper says 'The most important one of participants enrolment principles was that the participant had worst situation (family environment, treatment conditions, funds, etc.) than others. All participants were recruited by field workers. Most of the participants were hospitalized patients. Other parts of the participants were interviewed by field workers at home.' Obviously, guys who were doing badly even though they were in hospital or were outpatients could see that 'equality' wasn't enough. Were this not the case, they'd have done better- like many others that they had seen on their ward. 

Asked how much the absence of family networks (a proxy for social isolation) impacted illness experience, and the percentage who said it did rose to almost everyone (93 per cent). And that’s in a country known to provide next-to-no care, let alone equal care, for economic migrants who must go home to be treated.

But, the paper says ' We filled each filter with participants who had T2DM, were ≥18 years old and were permanent residents in Tianjin.' If they'd asked the migrants who had to go home, they would be saying 'fuck family support', we want equality in provision of hospital beds!

This finding is startling,

No. The study deliberately kept out non-residents. 

because equality is the gold standard for engagement in any democracy. Yet even it fades in importance when the moral economy is measured.

Napier is lying to us. He thinks we will be too lazy to look up the link he himself provides. 


For hope to proliferate, we need much more than endurance in the heroic, Darwinian sense

We need garbage essays in Aeon which tell stupid lies. 


The same holds true of refugees from violence. In another project (one in which I’ve been personally involved), funded by the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany, we systematically documented the health vulnerabilities of recent migrants. Asked whether they were receiving good healthcare, Syrian refugees resettled in communities often answered that they were receiving excellent care, even though German-born citizens publicly stated that those migrants were getting less. That’s not just because welfare in Germany looks pretty good when compared with Aleppo. It’s because extroverted hope, when paired with the altruism it generates socially, mediates a person’s ability to believe in the future – even if that hoped-for future is still somewhere far in the distance.

No. It is because Syrians like telling the truth. Maybe that has something to do with Religion. Or maybe Syrians are smart people. If they get good health-care, they say so. It doesn't matter if Germans got even better health-care. That is a different question.  


There’s an important conclusion here: equality is only a first step towards alleviating human suffering and promoting feeling well within a moral economy.

No. The conclusion is 'good care' is important. Equality of shit care is not important. The moral economy is like the money economy. If it gives you good quality care, you say so. If it doesn't, you try to get the fuck away from it.  

The bigger part concerns how people learn to hope about more than getting through the day. To put it another way, being hopeful requires a belief in the future, a long-term view.

Where in the world will you find a person who says 'I feel hopeful about the future because the world will end in five minutes?'


But being hopeful also requires more than that. It requires a sense of deep time and an enduring willingness – a desire – to engage.

Nonsense! Mr. Micawber had no 'sense of deep time'. Indeed, nobody does. What the fuck does it mean? How is it different from shallow time?  

For hope to proliferate, we need

Rational Expectations coupled with doing smart things as counselled by the correct economic or scientific theory.  

much more than endurance in the heroic, Darwinian sense. We need a willingness to accept the natural place of everyday uncertainty, and we need diversity – even redundancy – to make that possible. The idea isn’t hard to grasp. The American inventor Thomas Edison once said that, in order to create, inventors need ‘a good imagination and a pile of junk’. The implication is that the hope required to convert junk into something useful sustains your extended contemplation of a pile of rubbish (what looks irrelevant now) over the deep time required to reshape it.

Edison was speaking of smart peeps like himself. I have a good imagination. I can easily imagine all the sexual shenanigans a pile of junk can get up to. My access to deep time enables me to view that pile of junk as a complicated sex-comedy of a 'will the broken vacuum cleaner get it on with the discarded hair brush?' sort.  

But there’s another lesson: if you eliminate (recycle) what in the moment seems redundant or useless, without giving it a fair chance at invention, you also eliminate the possibility of making something new.

Like another foolish article for Aeon. What a terrible loss for mankind that would be! 

Growth depends on merging two unlike things in the interest of making something greater.

No. It depends on increasing the availability of utile goods and services. Making a great big sex-god out of a broken vacuum cleaner with a discarded hairbrush stuck up it nozzle isn't growth. It is the theological equivalent of this witless article. 


Redundancy and diversity form the basis of every moral economy, which is why neoliberal economies – those that take what look like redundancies and eliminate them in the interest of ‘efficiency’ – fail miserably in assisting population wellbeing.

Very true. We should be more like Venezuela.  

I have yet to see, for example, how profit manages itself in places where state welfare is almost entirely absent (eg, Nigeria).
About 23% of the Nigerian population is comfortably middle class. It has  estimated to have a combined buying power in excess of US$28 billion. It is true that there is a substantial brain drain but it is difficult not to be bullish about this marvelous part of the world.
Neoliberalism succeeds only when it emerges within otherwise generous societies that have welfare stockpiles that can be selfishly mined.

Nonsense! China smashed the 'iron rice bowl' because it realized that South Korea and Taiwan and Singapore and so forth all had first reduced 'welfare stockpiles' before taking off economically and then putting them back in once they were safely out of the middle income trap. Curiously, this was perfectly in keeping with what Marx actually said- viz. to each according to his contribution, till scarcity disappears and people only work because they want to.  

On that point, Ayn-Rand-style economics fails, and will forever fail, by favouring self-interest and efficiency over diversity, generosity and altruism. Observe what short-term self-interest has done to challenged economies, and a picture of what my fellow anthropologist Jonathan Benthall in 1991 called ‘market fundamentalism’ is easily painted.

Napier is clearly a 'fundamentalist' of some description. I suppose it is something touchy feely and involves saying 'boo to Neo-Liberalism'! 


The social parallels here almost need no stating: what seems irrelevant to any one of us today, including the peculiar views of others, might in the end provide the very thing necessary to make us resilient to a future challenge – just as hope in the future mediates the uncertainties of COVID-19 through social engagement.

We may have had some hope for 'Medical Anthropology' but we now see it is redundant. Defund this nonsense now! COVID has concentrated our mind on 'gain of function' research in high tech labs which, like the one in Wuhan, were not properly equipped and staffed. 

Screw 'social engagement'. We need lots of smart guys in lab coats running around to figure out a way to go on the offensive against these Frankenstein viruses maybe with some sort of macromolecule or nanobot. Playing defense is too expensive. We need an offensive doctrine pronto! But that involves genuine Science, not Bullshit.