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Friday, March 5, 2010

Rigueur mortis

I like this pun.
"Rigueur" is the current French translation for "austerity".
It is the medecine that is being prescribed by fiscal conservatives all over the planet, and that smug Irishman (or Scotch man ?) in the link that Yoyo (?) stuck down for us over there in the jungle is the kind of person who obviously gets all excited over the prospect of austerity, in the face of a Stieglitz who, in my opinion, has a much better grasp on the... psychological aspects of the financial crisis, and a much better understanding of just what fiat money is. (I am not sure that I really understand exactly what fiat money is, but I am not sure that people like that Irish (?) on the BBC program are as competent to give me lessons as they think they are...)
I still maintain that fiscal conservatism at this point in time is part of the elder brother, entitlement psychology. It is particularly espoused by finger pointing people. Ones who feel self righteous. Autonomous.
I neither feel self righteous (well, at least I try to limit this feeling in myself...) and definitely NOT autonomous. I am extremely dependant. I AM somebody's dependant, to use the accepted vocabulary.
There's lots of talk about bailing out/not bailing out.
And I am starting to change my tune on this subject.
For complicated reasons, that have to do with what I stuck down in the jungle about the economics of benediction and malediction.
I said that the very IDEA of growth is based on the economics of benediction.
This means that...
The paradigm of growth, what enables us to understand it can be seen when you draw a family tree.
If you have ever seen a family tree, you will notice that it starts with two people at the top, and then it spreads, until at the bottom it takes on the form of a big pine tree. (There are different ways of drawing the tree, this way is one of the most familiar).
The growth that you see in the family tree, from one generation to the next is, in its own way, a form of exponential growth. This kind of growth is like... multiplying the loaves and the fishes.
One "little" detail that you need to keep in mind : exponential growth, benediction is ONLY POSSIBLE OVER TIME. WHAT MAKES IT EXPONENTIAL IS the way that it deploys over time. NO TIME, NO EXPONENTIAL GROWTH.
I maintain that this paradigm is what organizes (or should organize ? not sure...) the economy.
When, in Genesis, God says "multiply", he is talking about this "economic" growth that can not be separated from the idea of generation itself, from... copulation, from giving birth, etc.
These paradigms are deeply entrenched in us. Culturally. Perhaps biologically. I'm not sure.
So, back to the crisis.
John Maynard Keynes, from what I have heard (mea culpa, I haven't read Keynes, just about him...) is one of the few economists to really understand the psychological foundations of economics, and these foundations are VERY VERY important.
Keynes understood that in order for human beings to feel alive, they need to GROW. Exponentially.
This means that, ANY PLAN, ANY POLICY WHICH PROMOTES REDUCTION IN ANY FORM enters into conflict with this human necessity to grow.
Fiscal austerity MAY be technically "wise", looked at from the balance sheet.
BUT, and this is a big but...
The danger with REDUCING is that you propulse yourself and your entourage into the spiral of MALEDICTION, as I suggested.
EVERYTHING that is under the sign of the.. NEGATIVE is negatively charged with... NEGATIVE meaning. For all of us.
That is why we need to be careful about the "solutions" we find to these problems.
I'm going to nuance this generalization to read... REDUCING FOR THE SAKE OF REDUCING is the biggest danger. And I think that the austerity packages are a form of reducing for the sake of reducing. Reduction as an end in and of itself. And I am firmly opposed to this. Reduction in one sector must be counterbalanced by growth, the perception of growth in ANOTHER area, at the very least.
Austerity was... NOT THE ANSWER for post WW1 Germany either...
I'm not sure that human beings are capable of seeing austerity as anything other than a form of punishment and/or humiliation.


Dink said...


Our psyches will need to change. Because we can't change the laws of thermodynamics.

We evolved on a planet with lots of room to expand. We don't have that luxury any more.

Debra said...

You're missing my point Dink.
You're NOT reading me well.
Our psyches are NOT going to change.
So... we must accomodate them.
Anything else is a form of hubristic suicide.
May I suggest that what you call the laws of thermodynamics are yet another elaborate... BELIEF SYSTEM ?
If you and Thai think through your fractal thing to its logical conclusion you MUST conclude that... the theory of fractals is ONE MORE BELIEF SYSTEM.
It is NOT truth. There is NO truth. No truth that religion can give us certainly. But neither is there a truth that science will provide either.

Things are more complicated than you think.
Trust me...

Thai said...

How about this as a compromise Deb between our ways of thought:
Math is an illusion so therefore so too must fractals be illusory.

But if one has no belief system at all, then why worry about repeating the sins of the past?

Indeed sin goes out that window very quickly indeed.

Debra said...

Thai, I would say that it is possible to survive without a belief system, and that this absence of belief SYSTEM (the key word is system...) will not necessarily result in the kind of despair where everything is possible.
I am suggesting that the LIMIT exists...
in the physical contact with the FACE of our neighbor.
And that when we think about our neighbor in terms of a physical presence with thoughts and emotions similar to ours, then the limit will exist.
This is what Jesus means when he says : "Do unto others as you would have done unto you".
It is a form of indexing our behavior on the limit that our neighbor will afford.
Afterwards, of course, the really difficult part consists of determining who our "neighbor" is.
These days I have a VERY VERY inclusive definition of neighbor.
It includes... the animals. All living, feeling beings, at least.
For me, this is sufficient foundation for my ethical behavior.
I don't need a belief system with this thinking.
I don't need to believe in... GOOD/EVIL, for example, with this foundation.
So I... scrap it.

Thai said...

re: "do unto others..."

The problem with this idea in isolation is that it is only one view on a relationship. Many people are treating their neighbor as they wish to be treated and yet their neighbor is not treating them back the same way AND despite being repeatedly asked to "stop", the neighbor continues his behavior.

Debra said...

Yep, Thai, your statement is a reflexion on what happens when you treat your neighbor as you would wish to be treated, all the while projecting YOUR ideas of what he wants onto him, and while EXPECTING him to treat you the way that YOU want.
This is not what Jesus is saying.
Jesus says... treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated, not by pinning YOUR prejudices and desires onto him, but by doing what HE wants.
If and when you manage to do that (to the best of your ability WITHOUT sacrificing your desire, and this is a very delicate problem), THEN the benediction paradigm opens up.
YOU feel rich. HE feels rich. Wealth is created in the space BETWEEN you which does not belong to you, or him.
Otherwise you are engaging in a form of psychological trade off. You are holding back.
You are saying... "I'll treat you the way you want to be treated IF you treat ME the way I want to be treated."
This is the entitlement trap. What our modern democracies have fallen for.
But... it does NOT create an economy based on benediction.
I will get back to this in future posts.

Thai said...

re: "... to the best of your ability WITHOUT sacrificing your desire, and this is a very delicate problem"

Deb, I get your entitlement point, honest.

AND you could drive the whole world through your "delicate problem" comment.

reminds me of the old "with the wave of a pen he made the problem go away".

I'll admit I am being my cynical self right now but I am highly skeptical you or anyone else can square that little circle.

If you can, I am all ears. But I think it is just going to be more complexity on top of complexity and no matter how far you go, you will still have another rabbit hole. ;-)

Debra said...

Thai, your comment is why I say that cynicism has a SECRET underpinning of despair.
Lack of faith.
But... faith (I'm not saying faith in God, careful...) is such a liberating experience.
And reason and faith ARE compatible.
They apply to different areas of existence, that's all.
I think...

Thai said...

Deb, do you how many people I have met that kill other people? How many people that knowing infect others with HIV, etc..? How many people I have met that do things most people would be stunned to hear? And all day long I hear- "but I am mentally ill, etc..."

Do you know how much I see people clearly "lie" or "cheat" each other, etc..?

Trust me, it ends up in the emergency department.

I have faith in "most" people- honest... Unless you want to get into semantic definitions of what "faith" means, in which case I am sure you can find definitions that do not apply to me. But I am pretty sure I can find examples if you do as to how those definitions of "faith" do not apply to you as well.

As I said before, I am not religious. I sympathize with many of the views of religious adherents, but I am fundamentally not religious and do not think I ever will be.

I have been successfully persuaded by the data that religious adherents as a group have no more of this kind of faith than atheists like me. There is just as much sin on their hand as is on those of us who do not follow their creed.

Just the way I see the world. It is what it is.

Debra said...

But Thai, we have already had this discussion before.
I think that MAN cannot live without religion.
YOU are a man (human species).
YOU, thus CANNOT live without religion.
The big question is...
Are you intelligent/honest enough to recognize religion in yourself when you see it ?
It may not look all warm and fuzzy the way you think that religion looks.
But... maybe not all religion looks warm and fuzzy.
On ER situations...
Remember my daddy was a medical examiner...
He saw them AFTER you got finished with them...

Debra said...

By the way, Thai, I think that you will be happy to learn that on my loony forum (which is now up and running in a new version), I have always been THE FIRST PERSON to discourage resorting to any etiquette of mental illness.
But... when you have the white lab coats running around taking people's temperatures, and slotting them into little diagnostic boxes, HOW CAN YOU HAVE THE CHUZPAH TO COMPLAIN AFTERWARDS THAT PEOPLE SAY THEY'RE MENTALLY ILL ??
Because some lab coat, somewhere has TOLD THEM that they are mentally ill ?
Gotta take those disadvantages there with your advantages, Thai.
No shirking, now.

Thai said...

Fair enough

Yet as I think you are aware, I do not always agree with my colleagues.

Indeed, here is a little proof. ;-)

Debra said...

Bad boy, Thai.
I followed that link and spent over half an hour reading and commenting.
(Audible sounds of gasping and gargling as the flood rushes over and down...)

Thai said...


I thought you might like that site.

Have fun... I will be signing off it as I had my say and psychiatry is not really my thing.

FYI- if you say anything too off topic Carlat will block it as he does not let just any old comment on the blog.

I think you will meet a number of very intelligent people with positions very similar to your own so go at it.

Be well

Debra said...

Yeah, well, I just may be a little too UNDISCIPLINED for that site these days.
I'm having too much fun here where I have carved out my niche and can write what I want, mostly.
I'm a writer first, and a shrink last.

Debra said...

Testing, testing...
I got through the screen.
He must think I've got something to say, huh ? ;-)

Thai said...

Actually, I too liked it.

But our usual diversions would not be tolerated on that blog as a general rule

Debra said...

How do you know ??
Sometimes people need to be reminded of what having fun means.
Too many po faces can get deathly hubristic AND boring...

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits