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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???

From: Tom Lord
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2003 12:53:02 -0800 (PST)

    > From: Tom Lord <address@hidden>

    > Um, I had a little trouble getting much out of your next ~100
    > lines,

I should add (while I'm taking a little break from hacking): 

I _did_ get from your message that you seem to feel insulted or
professionally disrespected or something along those lines.  That was
certainly not my intention.

I'm not _much_ familiar with your work as an economist but I _have_
read a bunch of your "class notes" on your web site.  Your teaching

I happen to think that they're very nifty and recommend them to other
gnu-arch-users readers as something fun and interesting to read.  (The
.sig content of Stephen's messages can lead you to these materials.)
The economics content is interesting.  The content of "teaching
economics in english in Japan" is also interesting.  The pedagogical
structure is interesting.

You made a great deal about my lack of expertese in a certain area:

    > But when talking about social structures, you are at a decided
    > disadvantage in expertise.  I do this for a living.

Yes, I know you do.

I'm not _quite_ the amateur you think I am in that area.  An amateur
to be sure -- but not _that_particular_ amateur.  I am, indeed, quite
uncredentialed in that area (as I also am in computer science).  I'm
not unread in it (across the fields of economics, computer science,
game theory, legal theory, moral philosophy, the "history of thought",
and political theory, at least).  I do in fact see that computer
science can help bring much to this field (that hasn't been realized
so far).  I could at least claim to be an "enthusiastic, unusually
informed, and somewhat talented amateur" in that area.

"Social structures" are, alas, a rather central topic in the narrative
of my life (hey, have you noticed my position in industry? :-) and so
something I've given quite a bit of thought to.  (And isn't it
interesting, in that regard, that I take such a moralistic tone
towards certain "people of power", attempting to appeal to their
reason, resisting and even arguing against criticisms based on `tone',
and so forth?  Those aren't quite the animalistic impulses you seem to
react to them as sometimes: they are consequences of sober and
reasoned conclusions about what constitutes the "examined life" and
the "moral life" and the best hope for all of us and, from my
observations, what is true to the "core value" aspirations of at least
most of those individuals -- at least at some point or other in

In the interest of full disclosure: I do find some of the rhetorical
form of economics highly troubling.  Especially because of how it
becomes reflected in politics.

Very basic modern economics often describes (rather beautiful and
carefully studied) models of certain social structures.  That's great.

It uses a very suggestive vocabulary for that description -- a
vocabulary that resonates _also_ with all of our "real life"

But it is clear to me that the coincidence of vocabulary is _not_ an
identification, in the general case: one must be very careful to
separate the models from the reality and to be constantly thoughtful
about where the models fail, or at best coincidentally, or at worst
self-fullfillingly, predict the reality.

A result of that coincidence of vocabulary is that an economic theorem
or treatise may have a very narrrow, specific, sober, objective
meaning as a statement about certain economic models -- but it also
tends to function rather unfortunately well as a _poem_ about real
life.  As a poem, it says more than is true.  As a poem, it can 
degenerate to become a slogan for mob action.

The situation is all the harder to fix because the objective models
studied by economics _partially_ describe real life -- so teasing
apart the poetics from the facts as these expressions pass into the
domain of politics is quite a thorny problem.

I think I saw, in your question about my outrage, a little bit of that
poetics in action.  So, let's keep the Subject line and other headers
constant (so that subscribers have the option of kill-threading it) --
and let's look into this with a bit of care.


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