Wednesday 4 May 2022
The aim of this discussion was to discuss how Section 3.1 on Embedded Economics, and Section 5.1 on how Dooyeweerd's philosophy can undergird it, of our Rethink of Economics, in order to get the sections ready for public access. We also discuss the mandate of economics. It is part of the series of the RLDG discussions, which started at the 2020 Reith Lectures.
Present: AH, NO, JC, CA, RG, AB
[AB hosted this discussion, recorded it and then transcribed it (13 May 2022). AB adopted two roles in doing this, (a) of editor, e.g. giving links to other material, adding "***" to important points, explaining things, or attaching unique labels for future reference; (b) of contributor, inserting responses to what had just been said, especially some that he would have made had be been able to. The latter are added in order to further the discussion, especially in a way that could contribute to our Rethink. These are distinguished as "[Ed: ...]" and "AB: ...]". Sometimes he will even criticise himself for what was said on the day! ]
[The following was not recorded]
# AH: Climate Community act. 45% reduciion by 2030. New York. Kinda encouraging.
# NO: Not so much an existential threat but we must do things to get better.
# AB: change society's opinions.
# AH opened in prayer, including reference to Micah 6:8.
# AB and AH welcome RG arriving.
# AB: What have we got today: a lot that we could discuss.
# Thank you everyone for thoughts, comments, etc.
# AB: Today, we are talking about / like to discuss Embedded / Embracive Economics, and going through that in detail [Sections §3.1 and §5.1 in our Rethink].
# I sent a pdf [containing sections §3.1, §5.1]; I don't know whether people have read it, but it's also on the website; Thank you, NO.
# In the section on Embedded Economics, there is setting out [Ed. Ab was reading from list of sub-headings] the ideas of: [zeh30]
# And so, one overall question to keep in mind is: "Are these topics relevant? Are they adequately explained and discussed?" [zeh31]
# I think we don't necessarily need go through those.
# And then, Section 5.1 is a Dooyeweerdian view on this, which was written earlier, and so doesn't actually go through those and explain it. It was just thrown together. So the Dooyeweerdian part probably needs rewriting, once we yhave written Section 3.1. So, we can discuss "Does §5.1 adequately address those?" I think that's a rhetorical question: probably not. [zeh32]
# There is another thing: Examples are given. Are they [examples] adequate? Can you suggest better ones? [zeh33]
# That's about content: those sections, examples given, and what about Dooyeweerd, and so on.
# Those sections were brought out of our discussion, with the idea of Dooyeweerd's aspects in mind. So it's a kind of circular process.
# Then there are questions about about Structure of Argument.
# For example, "Should section something be split into two sections, a separate section on the Mandate of economics - which I'm working towards.
# Should the argument be reversed? Currently this takes the conventional academic route of setting out argument, coming to a conclusion, but, as NO, very aptly said weeks ago, other people want the message first, then the argument. Maybe we should rewrite it accordingly, or maybe we should even have a version, a full version, written accordingly.
# And then there's the thing about the name of it [the section, "Embedded Economics"]. I don't think we need to worry about the name of it at the moment [because we discussed that earlier). Let's look at the topics.
# So, would anyone like to pick up on any of those topics?
# NO: First of all, I like the direction that this is going. And I think this section for discussion is pulling some of the key questions together better, the way you were rolling through that.
# A couple of thoughts that I've got, and this may be subject to more discussion or disgreement or whatever.
# 1.] It kind of goes back to something you said about what's the aim, here. That is kinda what we're dealing with, in the issues you were running through, in part. [zeh34]
# So I wanted to say, I think (let's see how I can say this): Once some guy told me (we were discussing some career issues), he said, "You should aim higher". [zeh35] ***
# It occurred to me that we are are coming up with all these terms around economics - embedded, embracive, multi-aspectual, mandated economics, etc.
# But what we really need is a new name because we're not just talking about economics. It really involves reforming some aspects of finance, governant, the moral view of people, with respect to each other and the Earth. So, I think in some ways we almost need to put another name around it. Maybe it should still have the word "economics" in it, but maybe it should / And I just throw that out for what it's worth. I'm going to cogitate on it some more. [zeh36]
# So that was one intitial comment that I had.
# MO: [2.] The other thing that I'm thinking about lately, and this is not directly on the economic front, but I've become more concerned that we need to make a stronger moral pitch than what we've got here. [zeh37] ***
[Ed. NO then said a little more about that, which I have moved below, and then we returned to discuss the breadth of coverage. ]
# AB: Can I just clarify, on the naming thing, is this just [concerning] a name or is it [about] substance behind the name, when you say "You should aim higher"?? [zeh38]
# NO: I think, what We really are doing here is talking about reforming economics. When we talk about economics, as CA I'm sure can tell us, it is a very define field of study. I's certainly an engine that today creates a lot of behaviour. [zeh39]
# But it seems like, what we're trying to do, is get people to understand that we are all living in the same house. And that's not necessarily an economic concept. [zeh40]
[Ed. Actually "eco" comes from the Greek "oiko", which means "household"! However, we can sense what NO is saying: think beyond economics - which of course is the widening sought in "Embedded Economics." ]
# And so, as we talk about economics in this thing, I think we need to make sure that we're framing this. It goes back to kinda the aim. We are kind of finding some words that say, "This is about redirecting the heart of our existence." [zeh41] ***
# And that needs to be viewed in the standpoint of multi-aspectual life, and not /
# Economics has to change, government has to change, our attitude has to change.
# And, to me, that's what I hear us talking about back and forth in all these discussions.
# Yknow, I think that the economics is a convenient handhold right now, but I don't know that that satisfies what we're trying to communicate. [zeh42]
[AB: This seems to be another way of seeing economics as very much embedded in all other aspects of life. ]
# AH: So, NO, what I hear you saying, and what is in the paper so far, is that the economic dysfunction is a symptom of a larger dysfunctional attitude and ways of putting together reality, and ways of seeing reality.
# That's like the canary in the coal mine [laughter] that tells us that something is awry. # NO: I think that's exactly what I was trying to say. # AB: So do you mean, AH, that the economics (however we define it) is the canary?
# AH: Well, probably the undue focus on economic outcomes especially growth.
# AH: Growth is the idol that we have identified again and again, as being the sine qua non for what we think is economic success, and therefore success in all human endeavors. [zeh43]
# NO: Yes. I think the analogy of the canary is appropriate. But I think the reality is that it's a tiger, and it's eating up everything [laughter]. and that's a concern. [zeh44]
[Ed. This section of discussion was actually after the next section, and before the section on Clarifying the Use of the Word "Economics", but has been moved here because it returns to this topic of embedding economics. ]
# NO: So I'm merely suggesting that, as we put this in a broader thesis, that we take a shot to say, "There is something new out here."
# And that is, we have to look at things in that (its an overused word) that holistic type of viewpoint, which says "We cannot just pursue growth for growth's sake," as AH was talking about. We have to have a balance. We have to look at these things in new ???terms of measurement, and that includes, in my opinion, a moral dimension. [zeh46]
# NO: I think everything is good. I'm just saying that, that as we look at framing up what we are delivering, and sharpening some of the content, I think about this / This is something new. People may not like it. People may not agree with it or understand it. [zeh47]
# But, in my opinion, what I have enjoyed learning is how we really have to look at this stuff, not as a specific discipline. It has to incorporate broader implications. [zeh48]
[Ed. In the actual discussion, the following section occurred before the one above on Broader, Continued. ]
# AB: Is NO right that econ / Academically, economics is a very defined field, and I always assumed economics was a kind of superset, and within that were things like finance, banking, markets, etc. Am I right, or is economics a distinct field separate from finance? [zeh49]
# CA: Before this, economics encpmpasses banking and finance. There was only one, called "Economics". And later on, as more specialisation starts to come in, and banks start to get bigger and companies start to get bigger, so there was a need to break down Economics into Banking, into Finance. And even in Finance we have so many different types of Finance - Corporate Finance, Management Finance, International Finance. There was a need to break it [down]. [zeh50]
# But if you talk to an economist about finance and banking, they understand it. Because it's all encompassed in Economics. And when we teach finance and banking, we have to teach the economic component of it. We don't dwell too much into Economics, because that's another area for them to learn. But we bring that [in to] explain things [about the] workings of finance and banks. [Ed. I think zoom missed some words] [zeh51]
# AB: So I gather from that, to use the term "Economics" to broadly include Finance, Banking and a few other things, is not inappropriate. # CA: No. # AB: Thanks very much. [zeh52]
# AB: NO, does that satisfy, partly answer your Number 1? NO: Well, I agree, absolutely: economics is some sort of umbrella thing, and I think we're on target with much of the reformation [of economics?] and the changes that we're dealing with here. [zeh53]
[Ed. Here was where the section on Broader, Continued actually took place.]
# RG: I think there is something interesting going on with word "economics" here. If we had a discussion on reforming engineering or reforming politics, or reforming society, or reforming education, we would not have had an easy scientific discipline to connect ourselves with. Because Engineering - well it's an academic subject, but in Dooyeweerd's sense, it's not a science. Neither is politics, nor society nor education, particularly. But economics is also the name of a special science [in Dooyeweerdian terms]. And I feel we are getting unhelpfully entangled or confused between these two things. Economics as a sphere of activity / and I think, in some parts of this document it refers to economics as a sphere / but it also sometimes seems to talk of economics as a special science which is taught in universities and business schools. And I think we need to clarify or separate those two. [zeh54] ***
# AB: Thank you very much. I think you are right.
# When I've written about "fields" or "disciplines" is, I think of "discipline" as embracing both the science and the practice. But it needs clarified. [zeh55]
# RG: That's right. And the fact that there should be a practice that goes with the science is an interesting thesis. I mean: The practice of physics, if you were to ask me "What is the practice of physics?" I would probably start think about laboratories or experiments. But that is clearly not what we are thinking about when we talk about the practice of economics. [zeh56]
# NO: I like what you said there. And that may help clarify some of the content, to look at it as "This is the practical side, this is the theoretical / # AH: philosophical, maybe? # NO: philosophical, side, yeah. [zeh57]
# AH: Glad that Rg brought that up; it was on my mind also.
# AH: Maybe when we talk about the Dooyeweerdian way of looking at things, we can go into great depth about what is the economic aspect. My understanding is that it is anything having to do with sacrifice, and investment, where we give up something, initially to gain something greater later. # AB: You saying that's economic? # AH: That's the economic aspect. # AB: OoooK. I always thought it was an ethical retrocipation of the economic. But that's interesting. [zeh58]
# NO: I want to get back to that word that RG used, the "sphere". Interesting. That is a reference to the globe. That references the Earth, which is spherical. That practical side of economics; that's a practical sphere. Anyways, that's an interesting word I'm going to hand on to. [zeh59]
# AB: What I meant in "sphere" was a Kuyperian sphere of society. # NO: Yeah, what is that? I'm not familiar with what you're saying. # AB: In society, you've got the Economy, you've got Education, you've got the Household. You've got all different spheres of society, and they are qualified by different aspects. [zeh60]
# AH: Is it spheres of society, or is it spheres of human experience? # AB: Ah, well, in Kuyper, they were spheres of human society, society. # AH: So this is anthroplogical ???. # AB: Well, they were very much of society. But then, Dooyeweerd I think drew on that basic idea of irreducibly distinct spheres that were sovereign in their own sphere, and thought that the whole of reality is like that. So it's spheres of experience, each centred kernel of an aspect. [zeh61]
# RG: AB, I think you suggested that The Economy was a sphere in Kuyper. But I think you might be wrong (though I have not read of all in Kuyper), but I think he talks about business as a sphere. And I don't think he talked about "the economy", unless I'm mistaken. And I think this is significant. We've been using "economics" as if it might be a sphere in Kuyper's sense. I suspect that's not just an academic disctinction. [zeh62]
# RG: I think there may be a third category. [zeh63]
# There's Dooyeweerd's sciences and aspects, and they are called "spheres" of course, as you mention, AB. But they are not spheres in Kuyper's sense, but they were inspired by them. So, Kuyper has his "sphere sovereignty" and the spheres of human activity in society. [zeh64]
# In the paper that AB and I have just published, we have a table about what sorts of systems and processes are characterized by each of Dooyeweerd's aspects, and there we found a place for the economy as such. And I think this is / I just wonder if this is helpful, becuase we were trying to find a kind of real-world dynamic process or system that has a kind of life of its own, a kind of dynamics of itself. Characterized by each of the different aspects. And when we came to the economic aspect, about frugality and choice and perhaps possibly sacrifice as you said AH, we suggested The Economy was a kind of dynamic system that was especially characterized by that aspect. And I feel that this, when we talk about "The Economy", it is one of those things. It's a kind of system. It's quite a spehre of human activity, like Kuyper had; that would be perhaps Business. And of course the economy impinges on other spheres like education and the family, and government as well. [zeh65]
# So I think we've possibly got three different things here, interacting. [zeh66] ***
# AB: What were those three again? # RG: Economics as a science. The Economy as a kind of dynamic system - which is arguably what Economics studies. But also Business, which I think would be a sphere of society, which Kuyper recognised.
[Ed: Need to Clarify: What is the difference, and what is the relationship, among those three, especially between sphere of human activity, and dynamic system? ]
# AB: Thanks very much. Very helpful.
# AB: CA, especially, I've tended to treat business, here, as a kind of branch of economics (in its widest sense), in that business is (OK, it's management, it's a social thing as well) but an awful lot of what goes on in business is a functioning according to the laws of the economic aspect, as we understand them. How do you see business as relating to economics in the broad, which encompasses finance and banking and do on? How do you see business relating, or is it completely outside? [zeh67]
# CA: So, If you look at the definition of economics itself, we are talking about individuals, people (we call them "households") and income. So we can talk about household and income and then businesses and income, and then government and income. [zeh68]
# And how they all interrelate with each other, that whole thing encompasses the economics of things. [zeh69]
# So, we call it a science because we are trying to see how everyone can benefit out of this. How we can move the money around, and where the money is coming from and where is it going, and how we can move it around, so that the whole system works and prospers. [zeh70]
# AB: So, where does business /
# Chat 00:37:05, NO: I am having issues dropping out and in. Sorry
# AB: Ok, thank you , NO; I saw you were dropping in and out.
# Where does business fit in with this, from your [perspective]?
# CA: So, when we say "business" we talk about companies, because they talk about the three component, which means: [zeh71]
# So, they talk about / if you said "business", like "What are the things that the companies are doing to enusre that, yknow, people are employed, they have a job, and then /" - those sort of things. [zeh72]
# AB: And what about products, selling products, and things like that? Does that come in? # CA: So, yeah, because that is their business and, by selling the product, they get the money and they pay the people, which is the household. [zeh73]
# AB: OK. So, products are seen as our means of getting money, rather than as things in themselves - is that right? [zeh74]
# CA: So, if somebody wants, for example, even for households to survive, they need to eat and drink, and have a house, and have a job, and so on.
# So it all goes like in a circle (if that makes ??? sense sometimes). So, we have the factory, the companies, and the factories make products and things, and they sell it to the retailer, and the retailer puts it out for sale, and then people buy them. They buy them through the income that they are getting from their job, which that they are employed in the businesses, the companies themselves. So it goes around like that. [zeh75]
# AB: And that's all in Economics? # CA: Yeah. # AB: Thank you very much.
# Chat 00:39:22, NO: I have a hard stop today, but maybe a hour still to go.
# AB: NO, I'd like to go now to your second one, which is the other thing, a stronger moral pitch, maybe bringing in Christian and maybe even Buddhist, because we have a horrible moral decline and, in the non-developed world, rigidity.
[Ed. Chronolgically, skip to below. The following is material uttered earlier to introduce this topic.]
[Ed. NO began to introduce this earlier but that introduction has been moved here for relevance. ]
[Ed. The following was actually said earlier ]
# MO: The other thing that I'm thinking about lately, and this is [not?] directly on the economic front, but I've become more concerned that we need to make a stronger moral pitch than what we've got here. [zeh76] ***
# That may be bringing in the Christian side of it. It may also include some affirmations from a Buddhist type of approach, or / there is some common threads that can be found.
# And, again this is probably just my worldview at present, but I see a horrible moral decline in the developed world.
# And in the un-developed world, I see utter a lot of rigidity / # AH: You said "rigidity"? # NO: Yeah, very / maybe that's the wrong word. More absolute doctrinal thinking. e.g. In the Muslim world, we see that. In Brazil they're going through a lot of evangelical revolution, and that tends to be a little fundamental. [zeh77]
# Anyways, my point is: Is there a possibility to make a stronger pitch to moral change? [zeh78]
# So, those were two thoughts I had that were not exactly on the items that are in the 3.1, But I kind of wanted to just get them out in front of people for perhaps maybe some future thought. [zeh79]
[Ed. At this point, we returned to NO's first point about breadth of coverage.]
# AB: Would anyone like to [speak on] moral decline or putting in a stronger moral element into what we are saying, whether in this section or in any other section.
# CA: I think we have a section §7, Enriching [with] a Christian perspective, that we have touched on. Looking at things from God's perspective and how we can put things right. So I think that's where things are discussed, in that section. [zeh80]
# AB: And should they be, or should we bring some of these things into earlier sections? [zeh81]
# CA I think we have. Because we have talked through this. We have this moral economics. And as we go through rethinking the economics part, we also saying, "Shouldn't we have some value added to this?" I think we discussed that throughout, but I think that what NO is trying to say is that we should have more of those, maybe more examples to support our arguments. [zeh82]
# AB: What do others think? NO, has CA understood you aright.
# NO: Yes, in addressing the moral question. And it's true, we have Section §7, and we reference the value issue.
# In some cases, maybe the word "value" should be substituted for moral / for what's morally right. Because the bad thing about value is that there can always be six different differnet interpretations of what is value. [zeh83]
# And so / Maybe that's all that I was kinda searching for.
# NO: On the other hand, I will mention something - again you're probably not going to like this. But I've also been doing some more reading about the way Calvin restructured the Swiss cities and others. And this was indeed part of the Protestant focus for a long time. And they established what were called the Consistories, which were a panel of elected pastors and moral leaders, who were elected and were part of the city governance. [zeh84]
# Now, that would sound frightening to everybody today, probably [AB: Except in the UK, where bishops sit in the House of Lords!]. But, on the other hand, the idea in our country (I can only speak for our country, the USA), the concept of Church versus State is becomeing a very big problem right now. I think that's something that - again I have my views. / [zeh85]
# So, just to get back to what Calvin and Luther said: There are two kingdoms; there's the spiritual kingdom, and there's the kingdom on Earth. The point Calvin made was that these are they not antithetical; they work together. And that's because [of] Psalm 24:1, "The Earth is God's, and everything in it."
# And so, in that sense, he was absolutely convinced and established the fact that there had to be moral authority with government. [zeh86]
# In fact, Government, he wrote / The people in government is one of the highest callings you could have. Imagine that! Today, we think that politicians are one of the worst things in the world [laughter]; they are continually rated as a terrible profession! [zeh87]
# AH: It's either that or lawyers! # NO: Don't get me started? Anyway the point is / # AB: They're both of the juridical aspect!
# AB: Shall we move on some other [questions]?
# In the Embedded section, I have 'The Hidden Role of Attitudes' and then in the rest of the document, I have put a lot of emphasis on attitude.
# By "attitude", sometimes [meaning 1] I mean just the ethical aspect of selfish versus self-giving attitude. [zeh88]
# And the pistic [aspect] is separate, which is a kind or orientation of heart towards the True God or towards some idol. And also it's our functioning in our aspirations and attitudes [AB: I meant expectations, not attitudes], our assumptions, our beliefs, and so on and so forth. [zeh89]
# I don't know whether that can be taken or anyone wants to discuss that.
# But sometimes [meaning 2] I use the word "attitude" for both the selfish versus self-giving attitude and the orientation of the heart (idolatry and so on) [both ethical and pistic together]. So, very loosely, those things together I'll call "attitudes" in this hour. [zeh90]
# And what I emphasise is that those things are the things that, if you like, unseen, affect everything else that we do [in Dooyeweerdian terms, by retrocipation etc.], in society, and especially in economic activity. Yknow, selfishness, idolatry, undue aspirations, and so on and so forth. And these are the roots of the climate and environmental crisis, as well as obesity, crime, and an awful lot of these things, and so on. [zeh91]
# So, my question is (and that's a little essay if you like about how I use these things), so my question is, to you, is, for you:
# AB: So, first, it is appropriate to treat this ethical and pistic functioning, positive or negative, as the kind of root of a lot of our problems? Not the only root [perhaps] but a major root, that is unseen by most economists and others? [zeh94]
# NO: I think it's very appropriate. [zeh95]
# AH: I need to put a slightly different twist on it, based on my understanding of basic spirituality and Christianity. I want to refer to a book that has really changed my life. It's called The Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper. I could send you all a pivotal chapter in that book. It's a delightful little book, honestly. Only about 50 pages altogether. [zeh96] ***
# AH: It talks about how serving God is the most selfish thing one could ever do. [zeh97] ***
# Because, when we put ourselves on God's side, then we're on the winning team. We're on the side which will eventually conquer everything. Jesus has vanquished death already, and we are in the clean-up stage. We are claiming Creatinn back for God. [zeh98]
# But because we're on the winning side, because God is there for us, and will meet all our needs, because God is our ultimate satisfaction, therefore serving God is actually being selfish. [zeh99]
# Now, it's a difference of attitude too, because we are taking God's way of satisfying our needs. We go to drugs, we go to the absolutization of money, or growth, or any of these other things we've been talking about, that is also selfish, but it's not meeting our needs according to God's plan. [zeha0]
# So AB, when you say "the selfish way versus the self-giving way", I have a slightly different spin on that, based on that book. [zeha1]
# And it you want to take a look at that book, I'll send you a chapter and you can maybe give me your thoughts. [zeha2]
# It honestly takes some readjustment of our whole attitude when we take that seriously. [zeha3]
# AB: OK, but "selfish" I suppose John Piper means "self-benefiting"? # AH: Well, serving God is certainly self-benefitting. We are recognising, we are proclaiming to ourselves and othes that God's way it best.
# Not only for the rest of the world, but also for ourselves.
# ACTION AH: send pivotal chapter
[AB: Interesting. I suspect that both are true, because the word "selfish" had different meaning and especially different connotation iin each case. However it needs some good sorting-out. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis' idea that what God wants is for us to love ourselves just as much as we love others, regardless that it is self that we are loving; we love all selves equally. ]
# AB: The other one is Mandate. I bring up the idea of the mandate of economics - if you like, Creational Mandate. What is the purpose of economics, or the economic sphere? Or the economics / or whatever you want to call it, taking into account of the Kuyperian, the scientific and everything else. All that bundled together. What is / the mandate of this from God's point of view? [zeha4]
# [Two questions to discuss]
# JC: This is JC; may I make a statement? Been listening very intently; haven't been able to speak.
# On the definition of economics. Still hindered on frugality of activity. I don't mean this to be an argument over words and semantics, but the Dutch gentleman that joined us last year, he was pursuing the idea of efficiency as what Dooyeweerd meant by economics. And frugality was much more on the holding back so that you can conserve something. Efficiency is most effective way to reach a goal. So you have a different frame of reference when you look at economics as a set of activities that surround itself to achieve a goal and an efficient end. [zeha5]
# Frugal ??? still has a dollar value attached to it. Efficiency is more wholesome, according to what you guys said earlier about a much more broad encompassing ???. [zeha6]
# If we move into how we are structuring our activities and recommendations??? of work so that we are trying to move the mind to find the most efficient activity towards a more environmentally positive end. Which ecompasses other activities. [zeha7]
# So that's where I want to make my comment there. Is that clear?
# AB: I think so. Anyone else / is it clear to everyone?
# NO: I think he's right. The word 'frugality' has a variety of baggage with it, which could be good or bad.
# I would point out that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness. ??? the old trucker's statement, "Efficiency is doing one thing well; effectiveness is doing the right thing." [laughter]
[AB: (I write this here; I would have spoken it out then, but was focused on capturing what others said.) Actually, Dooyeweerd was very clear that the kernel of the economic aspect is indeed frugality and not efficiency. He wrote,
"There is indeed a modal difference of meaning between economy in its original scientific sense and in its technical meaning. The latter is not ruled by the economical viewpoint proper but by that of technical control of the material to the highest degree of efficiency. Nevertheless, there is an undeniable coherence of meaning between economy proper and the technical sense of the term. The fundamental meaning-moment which every economical analogy refers to is that of frugality, the avoidance of superfluous or excessive ways of reaching our aim." [NC, II, 67]
The "technical" ( formative aspect) may also be seen in JC's speaking about "goal" and "efficient end". Other support for frugality may also be found, in that there is economic activity that might not be in pursuit of any goal. And "efficiency" feels more mechanistic.
HOWEVER, the point is well taken that "frugality" comes with baggage. So, we need to think of a better term than Dooyeweerd used. What about "sparing" (a term that Dooyeweerd also used)?
# NO: The issue I've got about the 'mandate', managing resources.
# I'm gonna - again you're not gonna like this, but - if you frame things under the rubric of sustainabiity and management, you have a different attitude than if you frame it under the idea of improving and building. [zeha8] ***
# And so, I would prefer that we look at how we are building things, and improving, not just harbouring???.
# Although that is indeed what we have to do. [zeha9]
# But the mindset is: we are trying to imrpove things. not just manage the crap that's out there. [laughter] [zehb0] ***
# AB: Very interesting. Thank you.
[AB: From a Christian viewpoint, that resonates with the idea of contributing towards Overall Good, which is not just setting things right (juridical aspect) but bringing in extra 'good', which is an idea meaningful under the ethical aspect, which also links to agape love, which is what humanity is supposed to 'image' towards the rest of Creation (see page on humanity's 'shepherding' of Creation.
However, that idea of improving is already meaningful in the ethical and also the formative aspects, and certainly the idea of building is very much of the formative aspect, so these do not necessarily express the core of the economic aspect. If they did, would not the economic aspect be redundant among aspects?
What Dooyeweerd asks, I think, is "What is the difference between economic and unecomic?" Can we have uneconomic building and improvement and, if so, what is it that makes it uneconomic? It's certainly not just monetary price, but is something about squandering and wastefulness, about superfluity and excess, as referred to above.
# RG: I think that this discussion of mandate, to me, will only make sense when we clarify that first distinction about economics as a science, economics as an aspect of reality, economics as a sphere [of society], possibly like business, and so on. [zehb1]
# So, what might Economics contribute? [zehb2]
# When I read economics, my first reading is the science. What might the scientific analysis of [the] economic aspect of life contribute? And there, of course, I hope that it will contribute understanding and possibly proposals for improvement. I just think that we need to be clear: Do we mean, "What might the science of economics contribute?"
[AB: Going a little deeper: All sciences contribute understanding and, with understanding we can devise proposals for improvement of the Whole (contribution to Overall Good). So, the question must go beyond what RG says, to the question, of about what do we wish the science to contribute understanding and what kind of improvement should it make possible?
# RG: I mean, I don't see the point of asking "What might this aspect contribute?" because we are given the aspects by the Creator, and I don't feel it's up to me to try thought experiments where I try to drop one of the aspects from reality and see what goes wrong. I don't think that's a useful thought experiment. Any more than trying to imaging that ??? doesn't exist. [zehb3]
[AB: But Roy Clouser does such thought experiments to show that no aspect can be isolated from others. So they might be useful philosophically, to understand how any aspect, e.g. economic, relates to others. ]
# AB: Can I clarify, RG, do you mean it doesn't make sense to think about what this aspect might contribute? Do you mean (a) this aspect as opposed to this science, sphere, practice, etc. [AB: I meant law-side as opposed to law-side] or do you mean (b) this aspect as opposed to all other aspects? [zehb4]
# RG: Both. I don't think I want to do either. [zehb5]
# AB: This aspect, from its manifestation in temporal reality, or are you distinguishing this aspect from all the other aspects? Which do you have in mind? [zehb6]
# RG: Well, in neither case do I think it's helpful to try to stop???imagine economics. I mean I certainly don't see how it's helpful / [zehb7]
# Asking what the economic aspect contributes, as opposed to other aspects might be helpful in a sort of didactic situation, trying to explain what the economic aspect is to somebody. [zehb8]
# But I don't think that's the purpose of this project. [zehb9] ***
# What might the economic aspect as opposed to the / # AB: The aspect kind of, if you like, sphere of law, law-sphere, and all that it enables in temporal reality under that law-sphere?
[AB: Defence: RG's point that we seem to mix several things together (aspect, science, sphere, dynamic system, etc.) is well taken, and has already begun to be rectified. However, I feel the discussion needs to be informed of what I had in mind by "Economics" and what contribution it might make. 1. All centre on, radiate from, the aspect: the science studies it, the sphere is how it is visible in society, the dynamic system too, etc.). Hence the mandate of all emerge from what the aspect contributes to the whole of reality. 2. "What does the economic aspect contribute?" refers to the aspect's unique meaningfulness, laws and potential among all other aspects. What meaningfulness and Good does this aspect contribute that other aspects do not? 3. It is more than didactic; if we have a clear (intuitive) grasp of what the economic aspect contributes, then we can have a clearer picture of what the science focuses on, and how it is visible as activity and in society. I might be wrong, but at least that needs to be heard.
# RG: Yknow, the idea that aspects 'enable' things is still to me / Enable is a causal concept. # NO: that's right. # RG: ... We do a thought experiment where we exclude the economic aspect from reality. And again, that's not a thought experiment that I'm capable of. Maybe other people can, but I cannot do that one; I don't find it helpful. [zehc0]
# Chat 00:50:56, RG: I'll need to leave in 5 minutes or so.
# NO: I may not be reading that right, but aspects are, to me, are not action. [zehc1]
# NO: But I like what you said, by the way, "aspects of reality", because, to me, that's a nice thesis for what we are trying to communicate here. [zehc2]
# That, where economics is unfortuntely a big tiger right now, and does not include some of these other morals and mandates that need to be taken into consideration. But / [zehc3]
# RG: Sorry, this has been really interesting, and I look forward to seeing the report. Thank you.
# AB: Can I just / say goodbye to RG, thank you very much.
# AB: Can I just ask / So, really, two different questions now about mandate. Is it useful and helpful to / Well,
# NO: I kinda like that. I think, maybe it's a section §3.whatever, but / It's somewhat like, for example if you take §3.2, where you are talking about widening of Value and everything, it's really part of that / I think, if you put it there, it frames up that question of value a little better, and gives it its own space. [zehc7] ***
# So, maybe it's Mandate and Measurement - I'm just throwing stuff out here.
# But I do like the idea of making it more of its own thing. [zehc8] ***
# ACTION AB: To split Mandate off to separate section and discuss mandate of the science, the practice, etc. And then ensure that it links with the section of Value.
# AB: Thank you very much. I think we've covered a lot. I'm still happy to continue a little bit if either of you would like to discuss any more.
# CA: I wanted to say that economics is actually social science.
# Because the science part is trying to figure out how do we weigh the costs and benefits. [zehc9]
# And then we have the social aspect, where we are looking at people and how to accommodate them. [zehd0]
[AB: Yes indeed: according to Dooyeweerd the economic aspect is after the social, so economic activity invariably involves social functioning. Hence, full understanding economics requires some understanding of the social. ] [zehd1]
# CA: So, moving forward, we are trying to see what is the best strategy to move forward.
# So, they call it "benefit and cost" because you need to weigh the benefit and the cost and then accordingly channel the funds where it is needed. And it's called a science because you need to get this right. [zehd2]
# So, the thing that I was trying to say from the beginning, if you remember: The problem is not economics itself; it's the person who is working on this, who is managing the science. Now, are they managing the science correctly? [zehd3]
# So, what do they think is important? Are they putting the focus on the right place? So, we talk about values: yknow, we said moral - we want all these types of value-added things, which is important. But are they putting the focus in the right place? [zehd4]
# [For example] GDP is an economic measure. But you can take it in the right way by looking at Green GDP. Or you can take it in a different way: you can just think about growing the GDP at any expense. So that [GDP] is a tool. The economic part is just a tool. [zehd5]
# Now, it's down to you how you use the tool. That's why they call it a social science, because you need to / yknow, you have the tool but you must know how to use the tools and get the best benefit. [zehd6]
# NO: This is great.
# CA: So, the question we are asking here is that:
# 1. Do they know what the tools are?
# 2. If they know what the tools are and they are using it, that means "What is the outcome?" The outcome is what they want it to be, isn't it. That outcome is determined by who? [zehd7]
# It's determined by government , what they want it to be.
[Ed. Query: Was CA using government as just one example of who determines which outcome outcome, or was she meaning it's only or mainly government that does so? Since other things might determine outcomes (e.g. religion, pervading attitude, planetary limitations) we might assume she was using government only as one example. ] [zehd8]
# CA: So, if you are telling me they know how the tool is working, and then we are getting a wrong outcome all the time, it will ??? it can be two things.
# 1. You don't know how to use the tool.
# 2. But if you are telling me you know how to use the tool, it means that the outcome is the problem. So what is the outcome that you have set? [zehd9]
[Ed. I think CA means, what outcome do you want when using e.g. GDP as a tool? e.g. serving the idol of economic growth, or measuring overall goodness. We return to this below. ]
[AB: Is there a third thing: 3. The tool tends to lead you into error or harm? For example, I have a saw that tends to curve to the left rather than making a straight cut. This got stated by NO below. ]
# NO: This is great. To me it brings lot of clarity to the economic discussion. >Because what you've said to me is, "There is a triad." There is a triad.
[AB: In Dooyeweerdian terms, that brings in three things: the functioning subject, the object with which they function (the conceptual tool) and the social institutions - all three are discussed by Dooyeweerd. That leads me to ask: What other things might there be to add to the triad? e.g. norms?
# NO: And so I think that's part of / to me that goes back to what I was talking about earlier on: what we are trying to address here is bigger than just the economic. It has the 'you' factor.
# And I want to make one more point about what you said. There's more than just understand the tools and the outcome of government. In my view, the problem is, we're not using the right tool. There's a missing tool. That's the problem. [zehe4]
[Ed. c.f. AB's third point above. ]
# And that missing tool is (something I've said before), make it back to the fact that we don't measure the benefit, the outcome, we just keep measuring the cost. And until we start measuring the benefit and the outcome, you cannot make an intelligent decision, really. [zehe5] ***
# NO: But anyways, I just want to compliment you on what you said, because, I don't know how all this fits in, AB, but to me, I think this has been a worthwhile discussion because several things have percolated up here. [zehe6]
[AB: For Rewriting: Probably fits into the section on (non)measuring value. And adding in discussion about tools for measuring.
# AB: Where I think it fits in [to Rethink], NO and CA; let me just try this on you.
# If the whole of Creation, the whole of Humanity - if the mandate of Humanity is to open up the potential, the Good potential of Creation, in all its aspects, and economics has a particular role to play in that, or mandate if you like, then the idea is of bringing Good. [zehe8]
# And I think it's possibly no coincidence that in Economics and in Business we talk about "goods and services", and both "goods" and "service" are both meaningful in [gain their meaningfulness from] the ethical aspect of / and I see the ethical aspect as going beyond the juridical, of bringing more good / [zehe9]
# Yknow, the juridical is "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth", [appropriate and proportional] retribution, of: if something happens, then something of equivalent value must happen to punish or reward, or something like that. [zehf0]
# Whereas, the ethical aspect goes beyond and introduces extra goodness. That was a concept I was discussing several years ago, extra goodness that the juridical cannot generate.
# And so, the idea of good (as opposed to Right and so on, which is a juridical thing) and the idea of service (which is self giving up) seems to me that it's no coincidence that it talks about goods and services [if it is to contribute to Overall Good]. It's got a contribution there to make. [zehf1]
# Now, if we take the mandate of Economics, as the economic (however we define it whether it's efficiency or resources or frugality or management [or sacrifice, or improvement] - whatever it is) of helping all other human functioning to bring out its Good, to contribute to the Overall Good, call it Shalom if you like.
# Then, GDP might not be quite the 'baddy' that we think it is.
# If GDP is / if we assume that all economic activity is good, i.e. brings Good into the world, and helps to bring Good into the world, in all its different aspects, then GDP is actually a kind of sum total of the Good that coming into the world in a particular nation. Or globally if we have global GDP.
# NO: You cannot say all economic activity, because some economic activity is wasteful.
# AB: No, no, no: don't quibble: I'm coming to that. [AB: But actually, NO had a good point, and I'm glad he picked it up; he foresaw what was needed to be said.]
# I was assuming that it's all good, no wasteful, no harm [as a thought experiment].
# But becuase of human sin, there is wasteful human functioning, that doesn't bring the Good that could come, and there is harmful human functioning, that undermines the Overall Good. [zehf2]
# And the problem with GDP is that it lumps it all together and assumes it's all good. # NO: That's true.
[AB: There is also the problem inherent in quantitative measurement too, that it cannot truly measure multi-aspectual value. But that problem is well-known, while the problem of including harmful and wasteful as good, is much less known. ]
# So, GDP itself isn't quite the baddy that we think it is; maybe it's just the persons that use it and include all the harm in it.
# Does that make sense?
# CA: Yeah.
# Chat 01:01:44, AH: I too must depart the call. Andrew B: I'll email you some comments. bye.
# CA: So I think, for example, the government has X amount of money. Now. they can think what to do with this money. They can either build schools, new roads, hosptials, or they can push the money more towards the army and defence. Although they have sufficient money for army and defence, but they can push more and more money towards that, and look at less money for hospitals, schools and other things. [zehf3]
# So the money is money as it is. But it is in the hands of the government, what it wants to do. So the government is prioritising. So, the question is, "What are you prioritising?" If you are prioritising weapons and mass destruction and all of these type of things, then more money is going to go there, and less money for the people who need it. [zehf4]
[AB: Comment. But is not that too simple a view? In two ways? (a) Governments borrow. (b) Things get achieved, for good or ill, by more than money, for example inspiration, voluntary action. HOWEVER, the point CA is making, was probably to support the point that economic activity (money) can go towards good rather than harm. ] [zehf5]
# NO: So that's the point I was trying to make about the measurement. Back to what you were talking about, GDP that measures good, and GDP that measures wastefulness. [zehf6]
# NO: But my point is, when governments look at policy decisions (like you're talking about), we only look at these things in terms of the cost. What is missing is information reports on the benefit. So, for example, you say (and I have to say this), your country, the UK, does things a lot different from USA, because you do have some ??? or administrators that do try to measure the benefit, e.g. of hospitals. (# AB: Oh, do we? I didn't know that.) # NO: Yeah, it's all different. But the point is, you have to sort of say, "What is the benefit to the population of the fact that if I invest money in healthcare innovation, in keeping people out of hospital, what does that do for me? What does it do for me if I invest the money in security, which is a different equation - that has to do with international risk. The benefit of these things is what they should be trying to measure, not just the cost. [zehf7]
# NO: I'm going down a rat-hole here.
# AB: I think that's more-or-less what I've been thinking towards, that the important thing is the human functioning, overall - in God's thinking and in Dooyeweerdian eyes - is the human functioning in bringing Good into the world and that Good is benefit. [zehf8]
# I mean: The Latin word "bene" means "good" or something, doesn't it? # NO: Yeah, you're right.
# AB: So, very interesting. Thank you very much for that.
[AB: This supports our 5.2.5 Reconceiving Currency and Money. Money should not be seen as an owned commodity, but as the human functioning that it enables and encourages, potentially or actually. ] [zehf9]
# CA: I've got one thing to say.
/ So, this is for example, we are looking at obesity, people with a lot of health conditions in a country.
# Immediately you would think that economics is at fault because we don't have a lot of hospitals, for example. You can say that economics is at fault because they are not giving enough money to build more hospitals, more clinics and stuff. [AB: Yes, I have heard politicians attack others or defend themselves by saying just that!] [zehg0]
[AB: Widening: Might economics also be at fault in that obesity-causing foods and lifestyles are being marketed more? ] [zehg1]
# CA: But it's not about the money. It's not about building more hospitals. Because that's not solving the problem. Because it is you trying to think about other things like the doctors, how effective are they in helping the patients? Yknow, what medications have they given, what are the supports that we have so that people can go through a series of programmes and get better? Yknow, we have to think about other things, like insurance, and other things, instead of just thinking about having more money to build more hospitals. I think that this is the problem. [zehg2] ***
# OK, let me give you another example. The government subsidises students who get into the university. So when that was what was arranged at the beginning, the universities were excited to get more students, so they put a lot of emphasis on marketing, to get more students. But, once the students come in they [the universities] don't really care about them; that's it. So then the government changed the focus point, so they said "We're not going to focus on how many students you get, we're going to focus on how many students you actually graduate." So, then the focus starts to change. So, moving the money out of marketing, they start to put in more [money] where they come up with programmes to help the students to study better, to get better results. Things like that. Which was more beneficial for the students. [zehg3]
# So it's the focus points that are getting the things wrong. And blaming it on the economics of things. So, we need to get the focus right: "What is the point we need to focus on?" [when making decisions about where resources should go]. [zehg4]
[AB: Is that an example of where economic activity proved useless, a waste? Universities devoted a lot of money and effort and it got them income that paid for that marketing effort, but in the end, was it not all a waste of money and time? See NO above, and also 3.3.4 Understanding the useless, the non-essential. ] [zehg5]
# AB: I think that's very helpful actually. And I think it links with what NO was saying a few minutes ago. Because if you think of the focus as, again, governed by the pistic aspect - what we believe is important. of ultimate importance. What we aspire to as a nation, what we expect as a nation, what we assume is quite livable, and so on. And that focus is our pistic aspect again. It is what governments, following the rest of society, believes and assumes about these things. And so we're bringing in the pistic aspect again.
[AB: Evidence for that may be found in policitians using 'money for hospitals' to attack other politicians. ]
[Ed. The following two sections return to topics in previous discussions.]
# NO: And that goes back to the way you framed this, which I like, is that we are under a mandate to be stewards of each other and this planet. That's our Christian view, and maybe of some other religions as well. [zehg6]
# So, yknow, that mandate, to be good and to open up the good - I like that phrase a lot /
# NO: To me that right into the section on widening our understanding of ... economic activity and on the multi-aspectual of its true mandate. And the issues we have with value. I think this is / to me that's where we are presenting something different. [zehg7]
# And i did see your email this morning, about the questions [Ed. about what is unique about our rethink], and I'm going to respond to that.
# AB: I'm going to send it to CA as well. Because, CA, last time you, I think it was, challenged me or led me to itemize the ways I thought we were unique in our thinking, the value of our thinking, the unique contribution. So I put them down. I said a list a month ago and put them into the transcript but I've thought them out further, in an email to NO on whether to put them into the Summary or not. So I'll send them to you for your comments as well, if I may.
# ACTION AB: Send list of uniques to CA.
# CA: Well, I've already finished typing up that part that I promised to type up about economics isn't good or bad, and things like that. And it has come to a lot, to about 1000 words. So I don't know how / where we're going to put it in our ???back.
# AB: One of things we could do is to put up the thousand words as a separate file on the website - because it's a Christian thinking space as it were - and then weave it into the whole thing. Does that sound good? # CA: Yeah. So all the things, so some of the things that I've talked about is in there. So you can have a look at it and see. [zehg8]
# CA: And also the Adam Smith perspective on how much government has to get involved in economy and things, so just those two things. # NO: That's great. I would love to see that. # AB: So, you got both ready have you, or are you still writing Adam Smith? # CA: Yeah. Well, the Adam Smith one is very simple. He put it in points and I've just copied it and put it in [quotation] marks, saying that it's coming from the book. So I've just put it there. He's just talking about like support for the country. The government has to have minimal involvement. So just let the market do its work, and then the government just provides the support that the country needs, like roads, police force and justice, and that sort of thing. [zehg9]
# NO: That's great. That's interesting. I'd like to look at that, because I'm not sure that that works any more. And it just just brings me back to the Marianna Mazzucato work on Mission, government and that sort of thing, which I do think is the evolution that needs to happen. But I wuld love to see what you've written about thks. That's very helpful. [zehh0]
# AB: Is the Adam Smith one more-or-less ready as a small document in itself, even a small document, and then weave it in? # CA: Yeah, I can show you now. # AB: Send it through, because I've been waiting for it. # CA: I can share it here.
# [CA shared screen showing bullet list of what Adam Smith wrote about the role of government.] [Ed. A bit of conversation about the screen share, omitted.]
# AB: "to prevent ... five things ...
# NO: Notice number five. # AB: [read out] "Institution for the instruction of people of all ages, and chiefly those for in religious instruction ..." Oh my goodness! Church and state there, I think! # NO: That's what I'm saying. # AB: Maybe Adam Smith is not quite the perfect theorist but ah / # NO: I'm not sure. [zehh1]
# AB: Is that the whole thing or is that part? # NO: He wrote a lot more than that? # CA: These are the five points that he's talked about, he's written a lot about it, but these are the five points that he thinks is important.
# AB: It's interesting, because he does give a role for government. [zehh2]
# But if we think in terms of an Embedded Economy, i.e. an economy where it takes into account all the other aspects, then almost I see the right wing ("right wing" is the wrong word) as focusing on the economic aspect as such, and the left wing as trying to bring in the aspect of justice - the juridical aspect - only one aspect but at least trying to bring in something else. Maybe that's oversimplified, but maybe that's / [zehh3]
# CA: This is missing quite a lot of things, like social security and the like. [zehh4]
# NO: Where's your other write-up? Where's your write-up about the economic? Are you going to post that, send that to us? Just email it, because I've gotta go in a few minutes. # AB: Goodness, it's nearly half an hour gone over the hour.
# CA: This is the one, 1,200 words. # AB: Send it through; that's wonderful. # CA: So you can read it slowly. # AB: I won't read it now, but I'll probably try to convert it to HTML and put it up on the website, and then weave it in. Because it's part of the discussion. That's the important thing.
# ACTION AB: Put up CA's two pieces.
# AB: To thank you everyone. I'd like to close in prayer for us. AB closed in prayer.
# Next discussion. Probably first Wednesday in June.
# [Some chatting about leaving. NO coming to UK. NO: joking about NO coming to meet us without climate change emissions. ]