Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

A Matter of Interest

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Eugen Ritter von Böhm-Bawerk, an important economist of the second generation of the Austrian School, produced a theory of interest rates based upon the interplay of time-preference with the significance of time in production. (Previous theories had either looked towards just the one or towards just the other, or sought explanation in terms of social power.) This theory was adopted by Knut Wicksell and by Irving Fisher. Fisher translated most of the theory into neo-classical, mathematical terms. Hans Mayer provided one important element that Fisher had missed. I was exposed to this neo-classical translation by J[ames] Huston McCulloch in an undergraduate course on money and banking.

Years later, towards creäting a fuller explanation, I played with relaxing some of the assumptions. And some time after that, I wrote a paper for a graduate class in which I extended Fisher's two-period model to handle continuous time (by way of a space of ℵ1 dimensions). I've occasionally thought to write-up that aforementioned fuller explanation, but mostly been put-off by the task of generating the involved graphs to my satisfaction.

Recently, I was sufficiently moved to begin that project. I wasn't imagining doing anything much other than fleshing-out a translation previously effected by others, so I was considering publishing the exposition as a webpage, or as a .pdf.

But, as I've labored it, trying to be clear and correct and reasonably complete, I've seen how to talk about some old disagreements amongst economists that I don't know were ever properly settled — perhaps these quarrels were not even properly understood by any of the major disputants, who each may have been talking past the others. So I may steer towards producing something that I can submit to an academic journal. (The unhappy part of doing that would be identifying and reviewing the literature of the conflict, with which I currently have only second-hand familiarity.)

Perhaps I'll produce both something along the lines that I'd originally intended, and a paper for a journal.

Annvs Horribilis

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A thousand miles is a measure of special symbolism in the poetry of hearts longing or wounded. A more accurate figure in my case might be 1061 miles. Or, if one reckoned driving distance, something like 1254 miles. But exactitude does me little good; were she hundreds of miles closer, she still might as well be a thousand miles away.

Hard Case

Saturday, 28 May 2016

I have lots of keys. Most of those that are not on the key-ring that I routinely carry with me are tagged, so that I know to what they go. But, as I was going through the drawer in which those keys are kept, I found one that was labelled HARD KEY. I confess that this label was not and is not now very helpful.

There is such a thing as is called a soft key; it's a passcode of some sort. What would one call a hard key? A key that is not a soft key? That would make every key in that drawer a hard key; there'd be no use in labelling a key of that sort simply as a key of that sort.

My best guess is that this key were a key that were badly cut or worn, so that it were hard to use. But to use where?

Well, I couldn't and cannot remember; but that's okay, because I found that it matches another key that I have on a ring labelled Orphans, and nothing goes on that ring unless I know that it's no longer possible or no longer permissible for me to use the key in its lock. (There is separate ring for keys that are merely probable orphans.) Some of the orphans also have further tags; some, as in the case of the brother of the HARD KEY do not; but when that brother was put on the ring, I knew to what it went, and knew that I couldn't or shouldn't access that lock.

I didn't save the orphans thinking that I might someday match one with an unidentified key. A few of them I saved for their sentimental values. Most I saved simply to have keys with which to do other things; for example, they could be filed into bump keys or given to children or used as props; the intention in identifying them as orphans was that most of these keys be distinguished as expendible. Of course now, in the case of a key with no twin on that ring, I will be a bit more reluctant to alter or part with it, as it might someday be matched with another mysterious key. I am enslaved by my keys.

Reänimation

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The extended quiescence of this 'blog has largely been an artefact of my limiting of various activities as I bore-down on critiquing Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, a work of heterodox political economy by Piero Sraffa. The task has been thoroughly unpleasant, because there is so very much wrong with his work and because he writes in an obscure manner. At the same time, I have been dealing with depression intensified by personal circumstances. Had I allowed myself to step away from the project more than I did, I might never have finished it.

I have not, indeed, finished it; but, on Wednesday morning, I completed a first draft of the article. That draft is now in the hands of some of the other economists whom I know. (Naturally, I have since found things that I want to change, though none of these represent a major issue.) So I think that I will be back to writing more entries here.


One of the economists who has graciously said that he would take a look at the article (not-withstanding that it is monstrous in size!) asked me what motivated my writing of it.

Over many years, I have repeatedly been annoyed by encounters with those who draw upon PoCbMoC. More recently, I have been concerned by increased popular support for administrating economies (which support happens to be egalitarian or quasi-egalitarian); and this book is part of the infrastructure of the experts who defend such administration.

Further, at the time that I finally began actually working on this article, I felt stalled-out in my paper on the axiomata of qualitative probability. (That paper was and is a rat's nest, in which the basic propositions are not currently each perfectly orthogonal to all others.) In a sense, then, this article on Sraffa's book was intended as a break, though I quickly discovered that the task was going to be far more onerous than I had presumed.

Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is the central text of neo-Ricardian economics, and a core text of post-Keynesian economics; it is also an important source for a variant form of Marxism that would abandon the labor theory of value. If I can get my article published in a reputable journal, that publication will eventually be the death of neo-Ricardianism and of the aforementioned variant of Marxism; I don't know enough about post-Keynesianism to know how well they might do without PoCbMoC. Some of my criticisms are relatively minor, but some of them strike at the heart of the work.

(It took rather a long time to develop my article, but reading it offers the impression a nearly continuous rain of blows, some dreadful.)

I say eventually because I wouldn't expect the present admirers to acknowledge how hard they'd been hit, but I'd expect a virtual end to the winning of converts. I don't know that I can find a journal to publish the article because

  • it is quite long;
  • the mainstream of economists are unfamiliar with PoCbMoC so that
    • editors and reviewers may think it insufficiently significant, and
    • those reviewers most likely to feel sufficiently competent to examine my article are admirers of Sraffa.

I intend never again to pore over a work, even as short as PoCbMoC, when it is discernibly crack-pot. As I told a friend, I have been doing my time on the cross here; let someone else go after other such thinkers. I am capable of original work of significance, and that is how I intend to spend my remaining time qua economist.


This 'blog was begun as I left LiveJournal, appalled by its evolving policies under its second and then third owners. One might reasonably conceptualize this 'blog as a continuation of that which I had at LJ, and some of the entries of this 'blog are recyclings of entries from the earlier 'blog.

None-the-less, this 'blog has become very different from its predecessor. LiveJournal is a social-networking site; part of the reason that it has withered is that its users migrated to more successful social-networking sites. My present 'blog doesn't work that way. I have recurring readers, but there's nothing much like the Friends feed of LJ or of Facebook. There is no centralized connector of interests (as on LJ). I have regular readers, but they are likely to use an RSS aggregator (such as Flipboard) and less likely to comment (especially if they are using such an aggregator). I get far more irregular visitors, who are here by way of Google (or of some other search service), grabbing some information, and not so much as visiting any page here other than their entry pages.

So it doesn't feel appropriate to offer mundanities of the sort that I would relate to a neighbor or to a friend on the telephone. My public entries tend to be things that I imagine strangers would appreciate reading. The restricted entries (basically accessible to friends who followed me as I migrated from LJ) are almost entirely personal; but a reader is required to make a special effort to access them, so they are not about ordinary events; they are usually very personal.

With entries to this 'blog thus typically requiring more thought, there are generally fewer of them, and the 'blog becomes dormant when I cannot — or believe that I should not — give thought to those entries.

The State of My Paper on Sraffa

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Piero Sraffa's Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities has 96 sections and four appendices. I've critiqued most of the first 85 sections, though I have for now skipped a few that draw-out conclusions from methods that I have shown to be fatally flawed. Along the way, I've also dealt with three of the appendices, the remaining one of which is bibliographical.

The final 11 sections that I've not discussed nor yet carefully read are concerned with what economists call land (not only space but resources such as ore) and with the significance of switching in methods of production. That last part is the most noted contribution from Sraffa, and widely considered to have merit across various schools of thought, though it has also been asserted that the contribution is not as novel as some have claimed. I withhold judgment until I go through it carefully.

The material over which I have so far pored is of no marginal value. I have come to loathe each resumption of my effort. But Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is the core text of the neo-Ricardians, a central text of the Post-Keynesians (who have a significant academic and political foot-print in the UK), and the point of departure for an important variant of Marxism. So I should steel myself and complete the task.

After I get a first draft of the actual analysis done, before I write the other parts of the paper, I will begin making copies of the version in-progress available to those who can read these entries. And, after I have a more fully reälized working version, I might unrestrict my entries about this project, though that publicizing might wait upon my finding a journal that agrees to publish it.

Dietary Restriction

Saturday, 20 February 2016

People who've known me for a while know that I don't eat mammal tissue. I used to say red meat instead of mammal tissue but I got tired of repeatedly dealing with my mother's thinking that, because the pork industry was calling pork the other white meat, it somehow was no longer red meat.

In fact, I especially don't want to eat pork, because my more general rule is Never eat anything that could have loved you. and I'm quite sure that a pig could have loved me. Indeed, I think that various non-mammals, such as crows and parrots, are capable of things such as love.

An Internet friend recently mistook my standard for a reciprocity rule, as if I would reward various creatures on the chance that they might love me. But it's really a capacity rule; I don't want to eat an animal who has enough psychological sophistication for love.

I am willing to eat other animals. I'm even willing to eat animals whose ancestors could have loved me, but who, as a result of how they have been bred over many generations, now seem to lack such capacities. (However, I am put uncomfortably in mind of Lovecraft's story, The Rats in the Walls, in which human beings had been bred by cannibals to a much diminished intellectual state.)


As a result of my desire to avoid consuming creatures that are somewhat conscious, and of my special concern for pigs, I find myself thwarted when it comes to foods that contain gelatin, including marshmallows. It is possible to derive gelatin from fish, or to substitute for gelatin various non-animal products (such as agar-agar) in the making of things such as marshmallows. But, for the most part, gelatin is derived from the skin of pigs and substitutes for gelatin are not used.

Kosher gelatin proves to be a trickier matter than one might imagine. Partly that's because gelatin can be made from bits of cow (still not on my diet). But, also, there's a Rabbi Dovid Cohen who argues, perhaps with sincerity, that bones and skin are considered inedible under Judaïc Law, and that therefore a manufacturer has a sort of clean slate when beginning with them. OU kosher certification doesn't entail a promise that pig tissue did not go into any gelatin that might be present.

Bear

Saturday, 26 December 2015

When I was between my ninth and tenth birthday anniversaries, my father was transferred to an island in the middle of the Pacific;* my family went with him.

I was instructed to put the things that I wanted to go to the island in one box, and things to go into storage into another. I put my teddy bear into what I thought were the box for the island.

When we got to the island, the teddy bear was not amongst the things delivered there. I was very sorry to think that I'd put it in the wrong box, and that I would not see it until we moved back to America.

Two and two-thirds years later, we left the island. I was then twelve years old, but I looked forward to getting my teddy bear back.

Only, it wasn't in storage.

I'd put it in the box to go to the island. One of my parents thought it unsuitable for a boy of my age to still want a teddy bear. So my bear had been discarded.


*Kwajalein Island, in the Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in Micronesia.

Oink

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

As I was walking home from the bisto this evening, a couple of women were walking a leashed pig into the local Petco store.

A tiny but courageous or foolhardy dog wanted to investigate, but was held in check by the person at the other end of its tether.[1] One of the employees initially seemed distressed, but was in fact just greatly moved to see a pig.

I had some desire to enter and pet the pig, but I figured that the owners — and perhaps also the pig — got too much of that as it were.


[1] Were my own dog still around, and confronted with a pig, then his reäction to it, as to so much, would have been the canine equivalent of What in the name of G_d?!?

Have a Seat

Monday, 28 September 2015

In a restricted entry of several months ago, I briefly mentioned an episode (about fifteen years ago) in which someone attempted to kill me. On Tuesday of last week, I was telling the story more fully to my neighbors Claudia and Ren.


At the time of the attack, I was very frustrated and upset with what was happening in my life, and had elevated levels of adrenaline and of cortisol. That may have saved my life.

As I sat in a lounge, I was approached by a very large fellow; he was well over six feet tall, and well over 200 pounds. (By comparison, I'm about 5 ft 10 in and I probably weighed something less that 150 pounds.) He told me that I were telepathically disrupting his thoughts.

I grimly noted to myself that here was one more thing gone wrong. Then, aware of the underlying humor but expressing myself in a serious manner, I asked Would it help if I moved to the other side of the room?

His reply was No, but I think I know what would.

What?

If I killed you. He lifted a chair with which to strike me.

I shot to my feet, and grabbed the chair by a cross-piece. He found that he couldn't much move it — which was because my body was so wired. (I was holding it with just one hand, keeping the other immediately free; but, with what was in my blood-stream, one hand was enough.)

Thwarted, he listened as I tried reasoning with him, and I talked him out of trying to kill me.


Claudia wanted to know what I'd said to him. After all these years, I simply don't remember.

She also asserted that my reäction was unusual; that most other people would have attempted to shield themselves with their arms while cowering in their seats. Until she made that assertion, I'd not thought about that point; but I believe that she's right. A typical person would probably have done that, perhaps crying for help or for mercy. Had I done that, I would have had my arms fractured and my head injured; I might have been killed.

But, as far as I can recall, none of the typical response occurred to me; I didn't even consider doing those things. I don't think that I calculated that such a reäction would fail; I just didn't give thought to responding in that way. (After I had hold of the chair, I considered calling for help, but decided to bring the situation under control without assistance.)

So, after Claudia's assertion, the scientist in me asked why not. The best answer that I have is that my actual reäction was implicit in my ethos. While I'd never given conscious thought to the question of what my childhood rôle models would do in a situation such as that, and didn't ask myself in that moment, I was responding much as any one of them would. Curt Newton would have grabbed the chair; Solomon Kane would have grabbed the chair.

I Still Don't Know Why He Ever Liked that Guy

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Years ago, a friend and I were talking about something, and he mentioned Hitler. I declared

I don't know why you ever liked that guy!

in reply to which he barked

Oh! That is a lie![1]

Well, no, it wasn't a lie. I escalated by betting him dinner on the matter. Then I explained to him that, since the truth of a proposition is a precondition for it to be known, one of the ways that I could not know why he'd ever liked Hitler would be if he'd never liked Hitler. Another way would be if I'd never believed that he'd liked Hitler, regardless of how my friend really felt about Hitler.

Indeed, the contradiction of I don't know why you ever liked that guy! is I know why you at some time liked that guy! Formally,[2] [formal logical expression] So,

I don't know why you ever liked that guy!

was a truth (though perhaps not a simple truth, as he'd had trouble seeing it).

Having won the wager, I waived the prize; my objectives in betting had all been met. Now, had he won the wager, then I'm sure that he'd have collected; but had I claimed, as he'd thought, that he'd once liked Hitler, then he'd have been quite justified in extracting the dinner; it would have disincentivized my insulting him in such a way, and off-set the felt sting of the calumny.


[1] That was how he spoke. He often began with Oh!, and when learning English in Hong Kong he had been taught to avoid contractions.

[2] (2015:09/24): I have edited the formal expression, seeking to have it capture more completely the structure of the natural-language expression.