Jean Baptiste Colbert: The Rise and Fall of Mercantilism

This is a short video that I did for my AP Euro class last year. Again thanks to Mr. McCauley.  It’s on the topic of mercantilism and particularly the policies and ideology of Jean-Baptiste Colbert.  This is the first upload to theeconplayground youtube channel so be sure to subscribe to that as well.

Please follow and like us:
4

A Rough Outline of the Modular Theory

The following is a rough outline of a philosophical theory that I’ve constructed.  It follows a pragmatist vein that I’ve been reading into after getting into t
he work of University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.  Also a bit of Wittgenstein influence in there.  The italicized sections are my father’s comments.  Anyone with additional insights on either of our
comments is highly encouraged to comment below.

I.The fundamentally undeniable is the existence of reality
(Descartes: I think, therefore I am.)
II. The second undeniable is that reality does not and likely cannot match our perceptions and thoughts perfectly. (more the reverse, our perceptions are limited, we cannot comprehend reality perfectly. The ideal is to understand reality, not for reality to conform to our concept of it.)
III. Reality can never be known but truths can be known.
IV. A truth is a reference for guiding action in reality.
A. They are typically manifested in thoughts which are constructed             with words, but can be manifested in artistic representations.
B. For example time is a truth that we behave by, but can’t prove that it      is a part of reality as the only clue we have to it’s existence is in our            memories and predictions.
V. A truth is judged based on its claims about reality when put into                  practice.
A. In other words when you live by correct truths you will never trip.
B. Truths are correct if they are useful.
C. If you were to behave as if time is not a part of reality you could                 achieve nothing, but if you believed in time you could use it towards           goals.
In summary, a truth can be classified as useful or not useful
Can something that isn’t true be useful? A “Convenient fiction”, like property rights.
VI. One particularly useful way of organizing truth is the module.
A. A module groups truths together as either describing a codified                   section of reality or as a pathway to a certain goal.
1. The module that we call economics is a grouping of truths                            about the section of reality that we call action and choice                             relative to scarcity.
2. The module of parenting is a grouping of truths that relate to                      the goal of raising children.
B.Something can be modularly true, but not have a particular guide to             action.
1. This is the use of the correspondence theory of truth.
Something is true if it corresponds to the module properly.                          This is very useful in the temporal, spatial, and physical                                modules.

What do you mean modularly true. True only within the module, but not outside?
The something is usually called an “assertion” or a “statement”. My hat is black.
VII.  We construct modules of truths to guide us to a position from which we need take no more action.
A. This can be called the position of eternal peace and is the goal and               meaning of our existence as we understand it.
B. The position of eternal peace does not mean motionless and can                 exist in the module of time as a vector of some sort. (See                               Wittgenstein’s quote in the quote page on the sidebar)
But for many, taking action is worth it in itself. Eternal peace is dull and boring.
VIII. The ultimate module is one which claims to group all truths of reality.
A. Traditionally the ultimate module was the religious module.
B. Also the philosophy module.
C. When the module of physics took over as the ultimate module the                “Death of God” occurred.
D. It did not work as truth because it could not guide action towards                eternal peace as it is constructed for. Science alone does not explain            the world enough, yet.

It took a while, most physicists saw themselves as exploring God’s creation.
Bertrand Russell thought: all reality can be written down as mathematical formulas
Goedel proved: it can never be written down completely, there are always statements that cannot be judged true or false.
IX. What I call for is a reconstruction and revival of the religious module as the ultimate module.
That’s pretty strong. You may want to hold off on calling for something. May want to flesh this theory out a bit first. Get feedback.

Please follow and like us:
4

RE: Does Technology Lead to an Existential Crisis?

I recently ran across a post on /r/philosophy by /u/_pseudointellectual that I couldn’t help but respond to.

The thread has since been removed, but you can read the original posters thoughts here.

There has been a lot of buzz in the tech community for some time now about the impending robotic revolution. This, for the most part, hasn’t bothered me, progress is progress. But I recently stumbled across this video on r/all and near the end, Elon Musk raises an extremely interesting question about meaning in life.

Now, this isn’t a post in which I want to start a discussion on our meaning (or lack of) in life. I’m interested in exploring the soon to be realities of those who don’t bother to even question existence but merely ‘get on with it‘ as if it’s a chore. Because this is a place we’ve gotten to in our modern capitalist society. Living, for a lot of people, has become almost a burdensome routine which main focus is situated on employment. So, what happens when those people lose their jobs?

Assuming Musk is right, that a Universal income is implemented and we end up having an almost socialist-like society; the majority of humanity being supported by a Government of some kind. Will this push people into an existential crisis? And possibly even be the cause of many suicides? A situation like this brings us all back to that wonderful -and albeit overused- Camus quote “there is but only one serious philosophical question and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy”.

Of course, as someone with a keen interest in philosophy, this prospect does in some ways delight me, I’m also struck with a chord of sadness for those that simply do not want to confront this reality yet.

What happens when people don’t know what to do with themselves?


EDIT: Also, what would this do to educational institutions? Will people bother getting an education anymore? How about business ventures, if the majority of the world has the same individual amount of wealth and that will suffice, does that entail mass apathy?

My response:

I can speak from an economic lens as that’s what I study, but it does have philosophical importance.

In the past, the economic importance of human labor was mostly the physical aspect and we were all employed with physical labor. i.e. farming, hunting, building

As those got pushed away due to technology, we shifted to a service economy. Most people today are employed providing some sort of often mental service to others. Financial advice, medical advice, being a philosopher, being an economist, writing, and organizing various aspects of society.

Some of these will be replaced by technology again if technology can produce as good or greater output at the same or lower cost. If we employ technology to it’s utmost peak we will be left doing things that robots can never do. Theoretically these things will be those concerned with what is unique to human experience manifesting themselves in art and creativity. This leads to a creativity economy instead of the manual labor economy or the service economy. Kevin Kelly said on an episode of the freakonomics podcast that the last job that robots will take from us is comedy.

As to your question on educational institutions, there are two perspectives on their utility relative to production. One that they grant us skills that we can use, and second that the fact that we have a degree or any form of educational accreditation is information for others to use in deciding if they want to hire us or relate their own choices to us in some way. However, education may also be consumed in the sense that if education is a value on its own, it will be pursued regardless of productive utility. Both this consumption use and possibly the second productive use of education will still exist post-AI totality.

How’d I do? Other thoughts? Thoughts on basic income?

 

Photo Credit to http://www.chilloutpoint.com/featured/human-and-robots-visions-of-the-future.html

Please follow and like us:
4

Economics and Plot: Vol 3, Genres

If you have not yet read Vols 1 and 2, do so before reading this article.  

This volume will cover multiple different genres or approaches to writing a narrative, and how the
applications of economic theory can be understood within and complement each style of storytelling.

 

Historical Accounts & Non-Fiction

It is difficult to think of historical accounts as being an art form, but in fact if plot has real artistic value than what is history, but a series of events, characters, and actions that took place in the real world.  It is quite harder for one to come up with a plot hole when writing a piece of nonfiction, because there are no plot holes in history.  Because we are so confident of the economic integrity of historical accounts these stories can also be used in the greater discipline of economic theory and the study of choice.  Historical examples are used to support or refute theories as long as the sources can be trusted because it can be held that those past events follow true economic laws.

Fiction

The realm of fiction is where a lot of the skill of an artist comes in formulating a plot.  Anything can be made up to fit the story that the author wants to portray.  This comes as a freedom for the writer but also a trap with which they can easily make mistakes in.  Historical accounts are almost by necessity relatable to the real world because of both the economic laws found in them and the real events that relate to the present world.  For fiction writers, the author must be incredibly careful to have the plot follow proper economic reasoning or else the connection and meaning of the work will have little effect.  The only limit of a fiction writer is their imagination meaning that they can create any premise from which to start their plot.  This gives them an incredible range with which to create plots that convey a meaning and is likely why most works that are considered with artistic or literary merit do not limit themselves to non-fiction.  This may also have to with the fact that many facts in history are unknown while a fictitious story can have every single detail filled in by an ambitious writer.  

Allegory

Allegory may be a somewhat synthesis between the real world non-fiction plot and that of a fictional story.  In an allegory, the author creates a fictional story with a plot that includes many plot events, characters, and actions that exist in the real world as well.  It is a way that an author can write the non-fiction story while being able to fill in all necessary plot gaps, and also use their freedom of fiction to accentuate scenarios that they see as important or want to emphasize.  Allegory uses the plot to not only bring in connotations from the possibility of those choices within it’s own plot, but also to raise connotations from the non-fictitious plot of the real world.  After those connections are established the author may further their own plot into how they believe real choices and their consequences will be within their own fictitious model of non-fiction.

Fantasy & Science-Fiction

It may seem initially inane that the problem that a knight has while battling a dragon can have any relevance to attributing meaning to any problems in the real world, but often fantasy and science fiction are cited as some of the greatest works of literary achievement.  It is easy for a creative writer to design a dragon or a spaceship that does not exist in reality, but it is very difficult for an author to create a plot that does not follow economic law.  Even wizards evaluate means and ends, and in one way or another try to maximize their utility.  Markets still function in the same way even if they are for space widgets rather than earth widgets.  Fantasy and Science Fiction are used often with allegory to create a fictional world in which fantastical creatures and aliens are exaggerations of the real world things which they represent.  It is difficult to use other scientific possibilities to represent reality, and the use of fantasy and science fiction are an incredibly powerful shortcut for writers to use in connecting their fantastical fictitious world to the real one.

Games

A game is typically not thought of as a plot, but in fact might be the best example of one.  In a game the rules and setting are the economic environment, the players are the characters, and the various choices they have throughout the game are the determinants of the plot.  This may not apply to certain abstract games such as puzzles.  The only thing that game designers choose are the rules and the design of the game pieces.  The rest is left up to the choices of the players, and the rolling of dice.  A game designer may use the theme of a game to allow players to realize the connection between the choices they are making, and what they are valuing to a real world example of someone in that situation.  

 

The goal of these posts was to synthesize the understanding of what makes a plot work and how choices are made in the real world.  The validity or relevance of a plot being based on the having its plot points connected to economic law is the same as the validity of a painting having its colors be within the range of the light spectrum that can be seen by the human eye.  Different genres function similarly to different strokes of a brush.  Games are analogous to the painter being able to draw themselves and others into their painting.  If we can consider a painting beautiful because of the connotations that it draws the viewer to because of its masterful combination of color, then we can consider a plot beautiful because of the connotations that it draws the reader to because of its masterful combination of economics.

Picture credit to http://www.holyworlds.org/blog/?p=1494

Please follow and like us:
4

Two Christmases and a Birthday Worth

There is a lot of economics in Christmas, and I’ve been waiting to post this article since I first saw a recent episode of South Park.  South Park just recently finished up its 20th season in which they commented on a wide range of topics as they usually do.  However, one particular joke in one particular scene stuck out to me.  

Did you catch it?  When Cartman’s laptop, iPad, and iPhone are being destroyed he pleads to the boys by saying “This is like two Christmases and a birthday worth of stuff!”  Imagine if Cartman had been perhaps a 30 year old man.  He very likely would have cried out, “This is like 3000$ worth of stuff!”.  Kids, especially before they’re teenagers, are in a very different economic situation than most people, but they still function alongside many of the same basic rules.

Money is used for many different purposes, one of which is that it functions as a unit of account.  This means that when we try to measure value between items we refer to how much money we would be willing to spend on it to give our desire a numerical value.  Since money is divisible, transferable, and valuable it lends itself to this use.  However, it is only useful to this purpose from a perspective where you are actually using money regularly.  

Children rarely buy a majority of their own needs with money, but they still spend something.  When an adult spends money on something their cost is an opportunity cost.  They lose the opportunity to buy the next best thing for the same amount of money.  Kids often make a list of things that they want for Christmas, and they also often order their list.  When children ask for the top present for Christmas or their Birthday they lose the opportunity to ask for the second thing on their list.  Thus to children, Christmases and birthdays function like a unit of account allowing Cartman to say that his electronics are worth to him Two Christmases and a birthday.  Gift-giving occasions are still not money as they can’t be exchanged, spent on anything, or saved up over time, but they offer a route for children to receive one of the many societal benefits that we gain from a currency system.  

Please follow and like us:
4

Economics and Plot: Vol 2, Applications

If you have not read Vol 1 yet ,do so before reading this article.

As I stated in the last article, a plot can only be considered relevant at connoting a message to the audience if it follows economic reasoning.  This doesn’t make economics the sole determinate of how good a story is.  Remember, this method can only be applied to the pure plot.  Other literary devices can be just as effective if not more so.  We can still use a criticism of the piece through economics to determine a plot’s coherence.  Coherence is not in and of itself a artistically superior pillar of a story, but is necessary to open up certain doors to the writer.  In this article, I will elaborate on some of the applications that plot coherence offers to a work.

 

Plot Holes and the Suspension of Disbelief

A plot hole is a gap in the flow of logic in a plot or the blatant disregard of relevant information.  If the author doesn’t regard information about the world that they have already established then the actions of the characters will likely be economically incoherent, and limit the value of the story.  It is unrealistic to assume that an author can create a world that has absolutely zero plot holes, but as a rule of thumb the fewer plot holes the better.  Plot holes are often mistaken to be a part of the plot that isn’t explained.  However a plot hole has to directly violate economic law not just possibly violate it.  The author gives the audience relatively little information about the world behind the story, and there are many other economic factors that may affect the surface story.  An example of this misinterpretation that often annoyed me was in The Lord of the Rings.  Many plot hole whistle-blowers will claim that Gandalf could easily have called upon the Great Eagles of Mirkwood to drop the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom instead of making poor Frodo do it.  However, unlike most of Tolkien’s work he gave very little information as to the background of the Eagles.  Even though we see Gandalf acting friendly with them we really have no idea what their goals and motivations are in the world as a whole.  The suspension of disbelief is occasionally necessary to keep a plot coherent.

 

Crossroads as a Question

Often characters will find themselves in a situation where they have to make a decision.  If they had all of the knowledge that they needed  to make this decision they wouldn’t find themselves at the crossroads and the plot would continue.  When a character is stuck in this position the reader is presented with the same question.  By showing that a character lacks information it asks the reader whether they have the proper information to answer the question as well.  This may be transient knowledge about the plot of the story, or it may be something deeper that in fact the reader or author also does not know such as a moral question.  The reader might in fact have an answer that neither the characters in the story nor the author has which can lead to quite a bit of frustration.

 

Perspectives as a means of Revealing Information

The amount of information that a reader has about the fictional world is incredibly important to what the reader can draw from the plot.  The way that an author designs the telling of their story is integral to the amount of information that the reader has and the best example of this is the perspective of the story.  First person limits all of the reader’s knowledge down to one person, and the crossroads method can be applied more often.  A plot from one perspective can evoke more thoughts of personal choice and moral deliberation.  Third person gives the reader far more information, and gets them to understand the greater world.  A multi-perspective presentation of the plot can offer more social, political, or economic questions because they give the reader enough information to believe they could actually answer such questions in both the fictional world and in similar circumstances in the real one.  

 

Incoherency

No author is perfect and plot holes do often arise in a work, but this doesn’t mean that nothing can be understood from the incoherent story.  Sometimes incoherence, intentional or not, can shock us to the degree that we realize what makes this plot incoherent.  Often comedy will use this tool, and a particularly good example would be South Park.  The characters commonly act in incredibly contradictory, and not utility optimizing ways.  This brings out flaws in the characters that represent people in the real world, and make us laugh.  When we find unintentional incoherence it also might tell us something about the author’s views or understanding of how the real world operates, and whether our view of what that is is validated by this plot.
Vol 3. Will cover specific genres and elaborate how they use plot in their own ways.

Photo Credit by http://feelgrafix.com/1001400-crossroads.html

Please follow and like us:
4

Economics and Plot: Vol 1, Theory

Last year, I wrote an essay for my high school senior project.  Originally I began writing for fun, but then quickly realized I needed to turn something in (sunk costs I guess).  The question that I wanted to answer is, how can we relate the study of economics to characters in a fictional story, and what does it tell us about plot as an art form.  The essay itself was a bit too long to upload all in one go, but I thought I would summarize it in multiple parts.  This one is the theory, second are some applications, and thirdly the theory in the context of various genres.

Economics is traditionally a science for use in the concrete world.  However, I want to broaden the uses for the discipline.  Economics can be used anywhere where scarcity and decision makers exist to make choices.  When these things exist we observe certain patterns that we call economic laws.  These laws certainly exist in our world and we don’t have a choice to live without them.  Our intimate yet often unrealized connection with economics can lead us to appreciate the economic situations of others, and draw meaning and understanding from purely their position in the world.  Many people have probably already used economics in this artistic style before without even realizing it.  What most people would call plot in a piece of literature or a film, could be described as a series of actions, events, and values intertwining to create a story.

If economics is the understanding of the laws by which individuals make decisions in scarcity then any imaginary plot which assumes scarcity would also obey these laws.  It may be difficult to differentiate between plot and other parts of the work of art.  In film for example, the cinematography, lighting, acting skill, and editing are all important parts of the artwork, but none of them directly affect the plot.  If we were to strip away all artistic elements of a story and describe it in purely terms of the plot we have the plot all by itself.  This can be called the Pure Plot.  For example,  the epic poem of the Aeneid describes the great journey of Aeneas and his compatriots after the Trojan War.  The poem is famous for its use of poetry to emphasize points of meaning complimented by Virgil’s excellent craftsmanship of the Latin language.  If we ignore the poetry all that we have left is the pure plot.   Here is a pure plot version of Book 2:

  1. Aeneas decides to tell the Carthaginians the story of Troy’s fall.
  2. One morning, the Trojans find a large wooden horse in front of their gate, and the Greek ships are no longer on the horizon
  3. They must debate over whether or not to bring it into the city.
  4. Laocoon, a priest of Neptune, warns them that this horse is just another one of Ulysses’ tricks.
  5. Laocoon is then eaten by a serpent from the sea.
  6. The Trojans take this as an omen, and bring the horse in.  
  7. At night, Ulysses and his men come out of the horse and let the Greek army in.  
  8. Troy is destroyed.

Even though this passage has thrown out all of the “artistic” elements it still has a relation to our world in that the economic laws which govern the individuals in the story are the same as those that govern us, or at least they should be.  With a good understanding of how economics is the range in which plot is formed, economic analysis can be used to judge the validity of a plot and help readers and critics judge the validity of a plot as an artistic piece.  If a plot is artistic because it connects to economic realities of our world then connections that more effectively connote the message the artist wants to get across to more people can be considered better.  One way in which plot can be considered objectively better is that if it properly follows the economic laws that it is based on in the first place.  If a character’s action clearly violates an economic law then there is no way that that plot, or at least that section of the plot, can connote anything about the real world.  It would be the same as if an artist were to paint in a color that does not exist.  The reason that green can be effective in a painting is because we experience green in the real world and can connect the painting to those other parts of our life and the artist recognizes this.  If an artist was to paint in a nonexistent color there is no possible way that we could connect this artwork to our lives because we have nothing to connect it to and therefore can make no connotations about it. Strangely enough, this is a problem that no painter will ever have to face unless someone figures out how to paint in infrared or ultraviolet.  Authors however must make sure to avoid this mistake.

Vol 2 will cover some applications that I have discovered of how Pure Plot is used to connote something to the reader.

Thanks to Sarah Chaga Crispin and David McCauley as I came up with the idea in their class.

Picture Credit to http://www.amaravatiproperty.net/amaravathi/plots-for-sale

Please follow and like us:
4

METALLICultural Costs

When I firstMetallica Concert listened to Metallica it changed my life.  Before a certain point I would have told someone that asked about my musical tastes that I outright didn’t like music.  After Metallica, and the subsequent dive headfirst into headbangerdom I would proudly call myself a metal-head.  Recently, Metallica released a new album, Hardwired…To Self Destruct, so I thought it appropriate to write about an idea that I got from experiencing Metallica myself and delving deeper into the history of thrash metal culture.  What makes Metallica, thrash ,and metal unique to other more popular genres of music is that the music is directly tied to a greater culture, and that culture incurs certain costs.  Metallica just so happened to be born in the right place at the right time.  

Firstly, we need to actually define what a culture is.  The way I want to organize this is by designating culture to a special kind of utility.  Cultural utility is unique from other kinds of utility in that cultural utility is the satisfaction gained from a good or activity because it is shared with others.  You cannot have culture with only one person.  On my own, I can listen to Metallica in my room or in the car, but at that moment I am not gaining cultural utility.  The cultural utility of Metallica comes when I go to a concert, or when I talk to a fellow fan and we share the bond that the music creates.  A more grounded example would be with the way that we use the road.  If there were no other cars on the road, driving on the left or right side, would be largely indifferent to most people.  However, since the road is usually filled with many cars, the cultural utility of us all driving on the right is great as it prevents accidents.  None of us really have ever made the explicit choice to drive on the right side, but the government recognizes that a law like enforcing driving on the right provides cultural utility.  

So with every culture, there are two necessary costs.  One is the cost of producing that specific good or service which is shared.  The other, since we’re dealing with multiple people in culture, is communication or transaction costs.  So if either one of these two costs is high, a culture may have a difficult time taking root, and when they are low new cultures have the opportunity to spring up.  The most basic example of communication and transaction costs being low is when people live very close to each other.  It’s not too hard to yell at someone across the street, or to make a short distance phone call.  This is often why we like to think of cultures in terms of ethnicity or country.  

Now that we have this theory, we can apply it to Metallica and the Bay Area Thrash culture.  Thrash metal bands are known for mostly coming out of the San Francisco Bay area, but Metallica actually originated in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles was saturated by glam metal bands, which were the opposite of everything that Metallica stood for.  However, record labels would only pick up glam bands, as they were the ones who made the money.  Thrash bands didn’t have a way to produce their music on a massive scale.  However, during this time the costs of recording studio equipment were falling, and a new record label Megaforce Records popped up to sign Metallica.  The still prevalent Metal Blade Records opened to sign other bands like Slayer.  The recording costs in this case are the same as the costs of producing the shared good, the music.

But only producing music would not have created the cultural explosion that it did.  It needed an easy way to communicate.  For thrash, it was cassette tapes and metal magazines.  Cassette tapes allowed thrash fans to easily reproduce the music and spread it to friends anywhere in the world.  Magazines allowed them to talk to each other, and consolidate information on bands such as tour-dates or album releases.  These both contributed to the ease with which the thrash culture was able to grow, and how Metallica was able to be as dynamic and wild as they were when they finally reached San Francisco.

So thrash was built on the backs of not only talented musicians, but savvy entrepreneurs who built the thrash metal culture and studios, tapes, and magazines.  There may be out there cultures who are not dependent on communication costs or the costs of producing the cultural good.  If you can think of any more interesting examples that either confirm of break this theory, leave a comment. Regardless, Metallica is still super metal. \m/

Photo from http://marklange.typepad.com/blitzkrieg/2013/08/metallica-returns-after-20-years.html

Information from Metal Evolution Episode 6: Thrash

Please follow and like us:
4

Democritus’ Atom of Economics

The Greek philosopher Democritus pioneered a theory in physics that all matter is made up of indivisible, invisible, and homogeneous particles called atoms.  All of the laws of physics were based upon the properties of atoms.  Modern physicists do not believe that atoms have these exact properties, but that they are made up of further particles, electrons, neutrons, and protons, which are made up of even further particles.  However, physicists can draw on some fundamental truths which function to modern physics the way that the atom functioned to Democritus’ view of the natural world.  Namely, these truths are that matter and energy exist and have certain qualities that interact to create the physical world.  All of thought that is in light of these two truths is what we call physics.  Why matter and energy exist in the way that they do is left to other fields such as philosophy, theology, and perhaps even math.  For every field of study there are fundamental principles upon which it is based.  For math, these might be self-proving theorems such as 0=0 or 2<3.  For biology, these are the existence of cells which interact in various ways to create life.  This is all related to the question which I want to answer today.  What is the “basic particle” or “Democritus’ Atom” of economics (I think I know the answer I just wanted to go through a few things first).

Economics students first learn that people deal with utility.  Utility is the value that something has in light of the goals of the actor.  In that sense, isn’t the entire economy made out of utility?  At every single level of the economy, with every single step, we encounter utility.  Does this make utility our basic particle?  I don’t think so.  The nature of utility doesn’t explain why the economy is the way that it is, in the same fashion that the laws of energy and matter explain the entire physical world.  Utility merely functions similarly to how potential and kinetic energy function in the physical world.  It keeps goods flowing through the economy as it gives those goods reasons to move and their actual motion.  

So what about the resources?  Could the goods that hold the utility be our basic particle?  Utility is just a quality that various goods and services hold in the eyes of actors.  Goods and services are at every level and step of the economy along with utility.  All market transactions involve some form of goods whether it be labor, money, or other physical goods.  It would be hard to imagine an economy without goods and services.  As with utility, their ever-presence does not make them a fundamental principle.  Again the various qualities of the goods do not explain why they are where they are in the economy, or again why they have as much utility to various people as they have.

Alright enough screwing around.   In physics what is being studied is the interaction of the qualities of matter and energy to create the physical world.  In economics, it is the interaction of finity and decision-making (sometimes rational, sometimes irrational).  Every interaction of energy and matter results in a physical event, and every interaction of finity and decision-making results in the phenomenon which we call scarcity and an economic event or economic choice.  We then come to the already accepted definition of economics; the study of choice.  

Being that this is a playground, let’s play around with this.  Suppose neither finity nor decision-making existed.  This world has infinite possibilities and no way to discern between them.  There we cannot perceive economics. Suppose only one existed.  If there were finite material yet no decision-making agents, then there is only so many possibilities yet again no one to make choices between them, and they play out on their own.  The situation in which there are decision-making agents yet infinite material is the same as the famous question, “What is the economy of heaven like?”  The answer is that there is no economy in heaven.  The decision making-agents already have all that they could possibly perceive as valuable and therefore have no need to make choices.  

So there we have it; the economic choice is our economist’s Democritus’ atom.  The other proposed ideas of utility and goods are very core properties of economic study, but are still emergent from the economic choice.  Utility exists because there are agents which have goals to which they assign utility, and the resources have utility because the agent is trying to manage around their scarcity.  This fundamental object of the economic choice is what separates economics from other disciplines even though it is still dependent upon other fields such as physics and psychology.  The more that economics focuses on its own base particle, the more confident we can be in a new economic idea.

Physics Proofreading credit to Amartya Banerjee

Photo Credit: http://www.iep.utm.edu/democrit/

Please follow and like us:
4