Friday 27 July 2018

Ann Cudd, Amartya Sen & mansplaining why all cats are tacit dogs

Being human is about having feelings which can neither fulminate the world nor can, by words, be wholly laved or explained away ; emotions which can't be wholly discharged as motivations, and which cause us to do yet be- graceless gerunds at the mercy of our own vast verbifications.

Those things we do which create or destroy karma, which was perhaps cognate with the Greek 'krima'- the crime which arises by virtue of that greater crime of judgment- are what constitute us, or constrain us, to this human dharma (which the Greeks translated as eusebia but which, for the Shramans, is also 'ousia') which every type of Yoga (which, since Grothendieck, has a mathematical acceptation) aims to repair in us, so that meaning prevail though feeling pass away and humanity remains knitted together as a dharmic field by  'Artha-Niti'- meaningful ethos and conduct and policy- which some Anglophone moral philosophers now term agency- and which has the power to harmoniously reconstruct a broader human oikos or ecumene.

Sen, whose first published paper, if I recall correctly, appeared in the Indian Journal 'ArthaNiti'- now appears to take a dim view of 'Niti' in the belief that substantively rational solutions (Nyaya) are easily available and implementable and thus moral feelings or ethical conduct of policy are inconsequential.

What does he say about the Western view of 'Agency'?

Let us draw upon a rigorous paper by Ann Cudd, one of the foremost practitioners of 'Analytical Feminism' as well as a very effective advocate and Academic administrator working to improve inclusivity, in order to answer this question-
For Sen, an agent is ‘‘someone who acts and brings about change, and whose achievements can be judged in terms of her own values and objectives, whether or not we assess them in terms of some external criteria as well.’’ (Sen 1999:18).
This is a perfectly good description of an animal, detached from its fitness landscape, or an anthropomorphized object considered without regard to its mode of production.   Thus the moth, which is fluttering about my bedroom at this moment, is an agent whose objective is to flutter futilely about a light source- as do my absurd lucubrations around the Academy's lost Eleusis-  and bug the fuck out of me.

Similarly, my wireless keyboard has the objective of working some of the time to make these letters appear on the TV screen but it is all a cunning ruse- it too wants to bug the fuck out of me by suddenly transcribing nonsense at just the moment I have finally hit upon a bon mot.

Is Sen's definition of an agent- which fits that moth and this keyboard- also a good description of a human being? Well, it may be for a specific legal or professional purpose. The tax man may say that I acted to bring about changes such that my achievement was in line with my objective to evade tax and this corresponds to my moral values which are those of a cheating scumbag. I might reply that what I value above all is my ability to evolve into a time travelling Nicaraguan cat able to solve mysteries and fight crime by going undercover in a variety of guises. Thus any fictitious payments I made into offshore accounts were in fact tachyonic transfers arising out of future crime fighting operations carried out by a Nicaraguan cat.

Unlike most animals and inanimate objects, human beings can have a specific type of agency, or Arthaniti, towards each others which features strategic behaviour or which involves second order public goods.

 Our ability to act and bring about change often depends on our achievements not being judged according to our values and objectives. Consider the case of Amartya Sen. His achievements are of a wholly academic sort. Yet we are asked to judge them according to certain values and objectives attributed to him but which do no correspond at all to anything he has himself done.  But this is also the reason he receives acclaim and has been judged a great economist and moral philosopher. If he had dedicated his life to helping poor people, nobody would pay attention to his academic work. Why? The first order good he had done would render his second order work inconsequential, if not absurd. Einstein is remembered for his contributions to Physics, not some articles he wrote about why people should study the subject coz it would make them nicer to the janitorial or other service staff- i.e. people like me.

Economics is, at least according to Sen, about shitting on poor people. So, an economist who writes a book saying don't shit on poor people deserves a Nobel Prize because he is courageously going against the grain of his profession and probably gets beaten up in the parking lot by his colleagues. True, his work is wholly second order and consists of saying the discipline he has dedicated his life to is wholly evil and should, please, very kindly, stop being so fucking evil. As if to confirm the discipline is not just evil but worthless, Sen can't say how to be more economical or more just and thus benefit the poor. He can only say Economics and Ideas of Justice ought to be about benefiting the poor. Still, we learn something important from him. Both Economics and Theories of Justice are either evil or worthless.

This is not say there is anything morally wrong in our agency being largely strategic and thus endowing no net inclusive fitness or survival value. After all, we as a species evolved by natural selection. It is a good thing if wastefully competitive impulses get dammed up as 'capacitance diversity'.  It is an excecellent thing if our values and objectives and hidden even from ourselves. Otherwise we become more vulnerable to a predator or a parasite or less able to turn into Secular, that is Speigelman, bureaucratic monsters in either such role, because our actions would be predictable and our commitments could be gamed.

The other point to be made about Sen's notion of agency is that it is not economical. Beings who evolved under scarcity couldn't afford to have any such faculty which, in any case, involves algorithms which are not effectively computable.

By contrast, feelings- emotions- probably are 'Darwinian algorithms of the mind', or rather,  a crowd sourced regret minimizing approximation to something running in non polynomial time.

Sen, sadly, had no truck with Hannan Consistency, or Djikstra Concurrency or Computability theory or a lot of other stuff which gained currency in the Seventies and gradually redeemed Economics as a Scientific Research Project though not, alas, diminishing its continuing to cash out as a rent-seeking Credentialist swindle.

Had Sen not begun his career in Econ when mathematical economic planning was in vogue in India, his trajectory might have been very different.

The Indian Planning Commission- which subverted Calcutta's 'Arthaniti' for the rent-seeking purposes of what would become a new, not Mughal, but genealogically mawali, dynasty-was an unmitigated disaster for our Gandhian Social Democracy because it found it convenient to believe that (to quote Ann Cudd's paper)
Agency involves two discrete elements: formulating an end and acting on or pursuing that end.
The first element is not effectively computable- unless it is Dictatorial. It must rely on intuition or have a stochastic component or else be wholly arbitrary. But, that means we have no reason to think it could be independent of, or even separable from, the second.  It is foolish to distinguish discrete elements in a cognitive operation if such statistical independence is not manifest. One may as well say- 'dreaming involves two discrete elements ; deciding what objects to dream about and then linking them together to form a narrative'. No doubt, one could adopt this methodology for some form of onieroscopy or 'depth pyschology'. However that is the business of a charlatan.

 It is true that for specific, protocol bound, juristic decision processes this distinction can be made. However it corresponds to 'artificial' not 'natural' reason.  It is useful because it gets us to protocol bound judgments but those judgments have no universal or philosophic force.
One of the unique contributions of Sen’s normative account of agency is to recognize that persons have two aspects that need to be considered in moral and political theory: an agency aspect, which is "the moral power to have a conception of the good" (Sen 1985: 186) and a well-being aspect, which consists, roughly speaking, of the things that make a life objectively go well for a person.
The problem here is that neither moral theory nor political theory is a protocol bound juristic process featuring rigid designators and stare decisis type ratios. If they possessed these characteristics they would not be philosophical at all but merely represent the shibboleths of a cult or the doublespeak of the corrupt.

Indeed, only a cult would gas on about how its victims have immortal souls, or thetan levels, or 'moral powers' or other such shite. A Religion, by contrast, focuses on how eusebia, which arises as a transfiguring emotion, has a conceptual tie to action of a particular, uniquely human, oikonomic sort.

It is also not the case that things make life objectively go well for persons as opposed to meat machines we make money processing in some way. No Religion holds such a repugnant doctrine. Cults are another matter.

Returning to Ann Cudd's paper- we read
Any moral theory that is concerned about the consequences of actions or policies on people’s lives must consider persons’ well-being, but such theories must also be concerned about the persons’ own intentions and desires, independently of how the actions that they give rise to affect persons’ well-being.
Any theory concerned with actions or policies does consider these things.  A highly immoral theory- that of a De Sade or Von Sacher Masoch- would do so.

A truly Moral theory, however, would establish the conditions under which its application would be robust to perturbations in a person's well being as well as that person's intentions and desires. If it can't do so, it is merely a theory- not a moral one. Similarly an aesthetic theory must be robust to perturbations in the artist's well being or intentions. Otherwise it doesn't really encode an aesthetics as opposed to just rambling on and on in a vacuous manner.
To be an agent is to form a conception of the good, which may involve raising one’s level of well-being, but may also at times involve sacrificing one’s well-being for something else that one values.
I have not formed a conception of the good. I think doing so would be silly. It won't help raise my well-being because it is a stupid thing to do. Very very few people in the history of the human race have ever 'formed a conception of the good'. Those who did so fucked up big time by writing obvious shite. It may be that they sacrificed their own well-bing for something else they valued- viz. writing or talking shite just to make a few bucks as a pedagogue in a shite University Department.

I don't believe any 'agents' really exist. The thing is just a silly credentialised availability cascade.
“Some types of agency roles, e.g., those related to fulfilling obligations,  can quite possibly have a negative impact on the person’s well-being. Even when the impact is positive, the importance of the agency aspect has to be distinguished from the importance of the impact of agency on well-being.” (Sen 1985: 187)
What is Sen saying? It is that if you are paid to teach Economics, you should sacrifice your own well-being- which, in his case, arises out of talking worthless shite- and try to help students make the lives of poor people in their own countries better by economising on the use of scarce resources.

How could Sen have done so? Clearly his early work was mischievous shite and it is to his credit that he emigrated rather than turn into a flunkey of the dynasty like his old mentor Sukhamoy Chakroborty whom Indira installed at the Planning Commission to do her son's bidding after a spate of resignations by less naive officials.

Was there something sensible Sen could have said in the Seventies? With hindsight, the answer is yes. He should have embraced Hannan Consistency- i.e. regret minimization- and explained why Economics says utility maximisation will never be rational coz we don't live in a kshanikavada universe and anyway Knightian Uncertainty and Computational Complexity and so forth militate against being a set or game theoretic moron all your fucking life. You should outgrow it in your sophomore year.

Of course, Sen didn't really have any agency. His actions were wholly mimetic and heteronomous.  This is why he thinks commitments aren't either constraints, or changes in ethos, but rather are 'goal displacing'. Mimetic effects can certainly lead to something which a stupid person might consider to be a 'tacit commitment' but other stupid people, or the same stupid people at different times, could equally consider it to be 'hybridity' or 'affirmative sabotage' or proof that the Nicaraguan horcruxes of my neighbour's cat are suppressing thetan brain waves as part of a wider conspiracy involving the Neoliberal nomenklatura from Planet X.

I suppose it could be argued that Sen migrated from Econ to Philosophy because the latter subject is monopolised by the very very stupid. If so, he may in fact be exercising agency under the rubric of pandering to the feeble minded.

However, in that case, people like Ann Cudd should be able to say something stupider than would be par for the course thanks to Sen's intervention in her discipline. But, this is not the case- as witness-
Although it is important to recognize the multiplicity of motivations agents have, the way Sen draws the distinction between the agency-aspect and the well-being aspect of persons does not (my italics) help us to appreciate how his theory contrasts with the standard philosophical theory of agency.
In other words, Sen isn't adding to the stock of stupidity. He is merely arbitraging it. He has not led Cudd into error on any purely philosophical grounds though, it may be, his influence is malign.
But, in fairness, Cudd escapes all censure if she takes Sen as an authority on what Economists deems to be matters of fact.

According to Sen, committed behavior is an expression of the agency aspect of persons, but some of what Sen calls behavior motivated by “commitment” is not self-goal directed and thus not an expression of agency on the standard view.
In other words, Philosophy already had a very foolish notion of agency- as fucked up as the straw-man homo economicus Sen invented so as to excuse his interminable tripe.

Essentially, the theory of agency assumes there is something in the agent which causes their actions. This is as foolish as saying that behaviour shows 'revealed preference'. Causes and Preferences are merely instruments for particular types of discourse. Since both types of discourse are absurd, if not actively mischievous, even within their pedagogical context, being availability cascades simply, we have no warrant for granting ontic status to these instruments. By contrast, quarks might exist. Indeed, for all I know, they may be responsible for my wireless keyboard fucking up at precisely the moment it would most frustrate me. This allows me to attribute a Cause or a Preference to my keyboard's 'Agency'- Philosophical or Economic- but this attribution is just as foolish- save for some juristic process- as doing something similar to human beings. Thus, if I am asked why I'm throwing away my keyboard and claiming a deduction for a new one, it is permissible for me to say 'that keyboard was a mofo. Its mission in life was to fuck me up'. Since I can quote hundreds of horror stories about the malice exhibited by my keyboard, the Tax Man will accept that my claim was reasonable. Similarly, when my boss sacks me saying 'the fellow preferred to be bone idle', his claim will be accepted even if I claim my Preference was to serve the company diligently but that I suffer from a type of narcolepsy which is only triggered by the demand I do my fucking job.
The well-being aspect of persons is to be contrasted with the agency aspect and thus it is not an expression of agency.
Why is it to be contrasted? Who benefits by this contrasting? If it were the case that such contrasting served a useful purpose then my Doctor is greatly remiss in only asking about my well-being, not some 'agency aspect' of mine. Thus, my Doctor may prescribe some medication to keep me awake when I am required to do some work. My Doctor won't give me psychedelic drugs so as to alter my 'agency aspect' such that I become unemployable or unable to wash or feed myself.
Persons’ understanding of their wellbeing can motivate them to act, but well-being is not their only motivation. As Sen has argued, well-being understood in the narrow sense of self-interest captures only an aspect of the welfare of agents, and not necessarily their goals, let alone motivations for choice. Sen’s view that commitment can motivate action without its being the agent’s own goal contrasts with agency as understood on the standard model, and yet this contrast is not captured in the agency/well-being distinction.
Self destructive or stupid behaviour may be described as having a motivation. So can my keyboard- which I firmly believe wants to fuck me up and prevent me turning into a decent writer. However such motivations are merely part and parcel of a manner of speaking. They may assume importance in a particular juristic setting- for e.g. if I am charged with murdering my motherfucking keyboard by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bluetooth enabled devices.

The agency/well-being distinction does not 'capture' anything. Rather it pokes holes in a cognitive net which was already useless for any sort of trawling expedition save one of a wholly Credentialist kind.

I believe that there is a more basic “essential duality” in Sen’s characterization of action based on commitment as opposed to self-interest, which allows both types of behavior to be seen as expressions of agency. I will call this the duality of autonomy-agency vs. identity-agency. While autonomy-agency is agent-goal directed, identity-agency is other-goal directed.
 Such a duality is scarcely 'essential' unless one believes human beings can't exist without a particular type of identity. But, if one does have such a belief, then all that is happening is that one is exhibiting a more basic 'essential duality' corresponding to shite one writes coz one is stoopid and shite one writes because of one's identity as a stoopid gobshite. This duality- unlike the one Cudd makes- corresponds to the economic phenomena of the worthless blogger not paid for airing his stupidity and the pedagogue who is paid for airing her stupidity. However, since equal and  opposite stupidity is ubiquitous, all this is just noise which cancels itself out.

Indeed, the thing is self-cancelling as witness-
Explaining Anil’s choosing the mango by referring to his wish to impress his girlfriend with his commitment to cook authentic Indian food for the dorm fundraising dinner is an expression of autonomy-agency. Explaining Anil’s choosing the mango by referring to his habit of cooking the authentic food of his homeland is an expression of identity-agency.
Explaining Anil choosing the mango by referring to the mango's wish to cause the cultivation of more mangoes going forward is more to the point. It explains why mangoes have evolved to taste so freakin' good.

Anyway, Anil is homosexual. All young men are. That's why they wear those skinny jeans and cultivate hipster beards. Only fat bastards over the age of 55 are genuine heterosexuals. It is time women understood this very basic fact of life and quit mooning over slim and good-looking men and simply form an orderly queue outside the bedrooms of elderly fat fucks like me. Also, please bring a bucket of KFC. Fried chicken can be very erotic you know.
Autonomy-agency is explained as self-goal directed (in pursuit of self-welfare goals or goal-modifying commitments); identity-agency is explained by goal-displaced commitments as motivating factors.
This is baloney. An autonomous person may decide to dedicate her life to helping lepers in Pakistan- like the late Dr. Ruth Pfau. This has nothing to do with 'self-welfare goals' or 'goal-modifying' commitments. She wanted to get to India- where she could have helped the Church win converts- but got stuck on the Pakistan side of the border and decided to start helping out even though the Church couldn't make any converts there on pain of getting its collective head chopped off.

There was no 'goal displacement'. Pfau's ethos changed as she helped more and more lepers and, because she liked the way her ethos was changing, she stayed on for decade after decade doing wonderful work. Pakistan's Mother Theresa had no 'dark night of the soul'. No one has suggested that there she facilitated any type of financial fraud. Even the Taliban wouldn't touch a hair on her head after the killing of Osama.
There are two points to emphasize, and to keep distinct, about the importance of commitment to the explanation of human behavior. The first is that commitments are crucial to understanding the agency aspect of persons, and the second is that seeing persons as acting on commitments is indispensable to the explanation of some behavior.
Pfau was a nun. The Indians didn't want to give her a visa because they thought she had a commitment to proselytising. Pfau didn't stop being a nun but, clearly, her commitment wasn't something a Visa officer could deduce by looking at her habit.

The two points to emphasise here, which are not actually distinct, is that commitments don't explain human behaviour and have no importance in themselves save for some specific juristic process whose decisions however are wholly unconnected with natural justice. Seeing people as acting on commitments is indispensable for fucking up big time and being a bigger asshole than Trump.
The first point is one about autonomy-agency, which implies acting on reasons that are one’s own. If the behavior is to be seen as action expressing autonomous agency, then the goal has to be the agent’s own.
Nonsense. The Dice Man is autonomous. It is regret minimizing to have multiple goals- e.g both a career and a kid- and to switch between them as circumstances dictate. In Cudd's America, a politician might give up her career to spend more time with her family. In South Asia, Rahul and Bilawal and  Akhilesh and so forth enter politics so as to spend more time with their Mummies or Daddies.

It is never the case that autonomous beings act on reasons of their own unless their reasoning ability is the highest in the relevant domain or else the thing does not matter very much. Otherwise, one outsources reasoning or else mimetic effects predominate.
Commitments that express autonomous agency either involve self-goal choice directly or indirectly through modifying the original self-goal and becoming a new self-goal on which the agent acts.
Rubbish. A commitment is a constraint on the choice set. It may have its own dynamics. It can't modify the 'original self-goal' unless that too was not a goal but a commitment- but, in that case, we are merely speaking of the dynamics of a particular commitment. The alternative is to speak of having a goal to have a particular goal and having a goal to have a goal to have a particular goal and so forth. There is a good reason mathematical economics could find no use for Sen's 'meta-preferences'. Either the thing has univocal foundations or there is no quick way- i.e. computer assisted- of checking proofs and thus rendering the map smaller than the terrain.
But Sen also recognizes that commitments can motivate by displacing rather than modifying an agent’s goals, such as when unconsciously following social norms or expressing group identity.
Or being asleep or drunk of one's head or dead. We may believe that a Saint dead and buried these many years is still maintaining her commitment to help suffering humanity though she can't actually do anything coz she's fucking dead. However, this is a purely religious, not a philosophical or economic belief.
Sen writes, “rejection of self-goal choice reflects a type of commitment that is not able to be captured by the broadening of the goals to be pursued. It calls for behavior norms that depart from the pursuit of goals in certain systematic ways. Such norms can be analyzed in terms of a sense of ‘identity’ generated in a community…” (Sen 1985a: 219)
Only by thinking of a commitment as a constraint can any useful information be captured. Sen was a fool to reject this obvious strategy. Thus he ended up talking nonsense. 'Going with the herd' is not a commitment. It is a regret minimising strategy which evolutionary game theory has explained. As Zahavi has shown, it can be eusocial.

Norms are either costly signals or cheap talk and relate to separating or pooling equilibria respectively. That is proper way to analyse them. To speak of 'identity' in this context is foolish because the whole point about an identity is that it represents a haecceity opaque to rational analysis involving Universals.
Such behavior is clearly common and important to include in explanatory models of human behavior. At the same time goal-displacing commitments seem to deny agency, when agency is understood as the agent acting on his own goal. So although we seem to need both kinds of agency in our explanations of behavior, identity-agency looks to be an oxymoron.
Right! Cudd sees it, she says it- but then what happens? Let us see-
Goal-displacing commitment based explanations depart from intentional rational choice explanations, and thus from the standard descriptive model of agency.
They also depart from sanity.
Either they involve ‘as if’ explanations where agents sublimate their own goals for the sake of taking on a communal identity where the causal mechanism being posited is the communal goal that motivates the agent, or they involve behavior that is conditioned by evolved behavioral regularities that also override individual goals. Either way they are explanations that take the mechanism of behavior to be external to the individual agent. This implies, I think, that we need to posit a broader theory of human agency, in which human agency can be expressed as fundamentally social or biological in origin, rather than intentional.
In other words, Sen's notion of agency is nonsense so the way to fix it is by positing a broader theory which is more obviously, ab ovo, nonsense. Why not simply say, 'Freedom means being a mindless herd animal. This statement isn't foolish because we can think of freedom as some property of the herd which- of fuck, that herd just mindlessly ran off a cliff. Well, maybe that was its free choice. After all, freedom means anything I say it means coz that's like my freedom innit? What's that you say? It isn't my freedom but my stupidity? Fuck you! I will give you an F on your term paper.
In this theory of agency, to be an agent is to act responsively in a normative framework.
Agency begins by rejecting any normative framework save such as it might itself from moment to moment stipulate. To act responsively in a normative framework is to have gone one step beyond 'just following orders' to creatively anticipating what the Fuehrer really wants.
Formulating one’s conception of the good is one kind of response to a normative framework.
If it is a response then it is not autonomous. It is true that under a coercive or totalitarian regime, brainwashing yourself may have survival value. However, strategic dissimulation works even better. Indeed, best of all, just pretend to be as thick as shit. It is the true believer who gets burned as a heretic.
Thus, the standard theory of agency as involving formulation of an end and acting in light of it is one type of agency on this broader view.
Only if there is a pre-existing normative framework of a particular type. However, unless systemic information asymmetry prevails, or most people are as stupid as shit, such a framework would be otiose. We don't need a normative framework which valorises breathing air to which we respond by formulating  for ourselves a conception of the good which involves being sure to breathe air on a regular basis.
Another way to act responsively in a normative framework is to act within normative constraints that one has internalized, but that one may not be consciously attending to.
This is not another way to act but the same way to act. Acting responsively in a normative framework means internalizing normative constraints. We are not conscious of routine actions.
On this broader theory of agency, what makes behavior count as an expression of human agency is the fact that it is norm governed, though the norms need not be intentionally acted upon.
Behaviour that is not norm governed still counts as an expression of human agency. Indeed, it is of a higher type. There is a norm for Christmas gift exchange at the office. There is no norm for identifying the suicide risk at the Xmas party and making sure he gets through the Holiday season without topping himself.
Identity-agency, on this view of agency, is not an oxymoron.
Because this view of agency is fucked in the head. It denies genuine agency- doing something novel which needs doing- but says mere herd behaviour is actually something uniquely human.
 Goal-displacing commitment as a behavioral motivation remains puzzling because it is unclear to what degree we should see it as a species of action explanation.
This is because commitments don't displace goals, they are a constraint simply. If you use a word incorrectly, puzzles will remain no matter how much you scratch your head.

Alternatively, you could say something wholly foolish. Is that what Cudd will do? Let us read on and find out.
On the one hand it seems that a commitment can explain action only if it plays a role in the motivation of the action, and that seems to require it do so as a reason for action. On the other hand, it seems that as soon as it becomes a reason for an agent’s action it thereby becomes her reason for action, and thus a species of goal-modification, not goaldisplacement.
So commitment can't be about goal displacement. It can only be a constraint. Is this what Cudd will decide? No. Don't be silly. She is now going to fuck up big time.
I want to suggest that there is a type of goal-displacing commitment that can be seen to fit between the horns of this dilemma. I will call this “tacit commitment.”
So, 'tacit commitment' is not a commitment because a commitment can't be goal displacing but tacit commitment can be because it is not a commitment.

A cat can't be a dog, but a cat can be a 'tacit dog' because a tacit dog is not a dog anymore than a cat is. Still, if Cudd's argument is valid, we have just proved that cats are dogs.
Tacit commitments, I propose, regulate behavior without being made conscious and explicit.
Mimetic effects do so. They are not tacit commitments. Suppose I see a guy getting his head kicked in by a mob and join in to get in a few kicks of my own. This is a mimetic effect. If however I have an animus against the fellow which may be shared by certain others then there is a tacit commitment on my part to kicking the fucker's head in once he's on the ground and it is safe to do so.
Such behaviors include cliquish behavior that isn’t recognized as such, or conforming to background norms that one never questions.
Cliquish behaviour is a constraint on one's choice set. If it isn't recognised then it arises by mimetic effects. It is not the case that any 'goal displacement' occurs because the underlying behaviour is phatic, largely inconsequential, and just about passing the time while enjoying the warmth of the herd. Agency is not involved.
Why does Anil always cook Indian food?
Coz he only knows how to cook Indian food and anyway an Indian cooking Indian food can always claim he's following an old family recipe even if the result looks and tastes like shit.
Anil would look silly overcooking spag bol like all the other losers in the dorm.
Why do we wear formal suits in the summer in Kansas, where it is 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) and humid?
Coz ur trying to pretend you aint hayseeds. Also youse guys tend to be fat as fuck. Nobody wants to be  looking at your builder's crack.
What accounts for product loyalty when the product is not clearly superior to others?
Subliminal advertising and stuff they put in our water- not to mention thetan brain waves from Planet X.
Sure, sometimes we conform out of a conscious wish to do so, but sometimes we go along with such crowd behavior without examining it. What makes these behaviors ‘commitments’ in Sen’s sense
is that Sen's sense is utter nonsense. It is about saying cats are dogs.
is that they form a basis for group identity.
Fuck off! Which group has an identity based on an unconscious or purely mimetic habitus? Most math guys have certain tics and affectations and dress like shite. When I was young and thin and dressed like shite, I adopted those same tics and affectations but the moment I went up to the blackboard all the other math guys could see I wasn't one of them. Prof. Binmore called me an Accountant- apparently that was the lowest of the low as far as his imagination could stretch.

The fact is a group's self-image is radically different from the unconscious or mimetic characteristics they display. People my age who went to St.Columba's in the Seventies think we look and talk like Shahrukh Khan and, truth be told, have some very tight fitting trousers and silky shirts in our wardrobe. But we can always spot each other at a wedding or a party coz we look like balding, middle management, sacks of shit.
Some tacit commitments may be less subtle and more socially complex, such as the norms of social distancing that we master as children, or the racial and ethnic prejudices that are instilled in many communities.
These are things dogs can acquire to. Agency is not involved in the slightest. Nor, truth be told, is Identity.
Yet, once such commitments are recognized as guiding one’s behavior, they may or may not be embraced for future behavior.
They are constraints- often irrational and mischievous ones- not commitments at all.
Of course, once embraced explicitly, such commitments are no longer tacit and behavior explained by reference to them is now explained in the standard intentional rational choice manner (though as neither self-centered welfare nor self-welfare goal).
Nothing is explained by something wholly meaningless. I am often told that I'm a crashing bore. I finally embrace this as my self-chosen destiny. Nobody gives a fuck. Not even me. A bore who knows he is a bore is still a bore. So what? Big whoop.
By tacit commitments I mean to refer to behavioral causes that are even more tacit than conventional rules.
You may mean to refer to 'behavioural causes' but fail to actually do so because 'tacit commitments' don't exist and more than things which are more tacit than conventional rules or dogs which are even more tacit that tacit cats which are actually dogs.
Tacit commitment is a kind of external motivation;
and external motivation is a kind of tacit cat which is tacitly a kind of dog which is a kind of internal motivation of a tacit moral philosophy which is a transcendental motivation for tacit dogs biting you in the ass- tacitly, of course.
it is not a commitment to a set of norms or constraints chosen from among other possible sets
except tacitly
Rather, an agent acting on a tacit commitment takes the norms or constraints as behavioral guides
though tacitly doing the reverse
and others interpret that behavior as indicating something about the identity of the individual
NOT! unless, of course, they are doing it tacitly.

The reason people don't care about your identity class as arising from the manner in which you have constrained your behaviour is because the only thing they care about is how you fit into their scheme of things- viz. are you a sucker or  a motherfucker?

Sen’s 2006 book, Identity and Violence, explores ways that persons take on identities that they seem to feel destined to embrace.
Nonsense. His book explores nothing. It is shite- as your next sentence will show-
He argues that we ought to see ourselves and each other as constituted by many different identities. And we should embrace the freedom to choose our identities and to choose not to identify with those group commitments that lead to hatred, prejudice, and violence.
If Agency is a real thing, then there can be no 'group commitments' to 'hatred, prejudice, and violence' such that people who don't have prior individual commitments to those three things, somehow acquire them in a tacit manner on identifying with a group. Suppose this were not the case. Then, there would be some intensional way of taxonomising groups and predicting which would, purely by being a group, commit to 'hatred, prejudice and violence'. It may be argued that all groups have this quality either overtly or in a latent manner. In that case, nobody ought to have any identity which arises by membership in a group.

If Agency isn't a real thing, then Identity is below the scope of moral philosophy.
I wholeheartedly agree with his view.
In that case you are a Sen groupie and are tacitly committed to 'hatred, prejudice and violence'- though the violence may only be by way of the nuisance caused by your airing your views.
However, as Sen well recognizes, there are also forms of identity that are ascribed, non-voluntary, and non-intentional. This is why we feel destined to embrace identities even when we do not feel that by doing so we improve our well-being or achieve any of our own goals. Oppressed persons often feel destined to embrace their identity as an oppressed person because they are inevitable and inescapable, not because the identity brings them well-being, pleasure, or dignity.
Feelings are real things. But they are orthogonal to rational choice theories or the philosophical concept of agency. They are essentially ontologically dysphoric and 'not at home in the world'. It makes sense to pay attention to people's feelings. It makes no sense to pretend they are 'tacit commitments' or 'latent cats' or the external motivation for a kind of transcendental puppy dog.
These identities are constituted, I suggest, by tacit commitments that motivate behavior without involving deliberation or invoking questioning on the part of the agent.
Nonsense! They are constituted and reinforced by powerful emotions of love, of sympathy and outrage at cruelty and injustice.
They are externally created and imposed, but internalized in the behavioral patterns of individuals.
Because human beings are meat machines. They don't have real feelings.
The identity that they create may be externally imposed as an ascribed identity. But they are enacted by an agent (exercising identity-agency) who takes them for granted and behaves according to them.
'Behaves according to them?' So all Jews turn into scheming Shylocks and all Indians into homicidal sepoys, and all Africans into cannibals and all Muslims into wonder the Americans elected Trump! With moral philosophers like Cudd, what else could they do?
Tacit commitments can be made explicit, questioned, and rejected.
No. Unconscious or mimetic constraints can be made explicit, questioned and rejected. Tacit commitments can't because either they don't exist or else are too well defended by what Lacanians call 'foreclosure'. In other words, the subject's reality is too thoroughly distorted for the constraint to be addressed.
But insofar as they tacitly guide our behavior they constitute, at least in part, our ascribable group identities.
which is why cats are dogs- insofar as the tacit dog behaviour constitutes the group identity we are ascribing to them.
Can tacit commitment be accommodated within an explanatory theory of action as maximization of an objective function, a self-goal? I believe that it can.
Because cats are dogs and thus by the logical principle of ex falso quodlibet, it follows that something which does not exist can be an explanans in any objective function of a logico-mathematical sort.
Because tacit commitments guiding persons can be made explicit by the observing economist, they can be modeled as goals that the agent has, since he acts as if he is making his behavior correspond to them.
Economists theorize this as constrained optimization or 'bounded rationality'. There are no goals nor any telos in the subject. It is not always easy to demarcate Preferences from Constraints of a cognitive sort but, at the margin, the thing can certainly be attempted.
Yet, being goals of the group that are unacknowledged by the agent, they are not realistically assumed to be the agent’s own goals. In this way we can see tacit commitment as playing both a motivating role in the behavior of the agent, and yet still not representing an actual, explicit, intentional commitment of the agent. The commitment is therefore not the self-goal choice of the agent, but rather a community goal. But given a goal that the agent is pursuing, the maximizing model of behavior can  be invoked.
No it can't. That's why Economics doesn't have a concept of goals. It does have one Utility or Revealed Preference and 'Regret' and 'Envy' and 'Super-fairness' but it can tell us nothing about goals. Psychology and 'Management Science' do speak of goals but not in the context of optimization or control theory.
Furthermore, we can recognize acting on tacit commitments as an expression of identity-agency.
at the price of recognising cats are dogs.
It is important to recognize, categorize, and theorize tacit commitments as they actually exist, as unrecognized by the agents who are nonetheless motivated to behave by them.
Why is it important? To whom could such a foolish endeavour making the slightest big of difference? Even the person writing the textbook on this shit neither gains or losing anything by reversing the direction of her argument.

The fact is, there will always be shitheads who say 'Such and such subaltern group can't articulate or even consciously acknowledge that what I am telling you to do must be done to benefit them'. We know in advance that these charlatans are self-aggrandising liars. It may pay us to pretend otherwise for some corrupt purpose but the fact remains, this line of argument is wholly mischievous.

Experimental community work- e.g. funding an innovative self-help scheme- may lead to the discovery of something useful which can be scaled up. But Sen's shite or Cudd's shite is just shite.
Yet this requires a kind of behavioural science that Sen himself does not engage in. This kind of motivation will be relative to context and situation, and discerning the  social norms in play in any given situation will require thick descriptions of local culture. As Sen has long recognized, humans are social beings and choices are always social acts (Sen 1973: 252–3). Social psychologists and anthropologists do investigate these kinds of motivations, and so it will be important to use their results to impute the right tacit commitments in economic models that must make use of them.
Even better is just first order work for the common good. This could be audited and some econometric work could be done. However, experience shows (Rossi's metallic laws) that the one prediction we can make in advance which won't be falsified is that every such project will show a null or negative net effect. However, because feelings matter, the first order work will proceed anyway unless shitheads like Sen and Cudd continue to crowd it out with second order handwaving involving asserting the logical equivalent of 'all cats are dogs'.
One objection that might be raised to such multidisciplinary explanatory pluralism is that there is no overarching theory to specify which explanatory schema is to be used in a given instance.
So what? We are not living in a Command Economy. We don't need a top down control theory. True the Gates & Buffets can distort things in the short run by bringing in pots of money. But, medium term, their projects are discovered to have had null or negative impact and so their crowding out effect is reversed- at least for people who have genuine feelings and are interested in first order good.
When should we ascribe the tacit ‘as if’ commitment to explain a behaviour, as opposed to seeing the behaviour as guided by an internalized social norm, or as guided by reputation seeking for long-run self interest?
The correct question is 'when does this happen?' The answer is that it happens when worthless self-aggrandising careerists pose as saviours of the subaltern and fuck things up with their stupid lies.
By allowing such a wide variety of models and goals we risk the charge of adhocness in any particular explanation.
Nothing wrong with ad hocness. The damning charge here is that of stupidity and working a potential mischief.
Although this charge raises a caution for explanatory pluralism, I do not think it overrides the benefits of seeing behaviour as guided and motivated by a variety of forces internal and external to the agent.
OMG! What is the fucking benefit of seeing something as guided by the sort of stuff we, purely as a matter of linguistic convention, say it is guided by? Cudd herself uses words like 'destiny'. Why is she bothering? What great evil would befall if she didn't write this shite?
While some of the predictive value of the theory is sacrificed, much is gained in the ability to describe and evaluate behaviour with this explanatory variety (Sen 1980, 1986a).
Gained by whom? Sen and Cudd write worthless shite. Which of their students will do any better?
As a philosophical theory of agency, however, this charge of adhocness does not apply.
 Because the philosophical theory of agency is pure horse-shit.
My interpretation of Sen’s use of goal-displacing commitment to explain behaviour has the virtue of allowing Sen to explain a wider variety of behaviour and yet not making a conceptual mistake about the nature of agency, as Pettit charges.
because cats are tacit dogs and will bite Pettit and chase him down the street.
Instead we can see Sen as giving an alternative foundation to the theory of human agency; agency is fundamentally norm-governed behaviour and consciously recognized norms comprise only some of those norms.
So, Sen says a guy who does something novel does not have agency whereas a cow following the herd does. Wonderful!
It also allows the use of the maximizing model of rationality, which conforms to his response to Anderson.
Only regret minimization is rational.  Misuse of maximising models is the reason Sen's generation of Economists fucked up.
Although the maximizing model of rationality can be invoked with tacit commitment explanations, the agent is seen as acting autonomously only if he or she embraces the rationalization of the model.
Nonsense! A 'representative agent' lacking Muth rational expectations is not 'acting autonomously' if she embraces its stupid rationalization. This is cognitive bias. Public Policy must combat it and compensate for it by weighting things the other way.
I argued earlier that Anderson was correct to point out that Sen has not shown why it is rational to act as if one has preferences or goals that one does not in fact take as one’s own. In some cases, as I argued, agents are rational to act as if they have preferences other than the ones they in fact have because by doing so they better achieve the satisfaction of preferences they do have. But Sen need not show that tacit commitment is itself a rational motivation of the agent who acts when she acts. For the agent acting out of tacit commitment, the motivation is not intentional.
So tacit commitment means someone with agency acts without intentionality. But, if so, no rationalisation of it by an observer can be 'buck stopped'- i.e. rationalisations are 'anything goes'.
The commitment need only be rationalizable when considered from the perspective of the observer, or from the perspective of the agent once it is made explicit.
The problem here is that ever rationalization offered would have the same epistemological status as its opposite. Thus, if I gave a coin to a beggar and you stopped me and said 'you are a charitable man- you should join our Philanthropic organisation,' and I reply 'Me? I'm just a working joe, not a do-gooder at all.' and then you say 'But you just gave a coin to that beggar', and I reply, 'What? Oh! You're right! I did do that. Heck, maybe I'm not such a bad guy after all... yeah, I could be... you know... like a philantropissed or summat...' Just then, the devil pops up and says 'Listen dude, I was watching the whole thing. That wino just needed a couple more quid to buy the last bottle he would ever drink. You must have noticed his decrepit condition and given him the money so the fucker could just fuck off and die and stop stinking up the place.' The moment I hear this, I feel this is the true explanation. I'm not a philantropissed but a Nietzchean who firmly believes that who steals from the Poor, lends to the Lord.
At this point, Amartya Sen shows up and starts gassing on about some shite and next thing I know I've been appointed V.C of Nalanda. Or if not me then someone else who is equally shite.
There is a danger of rationalizing too much behaviour; there is always the possibility that behaviour is irrational or self-deceptive, after all.
The danger is of reading your own shite and discovering you are a fucking moron. Thankfully, Cudd and Sen and their ilk don't actually ever read over the verbiage they excrete.

What's that? You ask whether I read over my own incontinent blog posts? Yes. It is a chastening exercise. I realise how ignorant and stupid I am. This motivates me to go and look at what people doing first order good are up to. Their methods can be applied even in the narrower compass of one's own life, though, admittedly, just binge watching Netflix with a jug of Bacardi & Coke is how my day usually ends.

The tragedy here is that Cudd  should be going the other way rather than writing shite like-
The key here to formulating good social science about irrational or non-rational behaviour is to find the systematic regularities of social situations or neurotic or other internal causes of behaviour that justify resorting to such explanations in favour of rationalizing ones.
This is not the key at all. You've gotta go out there and find people doing first order good. Social Science is idionomic not nomothetic.
Cudd is probably doing a lot of first order good when not writing Sen-tentious shite. But she hides that light under a bushel. Instead she darkens gelassenheit thus-
There is of course a lot to say about such modelling decisions, but that would take us too far afield. In this paper I have tried to interpret Sen’s account of behavioural motivation and his critique of standard economic models of behaviour. For Sen, the purpose of economic science is to ‘to understand, explain and predict human behaviour in a way such that economic relationships can be fruitfully studied and used for description, prognosis, and policy’ (Sen 1987: 79).
This is wrong for three reasons
1) Verstehen is a pile of shite. Muth Rationality and ergodicity is the way to go. Don't understand, just do something better that is first order. Mimetic Muth rationality takes care of the rest
2) Predictions are self-fulfilling till they aren't. Don't do predictions. Let the Astrologers monopolise that type of mischief
3) Explaining is either Man-splaining or the battered wife's Excusing & Exculpating. Don't do it. Human beings are better than that.

I take this to be a summary of his pluralism and pragmatism about social science models. This can equally well be seen from the fact that he recognizes and discusses a variety of different and competing models of behaviour, suggesting that different ones are appropriate for different situations.
There is no situation where you should be choosing between competing models of behaviour. You have no such right. If that is what your job entails, resign and get stuck into first order work. The funds will come to you.

Or if you wanna be a careerist shithead, just fudge things and phone it in so as to get home quicker to binge watch Netflix with a jug of Bacardi & Coke.
If we take economics to help us by way of describing and prescribing motivations
then we are neither economists nor sane
, then we can see that each of the explanatory schemas that Sen discusses allows for a different possible source of motivation: self-interest, sympathy, social norms, conventional rules, group-oriented goal modifying commitments and goal-displacing commitments.
None of these are different from each other- self-interest is a type of sympathy which is itself univocal with eusocial norms and canonically conventional rules. Commitments are constraints. They neither modify nor displace the thing being optimised.
On some of these schemas, we can model behaviour as intentional and rational via the standard maximizing model, while on some others behaviour is non-intentional, though rationalizable.
We know that any model of behaviour based on a schema is worse than one which departs heuristically from that same schema. Furthermore, by definition, only a purely intensional model could internally distinguish between intentional and unintentional behaviour. However, we know that any intensional model must be 'anything goes' otherwise the Sonnenschein Mantel Debreu theorem must be false.
Sen allows that there are some behaviours best understood as primarily individually oriented and internally motivated, while others are best understood as motivated externally by group norms.
Understanding is not advanced in the slightest by waving ones hands and saying 'oh! there must be a group norm there'. Why not simply invoke sunspots or thetan mind rays?
These forms of motivated behaviour are best seen as expressions of human agency broadly conceived, types of which I have termed autonomy-agency and identity-agency.
When you come across what you suspect to be 'motivated behaviour' e.g when a guy who'd been staring at you earlier, jostles you in the crowd- is it really the case that you gain any new insight by thinking of 'expressions of human agency broadly conceived, types of which some Professor has termed autonomy-agency and identity-agency?'

Suppose you complain to a policeman in the following terms 'see that guy there? He gave the stink eye and then jostled me a little while later. I think he's working himself up to assault me. Please help.'

The policeman may ask why you think the guy might have it in for you. Your reply might be- 'I'm wearing a star of David medallion and that guy has a great big swastika tattoo on his forehead. Work it out for yourself!'
This could be an invocation of 'identity-agency' if guys with swastika tattoos reflexively attack guys wearing a star of David. Still, to justify questioning the man, the police need to establish 'autonomy agency'. So they might ask a further question like 'what exactly were you doing when you first noticed him staring at you?' They may feel they have enough to go in if you say- 'I happened to be talking to a friend about a fundraiser we are organising for the B'nai B'rith, and maybe we were talking too loudly and anyway next thing that happens is I turned my head and his eyes were boring into mine with murderous hatred.'

My point is that nothing is 'better seen' as something which has no conceptual tie to action. In this case, 'identity-agency' is actually mischievous. It has to be eliminated from discourse before needful action can be legitimately taken.

It may be argued that, for Professors, Cudd's point still holds. My reply is- not for Professors of non-shite subjects, it doesn't. Philosophy is going the way of Astrology in so far as it admit's Cudd's or Sen's point. Imagine the policeman's reaction if you say to him- 'I am a Capricorn, as anyone can see from my goat-like physiognomy. That guy is obviously a Libra because of the shape of his ear lobes. Every one knows that Librans attack Capricorns on the night of the blood moon.'

Even if there is statistical evidence of a significant link of the sort you describe, your invocation of 'identity-agency' is so absurd you dare not make it even if you believe it. In other words, here predictive power does not establish a conceptual tie to action precisely because 'identity-autonomy' is not fit for purpose in rational discourse.
In his paper ‘Prediction and economic theory’ Sen refers to two aspects of complexity that make prediction in economics difficult, one is the choice problem, which is just the problem of the many different kinds of factors – ‘social, political, psychological, biological, and other factors’ – that influence behaviour, and the other is the interaction problem, which arises from the interactions of many individuals whose behaviour is influenced by so many factors, as well as ‘different values, objectives, motivations, expectations, endowments, rights, means, and circumstances dealing with each other in a wide variety of institutional settings’ (Sen 1986a: 5).
Neither of these are 'aspects of complexity'. Rather they get tamed by the Law of Large numbers. Predictivity breaks down only with small samples.
These aspects reflect both the motivational pluralism Sen acknowledges in his critique of standard economic models of behaviour, and his recognition of the normative situatedness of human behaviour.
On the contrary, they show that motivational pluralism and normative situatedness don't matter. They get cancelled out as noise as sample sizes increase, more particularly at the margin.
On Sen’s account, explanation requires social contextualization whether we model behaviour as internally motivated by self-interest or externally motivated by social norms.
Nonsense! Explanations don't matter. Doing the right thing does. We don't need to distinguish whether a bad guy is going to do a bad thing because he's an evil bastid or if he's been conditioned by his milieu to do bad things. What matters is stopping him from doing bad things. It may be, at a later date, some 'explanation' may have a legitimate therapeutic function but it may equally have an illegitimately exculpatory effect.
He argues that we cannot get sufficiently accurate predictions or realistic explanations by overlooking commitments. ‘The jettisoning of all motivations and valuations other than the extremely narrow one of self-interest is hard to justify on grounds of predictive usefulness, and it also seems to have rather dubious empirical support’ (Sen 1987: 79).
Sen is wrong. Enterprises which use Big Data are crushing their competitors because they look for large sample statistical regularities based on jettisoning all motivations and valuations other than extremely narrow ones.

Which company has gotten rich by focusing on commitments of the sort Cudd describes rather than ignoring them altogether?

Do Sen and Cudd first think about all the commitments their students have before putting pen to paper? Nope the just write the sort of shite they know they can get away with because the reader's commitments don't matter. They are suckers and one is born every minute so why worry about the one's who only read your shite out of schadenfreude at the accelerating imbecility of the Academy?
But commitments are sometimes a group interest or social norm, which is necessarily contextual.
So don't call your students niggers or fat ho bags or make fun of my accent even though, as it so happens, I do happen to operate the slurpie machine at a convenience store.
Although Sen recognizes the need for context, there is no reason to think that this cannot be pursued scientifically by social psychologists and anthropologists.
Or, better yet, investigated in the ethos and work practices of organisations doing a lot of first order good. Here, what one finds is that feelings matter. Indeed, in the end- because all projects will end up showing a zero or negative net impact once properly costed- only feelings matter.
Yet, as he notes, the work of social and behavioural sciences is fundamentally different from that of physical scientists in needing to take intentions into account as additional kinds of causal mechanisms.
I'm afraid this simply isn't true. Big firms are now hiring math mavens- 'Econophysicists'- Sen-tentious economists have to queue up for jobs of the most worthless bureaucratic or gesture political type. This is simply credentialised rent seeking. It isn't Science and is wholly anti Social.
Given the normative situatedness of human behaviour, values and facts cannot be separated entirely from each other.
Once again, this isn't true at all. For any given context, it will always be possible to arrive at a canonical Aumann agreement re. the proper value/fact demarcation. How do we know? The answer is that Mechanism Design is a reverse Game theory so, by the Myerson General Feasibilty theorem  (folk theorem of repeated games),  if the thing can, with good faith, be done, it can always be done by some incentive compatible Mechanism.
Economics must always take norms into account as among the facts to be explained, and is itself a normative project when its models prescribe actions for individuals and social policy.
Nonsense! Economics must always pay for itself by generating a surplus over and above the costs of its interessement. That is why shite economists like Sen get disintermediated as they fulfil Rothbard's law- viz. Economists specialise in what they are least good at.
Sen has been a forceful proponent of recognizing and embracing the interconnections of ethics and economics, continuing a tradition that he often traces to Adam Smith.
But is now despised in his native land because every single policy prescription he has given, or sound bite he has uttered and has been wholly and mischievously wrong.
Economics stands to be a better explanatory social science by enhancing its understanding and appreciation of the sources of motivation beyond private self-interest.

Mansplaining helps nobody and a faux Eco-Feminist mansplaining does active harm unless, that is, 'Analytical Feminism' can find some way to chop its goolies off and render it fat and docile- like wot I am.
Shit. Did I just say that? Damn. It's this fucking wireless keyboard. It's outxsdasfrwqrlhwqqx wdcvcw damn! I'd better just give upppzpxdiasilhggewe54

Thursday 26 July 2018

Sen's Isolation Paradox and his trajectory as Rational Fool.

Amartya Sen's version of the isolation paradox can be simply stated thus-
'an individual has to choose between a unit of consumption now, and three units in twenty years. But he knows that in twenty years he will be dead. He is concerned about future generations, but not enough to sacrifice one unit of his present consumption for three units of the generation that will be alive in twenty years. So he decides to consume the unit. But another man comes along and tells him that if he saves this consumption unit, he, the other man, will do the same. It is therefore not unreasonable for the first man to change his mind and agree to save. The ensuing gain for the future generation is a lot greater (six units), and he, the man, can bring this about simply by sacrificing one consumption unit'
Is this account reasonable? No. Why? It is not robust. All that is necessary is for someone else to turn up and say 'thank God, the two of you are sacrificing 2 units of consumption. I was going to sacrifice 3 units till I heard what you were doing because I wanted 9 units to be available in 20 years time. But since some other guy is bound to join you in this scheme, I'm off the hook and can go party hearty.'

There is no reason to believe that an individual who comes out of isolation and meets a succession of people won't stick to his initial decision at the end of it precisely because his strategy is just as likely to be the Muth rational solution whereas, by sheer bad luck, he could meet a succession of moral cretins. 

It might be argued that people do in practice match altruistic proffers. However, the context in which they do so is one where mimetic effects obtain or reputational goods are positional. Here, a costly signal can spread so as to create a separating equilibrium. However, in that case, there is some extra benefit from adhering to it.

Sen thinks the isolation paradox is a prisoner's dilemma. How can it be? You just tell the other guy to fuck off coz he's being silly- people need to do the right thing coz it's the right thing to do not coz someone else is doing it too- and there's no dilemma.

Only if you've decided to save the money and are now looking around to convert others would you be interested in this type of proposition. But, conversion is about setting up a costly signal so as to create an in-group which enjoys superior trust and moral worth and thus has a dynamic of its own.  Professional criminals with their code of omerta and gentleman gamblers who prefer to commit a highway robbery rather than welsh on a 'debt of honour' can display the same quality as members of a Church concerned with bringing Humanity to Salvation before the end of days, or philanthropists deeply concerned with preserving the Environment.

There is one caveat we should make. It would be wholly unreasonable for any group of like minded people to agree to entrust the Government with money for a specific purpose. Not only do Government's have sovereign immunity, they are apt to renege on commitments- more especially if they are democratic in nature. The safer course is to set up a Trust with an associated lobbying group rather than assume that the politician who takes your money, promising to do your bidding when the time comes, will actually be in a position to redeem his word.

Sen saw that the 'isolation paradox' was not productive. What replaced it for him?
In Rational Fools he writes-
As we consider departures from "unsympathetic isolation abstractly assumed in Economics," to use Edgeworth's words, we must distinguish between two separate concepts: (i) sympathy and (ii) commitment. The former corresponds to the case in which the concern for others directly affects one's own welfare. If the knowledge of torture of others makes you sick, it is a case of sympathy; if it does not make you feel personally worse off, but you think it is wrong and you are ready to do something to stop it, it is a case of commitment. I do not wish to claim that the words chosen have any very great merit, but the distinction is, I think, important. 
Obviously, Sen is wrong about sympathy. One may feel sympathy for a condemned man if he makes himself sympathetic by talking about his dear old Mumsy but we may also be glad to see the fellow hanged by the neck.

Sen is speaking of something much stronger than sympathy. I may have no sympathy for a condemned man because of the nature of the crime he has committed but I may also help him escape from a horrible fate because he is my own flesh and blood and I couldn't bear to see him suffer.

Thus, Sen says 'In the terminology of modern economic theory, sympathy is a case of "externality."

Clearly, this isn't so. I may buy my son's release from death row. This is a market transaction.

Sen is trying to show that 'sympathy' is compatible with standard rational choice theory. He is utterly wrong. Sympathy has no such connection. It is ontologically dysphoric and points to a universe in which pain and joy are received through more than one body or, indeed, from bodies at different times and places. Since we are under no obligation to 'be at home in this world' and since much of what makes our lives worth living to us involves unique mental realms wholly different to anything that might be analysed under the rubric of economics or, 'moral science', it follows that Sympathy has a rigid designation wholly orthogonal to Sen's plane of discourse.

A quite different point may be made about his notion of commitment-
 commitment does involve, in a very real sense, counterpreferential choice, destroying the crucial assumption that a chosen alternative must be better than (or at least as good as) the others for the person choosing it, and this would certainly require that models be formulated in an essentially different way.
This is nonsense. A commitment is merely a constraint of a certain type. If I decide to make a commitment to the Jewish Religion, my preferences regarding what to do on the Sabbath are constrained in a novel way. Such commitments must always arise. They pose no scandal. It is understood that commitments are defeasible- if you suffer a heart attack, I don't expect you to abide by your commitment to play squash with me next week- sympathy, however, is not defeasible at all. It either exists or has been extinguished.

Sen takes a different view-
The contrast between sympathy and commitment may be illustrated with the story of two boys who find two apples, one large, one small. Boy A tells boy B, "You choose." B immediately picks the larger apple. A is upset and permits himself the remark that this was grossly unfair. "Why?" asks B. "Which one would you have chosen, if you were to choose rather than me?" "The smaller one, of course," A replies. B is now triumphant: "Then what are you complaining about? That's the one you've got!" B certainly wins this round of the argument, but in fact A would have lost nothing from B's choice had his own hypothetical choice of the smaller apple been based on sympathy as opposed to commitment. A's anger indicates that this was probably not the case. 
Sen must have been a very strange little boy. What actually happens is that it is the stronger boy who gets to make the offer. He also gets to withdraw it, cuff the weaker fellow, trip him up, urinate on him and walk away taking bites out of both apples in turn.

This is not to say little boys are incapable of sympathy. They may feel pity for an urchin tinier than themselves. They magnanimously make an offer and fully expect the timorous little fellow to pick the smaller apple. Failure to do so provokes a commitment to Justice as kicking the shite out of any little tyke who tries to act smart in the belief that words mean shit.

What has all this to do with economics? The answer comes in two parts

1) John Muth's theory of rational expectations as coinciding with the prediction of the correct economic theory tells us that there is a pooling equilibrium which however need not have a theory of emotions like sympathy, nor insist that 'we be at home in the world'. Why? These questions are not part of the proper study of economics. They are wholly independent of it. Professors of Economics have no business gassing on about such subjects any more than plumbers or bus drivers do in order to avoid the proper discharge of their duties.

2) Commitments can be monitored and may take the shape of 'costly signals' militating for separating equilibria. This in turn may give rise to a discoordination game and have dynamic effects such that we are no longer speaking of 'the core' of a particular coordination game but rather a complex process featuring 'hedging' and 'income effects' and so forth. Here is the complexity which Economics needs to study and tame with heuristics. It has no business gassing on about how certain sorts of commitments are good and why oh why oh why are all the other economists not simply committing to whatever shite I am currently spouting? Don't they understand that truly rational people will just listen to me repeating the same shite from decade to decade- though I ignore all the interesting developments in my subject- because otherwise they will just have proved that they were fools- Rational Fools!- not to say knaves, all along.

Consider the following-

Suppose I am trying to investigate your conception of your own welfare. You first specify the ranking A which represents your welfare ordering.
Nobody could actually do this save an omniscient being existing eternally. However, in that case, one could also specify a cardinal utility function. The trouble is, an omniscient being existing eternally wouldn't have any preferences because, absent pervasive Knightian Uncertainty, they would have no survival value. In other words, the one hypothetical person who can answer the question must have nothing to say.
But I want to go further and get an idea of your cardinal utility function, that is, roughly speaking, not only which ranking gives you more welfare but also by how much.

If you paid me enough money, I could supply you with this. But it won't predict my behavior at all. Why? Because of mimetic effects. I don't buy what I prefer but what I see the smart guys buying. This is the reason I wear a three piece suit rather than a baby doll nightie to business meetings.  

I now ask you to order the different rankings in terms of their "closeness" to your actual welfare ranking A, much as a policeman uses the technique of photofit: is this more like him, or is that? If your answers reflect the fact that reversing a stronger preference makes the result more distant than reversing a weaker intensity of preference, your replies will satisfy certain consistency properties, and the order of rankings will permit us to compare your welfare differences between pairs.

No. Actual welfare ranking is not supervenient on self-reported preference rankings. I think I have high welfare just now. But, my Doctor has already received the medical report which shows I am actually in terrible pain but, due to a vagary of the disease, blissfully unaware of it- at least in my verbal behavior.  

A guy who reported an imaginary crime may have no difficulty completing a 'photofit' of... well, let us just say a person with a distinctively 'urban' facial characteristics. 

In fact, by considering higher and higher order rankings, we can determine your cardinal welfare function as closely as you care to specify.

How? All you can do is get ordinal information. You can't do interpersonal comparisons. True, if two people with equal endowment buy and sell stuff to each other then money values are a proxy for cardinal utility. But, their behavior may be strategic or speculative- so we can't be sure. 

I am not saying that this type of dialogue is the best way of discovering your welfare function,

Actually, if I were rich, I'd pay a bunch of Doctors and Nutritionists and Sexologists and Fashion consultants and 'Happiness' exerts to work out the best welfare function for me and to guide me in my choices so that my life greatly improves- everything I eat is tastier, my orgasms are more intense, and people say 'Cor! That's one stylish bloke.'  

but it does illustrate that once we give up the assumption that observing choices is the only source of data on welfare, a whole new world opens up, liberating us from the informational shackles of the traditional approach.
Very true! Assuming omniscience and eternity does 'liberate from informational shackles'. But no new information is gleaned thereby. All that has happened is that stupidity of a meretricious pseudo- theological type has been indulged in.
This broader structure has many other uses, for example, permitting a clearer analysis of akrasia-the weakness of will-and clarifying some conflicting considerations in the theory of liberty, which I have tried to discuss elsewhere.
For an omniscient being living eternally, affects are effects. No question of akrasia can arise. There is simply indifference or impassability.

Sen did stop talking about choice & game theory- i.e. stuff Economists have to keep pegging away at- and started pretending he was some sort of Mother Theresa figure. In this paper from '77 we can predict how worthless will be his trajectory as he argues

  against viewing behavior in terms of the traditional dichotomy between egoism and universalized moral systems (such as utilitarianism).

Sen was not aware that nobody viewed behavior in this way. Everybody consulted psychologists and nutritionists and style gurus and so forth so as to change their behavior and gain more welfare. 

Groups intermediate between oneself and all, such as class and community, provide the focus of many actions involving commitment.

But such groups remain important whether or not they intermediate anything at all. A guy from Bengal who lives far away from Bengal still belongs to Bengal specific groups though, obviously, they can play no intermediating role in his relations with others in his new milieu.  

The rejection of egoism as description of motivation does not, therefore, imply the acceptance of some universalized morality as the basis of actual behavior. Nor does it make human beings excessively noble. 
If rejecting egoism doesn't make us noble, what does it do? The answer is it involves creating a group, in this case a Credentialised coterie, which gasses on about its own superior 'commitment' without lifting a finger to do anything useful or even displaying any sterling quality of character. Thus, Sen- a fool, but a rational one- settled down to an illustrious career of shameless mendacity alternating with high minded vacuity. Nalanda, that white elephant, could have had no more fitting Chancellor.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Sonia Gandhi's legacy

On 2 February 1971, Indira Gandhi sent P.N. Haksar- who, as Principal Secretary, had masterminded her lurch to the left which enabled her to win a landslide victory in the following month- an extraordinary note
‘You know that I am neither morbid nor superstitious but I do think that one should be prepared. The thought of something happening to me has haunted me—not so much now, as during the last tour—and I am genuinely worried about the children. I have nothing to leave them except very few shares which I am told are hardly worth anything. There is some little jewelry, which I had divided into two parts for the two prospective daughters-in-law. Then there are some household goods, carpets, pictures, etc. It is for the boys to decide. I personally would like everything to be as evenly divided as possible, except that Rajiv has a job but Sanjay doesn’t and is also involved in an expensive venture. He is so much like I was at his age— rough edges and all—that my heart aches for the suffering he may have to bear. The problem is where they will live and how… I can only hope and trust for the best. But I should like the boys and some to feel that they are not quite alone, that they do have someone to lean on.’
The expensive venture Sanjay Gandhi was involved in was the Maruti affordable car project- which the Press relabeled 'Maa rothi' (mother cries) because Mrs. Gandhi was distressed by Sanjay's thuggish manner of intimidating officials in order to have everything his own way.  

Still, if it had been properly managed, it should have been profitable and more than sufficient to give both Sanjay and Sonia (the other shareholder in the management company) a very good income. However, Sanjay's sights were already set on entering Politics and thus the project languished. In any case, once Mrs Gandhi lost power, it would have been crushed by the new Government.

Thus, Indira Gandhi came to see that the only way to ensure the affluence of her children and grandchildren was to create a dynastic political party. However, there was a steep price to be paid. Sanjay was the first to die- but that was probably an accident. Then she herself, and a few short years later her elder son Rajiv, were both assassinated as part of 'blow-back' from inept political meddling with extremist groups. Meanwhile, Mrs. Gandhi's younger daughter in law, Menaka, had fallen out with her and joined the Opposition. She is now a minister in Modi's cabinet and her son, Varun, too is a BJP member of parliament.

The other daughter-in-law, Sonia, has had a remarkable run as Congress President. She appointed Narasimha Rao who was responsible for liberalisation but, otherwise, must be regarded a political failure. It is likely that his vacillation opened the door for the emergence of the BJP as- what it has now become- the default national party. Still, Sonia- taking control of the party and fielding her son Rahul as the Crown Prince- was able to preside over two successive administrations headed by Manmohan Singh- whose personal reputation remains unsullied and who is probably correct in predicting that History will judge him kindly. During this period, it is likely that the the dynasty has secured its financial future and, since this has probably been done through real estate deals rather than anything involving a foreign power, the Indian voter is perfectly content that this should have happened. After all, there are plenty of other political families which have made a lot of money and who flaunt their riches in a vulgar manner.

However, this financial security is something of a two edged sword. The dynasty no longer has to hold office in order to protect its affluence. It could easily linger on as a bit player. Indeed, at the time of the last election, it was noteworthy that Congress did not put up a P.M candidate. It seemed they were giving Narendra Modi a walkover because they believed only he could fix the economy and thus protect every one's ill gotten gains. In a sense, we have come full circle. In the old days, the opposition needed the dynasty to step in and keep things on an even keel using their band of loyalist technocrats- people like Manmohan Singh. Now, the BJP is seen as providing the ideological cement that can hold the country together under increasingly adverse and polarising economic conditions- in particular for the farmers and informal sector workers.

With hindsight we can see that Indira Gandhi was wrong to look to her caste-fellow, Haksar, as a potential steward for the family's finances. Rather, it was Sonia- her Italian daughter-in-law- who secured the dynasty's financial security- not just that, but also their physical security from assassination by keeping arms-length distance from anything controversial involving terrorism. 

I think she has won her own place in the hearts of Indian people because she has been an ideal 'pativrata' wife and 'bahu' daughter in law as well as a doting mother, bringing forward her son. It is noteworthy that her son is projecting a soft image- for example by hugging the Prime Minister- rather than using threatening language- as his cousin, Varun, did a few years ago. This is in keeping with Sonia's legacy of lady like behaviour and a conciliatory attitude. 

Sunday 22 July 2018

Tariq Ali vs. Masud Khan

Tariq Ali said to the LRB-

 it wasn’t just official communism that collapsed in 1991: traditional social democracy fell with it.
Where did 'traditional social democracy' exist in '91? Scandinavia? Nope. It abandoned 'solidarity wages' in the Seventies. The Anglosphere? Nope. Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney and so on had buried the thing in the Eighties. France?- Mitterand. Germany?- Helmut Kohl. Italy- who gives a fuck? Now your'e just being silly.
The whole function of social democracy, for most of the 20th century, was to have an alternative within capitalism that fought for some of the reforms as a bulwark against the rising tide of revolution, communism, whatever you want to call it.
There speaks the authentic voice of the Punjabi peasant. The West only exists to be either a bulwark or balti or biscuit or who gives a fuck? coz all that matters is bullocks and buffaloes and getting your idiot son a job in the bureaucracy.

The fact that countries that had the kind of Revolution Tariq Ali fancied in High School- but which seemed so unattainable he exiled himself in Blighty, only to hear of Pakistan being seduced and butt fucked by Bhutto, which sealed him into not just Exile but Impotence- that fact- viz. that Revolutions are fucking horrible dude!- failed to register on nobody save our Jutt hero.
And once the old enemy had gone, capital and its leaders felt no particular reason to carry on following that path.
On the contrary, it was Labor which so no reason to subscribe to a type of stupidity only effective as a cordon sanitaire against drooling nutjobs like Tariq Ali himself.
Instead, they embarked on turbo-charged capitalism, not caring a damn who was trodden underfoot.
Coz it was turds like you, Tariq bhai.
And the social democracies played a huge part in it. The bulk of the privatisations in France were carried out by a socialist government: Mitterrand and Jospin. Blair, Mandelson, Brown were staunch advocates of neoliberalism, quite relaxed with people making loadsamoney.
Which people? Their own sort, Tariq sahib. You too should have cashed in with a Foundation and a string of NGOs and a share in the Davos swindle.
The last social democratic government in Britain which narrowed the gap between rich and poor, if one’s being very cold-blooded about it, was the Wilson government.
Actually, it was Heath- which is why that sailor had to be keelhauled. Wilson's last administration saw the Government advise 'Yes' on the E.U referendum. This meant Keynesianism was off the table, Exchange Controls would have to go, Incomes Policy was bound to fail, and the interest rate would become the lever by which Trade Union militancy would be crushed.
The post-fall-of-communism social democratic parties were not all that different from the centre-right parties; and so what developed, in large parts of Europe and elsewhere in the world too – India is one example – is what I’ve described as an extreme centre.
Not being a nutjob only appears extreme if you are a nutjob.
It didn’t matter which party you belonged to, centre-left or centre-right; basically, you were for the same neoliberal economic policies; by and large you supported America’s wars all over the world; you were staunch supporters of Nato.
Right! Coz Saddam was such a sweetie-pie and his troops deserved a bit of R & R raping Kuwait!
And that created a huge vacuum, which led to two things: one, to a growing number of abstentions – lots of people, traditional supporters of social democracy, stopped voting altogether.
Because when Turkeys stop voting for Thanksgiving, they don't automatically start voting for Christmas.
Apart from the most recent election in Britain, the figures are quite shocking. A bulk of people between the ages of 18 and 30 didn’t vote at all; it was the same in France and in other countries. And the creation of this vacuum, coupled with the Wall Street crash, opened up gaps, which were more often filled, in France and now Germany, by the rise of large right-wing groups.
Who don't like people with names like Tariq or Ali because...urm...even a guy called Barak Hussein Obama couldn't seem to get them to play nice.
In the US, we had two clear alternatives. The opinion polls were showing that Bernie Sanders would have defeated Trump, but Clinton went with traditional extreme centre-type politics, and handed the presidency to a weird, maverick, white supremacist billionaire, who more or less took over the Republican Party for his own purposes, and came to power on a platform which promised quite a few changes, none of which have happened. So that is the situation we’re still in.
This interview is probably a couple of months old. Still, it should have been apparent that Trump has delivered a Tax cut and completely changed the horizon for Global Trade. This means that Keynesianism is back on the table. Furthermore, Trump has changed the composition of the Supreme Court. This means, as Steve Teles pointed out, that the Left can abandon wonkish 'kludgeocracy'- which experience shows is corrupt and self serving- for old fashioned universalism. Of course, this depends on a lid being kept on immigration. Still, the table has been set for Corbyn but, alas!, not Tariq Sahib. Unlike Masud Khan- that other Punjabi Prince who carved a niche for himself in the British Republic of Letters, albeit as a Freudian not a Marxist, Tariq has not degenerated into drunken anti-semitism. Yet.