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Thread: Morality and Economics

  1. #1 Morality and Economics 
    Forum Masters Degree Golkarian's Avatar
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    I've seen a few posts about this, forgive me, I only skimmed. But I am confused about the goals of econimics, many say they are not necessarily moral. I understand that in, say physics, the goal is to split the atom, not to decide if it is moral to use nuclear weapons. What is the goal of economics? Is it similar to other sciences like physics? Proving cause and effect?

    If so I should read economics not as moral but as a suggestion (reduce unemployment do this, if you want increase it (?) do this)?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Atoms are not affected by morals, politics, bribes, crime, fear, greed, innovation, health, have no motivations, agenda, conflicts.

    Humans are, thats why economics is soaking with steaming BullShit and is often abused the same way Astrology or Religion might be, to give legitimacy to an political agenda.

    There are tools and principles that have value and should be considered, the problem is to think that because these work in theory in a totally arbitrary model that they then must apply to the real world (where markets are manipulated, black markets abound, hundreds of billions sold in illegal drugs are being laundered every year, corruption, oligarchy, colusion, conflicts of interests are real, policy, politics, environment is altered, health is affected, etc).


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  4. #3  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Cause and effect in economics is hotly disputed and theories seem to wax and wane in their level of acceptance. This is also true in science but in real science competing theories should eventually fall by the wayside until only one is accepted. In economics theories that fell by the wayside often seem to be resuscitated by events.

    When the cold war ended and Russia, Poland and the other eastern European countries adopted unregulated free market capitalism a noted economist and free-market guru (as usual I can't remember his name*) declared it was "the end of history", meaning that free market economics had finally triumphed over government regulated systems. Well it seems that the free market is currently staggering towards the dustbin of history, where I predict it will sojourn for a while before re-emerging much refreshed.

    *Edit: I found it: Francis Fukuyama:

    http://www.wesjones.com/eoh.htm

    What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Masters Degree Golkarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo
    Atoms are not affected by morals, politics, bribes, crime, fear, greed, innovation, health, have no motivations, agenda, conflicts.

    Humans are, thats why economics is soaking with steaming BullShit and is often abused the same way Astrology or Religion might be, to give legitimacy to an political agenda.

    There are tools and principles that have value and should be considered, the problem is to think that because these work in theory in a totally arbitrary model that they then must apply to the real world (where markets are manipulated, black markets abound, hundreds of billions sold in illegal drugs are being laundered every year, corruption, oligarchy, colusion, conflicts of interests are real, policy, politics, environment is altered, health is affected, etc).
    I don't believe most economics is just 'theory', though I disagree with Friedman often (as I do with ppl who go so far to the right or to the left) he at least tries to support his theories based on reality (where there are quite a few undesirable elements).

    I think the 'problem' with economics is diversity. Diversity is a good thing overall, but can be annoying for science. Physicists want a universal theory instead of Newtonian and Quantum physics, this theory may never come. In economics you have completely different businesses and different people, I think if there is a flaw in Friedman's theory (as well as Keynes) it is that they propose a universal solution (and theory) where none can exist. This is just opinion, I am not an economist, but when I look at how best to manage the salmon fishery and how best to manage the banking industry, I see two totally different things.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    I don't believe most economics is just 'theory'
    Which part of economics takes into account the fact that we currently live on 1 planet whose ressources are limited? The earth and its ressources arent growing by 3% a year, which btw is exponential growth! We are heading for economic turmoil because the imbecilic models used and our civilization's infrastructure relies on exponential growth which is not sustainable. And which part of economics includes the effect of production of goods (toxins, particulates, pollutants) on the environment, ecosystem and health of consumers and of workers? Or calculates the benefits of education an social harmony or the costs of social inequality(surveilance, vandalism, prisons, bribery, crime, corruption)?

    It operate on models that are so limited in the complexity of their interaction that they are in my opinion quite theoretical, let me know how or why thats not the case.

    "but when I look at how best to manage the salmon fishery and how best to manage the banking industry, I see two totally different things."

    Ah, I agree with you there. A car is great on the road, but you cant take this and say a car is great and is THE solution(ex: it sucks on a lake), nor seeing a boat perform on a lake advocate a boat as a universal solution.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Masters Degree Golkarian's Avatar
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    Perhaps you are right in that it is not a complete theory, it might do well to integrate sociology for example. But this may not be a flaw in economics specifically. What you are talking about is why we have biochemistry, biophysics and bioethics. I have seen some papers dealing with both economics and ecology (co-authored by people in the respective fields), so perhaps we need more of this interdisciplinary study throughout acadamia.
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  8. #7 My Most Humble Opnion 
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    Economic Policy is Derived from Philosophical Morality:

    Economic policy is derived from the morality of those constructing it.

    For instance in the case of Socialism:

    It is believed to be the highest moral action to be your brothers keeper. Policy will be designed in such a manner that this will be carried out.

    For instance in the case of Altruism:

    It is believed to be the highest action to sacrifice yourself for the greater good. Policy will be designed in such a manner that this will be carried out.

    These are just a few of the examples but the premise remains intact.

    I for one as a undergrad economics major believe in the free markets systems based upon my own code of morality, Objectivism. I do not believe that it is immoral to take from one and give to another (i.e. US GOVT). Therefor if I was in charge of the US I would get rid of income taxes.

    While I could wax philosophical this theme is carried out through history. If you want to understand the morality of those in power look no further than his economic systems.
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