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.