One more: Robert Lane on the ultimate justification of neo-classical economics as technocratic handyman/handmaiden of the legislature

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Tue Nov 11 17:20:22 MST 2003

"The American dream is about ever greater material possessions (and thus the
status that they buy); the hard part for governments is to guide without
coercing the content of these misaddressed dreams - a task of inspiration,
not of Sorastro's sorcery. Homo faber, yes; home consumens, no - but where
are Homo ludens and Homo sapiens ? Whence this inspiration ? For culture
change, I turn to the originating agency of ideas (and ideologies),
academia. Just as current economic teaching can make people less willing to
give their money to group projects and less willing to vote, so, with better
theory of measured (and not just inferred) utility, divorcing decisional
utility from outcome utility (...), that magnificent apparatus of economic
analysis might be turned to the purpose of improving well-being. It is not
so much that economics should be more sensitive to ethical questions, for
ethical economics would probably concentrate on immediate justice at the
expense of unfortunate long-term consequences like greater unemployment (a
relation opaque to ethicists who lack models of economic cause and effect).
Rather, economics should do what every other science does, specify a
measurable criterion for the thing it is trying to explain, and then
maximise outcome utility, and adjust its recommendations accordingly. (...)
Utilitarianism is the guiding philosophy of our time, but theories of what
produces happiness have changed since Bentham. (...) To be cheerful and
happy, to have a sense that life is a satisfying undertaking is not enough.
But if we understood how to bring these things about, we would have the
beginning of a more human science of the human enterprise."

- Robert E. Lane, The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies, p. 336-337
(additional comma's inserted).

"In that case, rationality only consists in discovering what your personal
tastes are. And that is really where economic science is at."

- Jurriaan Bendien, "The concept of equilibrium in economics: neoclassical
economics and Marx", PEN-L post 21 September 2003.

"Of all [American] personal vehicles, (...) 12 percent are sport utility
vehicles (...) More than half of the light vehicles sold in the USA in 2002
were light trucks, which include sport-utility vehicles, pickups, and vans."

- Jurriaan Bendien, "It ain't trendy, but good quality statistics are needed
on cars and gasoline in the USA", PEN-L post, 3 September 2003


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