Caveats and Prejudices

Wages can't catch Food - Editorial cartoon
Creative Commons License photo credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge

Tohm Curtis

Week #6: Caveats and Prejudices

This week I’m going to twist a bit of military wisdom: ‘If the map doesn’t match the ground, the ground is wrong.’

It may be entirely the case that there is systemic bias to my criticism of my courses. For example, I can feel that my finance lecturers are grossly neglecting the role of inflation in investment decisions, but in the end they cover it 3 weeks later. My real criticism is that the lecturers don’t place the same emphasis as me on what I view to be important. Quite rightly, no academic institution would set a syllabus like this.

I’m currently reading ‘Animal Spirits’ by Robert Shiller and George Akerlof. It is a timely book, and points to the bias in processing information according to our prejudice.

Specifically this passage on confidence and its role in determining economic outcomes:

“The very meaning of trust is that we go beyond the rational. Indeed the truly trusting person often discards or discounts certain information… [they] act according to what [they] trust to be true.” Pg.17.

What’s missing from the quote is that ‘confidence’ has its etymological roots in ‘trust’ or ‘belief’. But the passage certainly communicates my experience, in both giving and receiving information.

Much of what I’m taught in economics I naturally wish to reject. I have a disadvantage (from the academic career perspective) in that I, unlike many students in my course, arrive prejudiced against Neo-classical models.

I have to study twice as hard because my mind reflexively dismisses models as unimportant since they don’t reflect the real world or real decisions anyway. But ‘real world’ is HECS debt and passing, so I need to learn what I will be assessed. I even need to learn it to competently critique the models.

But the issue of prejudice doesn’t stop there. How can we learn if we reject any new information that contradicts old information? Furthermore what are the implications for Georgists?

I think we (Prosper/Earthsharing) are equally guilty of this. For example, Geoists in History is a column that retrospectively labels notable figures as ‘Geoists’ or ‘Georgists’ even (as was the case of Ben Franklin) they died long before Henry George was even born and could formalise his theory. One can simply trawl through all the statements a person made and select all the info that conform to our prejudice and reject anything that doesn’t.

It is a bad (but beguiling) habit, so all I say is, take my criticisms with a grain of salt. I carry about me prejudices.

8 thoughts on “Caveats and Prejudices”

  1. Nice point, exact sciences in Liberal arts are not totalised world views? I had this quote unknown ‘Post-modernity is intolerant of any totalising world views because of their propensity to oppress’ but this leaves a situation for geoists and wonks to buy time and Perpetuate fraud economics on the mob, thinking they can reverse it at the last minute; this is expressed with the intergenerational theft and property bubble, with neoliberals trying to buy time, as situationists of levers, no matter how amoral In conclusion, the wonks are wonky indeed.

  2. For Example Quote Atheism & Theism, JJ Smart & JJ Haldane- ‘ shows simply rational arguments, ( Knockdown and foolproof arguments )simply are not available to us- which is why polemiccists on both sides of the argument are so often reduced to rhetorical devices bludgeoning their audiences into submission by crude verbal bullying rather than by careful evidences based on reasoning’.
    I find this with shock jocks (IPA) Roskin on 774 (The wrap) ABC

    Also ‘the way humans perceive the world is indeed coloured by our agenda’s
    And expectations and idealisations, ideologies, environmental factors, demography etc, the information we are exposed to informs or dissolves our prejudices and ignorance, we are only one book or line away from cementing further predudices or dissolving ignorance. Cognitive bias, Cog dissonance is a fundamental characteristic to human psychology, not so much on believing what we would like to be true, as in maintaining the dogma’s of the status quo that conserves the errors of the masses of our beliefs. The driving force of our confidences is wishful thinking; & to maintain and conserve the norms of the establishments rhetoric which informs us.

  3. aaahhh… I must confess, I’m not myself an academic and find my vocabulary to be shrinking of late not growing.
    Thus I also have to confess i’m not sure if I’m reading in the above quotes the same message as the author intended. But yes, I agree that debate usually reaches the lowest common denominator which is who can shout out their bias the loudest.
    These are all well known in the field of marketing of course which has a vested interest in understanding how people think. Curiously economics doesn’t seem to think it has the same vested interest.
    Specifically, again and again we come across models based on the assumption that people are capable of determining their own economic best interests. Marketing is based on the opposite assumption. Yet at my academic institution these two schools are quartered together.
    Thus if we want to be good economists whether Georgist or Neo-classical or anything inbetween, we need to accept that people live in perceptual cages.

  4. No, you’re articulate indeed. I’m not Shaw their is any Godden’s theory on economics, I’m sceptical many disciplines are pseudo sciences, ‘Phrenology reading’, the shapes of peoples skull dimples was popular science of psychology arts in early America, and popular amongst the educated rich elite in the 1800’s, when classical economists like George Henry were alive, when great swoons of fervent religiosity and superstition had gripped North America. I don’t know how the average person then or now can consolidate the huge specialist knowledge of schemers, dreamers and observers of times, cycles and knowledge in any field, or economics to hold in their head at recall, without becoming a greater fool and victim to highly specialised lobby groups with all the clout and power. I think the education system has much too answer for in not giving citizens basic economic literacy on their big ticket items of life.

  5. What I’m trying to say, although I agree wholly with the writing of Michael Hudson’s
    Articles in Prosper that we live in an awful latter day modern economic atrophy apostasy, against just price and classical historically, my criticism is should we really be appeasing to clandestine classical economists models as being moral benchmarks, fool-proof like ‘Godden’s theory on everything’ of land rents as the benchmark of moral authenticity for citizenry, as Geoists, Isn’t this a bit like appeasing to early alchemists as better pharmacists? like Robert Fludd, or Newton who wrote millions of words on the Occult and member of the invisible college of London, messing around in the lab with compounds as being so right, and us just so terribly wrong. Modern pharmacists don’t long for the days of 12 century medicine and compound therapy’s, why do we long for 18, 16, 15 Th centuries of economics?. When a drug doesn’t work, they don’t say, damn the alchemists had it right. May I suggest the same with our romance of economic theory’s is the same for a longing of the historical Jesus, or even andeluvian Canaanite or Babylonian economics systems as being more pure, although cruder. When did clandestine understandings become the moral and benchmark of historically on which we trace all paralisms to Judge how well we are doing. Maybe Im just presenting a knockdown argument.

  6. Sorry I should have keeped on topic!
    Im thinking in cynical tones, but Merging Marketing and economics combined seems like Vance Packards Hidden Persuaders, but does Bohemia and Artists, or the down-shifter really want the sterile Vast industrial complex of flawless looking Beige laminex,tragic grandeur, and the retro Gaudy Milano white leather Bauhaus Chase lounges of 1960′s, like I see in Sunday herald of some footy stars home. They look cold sterile Blingish, and unapreciated,off the selfness, pre arranged by the celebrity manager, who went down to freedom furniture. Not much personal immagination or home crafted eccentricity.
    Dare not offend.

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