The Economical Bestiary

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Mythical Beast: The Deficit Hawk

The Deficit Hawk (Genus Uwantus Upayus) is a symbiotic partner of the Conservoppotamus Meritocritus (see Liberal Eliteoppotamus, above), and is a hypocrite of equal stature.

“Can we at least start using ‘deficit chickenhawks’ for those who only want to attack expenditures that don’t affect them?”

Variations of Deficit Chickenhawk plumage, beak, and wattle morpology:

Click to enlarge

Deficit Hawk Behavioral Studies:

The Deficit Hawk has highly predictable, obsessive-compulsive patterns of behavior from which it never deviates:

  1. Vocalizations: extremely loud, shrill, and continuous “clucking”, “crowing”, and “carping” vocalizations about the size of the federal budget deficit
  2. Cutting taxes and other burdens on the rich in any way possible (cutting upper income rates, cutting capital gains and estate taxes, creating corporate tax exemptions and loopholes,  corporate welfare subsidies, public resource give-aways, generous bankruptcy rules, deregulation, etc.)
  3. Cutting benefits and placing more burdens on the poor and middle class: cutting social benefits, worker health and safety regulations, environmental protections, consumer protection programs, etc. in any way possible; as well as raising student loan rates, tuition, and placing unconscionable terms and penalties on student loans, on retail contracts, and on the authoritarian regulation of a worker’s workplace and bedroom behavior that no big business would ever tolerate.
  4. Uncontrolled and unaccountable spending on miltary-industrial contracts and other no-bid handouts to corporate crooks and cronies.

As a result of these behaviors, the Deficit Hawk is the single largest contributor to staggering annual increases in the US federal budget, budget deficits (see below), and the umpty-umpty-trillion dollar US national debt.

Deficit Hawk behavior case studies:

Senate Republicans Unveil PIG Act

How tax cuts dupe conservatives: A case study.

Deficit Hawk Ecology:

Click to enlarge

Mythical Place: The Laffer Peak

The Laffer Peak is not actually a beast. Laffer Peaks are special, mythical mountaintops where Deficit Hawks, especially Deficit Chickenhawks, like to hide between their tax-crazed orgies of feasting on the poor.

Most economists and most laypersons would agree that in theory there is some ideal tax rate that maximizes tax revenue. If you tax at a rate under or over that “sweet spot” (represented by the “t*” on the graph below) then potential revenue is lost. However, if you tax at a rate above the “sweet spot”, in addition to losing revenue, you also inhibit economic growth–in technical terms, a double whammy.

If the tax rate is zero, you collect no revenue, but the economy takes off like a racehorse, growing at the maximum possible rate– until the electric grid collapses, the bridges fall down from disrepair, and fires and riots go unchecked the streets.

If the tax rate is 100%, you kill all economic activity and tax revenues fall to zero– along with the GDP.

All the Laffer Curve theory actually says is that there is a PEAK (a “sweet spot”) somewhere between zero and 100% that will maximize revenue without cooling down the economy too much. It doesn’t  say just where that peak actually is. That’s why the mythical Laffer Curve below has no numbers except zero and 100.

Click for Wikipedia article

Notice that in the example above there are no actual numbers on either axis. The value of  “t*” (the tax rate that maximizes revenue without slowing down the economy enough to make the gross revenue start falling again) seems to be at about 50%, but that is not actually based on any real data.

One of the great advantages of the Laffer curve is that you can explain it to a congressman in half an hour and he can talk about it for six months. [Spiegel, Uriel; Templeman, Joseph, “A Non-singular Peaked Laffer Curve: Debunking the Traditional Laffer curve,” American Economist, September 22, 2004]

Laffer himself offers cherry-picked evidence from Russia, from the US in the 1920′s, from isolated capital gains rates, etc., that shows that sometimes decreases in rates can be correlated with increases in revenue. None of that says anything about the value of “t*”, the rate that actually maximizes revenues. None of that acknowledges that at some point decreases in tax rates cause predictable decreases in tax revenues (DUH!).

Laffer declined to identify the peak of the curve in testimony over the Kemp-Roth tax cut bill:

SENATOR  PACKWOOD:  Now, let’s go back to finding this optimum again, because obviously, if indeed you can define it and we can arrive at it …
MR. LAFFER:  I cannot measure it frankly, but I can describe  to you what the characteristics of  it are; yes, sir.

During the 2oo8 campaign Mc Cain adviser Kevin Hassett, director for economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, made a similar statement to the New York Times.

What really happens is that the economy grows more vigorously when you lower tax rates.  It is beyond the reach of economic science to explain precisely why that happens, but it does.

Research on Revenue-Maximising Tax Rate

According to Wikipedea (Laffer Curve): ” Pecorino (1995) argued that the peak occurred at tax rates around 65%.[18] Another empirical study found that the point of maximum tax revenue in Sweden in the 1970s would have been 70%.[19]

2005 US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates of the effectiveness of tax cuts

In 2005, the Congressional Budget Office released a paper called “Analyzing the Economic and Budgetary Effects of a 10 Percent Cut in Income Tax Rates”. This paper considered the impact of a stylized reduction of 10% in the then existing marginal income tax rates in the US (for example, if those facing a 25% marginal income tax rate had it lowered to 22.5%). Unlike earlier research, the CBO paper estimates the budgetary impact of possible macroeconomic effects of tax policies, i.e., it attempts to account for how reductions in individual income tax rates might affect the overall future growth of the economy, and therefore influence future government tax revenues; and ultimately, impact deficits or surpluses. The paper’s author forecasts the effects using various assumptions (e.g., people’s foresight, the mobility of capital, and the ways in which the federal government might make up for a lower percentage revenue). In the paper’s most generous estimated growth scenario, only 28% of the projected lower tax revenue would be recouped over a 10-year period after a 10% across-the-board reduction in all individual income tax rates. The paper points out that these projected shortfalls in revenue would have to be made up by federal borrowing: the paper estimates that the federal government would pay an extra $200 billion in interest over the decade covered by his analysis.[5]

[Note that the 2005 CBO study only considers a 10% rate reduction. According to The Tax Foundation, the Kennedy tax cut dropped the top income tax rate from 91% to 70%, and the Reagan tax cut dropped it from 70% to 50%. The Bush cuts reduced the lowest rate all the way down to 10%, costing the treasury $400 billion. According to another source, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), the Bush tax cuts that were passed up through 2006 (the 2001 and 2003 cuts as well as other smaller cuts in 2004, 2005 and 2006) ended up costing the Treasury approximately $2.1 trillion in foregone revenue from 2001 to 2010. CTJ claims that if you add interest payments, that number goes up to around $2.5 trillion! Nevertheless, right-wing economists, politicians, and other big, fat, professional liars continue to repeat the false claim that the tax cuts raised revenue. In fact, with the interest included they cost the Treasury $2.5 trillion which had to be borrowed and will continue to cost more in interest--on and on into the future, perhaps forever. ]

Laffer Curves in the wild. . .

There have been many reported sightings of Laffer Peaks in the mythical wilderness. They are similar to sightings of Yeti (The Abominable Snowman) footprints in the snow or sightings of the peaks of Shangri La. The outlines are fuzzy or foggy and open to interpretation.

You can see many possible Laffer Curves in the Google Laffer Curve Picture Gallery here. Below are two of the many peaks that have been sighted:

Click for Voodoo Science article

Related Articles

Where does the Laffer curve bend? (The Washington Post)

Emmanuel Saez, E. Morris Cox professor of economics, University of California at Berkeley: “The tax rate t maximizing revenue is …73% which means a top federal income tax rate of 69% (when taking into account the extra tax rates created by Medicare payroll taxes, state income tax rates, and sales taxes) much higher than the current 35% or 39.6% currently discussed.”

Joel Slemrod, Paul W. McCracken Collegiate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan: “I would venture that the answer is 60% or higher…. The idea that we’re on the wrong side has almost no support among academics who have looked at this. Evidence doesn’t suggest we’re anywhere near the other end of the Laffer curve….”

Brad DeLong, professor of economics, University of California at Berkeley: “At 70%.”

Dean Baker, co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research: “It would be somewhere around 70 percent and possibly a bit higher. It is important to realize that you can have many different rates so we can have only a very small fraction of people actually paying the top rate and even then only on a small portion of their income.”

[The remainder of the Washington Post article is VERY interesting as it cites numerous repugnican economists and politicians declining to quote a Laffer Peak rate, or dismissing the Laffer Curve concept entirely, and advocating rates which they say "maximize growth" instead (that's actually a tax rate of zero)! So when you corner them on the Laffer Curve they throw it right under the bus! Who knew? Rachel Maddow is right--the depth and breadth of right-wing hypocrisy today is matched only by their complete and utter, bald-faced and doe-eyed (and totally astonishing) lack of shame!]

So How Did the Bush Tax Cuts Work Out for the Economy? (Tax.com)

The Laffer Curve comes back from the dead (Blog Oct 8, 2010)

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50 Responses to “The Economical Bestiary”

  1. Lori Says:

    This is what I was trying to say couple years ago; you make the case very clear.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Thanks. Feel free to make suggestions about wording or arguments I’ve missed/messed up. Its all done so hastily… and on to the next thing …

      I like your blog site! Very smart/creative. I want to discuss the pubwan project and some utility questions first chance I get.

      • Lori Says:

        I don’t think you have missed or messed up the argument in favor of a general boycott. If anything my treatment of the subject was hasty, but nevertheless from the heart and full of pathos.

        Feel free to edit any page at the pubwan wiki ( http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/Pubwan ). One of the reasons I proposed the ‘pubwan’ suite of methods was to attempt the empirical valuation of the so-called utility function. Pubwan participation is open to all. It is not in service to any philosophical tendency.

        • Poor Richard Says:

          I really like the term “general boycott”. I haven’t heard it before. Can you point me to any background info?

          I gathered from the tone of pubwan that you might be a closet utilitarian. The empirical valuation of the utility function is a fascinating subject to me. It seems to get more attention in economics than in philosophy. Here’s something I recently posted on the blog “Rationally Speaking” that drew almost no response:

          (This is just off the top of my head–I’m not a real philosopher.)

          A BRIEF TAXONOMY OF FLOURISHING (UTILITY)

          I. Happiness

          A. oxytocin
          B. amygdala excitation (fMRI)
          C. genital arousal
          D. full belly
          E. response to verbal reinforcement (“Well done, Joe”)
          F. homeostasis
          G. absence of stress or other happiness inhibitors
          H. Whatever–you get the idea

          II. Health (many dimensions/components)

          III. Safety (ditto)

          IV. Freedom/constraint (ditto)

          V. Information

          A. Info about consequences of alternative choices, thoughts, or behaviors

          1. short-term consequences
          2. long-term consequences

          B. Self-knowledge

          1. implicit associations and biases
          2. conscious values/beliefs
          3. strengths and weaknesses
          4. habits
          5. effective/ineffective reinforcement history
          6. whatever

          VI. Social matrix factors affecting well-being

          VII. Duration of life and quality of life factors

          VIII. Contribution to flourishing of others (including ecosystem impacts)

  2. Lori Says:

    I might be a closet utilitarian. I seem to be in the middle of an anagorism (in the literary sense) so it’s anyone’s guess where I might land. I didn’t know flourishing=utility. That would explain a lot of what I’ve been reading at Freedom & Flourishing. I always thought the role of utility theory in philosophy was mainly about crafting arguments to the effect that we’re living in the best of all possible worlds. There is currently much funding available for the same service (essentially, defense of the satus quo) to be performed by economists, because economists, unlike philosophers, have the ear of policymakers.

    My use of the term ‘general boycott’ started with this post. It’s a term in fairly common use.

    I like that you lumped freedom and constraint together under one heading. The libertarian rhetoric consists largely of enshrining freedom from restraint as the one and only issue that is actually political, while freedom from constraints (e.g. economic constraints) is a privilege that must be achieved. Maybe you are a closet anarchist. :)

    If pubwan wiki has a tone, my desire would be to tone it down, along the lines of Wikipedia’s NPOV. Feel free to do so. When formulating maxhi schema what I had in mind is optimization theory, but I suppose utilitarianism is optimization theory by a different name.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Thanks for your reply. You are the first person who seems to know what you (and I) are talking about that has shown any interest in discussing the utility subject.

      BTW, I was familiar with “general strike”, just not general boycott. I’m glad to find that its in common use because I have already added it to this post. I read your ’09 “Calling for a general boycott” post the other day and neglected to say “right on!”

      I must have missed something when I followed your anagorism link because anagorism wasn’t one of the cards. I didn’t find it in the dictionary, either.

      I looked at “Freedom and Flourishing” the other day, too, following the link from your site. I didn’t spend a lot of time there for the reason I think you suggest–the heavy “libertarian” (in quotes because it is many things to many people) slant.

      Utilitarianism and utility also seem to mean many things to different people. I am operating under the premise that all the versions of utility should (to the extent possible) be integrated into a framework of GENERAL utility.

      I consider each existing utility concept/function/perspective/frame of reference, whether from economics, philosophy (utility=happiness or flourishing, among other things), social science, biology, evolution (utility=fitness), etc., as a case of “special utility”. The integration (to the extent possible) of all cases of special utility would constitute general utility.

      A philosophical framework that might be applicable, and might lend this approach some credibility at least in some quarters, is Perspectivism.

      To my mind the term “optimization theory” (in the common dictionary sense of the words) could easily be substituted for utility theory. Then the perspectivism angle adds the idea of the special vs the general–the sum (or some function) of all the special making up the general.

      The Wikipedia article on Perspectivism talks about “iintegrating” multiple perspectives. I like that term but I’m nor sure it squares with mathematics usage, and since mathematics will be integral (ha ha) to evaluating utility, I’m worried about a conflict.

      It seems interdisciplinary efforts start out with a lot of linguistic issues.

      Does any/all of that seem in one way or other reasonable or unreasonable to you, so far?

      I don’t think I’m qualified to edit the pubwan wiki, but I can try to give you some feedback if I spot some non-NPOV or some language that is unclear to me as a layman. I want to be able to reciprocate in any way I can for your time discussing the general utility monster with me.

      One last thing about pubwan. Are you familiar with the “Data Deluge” article by Google guy Chris Anderson? Excerpt:

      “The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete”.

      “At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics. It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later.”

      Google’s founding philosophy is that we don’t know why this page is better than that one: If the statistics of incoming links say it is, that’s good enough. No semantic or causal analysis is required. That’s why Google can translate
      languages without actually “knowing” them (given equal corpus data, Google can translate Klingon into Farsi as easily as it can translate French into German). And why it can match ads to content without any knowledge or assumptions
      about the ads or the content.

      Speaking at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference this past March, Peter Norvig, Google’s research director,
      offered an update to George Box’s maxim: “All models are wrong, and increasingly you can succeed without them.”
      This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be
      brought to bear. Out with every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology,
      and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it
      with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.”

      Combined with the emerging instrumented ecosystem (instrumented buildings, rf-id, credit/debit cards, dupermarket cards, electronic medical records, etc) this presents a scenario that is both technically exciting and politically chilling–as you well know. I think, as I gather that you do, that it may be important to try to get as much of this data universe into the public domain as possible with some privacy, transparency, and democratic regulation.

      I applaud the work you are doing with pubwan and its potential importance seems clear to me.

      PR

      • Lori Says:

        I don’t necessarily agree with your contention that the myriad species of utility in your taxonomy of utilities can or should be rolled into one framework of general utility. I don’t necessarily disagree with the contention, either. Like Mr. Anderson, I’m ‘agnostic,’ preferring to wait and see what the data say. Pubwan, of course is my proposed methodology for gathering the (hopefully) relevant data. Like any human, I have an idea of what I’d like the data to prove, and it seems not to coincide with your framework of general utility. More specifically, I question the assumption held by economists at least since Walras that utility is a scalar quantity, conveniently measurable in units of currency. One reason I want to believe either that utility is BS or else that utility is vector-valued or irreducible or otherwise non-scalar is because I’ve taken a liking to various ecological and other groups and causes that are questioning the legitimacy of GDP as a measure of quality of life, or even of economic development. As someone whose career never really took off, I also have a personal vested interest in the idea that ‘money isn’t everything.’ My take on the notion of vector-valued utility is here. I had a little trouble finding it as I misremembered now that I had worded it “quality of life as vector-valued function.” This little bit of serendipity led me to the discovery that Google Blog Search knows of exactly one instance of the phrase “vector valued utility” in the blogosphere. (Discussion of your discussion on Google later, BTW) For your amusement, here’s what’s been said about vector-valued utility. I think the concept of vector-valued utility (or at least vector-valued income) underlies the notion of ‘multiple bottom line’ accounting that has been applied to various types of politically-correct businesses. I seriously doubt this practice is sufficient for capitalism to buy its soul back, but I highly value the empirical opportunities that this practice should open up, if combined with the introduction of radical transparency to accounting.

        Now for Google guy Chris Anderson and his data deluge. I’ll read the pdf later (really). Right now I’m commenting on your comments on it.

        “At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics.”

        That’s called factor analysis, and statisticians have been talking about it since before I was born. Yawn. I do agree with Mr. Norvig that the point is that data are available (to some) with unprecedented fidelity. That is exactly the point. Using Google again to trace my own activity log (another example of the pervasiveness of cloud computing) I retrieve the quote “plotting high-resolution demand curves” from pubwan wiki, and in the process discover exactly one other page containing (at the time of indexing, anyway) the word “pubwan” and the phrase “high resolution”. Needless to say, I’ve been aware for some time that ‘pubwan’ is a word in the Thai language. I never got a round tuit and decided to satisfy that curiosity. Unfortunately, Google Translate doesn’t yet include Google Transliterate, at least for Thai->English. The other page about pubwan and high resolution contained a Facebook link so I inquired there. The person on the other end might think I’m an idiot, or an example of why Americans are dumb, but maybe not, and I’m overcome with curiosity. Aaaaanyhoooo, combined with the emerging instrumented ecosystem, etc., yes, it is both technically exciting (for the few) and politically chilling (for the many). Interesting you should mention dupermarkets, BTW. Did you get that one from me? :-) More or less, I would say that I would like to see as much of these data make it into the public domain. As far as privacy, transparency and democratic regulation, well, as a nominal anarchist sympathizer, I’m supposed to believe in neither democracy nor regulation. At any rate, I think they are both irrelevant to the issue of symmetric transparency. Otherwise, I would say yes to transparency and no to privacy. Privacy no, not because I don’t believe in it in the normative sense, but because I don’t believe in it in the positive sense, and transparency YES, because the cause of transparency (but only if it’s symmetric transparency) has become the one cause to which I am most fervently committed. Informationally, I’m a militant communist.

        ONE MORE THING: You are eminently qualified to edit pubwan wiki. Everyone is eligible to edit pubwan wiki. That is the whole point. It runs on Media Wiki, so in theory it’s impervious to both vandalism and incompetence, neither of which apply to you, anyway. The thing is absolutely dying on the vine as a one-person wiki; which is one thing that is not meant to be.

        • Poor Richard Says:

          Far out comments, Lori.

          A lot of information for me to process, and I’m what you might call “slow”. My brain has a lot of traction and maneuverability, but very low horsepower. In fact, its exactly like a VW dune buggy I used to have.

          I like your wording “myriad species of utility in [a] taxonomy of utilities … rolled into one framework of general utility”.

          [Hold on: I hate that this comment editor doesn't have formatting and media anchor buttons, so I'm going to stop here and see if I can continue with the admin editor...] OK…

          Lori: “Like Mr. Anderson, I’m ‘agnostic,’ preferring to wait and see what the data say.”

          I am agnostic, too. My whole thesis is purely hypo, but I’m not inclined to wait on anything. I’m OK with dual tracking.

          Lori: “I question the assumption held by economists at least since Walras that utility is a scalar quantity, conveniently measurable in units of currency”

          I hope my framework doesn’t depend on that. First, I don’t anticipate anything particularly convenient about measuring any species of special utility. Second, I’m guessing that some species of special utility will be scalar and some vector. Third, I do think it would be nice to have units of currency (specie) for a particular species, where possible. It would also be very, very nice if some of the species of specie were somewhat fungible.

          Lori: One reason I want to believe either that utility is BS or else that utility is vector-valued or irreducible or otherwise non-scalar is because I’ve taken a liking to various ecological and other groups and causes that are questioning the legitimacy of GDP as a measure of quality of life, or even of economic development

          I guess I don’t see the conflict. OK–I do see a conflict with some historical notions of utility. Though I’m no authority, I assume many or all existing definitions/functions of utility are flawed. Many are ridiculously archaic, and I think using GDP as a quality-of-life or development measure fits that description as well as being stupidly simplistic and probably disingenuous from the get-go. As far as I’m concerned general utility is a complete make-over, though some existing species may turn out to be usable/salvageable.

          Given that, I don’t see why there must be any built-in conflict with militant communism.

          Reading your “Quality-of-life as vector-valued-quantity” post I can see why you’d be skeptical of my proposition and am surprised you’ll even discuss it with me. I really appreciate it. You seem like a potential goldmine of intelligence on the subject.

          To start with, in my lexicon QOL = flourishing = general utility.

          Lori: “For now, my strategy of choice is to attempt to demonstrate that the apparent law of economics that says money is everything is flawed, due to the a priori assumption that utility is a scalar quantity.”

          Since we all know that money can’t buy me love, I can infer that money isn’t everything. But is love a vector-valued or a scalar quantity? Off the top of my head it might be both, because it may consist of both scalar components such as oxytocin and vector components such as, well, a certain “je ne sais quoi.” I’m kidding because right now I can’t think of a vector-valued thing. Maybe you can help me.

          From your only other known (to Google) case of “vector-valued utility” in the blogosphere,

          “Blackwell considered an alternative question: what if the utility function is vector valued? Or put another way, what if the payoff is disbursed through several currencies which are not exchangeable — such as, for example, dollars and happiness? While an economist might say that everyone has a utility on any joint resource allocation, in the problem at hand we may not yet know the relative value of each resource, and thus we should not automatically reduce an outcome to a single parameter.”

          That was about the only bit of the article that I could understand. If the only problem is that we may not yet know the relative value of each resource, well, isn’t that what interns are for? Seriously, this doesn’t seem like a fatal objection to me–it says the data is not YET available. Blackwell et al may be impatient, but I’m not. No sufficiency of utility value data (scalar, vector, or otherwise) on anything, including money, is available yet as far as I’m concerned.

          Uh, if I seem a bit too glib it may be because my technical grasp of all these subjects is tenuous at best.

          For example, I do not know “the concept of vector-valued utility (or at least vector-valued income) underlies the notion of ‘multiple bottom line’ accounting.”

          I would have thought income was safely considered scalar. And I don’t know “multiple bottom line” from shinola.

          I also do not know why a vector (which I picture as a straight line) cannot be converted to a an array of discrete points (scalar values?) unless there would be infinitely too many (in which case you might just skip every other one or something); and vice versa–because I’m not well versed in the mathematics. And what if the dataset is not a straight line but a curvy line or god forbid an area bounded by one or more very curvy lines? Can you explain this to an unwashed layman?

          Seriously, I would think the mathematicians have their WAYS to transmute any of these things into the other. I have the impression that mathematicians can perform all kinds of sorcery like that.

          Lori: “radical transparency”

          I am strongly in favor of both–separately or in combination.

          Lori: ‘pubwan’ is a word in the Thai language

          I assume pub = public and WAN = wide area network, doesn’t it? Of course it isn’t pubWAN though, its pubwan. So what does it mean? Does it have anything to do with a very complete food?

          Lori: “combined with the emerging instrumented ecosystem, etc., yes, it is both technically exciting (for the few) and politically chilling (for the many).”

          Exactly.

          Lori: “Interesting you should mention dupermarkets, BTW. Did you get that one from me?”

          Isn’t it in general use? I suppose I might have picked it up from pubwan. (IMAGINE SHIT-EATING GRIN EMOTICON HERE)

          Lori: “as a nominal anarchist sympathizer, I’m supposed to believe in neither democracy nor regulation”

          And you are the type who strictly follows orders, right? (IMAGINE ANOTHER SHIT-EATING GRIN EMOTICON HERE)

          Lori: “At any rate, I think they are both irrelevant to the issue of symmetric transparency.”

          But not symmetrically irrelevant, since transparency is relevant to democracy and regulation. But be that as it may be, I find a remarkable congruence in some of our mutual obsessions. You probably haven’t noticed, but I changed the name of the Free Market beast to the Free-Market Bird of Paradise and I added the line:

          Free Market Bird of Paradise last seen lost in the Jungle of Information Asymmetry

          That was before I read your post. So put that in your hat.

          I take your point (I think) about positive privacy, but I may be slightly more optimistic than you that some vestage or pseudo-semblance of neo-privacy can be upheld. (IMAGINE SOME RANDOMLY-GENERATED EMOTICON OR EMOTICON OF YOUR CHOICE)

          Back to the congruence of our obsessions, at “Cause of transparency:” you say

          So far, the tines on my fork of pubwan include the following:

          * solve the information asymmetry problem
          * solve the disinformation problem
          * solve the problem of fac tions

          I’m not sure what you have in mind about factions, but have you seen my “Town Hall Meeting” post?

          As for disinformation, it is a subset of what I refer to (and obsessively ponder about) as “end-to-end information quality control” (EToEIQC), or information quality (IQ) for short. Information asymmetry is also a subset of of IQ. So we have quite a correspondence of hot buttons going. Sadly, I have not got around to writing my opus on EToEIQC yet. Perhaps pubwan is a possible venue for some of that.

          Lori, @Cause of Transparency: “I am of the opinion that the major philosophical disease of our time is the (usually) rightist insistence on attributing everything about the humyn experience to the supposed dichotomy between the public sector and the private sector. I prefer to draw the battle lines between individuals and institutions, regarding the former dichotomy as false.”

          I refer you to Why can’t the public and private sectors just get along? on this blog, in which the false dichotomy case is made along with a pseudo-dichotomy case.

          But that seems off-topic w/r to transparency. Looks like I may need to read Transparent Society.

          Lori: “Informationally, I’m a militant communist.”

          Me too. I like communist as long as it doesn’t include any of that old-fashioned authoritarianism or cronyism hanky-panky.

          Well, thanks for all the input on my “vestigially developed framework” (to borrow your phrase) of non-Euclidean, neo-Aristotelian, post-Newtonian theory of general utility. You have raised some interesting points but have not daunted my firm suspicion that the framework is theoretically rational and contingently coherent.

          What I need to do is transfer the this utility stuff to a post of its own and then try to elaborate the “Taxonomy” of utility species and make some stabs at quantification for each.

          Should “Happiness” be a species, genus, family, or what? The next sub-level might still have some aggregates like hormones, vital signs, and neural correlates that would need to break down to one more sub-level. And that would probably be just about good enough for the girls I go with.

          • Lori Says:

            And what if the dataset is not a straight line but a curvy line or god forbid an area bounded by one or more very curvy lines? Can you explain this to an unwashed layman?

            Maybe. I made an attempt to describe ‘feasible sets’ of market baskets having nonlinear boundaries in the pubwan page for ‘consumption possibility frontier,’ particularly the subheading ‘necessary constraints.’ Some anonymous petty vandal pointed out that I left the page unfinished, but in a basically harmless way. :-) If it’s any comfort, AFAIK all schools of optimization agree that the feasible set is always everywhere-convex.

            Seriously, I would think the mathematicians have their WAYS to transmute any of these things into the other. I have the impression that mathematicians can perform all kinds of sorcery like that.

            I only got a BS in mathematics, so I don’t even know enough about it to be dangerous, but I am aware that mathematicians do have all kinds of sorcery to apply to nonlinear problems, but I’m also aware that nonlinear problems are more difficult than linear problems by orders of magnitude. The rule of thumb that I’ve adopted is that whenever a piecewise-linear function appears, it’s a sure sign that someone is gaming the system, or more precisely, is practicing cryptography. Nonlinear pricing is easy to construct and hard to deconstruct. Needless to say, it’s ubiquitous. Nonlinear pricing is a subject that should have its own page at the pubwan wiki, so I should get a round tuit, and soon.

            The blog name ‘Es un alimento muy completo’ started as a newspaper headline. A long time ago, when I was in college, I used to frequent a certain reading room in the library where they kept the foreign-language newspapers. I was leafing through the Mexican newspaper ‘El Universal’ as I did from time to time in a vain effort to keep my Spanish from rusting away completely. In the food section I spotted a nice banana bread recipe bearing the headline ‘El pan de platane con soya es un alimento muy completo.’ For some reason that phrase has been stuck in my head for decades. The subject of nutritional completeness has been a major motivation to attempt to implement pubwan, as I wanted to formalize the largely meaningless concept of ‘poverty line’ into what might be called a ‘survivability frontier.’ Inside this survivability frontier is a set of market baskets containing food and housing and (to conform to social norms) clothing, health care and education (at least for the children). The rawest of the raw necessities or, as Thoreau put it, “the grossest of groceries.” To meet the criterion of survivability, the food component of a market basket should have at least 100% of the ‘recommended daily intake’ of all the key nutrients. Of course the science behind daily intake is a work in progress, and of course everyone’s body chemistry is different, but it seemed like a good starting point.

            But not symmetrically irrelevant, since transparency is relevant to democracy and regulation.

            With regulation, the regulated are accountable to the regulators. With transparency, everyone is accountable to everyone. This is, I suppose, democracy at its very best, but true transparency is a much more effective regulator than regulation. Wikipedia’s article ‘Transparency’ does, I think, a very effective job of explaining the difference between accountability and transparency.

            I take your point (I think) about positive privacy, but I may be slightly more optimistic than you that some vestage or pseudo-semblance of neo-privacy can be upheld.

            That is basically the position of David Brin, who has influenced my thinking to a huge extent.

        • Lori Says:

          Now in addition to a vector-valued theory of utility, there is a multidimensional theory of power.

          • Poor Richard Says:

            When you say “vector-valued theory of utility” do you mean that utility as a whole is a vector function of multiple variables, or that utility is a field of multiple vectors, or both? I’m still not sure how to visualize what it means. (I’m bad at math)

            The “theory of power” article and comments were interesting but unsatisfying, and prompted me to formulate “Poor Richard’s Theory of Power”:

            Dimension 1, Quality: I’m inclined to break power down as either coercive (overt) or manipulative (covert), with each of those categories having various tactical subdivisions.

            Dimension 2, Quantity: In most cases the effective amplitude of power (or capability) is a function of physical and intellectual resources vs constraints.

            Dimension 3, Configuration: Since there can be many actors in a “situation” or scenario, power can be exerted from multiple sources towards multiple targets, creating “field effects”. You can get power “oscillations” and binary “trigger” effects that work like analog radio signals and/or computer logic circuits.

            I think this gives a much richer framework for modeling power than any of that other stuff. At least, that’s the way 30 years of systems analysis practice leads me to think about it.

          • Lori Says:

            Dimension 3, Configuration: Since there can be many actors in a “situation” or scenario, power can be exerted from multiple sources towards multiple targets, creating “field effects”. You can get power “oscillations” and binary “trigger” effects that work like analog radio signals and/or computer logic circuits.

            Your configuration of power is reminiscent of the late Thomas Molnar‘s ‘networks of authority;’ basically a strategy for ‘tamper-proofing’ the machinery of social control.

          • Poor Richard Says:

            I’m not familiar with Molnar. Wikipedia doesn’t say much about him. Some of his book titles sound interesting, but he was apparently a Catholic and a conservative–not great references in my book.

            You can definitely view power as a network — a “collapsed” or simplified view of the “field”.

            I guess a big question is how much control should/do we exert from the top or the bottom of the social network pyramid. My answer is yes.

            The machinery of social control should be tampered with constantly to see what happens when we turn this dial or that. I don’t have much faith in the generic Jazz/Pop/Rock settings on acoustic equalizers. My approach to utility is eclectic and empirical.

            “Freedom is participation in power” –Marcus Tullius Cicero

        • Lori Says:

          Oy! Bad News! According to Jayanth Rama Varma:

          One might hope that a vector valued utility might exist (with lexicographic ordering of the utility vector); but this is not the case. Indeed we cannot salvage the situation even by allowing the utility to be a vector in Rn) (i.e. to have an (countably) infinite number of components); only an uncountable number of real components can do the job.

          • Poor Richard Says:

            Lori, I got a 404 error on the Varma link but found the source via google at http://ideas.repec.org/p/iim/iimawp/wp00894.html

            My definition of “utility” and “utility function” is much more general than Varma’s. He used the term in a fairly narrow economics/financial industry sense. In contrast, my use of “utility” spans all quantifiable (not just “countable”) correlations between natural “causes and effects”. Of course the vast majority of all such correlations are as yet undefined and unquantified or perhaps for all practical purposes are undefinable and unquantifiable due to complexity, chaos, or just plain lack of data. My PRA2010 post (and PUBWAN page) on “General Utility” suggests a number of initial schema (things like health status, financial status, social status, “quality of life”, and “capability”–many of which may indeed be generally scalar) that are currently at some level of definition and quantification in various academic and scientific disciplines. Ultimately, though, all physical, chemical, biological, ecological (and indeed, all natural phenomena between which significant and quantifiable correlations exist) are utility functions in the sense that I use the term. The entire biosphere is a system that can be progressively optimized with respect to a practically infinite number of variables and combinations of variables. I’m mathematically illiterate but I’m willing to bet there are vector values in nature. Either way, though, I’ll have to leave most of the systems analysis and mathematical modeling of nature to those more smarter than I. PR

          • Lori Says:

            Does your understanding of utility assume rank ordering of preferences? Maxhi schema does, but perhaps the most general type of utlitity is an unordered domain. Maybe some utility states are attractors, but for reasons that are decidedly qualitative.

            Is there a PRA2011 somewhere?

          • Poor Richard Says:

            Lori, I was wrapping up a long reply to your last comment when the wordpress comment editor sent all my words into oblivion. I’ll try to rewrite it all and post as new entries on PRA 2010 (no 2011 yet–do you think I should?). Briefly, my understanding of general utility includes the assumption that rank ordering of preferences is appropriate for various species of special utilities. Special utilities are subsets of general utility. Across general utility as a whole, every variable would potentially have a “weight” attribute. Weights can sometimes be construed as rank. In some cases weights might be infinitely variable, in some cases constrained to some defined range, and in some cases they might be constants.

            A good metaphor for general utility might be a kind of computing engine or platform that hosts a working, dynamic computer model or emulation of the universe, from the sub-atomic to the cosmic, but with major emphasis on the terrestrial biosphere and with the highest emphasis on human life. By emphasis I mean a higher degree of resolution or detail, congruence, and fidelity between the simulated or virtual world of the model and the natural world. On the general utility platform you change variables and then “recalculate” for any selected range of dependent variables. Basically this shows you the consequences of choices or actions. In theory the fidelity of the general utility model (at least in some areas) might be so high that it could reveal a correlation between a monarch butterfly beating its wings in the Amazon jungle and a cyclone on the other side of the world (i.e “the butterfly effect“)

            I enjoyed skimming the article you cited. I think many of the concepts have broad utility for modeling utility. I didn’t read it intensively because I tend to resist drilling very far down into the technical details of math or modeling theory. I tend to prefer the higher levels of abstraction. It did however get me thinking about some areas of overlap between my “general utility” ideas and my ideas about “information quality management” and “data representation (data structure) standards”.

            More to follow

            PR

          • Lori Says:

            I don’t know. The excellent Inclusionist website seems to be going with the domain name http://inclusion2008.org/ going on what, 2-3 years now? OTOH, due to some loophole in the intellectual property arena, there are some half dozen or more print publications that go by the name “Poor Richard’s Almanack” and AFAIK all are serialized as annuals. Of course in keeping with the traditions in marketing publications such as those in the dupermarkets and other chain stores, you should probably be firing up PRA2012 by now. :)

            I tend to use priority rather than weighting. One reason is to deliberately avoid thinking of utility as a scalar, or a linear combination of special utilities. Rank among general utility states is still unambiguously implied anyway via indifference curves. Another reason is my hypothesis that there will be broad (though probably not unanimous) consensus among respondents concerning which special utilities are to be maximized and which to be minimized, while I expect priorities to be all over the map.

  3. "Natural Lefty" Says:

    Wow, this is a long post. You asked if I could help with it, and I think I could with some of the “beasts,” but all of them would be a tall order. I was hoping that the 6 comments already present would make a dent in the list, but I see that they are on a more intellectual level.

    Looking over the ones which are filled in, I do not see succinct descriptions. I am guessing you want me to use my framing/meme/sound bite talent to come up with something funny and striking about each one that makes the point. Anyway, that would be the best I could do, I think.

    Sadly, looking at your list, no particular beasts suggested themselves to me. Franlkly, I think that many of these terms do not lend themselves to animal descriptions, starting with the first one, “The Free Market.” I am having trouble conceptualizing the “free market” as an animal. There are some terms which might make good animals, but not others.

    I have a perfect one for an ultraconservative evangelist — a Chimpanzee having a fit — but I don’t see that term on the list. I guess it’s not economic enough.

    I think a lobbyist would be a menacing hyena that wants to steal another animal’s catch. I hope this is the sort of response that you are looking for.

    This is really pretty fun, but I need to look it over again when I have more time.

  4. Poor Richard Says:

    Yeah, I know. I can’t lock you in a room…

    Stealing another animal’s catch is something I’m sure we can use. Screaming or screeching would be a good behavior for a lobbyist, too. These can resemble real animals with a little twist to make them mythical, or some hodge-podge of parts from different animals, or anything that works. There need be no consistent pattern in name or description from one to the next.

    I only intended to have four or five beasts but I got carried away. I think quite a few of the candidate beasts can be discarded–most of those in the lower section. Some are more important economically than others but may not be as “beasty”, and some may not be that important, but we may think of really good names or story metaphors. Anyway, eight or ten or at most a dozen would fill the bill very nicely.

    The ones at the top are pretty essential to give the piece adequate substance and force.

    I just now thought of calling the free market the “free-market bird” or “free-market phoenix” or something along those lines.

    The rational agent might be the “rational rabbit” (who gets beat by the tortoise).

    That’s one approach that’s come to mind so far. The form or pattern of the names don’t have to all be the same. Maybe one or two could have an “-asourus” or “-alope” or something tacked on.

    There might be some latin that could be mixed in somehow.

    You are spot-on about using your framing/meme/sound bite talent to come up with something funny and striking about each one that makes the point, either in the name, the opening line, or as a metaphorical theme throughout the description. This doesn’t need to be rigorous, just somewhat whimsical and/or satirical.

    Elusive, reclusive, rare, shy, greater, lesser, …spotted, tiger-striped, bob-tailed, pigeon-toed, blunt-billed, bow-legged, three-legged, hairy, long-haired, short haired, bald-headed, bald-faced, four-eyed, two-faced, double-humped, etc.

    Some great creature name may come to mind that we can match to an economic idea that isn’t already in the list.

    There is a lot of flexibility for our fertile minds to twist and turn over.

    What do you think? I will credit your contributions or make you a co-author if you choose to get involved. If you choose to accept this mission, your computer device will NOT self destruct in five seconds.

    In the unlikely event anyone besides Natural Lefty is reading this, please feel free to leave a comment pitching your own mythical beast of economyland. You may get it included with credit in the soon-to-be-notorious Economical Bestiary.

    PR

  5. Lori Says:

    The grade-school textbook example of copyright infringement in the animal kingdom is a butterfly called the Viceroy. The owner of the intellectual property in question is of course the Monarch. Note the implied rank in naming the species after nobility and royalty, respectively.

    Patented life forms are easier to find than to avoid, but thus far they have been vegetable rather than animal. But now a GMO salmon has been announced, coming soon, I’m sure to a dupermarket near you…

    The peace dividend has been observed in vivo in the animal kingdom. You may have heard about a study they did on Her Majesty’s Civil Service that found strong correlations between high levels of stress hormones and low rank. A similar phenomenon was observed in a troop of lemurs. As the story goes, some foodborne illness (from a dumpster) took out a few of the dominant males in the group, and the resulting relative social equality led directly to lower stress levels and lower incidence of stress-related diseases.

    One beast that symbolized the WTO is the rat. It has worldwide distribution, which is directly attributable to global trade. Its scientific name Rattus norvegicus, is of course due to the fact that Linnaeus, the inventor of biological taxonomy, was Swedish.

    Speaking of scientific names, the Rational Agent has already been given one, and he/she/they are, like us, hominids, genus Homo, even, to wit, Homo economicus.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Lori,

      Thanks for the great bestiary suggestions.

      I guess I can have a hominid in the bestiary if I’ve got Laffer peaks and invisible hands. This whole thing started with the Laffer peak & my thinking it was mythical because the curve never seemed to be populated with any credible data, at least not by Laffer or the people usually pushing it.

      The WTO, as much as I’d like to portray it as a rat, is a problem (as are several of the items) because they aren’t mythical. They suck, but they are real. Maybe that doesn’t matter. What kind of rat would it be? A vampire rat (because its undead and sucks wealth from the poor)?

      I’ve been signing petitions about the salmon. I don’t have high hopes for stopping it, so I’ll probably choose to quit eating it. Not even labeling will do a damn bit of good if it gets into the wild, which may actually be the intent–there’s nothing like having mother nature spread your intellectual property everywhere!

      Did you see my earlier reply (above) with the quote about Google and the “Data Deluge”? (I changed the comment order, so I thought you might have missed it.)

      • Lori Says:

        Just now tried posting it a second time. No error message, but no confirmation of post pending moderation, either. I’m assuming it exceeds the size limits. So I put it here.

        • Poor Richard Says:

          Lori,

          I’m really green at this blogging stuff, so the comment-blogorrhea is my bad. Your reply went into the spam bucket because it passed a threshold on the number of links. I’m pissed that you didn’t get some kind of explanatory message. I’ll give WordPress a piece of my mind (unless its my fault somehow). Anyway your reply is posted now and I upped the limit on links to 4. If you don’t mind you can split future posts to stay under that.

          Sorry for the inconvenience and thanks for your persistence.

          PR

      • Lori Says:

        Being a nethacker, I’m aware of sewer rats, rabid rats and giant rats.

        • Poor Richard Says:

          You didn’t mention the rats’ ” lycanthrope relative, the wererat, [which] can summon an entourage of these creatures as allies.”

  6. "Natural Lefty" Says:

    Okay, let me try some more from the top, although you might not like some of these.

    The “free market” = a casino (the operators plus a few random customers are the only winners)

    The invisible hand and foot = Bigfoot (mythical but not really invisible)

    I don’t know what you mean by the third one

    Homo Economicus = Brittney Spears (not really rational)

    Number 5 not sure what this means

    Laffer curve already done

    Tyrannical Governmentosarus = Trranosaurus Rex with Obama’s head (to a conservative)

    Liberal Eliteopotomous = Large pampered hippopotomus with servants in waiting, and the head of Obama, of course (Hippopotomi are from Africa, after all, and Obama was apparently born there according to the birthers.)

    Liberal mediasaurus = a prehistoric gigantic ostrich with its head stuck in the sand (from a conservative perspective).

    Natural Right Whale = a beached whale which can only turn to the right straight into a sand dune.

    Downward trickling stuff = Godzilla taking a leak.

    Giant sucking sound = an overfull. obese CEO who has to use a plunger when he goes to the toilet to get his waste to go down.

    Capital gain = Washington (the capitol, not the state) newly made over with buildings made of money.

    The copyright = the human genome under lock and key held captive by a bioengineering firm.

    The level playing field = the little guy going to bat against some corporate steroid driven Roger Clemens type on a trick field where home plate is at the bottom of a slope, even though it appears flat like one of those fun house optical illusions (don’t know how to illustrate this one though).

    The patented life form = oil eating bacteria with DNA which strangely resembles dollar signs.

    The think tank = a flying dinosaur mistakenly diving into a septic tank.

    Other terms either I didn’t understand, or no ideas occured to me. A few of the terms with the word liberal in them clearly seemed to be from the conservative perspective, so I wrote the description that way. I tried to make the rest from a progressive perspective.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      NL, Thanks for a huge contribution. Even the ones I don’t like make me think.

      The “free market” = a casino (the operators plus a few random customers are the only winners) … True, but not sure how to factor it into a bestiary story.

      The invisible hand and foot = Bigfoot (mythical but not really invisible) … Maybe a visible Bigfoot with an invisible hand/foot. It might be funny if the invisible hand belonged to the proverbial 800lb Gorilla in the room.

      “I don’t know what you mean by the third one” … Corporate personhood = doctrine granting human rights to corporations.

      “Homo Economicus = Brittney Spears (not really rational)” … FUNNY

      Number 5 not sure what this means … Deficit Hawk = obsesses over budget deficit while cutting taxes and increasing military spending

      Tyrannical Governmentosarus = Trranosaurus Rex with Obama’s head (to a conservative) … Can anybody photoshop that for me?

      Liberal Eliteopotomous = Large pampered hippopotomus with servants in waiting, and the head of Obama, of course (Hippopotomi are from Africa, after all, and Obama was apparently born there according to the birthers.)
      … another photoshop project

      Liberal mediasaurus = a prehistoric gigantic ostrich with its head stuck in the sand (from a conservative perspective). … GOOD ONE!

      Natural Right Whale = a beached whale which can only turn to the right straight into a sand dune. … Maybe a beached whale being eaten by wolves.

      Downward trickling stuff = Godzilla taking a leak. … Something big and ugly taking a leak on peons, anyway.

      Giant sucking sound = an overfull. obese CEO who has to use a plunger when he goes to the toilet to get his waste to go down. … Eeew, gross. What about ar giant elephant sucking the whole economy into its trunk.

      Capital gain = Washington (the capitol, not the state) newly made over with buildings made of money. … What about an enormously obese person on a scale?

      The copyright = the human genome under lock and key held captive by a bioengineering firm. … Or all kinds of creative works in a jail or zoo.

      The level playing field = the little guy going to bat against some corporate steroid driven Roger Clemens type on a trick field where home plate is at the bottom of a slope, even though it appears flat like one of those fun house optical illusions (don’t know how to illustrate this one though). … I like the optical illusion angle.

      The patented life form = oil eating bacteria with DNA which strangely resembles dollar signs. … I love the dollar sign DNA.

      The think tank = a flying dinosaur mistakenly diving into a septic tank. … Or a bunch of creepy creatures crawling out of the septic tank.

  7. "Natural Lefty" Says:

    I know what corporate personhood is, but the peckerwood part confused me.

    Okay, corporate personhood: How about Wal-Mart with arms, legs and big goggle eyes stomping on everything in its path?

    The Lobbyist one from before I would modify to make it laughing hyenas laughing all the way to the bank after robbing the public.

    Your other modifications or alternate versions, I like.
    I do like doing this sort of thing, although some of the terms did suggest pretty gross images to me.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Peckerwood is a southern redneck colloquialism that means dick head. I guess it was inspired by wood-pecker. I thought dick head was about right for a corporate person.

      I think I pretty much nailed the corporate person peckerwood this morning before I read your Walmart idea.

      There will definitely be a place for laughing hyenas.

      I did a shit load of work on the bestiary last night. Check out the new stuff (including your credit at the top of the post) and lay some more ideas on me.

      PR

  8. "Natural Lefty" Says:

    Wow, your work here looks brilliant! You have been a busy boy. No wonder you haven’t been on Facebook that much these past few days. A few of your pictures didn’t load on my computer, but I saw most of them. I see you found some good ones. Some of them are different from my suggestions, but that’s okay. More thinking about how to frame these concepts leads to better ideas eventually. I was going to try a few more word illustrations for different terms, but I guess you went ahead and finished.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Natural Lefty my friend,

      There are still some economic terms at the bottom of the list that have no beast names. Also, there are many beasts that are named but 1) I don’t like some them that well and 2) all the ones below the “under construction” sign still have no story lines.

      There are no doubt other economic “myths” I haven’t included at all yet. I bet you can think of some I haven’t.

      *So please don’t stop yet!*

      I hope you and others who may be reading will make many more suggestions.

      PR

      • Natural Lefty Says:

        I read the large majority of your bestiary this time and feel as though I just read most of a good book. Were all those incomplete items present last time? I guess I was in too much of a hurry to pay attention to them. I will need to get back to them later.

        At this point the primary question in my mind is where is this bestiary project going? You have done a whole lot of work on this project, and it is looking like something worthy of attention by progressives at large. Lori and I have only offered minor input compared to yours, but you say not to stop yet with an exclamation point, so our limited input must be meaningful to you, even though you did not use most of my suggestions or mutated them.

        I thought the introductory section was excellent and totally understandable. Some other parts were that way, while probably my lack of familiarity with some of the topics you discussed made them harder to follow, but not as obtuse as reading a quantum physics textbook.

        By the way, the introductory part of the post uses the phrase “off of” which is not correct gramatically. That is the only ungrammatical spot I saw in this post.

        I don’t really have time to add much more tonight. Tim wants your advice about nutrition. He said he tried to post something on my bloggers group, but did not know how. I gave him my advice in an email. I saw some of the issues we have been discussing on the bloggers group such as economic alternatives discussed in this post as well.

        By the way, unrelated to this post, but related to education and learning, another term about cognitive development is the “Theory of Mind.” This refers not to the theory of the researchers, but rather, is a form of meta-cognition in which people come to theorize about what is going on in other people’s minds. Your discussion of projection and conservatives who are the “kettles who call the pots black” seems like something that came straight out of my mind. I think I was mentioning some of that on the Thom Hartmann site, maybe before you got tossed out of there. Perhaps you saw that. There was one conservative guy on there who felt he had to dispute virtually every point made by every progressive on the site. His most common strategy was to accuse the progressives of being guilty of the things that conservatives are guilty of instead — dishonesty, biased reporting, etc. He even applied the kettle analogy to me, so the kettles who call the pots black are now even pointing to the other kettles and saying its them, not us.

        • Poor Richard Says:

          My friend, your comments are both gratifying and thought-provoking.

          Yeah, the damn bestiary has taken life and apparently wants to be a blog-o-book. I already had three book ideas ahead of the bestiary–the Inner Hunchback, the Treasury of Cognitive Bias Fairy Tales, and Animal Farm 2.0. For that matter, I guess half of my posts could be books.

          Despite my reluctance to commit to anything larger than a passing thought or premise, which is my core competence, the bestiary has grown a head and much of a skeleton already, begging for more flesh. Fortunately the modular nature of it can lend itself to collaboration by others if anyone were so oddly inclined. Some collaborators might give the thing legs, so to speak.

          Your input has been a source of repeated stimulation, and I’m not done spinning, mutilating, and folding it in.

          Whatever parts made you think of quantum physics need to be rewritten. There may be a need for a footnote section for stuff that’s too technical to read casually. If you get around to reading it again you might make some notes on that score.

          I have a post subtitled “Pot calling kettle Black” dated May 12 that easily may have been inspired by something you wrote on the Hartmann forum. I like your added twist where the projection is about others making projections…it could be infinitely recursive.

          BTW, one of my blog “categories” (a drop-down list just above the “tags” list) is “Theory of Mind”, but it was meant for posts that discussed formal cognitive theories. I like your observation that it also applies to the informal (perhaps implicit) theories that people hold about their own minds and the minds of others. You say that is unrelated to the bestiary, but not so. The fulcrum of the bestiary is the hidden junction point between implicit biases/associations and the real world. I’m not just saying conservative beliefs are wrong, but that they are fundamentally irrational. As the saying goes, “being a republican isn’t just an ideology, its a character disorder.” As much as I want to lay out some facts about economic and political matters, I also want to give at least equal weight to the cognitive disorders behind conservative thinking. Its like the thing about giving a person a few fish (facts) vs showing them by demonstration how to fish (think critically) for themselves.

          I am wholly unqualified for the task, but I can’t let that dissuade me from doing things I have a mind to do. As a radical generalist I can never get an adequate education in every subject that captivates me. Coping with that problem for 50 years has given me good instincts for what is red meat and what is fat and gristle. If I have anything to offer in my blog it is isn’t knowledge per se, its my “bullshit meter” skills. In fact I have a category called “Idiotology” that I may change to Bullshit Meter. If I had to change the name of the blog I’d probably call it the Bullshit Meter Reader.

          I know how busy you must be, so how could I encourage you to spend some more time on the bestiary? (Please note–I’m really not trying to twist your arm) (or am I?)

          Keep the faith skepticism,
          PR

          ps Not really related–you are welcome to put copies of your Capital Idea posts here if you like. I could (optionaly) make editing/annotating/illustrating recommendations.

          pps I was thinking that adding to the bestiary was a “game” that practically the whole progressive community could “play” when bingo– another light bulb went on– the bestiary could be made into a whole fantasy video game. Think of the franchise and merchandise opportunities…

          ppps The same idea could apply to The Inner Hunchback, the Illustrated Treasury of Cognitive Bias Fairy Tales, and Animal Farm 2.0.

          (Jesus help us and save us. What has my brain done this time?)

  9. Natural Lefty Says:

    Maybe you could create a hypocritical kettle beast for your beastiary.

  10. Natural Lefty Says:

    I mean conservatus stegasaurus kettleoptimus, which is an aggressive, beastly dinosaur with a strange, black, kettle shaped apendage on its back which it denies is there.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Its funny. I think the name could also just be conservatus kettleoptimus, without the stegasaurus; or maybe hypocritus kettleoptimus, but its your idea and I want to respect your creative ownership of it. Since you have thought about this kettle-calling business for a while, why don’t you write up the whole piece?

      ps The more I think of it, Hypocritus Kettleoptimus might be the funniest name/idea in the whole line-up.

      pps Somewhere I need to slip in the idea of a line-up of mythical beasts with some old lady trying to identify the one that swindled her out of house and home.

  11. Natural Lefty Says:

    Actually, I was thinking of Hippocripotomus Conservatus or something like that afterward, a creature who always finds faults in others while ignoring similar faults of its own. I think I could write a description but wouldn’t be good at finding pictures or relevant links, not to mention my time limitations. I spent yesterday moving boxes around in temps that reached 113 degrees in Los Angeles, and shopping at Home Depot and Lowes with Eunice and Isabella (and Mr. Huang, the main remodeller).

    In case you haven’t guessed yet, I have been designing Capital Ideas as the initial draft of a book, also. I think it is well on its way, although I don’t really know how to make a real book of it.

    I don’t really have time to say much more now, but this is getting really exciting. I wrote a post today about the sad case of an LAUSD 5th grade teacher who commited suicide this week because his “teacher efficiency ratings” as published in the LA Times, were not very good. This story apparently has not made the national media, but it has relevance to the keeping corporatism out of education discussion. No one has been posting besides myself on my bloggers group these past few days, but I guess the action has moved over here for now.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Not been much visible action here except your appreciated comments.

      Hippocripotomus is a great name — I think I’ll want to replace the existing conservopotamus with it and add the “creature who always finds faults in others while ignoring similar faults of its own” and whatever else you may write up.

      PR

  12. Natural Lefty Says:

    If I have anything to do with it, don’t expect Jesus to save us. Maybe Bhudda can, or maybe ourselves, as Jewel says. Maybe it’s my fault in the first place for making this post take on a life of its own. I find it fun to do.

    By the way, I have been using the term BS-ometer for years.

    Okay, Hippocrippotomus Kettleoptical Conservatum is a large, Hippopotamus type beast. The males of the species have a head that strangely resembles that of Glenn Beck; thus the males are often known as “Becks” or “Beckers.” If placed in front of a mirror, the male Hippocripotomus snarls at its own image aggressively, mistakenly believing the mirror image to be another beast. It may even charge the the mirror and bash into it. These creatures as they age, grow a strange black kettle shaped apendage on their foreheads. Being semi-intelligent, they are capable of limited language, which is typically used to criticize the “black kettles” growing on the heads of other male Hippocripotomi. They also have a habit of complaining about all manner of other creatures in ways which resemble their own faults; they accuse gentle grazers of being aggressive bullies, yell at other vocal animals such as elephants for imposing their point of view on others, as they all the while attempt to do the same, and accuse others of dishonesty, even as they manipulate those around them in attempts to get their way. Relations between male Hippocripotomi are usually strained, not surprisingly, although on the surface they seem to share the same world view. The problem is that they are extremely nearsighted, paranoid, and power hungry, which frequently results in fierce infighting and battles for dominance. Females of the species are expected to be subservient to the males, although at times, even females (sometimes known as “Palins”) have trouble managing their volatile tempers, and fights among frustrated females are common, although they wouldn’t dare challenge a male.

    PR you can do what you would like with this description.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Ah! Very bestiary stuff!

      I think maybe it should be a Conservoppotomous Hippocrippotomus Kettleoptical (C. Hippocrippotomus Kettleoptical for short), a cousin of the other conservoppotomi.

      It probably should have its own bestiary entry, though.

      PR

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Natural Lefty, old boy,

      Check out the new Hippocripottomus Kettleoptical.

      Let me know if you’re comfortable with my editing or not.

      PR

  13. Natural Lefty Says:

    I think we did good, having seen the entry. I laughed and it made the point. I was thinking I had forgotten to add political content but you did that. I would add that some of C. Hippocripotomus Kettleoptical’s favorite phrases are ones like “free-market,” “billionnaire,” “democrats are traitors,” etc. Also, the females bear a resemblance to Sarah Palin, obviously, but with ostentatious jewelry-like appendages growing from their heads. I like the characterization of these creatures as being diminutive, and you did a great photoshop job. I love the look on the “Becker’s” (rhymes with pecker, or should we just call them “Peckers”) face, plus the kettle.

  14. Lori Says:

    It seems you have no beast to represent Public Choice Theory, which is a major oversight. Public Choice Theory is a contrivance intended to impose the paradigms and underlying assumptions of main$tream economics on the discipline of political science. In other words, the political actor, like the economic actor is Homo economicus; the hominid in the bestiary. The beast advancing Public Choice Theory is perhaps a type of ox-pecker, whose mission in life is parasite control. Any derogatory implications of ‘pecker’ are of course intended as such. In case you’re wondering, I posted another comment on a Winton Bates post, this time lampooning PCT.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Lori you have a growing stable of beasts in the “under construction” area now. Besides the WereRat, your comments have included/suggested:

      Mythical Beast: The Mean Test — ‘means tests are mean.’”

      Mythical Beast: something about “The Lion’s Share” –”It also doesn’t help if the lion’s share of the GDP is literally the lion’s share”

      Mythical Beast: something about “The Golden Goose” [Maybe the goose that laid the golden eggs was secretly stolen and replaced with an old golden calf statue now called the golden goose -- that doesn't seem to lay eggs any more. Maybe some connection with gold standard and Beck/Fox style Gold pimping. The goose comes from the Jack and the magic beans/beanstalk story -- could be some gold there too]

      Mythical Beast: something about Public Choice Theory — “a voter is simply a specimen of Homo economicus in a ballot box, which can be used as an instrument of extraction from the ‘golden goose … Public Choice Theory is a contrivance intended to impose the paradigms and underlying assumptions of main$tream economics on the discipline of political science. In other words, the political actor, like the economic actor is Homo economicus; the hominid in the bestiary. The beast advancing Public Choice Theory is perhaps a type of ox-pecker, whose mission in life is parasite control.”

      I’d love to see you flesh any of these out — the beast names multiply much faster than full descriptions.

  15. Lori Says:

    Your Rove-meets-Plato cartoon reminded me of the old B.C. comic strip with the TRVTH dais. A search for “trvth” on Google Image Search led me to this. Similar searches concerning the lion’s share led to this, and (talk about mythical bestiary-type imagery) this. And is this cute, or what?

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Yeah. I got a laugh from that pie picture.

      That Flickr site was great and led me to the Aesopica website. My future project on Cognitive-bias Fairy Tales will probably draw heavily on Aesop’s Fables.

      The other stuff was fun too. I just had to google trvth myself and then “BC comic strip” and got captured reading BC for a while. I came across a story about Hart’s death in 07. “He had a stroke,” Hart’s wife, Bobby, said on Sunday. “He died at his storyboard.”

      I got myself a beer and read over the Social Zymurgy site and saved the picture of the Pope hustling the chick.

      That Lion’s Share book site (halving your cake) for some reason had a fantastic photo of Nikkola Tesla’s business letterhead. It was in some format I couldn’t save to my computer and I wound up at Wikipedia’s Tesla page for a while… THAT dude….

      Thanks for sharing the links.

  16. Natural Lefty Says:

    It looks like we all have our own mythical economic beast ideas. Hopefully, that’s a good thing. If PR does as good a job of fleshing Lori’s ideas out as he has with mine, they should turn out excellent.

    I used to read the B.C. comic strip, but that was a long time ago, like when I used to get the paper. I stopped getting any newpapers in 2004 when my local paper was recommending the “re-election” (as if he had been elected in the first place) of George W. Bush.

  17. Poor Richard Says:

    Note for future content…‎”Laissez Fairyland”! and “He puts the goober in gubernatorial” attributed to Jim Hightower.

  18. Economics and Degradation | Marcus' s Space Says:

    [...] Economyland is a place on the flat world of  Reductio Ad Absurdum where the Economical Bestiary’s mythical beasts run wild in a free state of nature. + Pius conservatives are fond of accusing [...]


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