lunes, 15 de abril de 2013

A Centralized Policy for Behavioral Value

Why is there pain and pleasure? Wouldn't be enough with one of them? If you expose your skin to fire, the absence of pleasure will not guarantee your instinct of protection. Well, unless your body is filled with pleasure every time it stays away of the flame, but that would be too expensive in terms of body energy. For that same reason we shouldn't expect to find in ubiquitous pain a stimulus for action. But what if action is the stable social state, then it has sense for pain to be associated to the lack of action. As a social invention, action may have different meanings; a modern society may nurture action for change (innovation) while actions for preservation would be nurtured by tradition. The ordering of modern societies may have achieved a "critical mass" allowing some traditional ordering mechanisms to be relaxed (phase transition/dynamic stability/"positive to negative pressure transition and the cohesion of society").

 Whenever we make something ubiquitous, no matter if at the beginning is associated with pain or pleasure, on the long run it will become emotionally neutral. That is why designed stimulus for action have to be carefully crafted. If a person is used to a condition that to your eyes is painful, you shouldn't expect that person to respond in the same way as you. That is why to stimulate population which is used to not having regular or productive jobs, even if they live in poor conditions for certain standards, you must first get them used to better conditions. Is not like they will tell you they are living well if you ask them, they may deny it for other reasons. But with exceptions, those latter reasons on the long run are not the ones that determine crucial economic action.

 The closer are the living conditions between people, the closer will the criteria of stimuli be. Creating a standard of living conditions and allowing slight fluctuations leads to the ideal regime of behavioral economics where there is a standardized form of behavioral value. This is similar to the role of central banks with regard to the value of national currency: stabilization and estimuli. This analogy not only provides a reference for policy but also for analysis. 

miércoles, 3 de abril de 2013

Materialism Beyond Class

[In the following text I refer to Marx and Engel rather rhetorically. In other words, I don't know these guys. I also reflect on a debate which is rather outdated. As a matter of fact, if I were you I'd ask myself: what am I doing reading this?]

I do believe in materialism and I do acknowledge Marx and Engel's ideas on the subject; what I'm critical of the them and specially of some of the orthodox ghosts they left is that they landed too quickly the general idea of materialism into a specific historical form, that of class struggle. I'm fine with the idea of landing general ideas –although I believe that it is a task that not always has to be undertaken by the same author– and I realized that all forms of praxis will lead to historical incarnations, my concern on marxism is that it failed to emphasize the historical nature of that particular body which is class [1]. I recognize this is a cumbersome issue as it may facilitate an argument to critics with bad faith, but is also important for those socialists with an honest interest to explore the possibilities of social change with a sense of responsibility. Once the socialist regime has taken place a whole new set of social conditions are at place and the need for sociological guidance becomes just as imperative as during revolutionary times. Is not just the formulation of a new economy; one needs a new ego; the utopian counterpart of the revolutionary proletarian; a subject rooted within relations of production but still holding an emancipatory conscience. This is lacking in a depiction of post-revolution. Is difficult to blame Marx for this, after all he had more urgent tasks [2]. But this is an issue that marxism would have to settle eventually. Should we wait for the new conditions to asses this new ego? If we do, then how to distinguish the issues we should anticipate and those for which is wise to wait after revolution?

[Interlude: Marx and Engel talk about the historic rise of socialist revolution; one may use this account to explore how would it be the evanescence of the socialist myth. The future may bring conditions resembling a pre-revolutionary society, not as a reversal of civilization, but as a rediscovery of former lifestyles within an hyper-modern setting. Something similar to McLuhan's new tribal.]

Post-revolutionary debates may show new insights that hegemonic thinking hides today, but we need to be careful not to use the future as the rug to sweep under the seeming contradictions of our utopian visions. In a world of increasing ecological power, proving right one of this contradictions may have catastrophic results if undertaken at too large scales (as indeed we can). I don't pretend to discourage all  forms of revolution; although we've seen catastrophes before, we may also be seeing them now. They may not show off in the form of an alien flag, we no longer die in the battlefield. In a time of peace and modern medicine we've learned that death still makes his way by walking squat. But if you pay attention you may still hear it before is too late.

[1] Precisely that is where feminist theory comes to the rescue... I guess.

[2] I guess Marx tried this on his early writings, before becoming mature.

martes, 2 de abril de 2013

Please excuse my solemnity; I cannot help it

Within my generation to persist in political literature is an anachronism. In my defense I'd say that in my life politics came before writing; there's no reason why I should pay tribute to literature. There is nevertheless an anachronism; my approach to politics. I belong to the theater of morality in a time of behavioral economics. I'm unable to go beyond the last –perhaps the only– debate of moral politics, that of realism against utopians. I'm not alone and I'm not sure if that is a motive of hope. Behavioral economics proved to be something far from utopian; surprisingly, it has also proved to be far from what we understood as realism.