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But the key point is that even as you get towards the periphery of [science], there's still a touchstone - a benchmark, a key notion - that it's possible, with time and effort and collaborative cross-checking, to confirm or deny models and to improve predictions in a useful and reliable way.

To most adults, this seems a reasonable position.

Unfortunately politics, law and most of economics are based on a completely premise. If you're assuming there's some interest in objective truth in any of the above - there isn't, except to the limited extent that reality is either absolutely unavoidable, or temporarily and disposably useful.

I am reminded about Veblen's Theory of Business Enterprise in which he argues that the habits of thought of the industrial workers are shaped by dialy interaction with the impersonal laws of nature, while the business class lives in a world of human convention, and that this difference in habits of thought explains the iconoclastic characteristics of the socialist movement in the 19th century.
But after all qualifications have been made, the fact still is apparent that the everyday life of those classes which are engaged in business differs materially in the respect cited from the life of the classes engaged in industry proper. There is an appreciable and widening difference between the habits of life of the two classes; and this carries with it a widening difference in the discipline to which the two classes are subjected. It induces a difference in the habits of thought and the habitual grounds and methods of reasoning resorted to by each class. There results a difference in the point of view, in the facts dwelt upon, in the methods of argument, in the grounds of validity appealed to; and this difference gains in magnitude and consistency as the differentiation of occupations goes on. So that the two classes come to have an increasing difficulty in understanding one another and appreciating one another's convictions, ideals, capacities, and shortcomings.

...

The business classes are conservative, on the whole, but such a conservative bent is, of course, not peculiar to them. These occupations are not the only ones whose reasoning prevailingly moves on a conventional plane. Indeed, the intellectual activity of other classes, such as soldiers, politicians, the clergy, and men of fashion, moves on a plane of still older conventions; so that if the training given by business employments is to be characterized as conservative, that given by these other, more archaic employments should be called reactionary.(12*) Extreme conventionalization means extreme conservatism. Conservatism means the maintenance of conventions already in force. On this head, therefore, the discipline of modern business life may be said simply to retain something of the complexion which marks the life of the higher barbarian culture, at the same time that it has not retained the disciplinary force of the barbarian culture in so high a state of preservation as some of the other occupations just named.

...

The socialistic disaffection shows a curious tendency to overrun certain classes and to miss certain others. The men in the skilled mechanical trades are peculiarly liable to it, while at the extreme of immunity is probably the profession of the law. Bankers and other like classes of business men, together with clergymen and politicians, are also to be held free of serious aspersion; similarly, the great body of the rural population are immune, including the population of the country towns, and in an eminent degree the small farmers of the remoter country districts;(22*) so also the delinquent classes of the cities and the populace of half-civilized and barbarous countries. The body of unskilled laborers, especially those not associated with the men in the skilled mechanical trades, are not seriously affected. The centres of socialistic disaffection are the more important industrial towns, and the effective nucleus of the socialistic malcontents is made up of the more intelligent body of workmen in the highly organized and specialized industries. Not that socialism does not spread in virulent form outside this narrow range, but at a farther remove from the centre of dispersion it appears rather sporadically and uncertainly, while within this field it is fairly endemic. As regards the educated classes, socialistic views are particularly likely to crop out among the men in the material sciences.

He also speaks to the conflict between the industrial urban proletariat and the rural populations:
The advocates of the new creed have made little headway among the rural classes of Europe, whether peasant farmers or farm laborers. The rural proletariat has hitherto proved virtually impermeable.(23*) The discipline of their daily life leaves their spirit undisturbed on the plane of conventionality and anthropomorphism, and the changes to which they aspire lie within the scope of the conventionalities which have grown out of these circumstances of their life and which express the habit of mind enforced by these circumstances.



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 06:39:50 AM EST
On this head, therefore, the discipline of modern business life may be said simply to retain something of the complexion which marks the life of the higher barbarian culture, at the same time that it has not retained the disciplinary force of the barbarian culture in so high a state of preservation as some of the other occupations just named.

This is exactly right - but it's rarely acknowledged.

And if you're in that class you don't need to care about the laws of nature, because if you can use persuasion or force to make others care for you, it's no longer your job to care.

It's more efficient to leave the lower classes to deal with physical and scientific reality, while you get on with the business of ordering them around for your benefit.

But - as I'm suggesting - this is an incredibly bad basis for anything that pretends to be a democracy. Eventually it fails to work, because even if you own the entire population of the world, it can only buffer you against (e.g.) climate change to a limited extent.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 6th, 2011 at 06:49:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...the habits of thought of the industrial workers are shaped by dialy interaction with the impersonal laws of nature, while the business class lives in a world of human convention, and that this difference in habits of thought explains the iconoclastic characteristics of the socialist movement in the 19th century.

This provides another rationale for the de-industrialization of the 20th Century USA, aided, of course, by the emergence of that staple of political philosophy for the culturally illiterate technical specialist -- Randian libertarianism.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 7th, 2011 at 10:36:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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