Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Manifesto Manifests Today

So now we switch to figuring out how to rationally argue that the well-being of an entity like a country is best served by a mixed economy.  To state the problem in a negative form, how to refute a market fundamentalist approach to public policy.

Both individuals and collectives face issues too complex to be rationally analyzed in a complete manner.  Natural fluctuations like weather, earthquakes etc have unpredictability, and in a complex world the actions of other countries can have important implications beyond our control. This argues for the necessity of the decentralized decision-making role of markets, the unconsciously-determined equilibrium of aggregate needs and wants.  But the facilitation of these markets occurs in other contexts, a combination of conscious collective efforts to structure institutions and other foundations and institutions that are unconscious.  Maybe unconscious it not the best term, and the point is that they are non-economic or have an existence independent of what we will call a sphere or realm of economic interaction.

Some of these non-economic structures are comparatively ephemeral, such as the government of a society by a group with a particular ideology, and others are perhaps best described as structural, such as the social nature that humans have evolved or the importance people place on fairness and the undeniable prevalence of selfishness as well as altruism.  Others are intermediate between the two, such as long-evolved social structures such as shared languages and legal frameworks. When it comes to discussion of current economic issues, the discussion likely revolves around the particulars of specific economic institutions and frameworks, and the question here is the embeddedness of these external frameworks in the workings of institutions and policies directly affecting specifically-economic activity.

To frame the goals of this investigation and discourse in economic terms, we seek to discern the framework that maximizes the productivity-consumption-enjoyment mix, and in particular how this can be maximized for the United States.  Universal truths are important in their own right and important to the goal as described, and the United States is a large country, so its efforts to maximize this mix will have to account for feed-back as the rest of the world adjusts and responds to events in the United States.  But, since the world is significantly bigger than the United States and to a non-trivial extent evolving outside of its direct control, and since the author of this text does not expect to ever reside elsewhere in any meaningful sense, or have his descendants do so, that country will be the locus of our concern.