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Superb diary!!!

Some friendly amendments from a Veblenian perspective.  

  1. Veblen taught that the most interesting class distinction was not between rich and poor but between the Leisure and Industrial classes.  He spent his life trying to explain what that meant.

  2. Veblen first learned economics from a professor at Carleton named John Bates Clarke.  Clarke was a plodding butt-kisser who spent his life trying to prove that theory of marginal utility could be applied to everything--not just how folks make purchase decisions.  Veblen thought this position was probably insane and wrote often to discredit it.  His 1909 essay on marginal utility in the Journal of Political Economy is a classic refutation of the utility fetishists--those super-dull "intellectual" children of the super-dull John Bates Clark.

It can be found here:
http://www.elegant-technology.com/resource/MARG_UT.PDF

3) Veblen wrote that the desire for status emulation was second only to the survival instinct in most folks--and sometime not even in second place.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:46:31 PM EST
I've tried to read through Veblen before.

Like Talcott Parson, I know he's making an important point, it's just that hacking through the mental undergrowth to get at it is difficult.  

About John Bates Clarke.  

I'm studying political science, there's this tacit, but very real competition going on right now about the extent rational choice paradigms have been allowed to choke out all other theory in the American sub-field.  

I worked as a research assistant for the principal instigator on the rational choice side.  

I find the intolerance which proponents of rational choice (utility maxmizing) paradigms show towards explanations that do not suppose utility maximization and individualist ontology to be behind political phenomena to be ironic given their presentation that they are the defenders of liberty and academic freedom.  

I think that unless we recognize that reduction of human life to the narrow construct of utility maximization was responsible for most of the horrors of the 20th century we are damned to repeat it.  And that is far more than an academic concern.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:14:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I ONLY bring up Veblen because you seem to have reached similar conclusions.  If you cannot cut through the 19th century language, I see your point.

As for the so-called "rational" choice crowd, I find their worldview less convincing than that of a Southern Baptist.  At least the Baptists know how to make music ;-)

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 03:47:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry if I sounded hostile.

The biggest problem I have with Veblen is that he takes 20 big words to convey something that could have been said with two small words.

I really hate rational choice.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 04:05:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK!  Here is my short summation of Veblen on utility.

When confronted with the "what do YOU propose?" question, Veblen came up with three motivations he thought more economically important than utility:

  1. The Parental Instinct
  2. The Instinct of Idle Curiosity, and my favorite
  3. The Instinct of Workmanship

All three can be EASILY demonstrated, yet we still have to listen to the utility extremists because IMHO, it gives a "scientific" luster to naked greed.  The Alchemy of Neo-Classical economics is turning a vice into a "virtue".  Not surprisingly, it doesn't work well.

Not only are the utility extremists batshit insane, they cause GREAT harm to both people and the biosphere.  Our only hope is to ridicule them out of the legitimate debate on our economic future.

And as you know, utility extremists lie thick on the ground throughout the Anglo-American academic world.  In fact, an unquestioned belief in utility is one of the boundary maintaining mechanisms of the profession.  We have lost a whole generation of economists to the cult of utility.  The damage has literally been incalculable.


"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 05:46:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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