Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Continuing from here. Matthew Yglesias, presumably without realizing the implications, makes the case against science as moral principle..
Reader A.L. observes to me that Gerecht is completely mangling La Rouchfoucauld’s maxim here. His point was that even though human frailty often leads people into immoral behavior, the fact that people feel compelled to hypocritically condemn sins that they themselves may commit emphasizes the soundness of the underlying moral principle. For example, any normal parent is going to be a human being who sometimes acts in a greedy and selfish manner. But any decent parent is still going to teach his or her children that greed and selfishness are wrong and that those impulses ought to be resisted. This will, yet, make the parents somewhat hypocritical. But that’s the homage vice pays to virtue — the point being that we really should teach people to eschew greed and selfishness.
My comment
That fact that you refer to the above as a truism is interesting, when of course that’s not how economics is taught. In economics realism is reason, and any argument for idealism even as counterbalance is dismissed. Any argument for the existence of divided consciousness is considered a defense of irrationalism.
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note taking: my last comment from Rodrik's page
The romantic foibles of comfortable leftists deserve as much mockery as they can draw. But that mockery can turn easily into mockery of the workers themselves. And that, taken to the level of absolute contempt, is embedded in the standard defense of neoliberal economic policy. Go there if you want to witness the celebration of other people's misery. Rodrik knows this (or he should). And if he'd focused on the distinction then there'd be nothing to take offense at; disagreement and offense not being synonyms. As it is his comments are more lazy more symptomatic of intellectual laziness than Klein's.
That's a problem no amount of mathematical calculation can solve.
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note taking: comment removed by Henry Farrell
Great art is not cerebral. “Literary” fiction is fiction that has transcended its genre: Jane Austen began with a genre. What comes down to us as literary fiction is the art not of naming but of architecture and description. What is written as literary fiction is often little more than mannerism and affect. Cerebral and speculative fiction, “philosophical art,” begins from ideas and assumption [and ends as illustration]. By the definitions used by all here the Iliad and the Odyssey would be genre fiction.
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More from Rodrik
Self-discovery in practice

It is remarkable to see something in theory work so well in practice. Ricardo Hausmann and I wrote a paper several years ago called "Economic Development as Self-Discovery," where the idea was that entrepreneurship in a developing country consists of discovering the underlying cost structure--what can and cannot be produced profitably. Initial investors in a new line of economic activity face a great amount of uncertainty, since foreign technology always needs some local adaptation. Plus, their cost discovery soon becomes public knowledge--everyone can observe whether their projects are successful or not--so the social value they generate exceeds their private costs. If they succeed, much of the gains are socialized through entry and emulation, whereas if they fail, they bear the full costs.

Some of the what I have been seeing in Ethiopia is a picture perfect illustration of this process at work. Most notable in this respect is the flower industry, which was started by some courageous entrepreneurs who had observed the success of the industry in nearby Kenya and wondered if it could be made to work in Ethiopia as well. Even though much of the technology is standard, local soil conditions make a lot of difference to the economics of growing flowers, and a whole range of other services--from daily cargo flights to high-quality cardboard packaging--has to be in place before the operation can succeed. To its credit, the Ethiopian government understood the need to subsidize these pioneer firms, through cheap land and tax holidays, and the industry took off. Exports have reached $100 million from zero in just a few years. There are now around 90 flower farms in the country, with latecomers the beneficiary of the tinkering that early investors have undertaken.
A defense of economic monoculture.
Robert Feinman comments
A perfect example of a poor nation getting suckered into providing luxury goods for the wealthy ones.

How is growing flowers (and shipping them by air) helping to solve issues of food shortage, consumption of fossil fuels (transportation, fertilizer and pesticides) and use of scarce tillable land for necessities?

Instead of promoting self sufficiency or regional trade the country gets to become a client state of the west and dependent upon it by supplying a market which it doesn't have any control over. If next year the Europeans decide they don't want flowers anymore then what happens to the local economy?

I see this story, not as a "success", but as yet another example of a new type of economic neo-colonialism.

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