RLDG Discussion 19. On Good, Harmful and Useless Economic Activity

Discussion Held: 5 July 2022

The purpose of this discussion was to review, comment on and refine the current Section 3.3, on Moral Economics: Good, Harmful and Useless Economic Activity. It is part of the series of the RLDG discussions, which started at the 2020 Reith Lectures. Summaries are added of each section.

# Present: AH, NO, DW, RG, AB (host)
# Apologies: ELS

Contents

-- About This Page

[AB hosted this discussion, recorded it and then transcribed it (15 July 2022), inserting links, notes and comments. AB adopted two roles in doing this, (a) of editor, e.g. giving links to other material, adding "***" to important points attaching unique labels for future reference (actually only places for labels to be added later), or explaining things ("[Ed. xxx]"); and (b) of contributor, inserting responses to what had just been said ("[AB: xxx]"), especially some that he would have made had be not been taking notes. The latter are added in order to further the discussion, especially in a way that could contribute to our Rethink. Sometimes he will criticise himself for what was said on the day!

"???" indicates unclear wording on audio. "[...]" indicates unnecessary or contentless wording like "Hmm, Kind-of, sort-of." ]


----- Pre-Discussion [zej00]

# Conversation about statistics.
# AH: My big quetioni over the ages: whether belief should follow quantitative laws. In the Dooyeweerdian setup, the pistic is latest, quantitative the earliest. Should we see degree of belief following those laws. Can we add and subtract and multiply.
# NO: qualities? # AB: Qualities pistic.
# AH: pistic

--- Introductions [zej01]

[not on recording]

# AB welcomed new participant David Woods (DW), and asked him to introduce himself, then others introduced themselves.

# DW: , Ottawa Canada, Orleans. Government economist, in the area of taxes. Interested in economics and environment. Masters degree in environmental economics. Also transport economics, health economics. Interested in the boundary between economics and other things.
# Did CBA (cost-benefit analysis); still see things through the lens of CBA.
# Married with a couple of kids.

# AH: Becamse a Christian nearly 40 yers ago. Reformed philosophy and theology. Studying Dooyeweerd and Kuyper. Book Christian and Humanist Foundations of Statistics. Statistician in pharmaceutical industry. 2 children and wife. Active in the Bayesian v Frequentist debate.

# RG: Ecology and economy, statistics. Univ. Winchester. Interested in applying my Christian faith to all areas of, life. AH's book.

# NO: Dallas, Forth Worth, Lutheran of conservative bent. Commercial life: CfA and CPO for health companies. So CBA dear to me, as applied. Wife and 2 grown lads. 2 grandkids

# AB: Retired professor. In industry then academia. Electronics - computer progamming - expert systems - knowledge elicitation - use and benefits - human-computer-interaction - human factors - business - discovered Dooyeweerd. Also environmental and concerned about the economy.

--- Topic for Today's Discussion: Good, Harmful, Useless (GHU) [zej02]

[recording began]

# AB: I'd like to put a quick overview of what I think is the issue we'll be talking about today.

# As everyone knows, we've been developing this Rethink. It needs to be rethought. We've talked about embedding economics, the attitude of economics as embedded among all other spheres of life, all other systems, and so on. We've talked about values and their measurement, which is really what Mark Carney was on about, and something of their measurement.

# And today, it's the third thing [major widening] of the idea of Good, Harmful and Useless economic activity.

# Initially I just had these three as a triple, but came to realise, through our discussions and experience, that Good and Harmful are a duality - so there's economic activity that brings good and there's economic activity that brings harm. And mostly, a mixture of good and harm. [AB: meant to add here that I now see Useless economic activity is in a different dimension, so we can have useless good and useless harmful economic activity.] []
# [Example:] So, economic activity that helps to feed with healthy food probably brings good, but the junk food industry brings harm of obesity and things like that. The transport industry brings good in some ways but also the harm of climate change emissions. And of course the transport industry is one third of global climate change emissions. []
# And there's harm in terms of climate, biodiversity, health, mental stress, and then / If we think of it in terms of Dooyeweerd's aspects, those are the biotic and the physical and the mental or psychical aspect - and then moving on to things like the social aspect (some economic activity encourages enmity between people, or the fracturing of relationships / maybe social media is one of those). Then there is waste, which is an economic aspect, things like injustices (juridical aspect), selfish attitudes (ethical aspect) and even idolatry or wrong commitments (the faith aspect). []
# Whereas good in each of those aspects helps to make the world better. []
# So, Good and Harm in each of those aspects can be seen as a duality in each aspect [AB: AB had in mind to add: of functioning in line with and against laws of the aspect].

# But Uselessness, which could be either waste or nonessentiality. []
# [On Waste] And we've discussed Marianna Mazzucato's book on unproductive activity. We've briefly mentioned David Graeber's book called Bullshit Jobs.
# [On Nonessentials] But then there is also nonessential economic activity. For example, during the pandemic, the British Road Haulage Association complained that 50% of trucks were laid off because people were no longer buying "nonessentials". []
# Now, there's a problem with "What is nonessential?" And we can say that something is nonessential in one aspect but essential in another. []
# But I've come to see that perhaps one of the main problems of useless economic activity is when we elevate one aspect. And David Graeber's book on Bullshit Jobs, a lot of them are to do with more marketing or various HR positions or things like that. And they elevate the aesthetic aspect or the social aspect rather too much. []

Summary: Topic of today's discussion: We need a solid understanding of the good and harmful impacts of economic activity, and of useless (wasteful, nonessential) economic activity [zej03]

# AB: So, that's where we've got to. And we want to think: does that hold water, is that what we want to say, and can we improve it and tackle some of the tricky issues. []
# So, is there any questions for clarification?
[05.15]

----- RLDG Discussion Starts [zej04]

--- Need to Fill in Details of GHU [zej05]

# AH: Well, AB, I think that everything you have said is true. It reflects my recollection of what we've talked about. I would say that, where we could add value is filling in the details in what you have just said, elaborating what you have said so far. []
# Probably it is not useful in itself but rather, we need to fill in those details. []
# AB: Yeah, but it [the general view] is quite an important ???view of these things, because, as far as I know / No, I have not been able to find any economic theory that actually discusses these things, especially the Good versus Harm (GvH) [AB: I had in mind that Mazzucato, Graeber have discussed Useless]. []
# So, if that [lack of discussion] is the case, and it's not just that I've missed something, then I think we have a real contribution to make, or could have. []

# AH: I think that some sources you could find - in fact, I was just looking at one this morning - do hearken or relate to GvH, although I didn't see those words being used.

# I was looking this morning at the website of the State of Maryland, in the USA, which is a state to the east, close to Washington DC. They were talking about how the Governor has put in place some systems (I dunno how much they are being used yet) but some of these systems do try to reflect the harm that's done by some economic activity, and the good that's done by other economic activity. And to try to incorporate that into a state-wide measure of progress. [] ***
# They still use that word "progress" of course, which you and others on the call might differ from, but at least there is some recogition that there is more to life than just economic growth. []
# AB: Yeah, that's great. I'll have a look at that. Can you put ??? on the chat?
[08.05]

# Chat: 00:31:57 AH: Buffalo area: about US State of Maryland: https://www.demos.org/research/whats-missing-gdp
# Chat: 00:32:22 AH: Buffalo area: See text beginning with "Under Governor Martin O'Malley, the state of Maryland..."
# Chat: 00:32:25 NO: Got it thanks

# AB: What I've found is that a lot of the recent thinkers like Marianna Mazzucato, Kate Raworth, Mark Carney, and so on, implicitly differentiate good from harm. So, Kate Raworth: there is the ecological ceiling we mustn't go above - so that speaks about harmful things that we must avoid - and there's a social floor that we mustn't go beneath - that speaks about good things that we must ensure. But there's no actual discussion of good and harm; it always seems to me often implied. []

[AB: But do we also need explicit discussion of kinds of good and harm, and how different kinds interact? ] []

# And it probably needs to be understood, and I think Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us understand. []

Summary: There is not much academic discussion on how to treat Good, Harmful and Useless economic activity, nor of their kinds and how they interact. However, a few real-world people are beginning to do so. Might Dooyeweerd help? [zej06]

# AB: Someone else was going to say something?
[09.00]

--- Case-by-case and Generic Evaluation of GHU [zej07]

# DW: I think the word "harm" is used in economics, for instance in environmental economics, that's often a word that's used for pollutants or for negative externalities. []
# I think often the implication is that it's not necessarily so much a particular kind of economic activity that's harmful, or good for society, but you have to look at each thing on a sort-of case by case basis. [] ***
# For instance, you've got to look at vehicles. Or bicycles like e-bikes. I was just looking at an article on e-bikes. e-bikes create some real benefits for people in terms of transportation, and also they are not necessarily going to have a big environmental impact. But at the same time I guess people are beginning to be concerned about some of the batteries. And they may be flammable - there was a case in the UK where it started a pretty nasty fire in someone's house. []
# Chat: 00:33:48 AH: Also, producing the LI-ion batteries is ecologically damaging
# So, I think the implications of economics is: you have to look at everything on case by case basis. If e-bikes have a fantastic batteries that are not flammable and don't cause house fires, then they are good. But if they have negative environmental impacts that outweigh the benefits, then they may be not so good. []
[10.30]

[AB: Comment: Good point, we need to work case-by-case. But should we confine ourselves to that? If we do, will not that prevent the development of tools for understanding Good and Harm, so we lack sound conceptual frameworks for even working case-by-case? Do not we need generic understanding too? Do we not need both? Case-by-case keeps us rooted in multi-aspectual reality; generic understanding helps prevent case-by-case becoming mere subjectivity and personal fiat. It may be that case-by-case is appropriate for judging Good and Harm, while generic understanding is required for discussing and understanding in a way that is just. The example of e-bikes bringing one kind of good and another kind of harm: could not that be understood via aspects rather than merely on an individual case-by-case basis? ] [] ***

[AB: Dooyeweerd: Cases (of harm, good, etc.) are the individual 'what', the fact-side of reality as Dooyeweerd calls it. Each individual case is a specific outworking of aspectual possibility in,/as time. Kinds (of harm, good, etc.) are generic types, and may be differentiated by aspect. e.g. burning someone's house down is an important harm in various human aspects founded in the physical aspect that makes burning meaningful. ]

[AB: Comment: See also attitude, below. ]

Summary: Good v Harm is very complex, because of good in one aspect, harm in another. This suggests we must evaluate case by case, but we do need a generic understanding. Dooyeweerd's aspects can help. [zej08]

# AB: Any come back on that? That's very interesting, case-by-case.

--- Too Confined Within Existing Structures of Economics [zej09]

# NO: Well, I was looking at this to kindof get ramped back up again. I think it's true that people are starting to talk about this. As you mentioned, Mazzucato, and various people, even the talks by Carney. []
# NO: There was a paragraph that you wrote in this 3.1 that I thought put the issue into more of a picture. And that is, they are only thinking about this within the context of the existing structure of economics. In other words, the thing that they like to criticise the economic activity. Like DW says, we'll measure what's good or what's harmful, but we are going to do it just within the existing economic world. Because that's where their bread is buttered. And that's where their point of view is constructed. []

# The idea of using something outside of economics, like philosophy, theology, or whatever, to create a fulcum or a pivot point to reevaluate things, is something they do not want to touch. [AB: c.f. embedded/embracive economics] [] ***
# If you notice, all those books, Mazzucato, the Doughnut lady [laughter], and everything else, all they are trying to do is solve the problem using the current tools and structures. # AB: Yeah, brilliant. []
# And that's something where we're trying to bring something from the outside, to rebake this pie. I can continue with the bread-and-butter analogy. []
[12.54]

[Ed. Good analogies, it seems: In our comments on Doughnut Economics, we talk about baking the Doughnut a bit more! :-) ]

Summary: Most current thinking seems to still work within the confines of economics, but we need philosophy, theology, etc. in order to understand GHU. [zej10]

--- Standards of Good and Harm [zej11]

# NO: But that does not answer the question here about Harmful and Good. It may, in a indirect way, but if we can establish what is the standard of Good that we are going to deal with. []
# And I would propose that we look at in two ways. And that is we look at standards of good

[] ***
# (Of not reverting to the grow-your-own paleolithic side of things, not allowing the unmeasured rate of the environment, but a livable healthier earth. That's my two-cents, guys, that's all.) []

Summary: When considering GHU, consider both human and environment. [zej12]

[14.06]

--- Cultivating and Developing Creation [zej13]

# AH: At some point we will, or at least we should consider the anthropocentric question. And from the Biblical perspective in Genesis 1:26, and Genesis 2:15, we can say that humans were put on the Earth for the purpose of caring for it. That is our goal.
# So I think that measuring everything in human terms might be a little bit too limiting. [] ***
# NO: Well, I think that's a great point, and I agree with that, except that he also said "Be fruitful and multiply" and "You have dominion over all the beasts of the field and everything". So, I think that to some extent it's not just an issue of preserving everything. []
# AH: Sure, sure. Genesis 2:15 says not only to preserve but also develop or cultivate. # NO: yeah, that's good. # AH: There are many translations of that, but I think "cultivate" is a good one. In other words, to responsibly bring everything and disclose it, disclose the inherent goodness of Creation. [] ***
# NO: That's a very interesting thought. Let me make a note of it. # AB: I like that, "Disclose the inherent goodness of Creation." []

[AB: Very interesting. Could we define Good economic activity as that which contributes to positive disclosure of the inherent goodness of Creation, Harmful economic activity as that which undermines the disclosure of that goodness? And Useless economic activity as either of those that are wasteful or non-essential? ]

[16.00]

# AB: That [idea of disclosure] is of course in some ways a Dooyeweerdian or perhaps Reformational theme, isn't it, disclosing. []
# AH: Well, you, AB have talked to me about the [Hebrew] word radah. So, that hearkens to the responsible development as well. []

Summary: Humanity has a mandate to disclose the inherent goodness of Creation. Relate good, harmful and useless in the light of that. [zej14]

--- But What About Future Discovery of Harm? [zej15]

# NO: Let me mention something along these lines. One of the problems we have got environmentally, that I am aware of, is that we have (I'm going to call them) new plastics. They are probably compound materials of some other sort. But the problem was: this material actually was devleped in the 1970s, 80s, and was considered a fantastic thing, which was put into all sorts of products and does all these wonderful things. I can actually find you examples that I'm talking about. But the problem is, now today, as we look at these things, we say "Holy cow! We cannot get rid of this stuff." []
# AH: You are taking about PFAS? # NO: Yeah. # AH: Forever chemicals. []

# NO: The issue is that we have developed something, we have cultivated something that has some assocated problems with it we did not foresee. And it does do / it does have economic benefit. So the question is yknow, "How do we / Can we have a process where this type of thing is somehow measured and scored as: It was good at one time, now it's harmful later."? [] ***
# AH: Sure. In climate science of course, and CBA which I'm sure DW could speak to much better than me, there's the idea of including future harms and benefits. And a lot of that is done through the discount rate. In other words, a good or a harm in the future is not counted as much, depending on how far in the future it is.
[18.40]
# NO: That's interesting. That's something I am familiar with: discount economics in the financial world.

# RG: That assumes we know the future, though, doesn't it. []
# AH: Yeah. Some of that is based on probabilities. Yknow, if you increase the CO2 content in the atmosphere, it may not make a big difference because all could die from a nuclear explosion. []
# RG: But even probabilities are not certain, are they. That example of plastics whose effects we don't know, means that we / well we can put probabilities on things but they are not very useful. They could change drastically when new information comes along. # AH: Depending on whether you ??read ???pizza last night!

[AB: Drawing this together: On inappropriateness of Discount Rate. Discount rate assumes that

RG is questioning (c). We have previously discussed the problems with (a). In view of these, often qualitative rather than quantitative assessment and judgment is more appropriate, especially employing Dooyeweerd's aspects as way to ensure we do not overlook important meaningful classes of issues. ] []


[AB: Comment: Wisdom in considering the future as we develop and cultivate Creation. We cannot know the future, and must be humble about it. What this means is that we should not let our consideration of the future be distorted by our own pet commitments, our often hidden agendas, not by selfish ambition, enjoyment or convenience. For example, the development of these plastics in the 1980s involved scientists researching - and such achievement is a thrilling and satisfying activity. It is meaningful in the formative aspect, and this is part of God's Plan. However, our responsibility as human beings, under our mandate from the Creator, is not confined to the formative aspect. Instead, it is multi-aspectual. And it is usually in other aspects that problems occur, especially later problems. So we need a qualitative approach, to thinking which issues might be meaningful in those aspects.

In the parallel technological field of digital system development, the attitude of "technology for technology's sake" is acknowledged as problematic. In any cultivation of Creation we are in danger of the same problem. Instead, Those scientists should 'bend over backwards' to consider the possible problems that might arise from their developments, usually in other aspects. Sometimes, of course, it is not possible. However, there are usually prophetic voices, especially on the fringes, who raise possible problems. I remember people warning about plastics in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But we largely ignored them. These 'prophets' might speak in a strident and offputting way, and we are triggered in our reactions to resist what they say, but is it not better, is it not more like wisdom, to get behind the words that trigger us and actively and sensitively consider the core of what they are saying, and properly investigate it? ] [] ***

Summary: Thinking about Good, Harmful (and Useless) economic activity, at least in planning and decision-making, in "developing and cultivating", requires thinking about future possibilities. We often do not know them, but Dooyeweerd can help. [zej16]

[19.40]

--- Another Way of Seeing the Topic: Functioning rather than Outcomes [zej17]

[Ed. This was not in the discussion, but has been added by AB to contribute to the discussion. The gap mentioned here was only noticed during transcription, not in the heat of the moment. The following is what AB might have said had he noticed the gap at the time, but it probably benefits from his having time to think it out. ]

[AB:

It seems that most of the emphasis above is on good or harmful outcomes of economic activity. But is there another way of looking at it - to see Good and Harm is as the functioning, the activity, itself, which generates ('causes', leads to) those outcomes. []

Thinking in terms of functioning is very much in line with at least three things. It is in line with Dooyeweerd's ideas of aspectual functioning having repercussions, for which we are responsible. It is also in line with Christian and other religious thinking, in that what we do has outcomes for which we are responsible and somehow judged (by God in Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, by Karma in Hindu-based religions). It is also in line with GDP, believe it or not, in that GDP measures not capital but money-flow, which may be seen as a surrogate measure of human functioning that is enabled by that money-flow (I build my table because I pay for timber). Moreover, it might help us think about future repercussions, in that good/harmful functioning in most aspects tends to yield future good/hamrful repercussions. []

It also has the benefit that we can bring the Useless (Wasteful, Non-essential) economic activity more into our thinking, in that it seems less meaningful to talk about outcomes as useless, especially in the future, whereas it is meaningful to talk about useless activity. Indeed, this is what Mazzucato and Graeber do. []


Furthermore, it enables us to bring into our thinking what we have called attitude. It is very difficult to talk of the good or harmful outcomes of attitude, because they are diverse, many, indirect, hidden, and often longer-term in their growth and their manifestation. But it is possible to think of attitude as a functioning, especially with Dooyeweerd.

In our Rethink, we define attitude as a functioning in the ethical and pistic aspects. Good attitudes are self-giving love combined with courage and non-idolatrous orientation of our viewpoint. Evil or harmful attitudes include dysfunctioning in the ethical aspect such as self-centredness, self-protection, unconcern for others, and dysfunctioning in the pistic aspect, such as idolatrous aspirations, stubborn commitment to narrow beliefs, hidden agendas, false assumptions and presuppositions.

(To a Christian perspective, it is through Jesus that full self-giving love, agape, was revealed, and good pistic functioning involves being oriented in our hearts towards the True God, revealed through the Bible. Hence a Christian perspective can provide important insights for understanding and dealing with attitudes.)

With a good attitude, we develop (cultivate) Creation, without selfishness nor idolatry nor stubborn refusal to change. We would not let our cultivation of Creation be (as mentioned above) distorted by our own pet commitments, our often-hidden agendas, not by selfish ambition, enjoyment or convenience. We should serve and take a wider view.

It is indeed sad that the only phrase that many know from Adam Smith is the "self-love", and that much of competitive capitalism and neo-classical economics is built on that - even though Smith used that term only once, and probably did not mean what we take it to mean: the selfishness that is dysfunction in the ethical aspect. (What Adam Smith really meant is another discussion!) []

The impacts of attitude, Good or Harmful, are often hidden, indirect and longer-term in happening and even longer in being recognised and taken seriously. When we take such an attitude, then the likelihood of finding unforeseen harm in the future might be lessened, because selfish attitudes or idolatrous agendas won't prevent us thinking carefully of many kinds of possibility. []

If we think about GHU in terms of functioning (activity) rather than outcomes, and do so employing Dooyeweerd's aspects as our conceptual tool, then we can at least consider attitude seriously. We can do so, not separately from other functioning, but alongside all other functioning. Dooyeweerd's idea of inter-aspect, especially retrocipatory, dependencies, can help us (though not in any mechanical way). By recognising selfish and idolatrous attitudes as innately harmful, we can 'measure' them or at least take them into account, even if we do not yet know precisely all the retrocipatory impacts they will have giving harmful results in the future. Some of these are discussed in the Attitudes section of our Rethink.

In such a way might we escape the Scholastic tendency to separate the ethical and faith aspects into a separate 'sacred' compartment of lives, and see how it affects all?

See also Deeper roots of reactions to greener society below.

So, with this in mind, and bearing in mind that most of the discussion was in terms of outcomes, let us continue ...

Summary: Also see GHU in terms of aspectual functioning, not just outcomes. This helps us integrate attitudes into our thinking. [zej18]

[Ed. RG later sent this comment by email: I wonder how you would define "harmful" to mean something other than "producing harm". Perhaps a better distinction would be between "harmful" and "anti-normative"? That's clearly important, because the former evokes a consequentialist ethic, which in practice tends to focus on some calculus of kinds of harm from different aspects (or worse, a single aspect like the economic). ] []

]
[19.40]

----- Achieving Good and Preventing Harm [zej19]

[AB: Notice how most of the following is about good and harmful outcomes, rather than functioning. ]

--- A Way of Preventing Harm and Encouraging Good [zej20]

# NO: I would make two points on that.
# 1. If we can establish an embedded economics that has some coherence that can be used as a measurement, a wheel if you will, that says, "Hey these things are dialling up and these things are dialling down", in business and in government policy, we can put a tax or an insurance on that thing. []
# [We can then say" "Hey, you want to bring this to market. It looks like the benefit is this. If the benefit becomes Y, you are going to pay to buy this policy. And that policy is going to fund whatever remediation or issues that we can estimate." [] ***
# Now, again, we have to be practical about this. But I think, to some extent, if we formulate an economics that says we are looking at the ways good and harm are dialling up and down, we can use some business tools to put incentives around those things. []
# It's never going to be perfect, like you said, RG, because we don't know the future and even the probabilities are subject to air, but / []
[21.15]

[AB: That sounds like a qualitative way of dealing with Good and Harm, such as I was suggesting earlier. Even though it involves some quantitative calculations, of tax, insurance premiums, etc., it the choosing of which kinds of harm to tax, and which kinds of good to recognise as benefits. ] []

[Ed. ELS sent, by email, the following suggestion about using taxes to reduce harm:

"- How can we expand the 'Good' economic activities that GDP captures to include those things that bring joy and "good" to our lives, but do not cost money and are therefore excluded? Examples might include attending church on a sunday, or playing poohsticks as a child on the river. - Pigouvian taxes [taxes on any market activity that generates negative externalities] would be the standard way to internalise a 'bad' in the economic system. For example, a company polluting the river might pay a tax for doing so, which might go towards healthcare for those affected. - The details escape me but subsidies are another route, as are cap and trade schemes (the EU ETS being a good example)" ] []

[AB: Of course! Taxing harmful activities is useful as a policy. (Why had we not discussed that before? Actually maybe we did mention the idea occasionally.) However, governments becomes so dependent on these taxes that they secretly hope the harm will continue (for example smoking and driving), and such taxes can be a harsher burden on people with low incomes. Moreover, Coase argued against them on purely economic grounds, of market efficiency (but that takes the perspective of isolated economics).

Pigouvian taxes are probably one tool in the box of policy instruments, if used carefully. But we want two things that they might not provide: (a) We want the actual harm (and good) in economics calculations, rather than disguising harm as tax. (b) We need not only policy instruments but to be able to account for harm and good. So, can Pigouvian taxes be enriched by our thinking? ]

# NO: So I want to go back to something I mentioned early on.
# AB: You said you had two things. Have you given us the two, or are you going to get to it and you are still continuing with the first?
# NO: The two points to this issue are:
# 1. If we come up with measurement system that is more comprhensive than the current economic theory, []
# [2.] that could help us then put processes in place that would act to ameliorate issues in the future. []
# That was my two points on the issue of how do we deal with things that we don't know. # AB: So the Number 2 is that we could put processes in place? # NO: Yeah.

Summary: Taxes and mandatory insurance policies might have a role in shifting from harmful to good economic activity. [zej21]

--- Four Levers [zej22]

# AB: I interrupted you. You were going to go back to something you said earlier.

# NO: I sent around something that I was reviewing back in in July 2021. (Maybe I could send it around again.)
# ACTION NO: Re-send []
# NO: What I said is: "When we are dealing with this issue, in my thinking, there are only 4 areas of change. []

[Ed. See ]10th RLDG Discussion, za02. He called them "levers" then. ]

# And of those four areas, the embedded economics is only going to deal with two of them. [] ***
# The four areas of change as I see are:

# NO: I think what we can affect, in this process, the measurements (that's one of the things we should try to find, "Here's the way these things can be measured"), and we can affect the market place of exchange. []

[AB: Very helpful. This seems a good test for our Rethink, of its comprehensiveness, and whether it needs filling out. ] [] ***

[AB: Therefore, To Discuss:

Comment: I would have thought that individual hearts and minds are a matter of what we call "attitude", and this is currently introduced under Embedded Economics. ]

# NO: Now, what will happen is that, if that works, you will indirectly affect the individuals hearts and minds and the policies of the government. []
# You are never going to deal with the government effectively, because it is so entrenched in where it is today. I mean, it's making progress (I don't mean to sound negative, but) there is an inertia to government. There is a bit of / [] ***
# In individuals today, the issue is idolatry and misdirection. People are so concerned with the commercial transaction and social media world (the is the developed world we are talking about, not the ???push left in Africa trying to find something to eat). But they are so possessed by all this stuff, until you give them something else to look at, / []
# I mean look at the economic environment, look at the / today the / the movement to try and create a greener society, well, yknow, it's made some progress, but also it's pissed off a lot of people. Here in the USA, it's not that popular, if you look at it across the whole spectrum, and in the rest of the world, they are too busy trying to get ahead. So maybe, my point is / # AH: and maybe to catch up. # NO: to catch up. []

# NO: The reason I was bringing this up was, I think directionally again, if we improve the measurement of this new economic theory, and if we apply it in the market place there can be measurements that governments and people can use, that that's the best place where we can see an outcome that has some impact. []
# NO: OK, I'm very sorry for going on. # AH: It's all good, it's all good.

Summary: Embedded economics might be able to change measurements and markets, but it is not so clear how it can change individual hearts and minds, and governments. We need discussion. [zej23]

[26.10]

--- Barriers to Achieving Overall Good in Society [zej24]

[Ed. The following consists entirely of AB's reflections on the above, but is included here as contributing to that discussion. ]


[AB:

Dooyeweerdian Comment on "greener society" and reactions, and the deep root of problems.

Trying to create a greener society sounds like wanting to move towards Shalom, towards Overall Good, at least in some important issues in aspects like the biotic, which have been long overlooked or downplayed in economics. Some people want to "try and create" this, while others are "pissed off" by that attempt.

So, the question we face and should discuss is: Why did that happen? I believe that it happened because of dysfunction in the ethical and pistic aspects (our old friend "attitude"!). In both parties, in fact in three parties, not just one.

If such an aspectual view is helpful, and identifying three groups of people as all responsible, then does this help escape the tendency to take sides, and might it also help point towards a solution or at least amelioration? See also On Attitude.

Does this also indicate one contribution of a Christian perspective, of all responsible before God for caring for, tending, the rest of Creation rather than selfishly destroying it? Also how the Gospel of Christ can change people's hearts and minds towards a deep change of 'heart' attitude. See Rethink, Section 7 on Christian Perspective. ] [] ***

Summary: All parties need to function well in the ethical and pistic aspects, and it is dysfunction in these by all parties that might account for why governments do so little and some in society resist the 'green agenda'.
[zej25]

[26.10]

--- On Measurement of Environmental (and Other) Values [zej26]

# AB: DW, you have been listening. I'd like to invite you to comment, if you'd like to, on what you have heard so far, and then maybe take things a bit further:
# DW: OK, I'll see what I can do. There's quite a lot of different strands to our conversation.

# DW: I would sort of say, as far as measaurement is concerned, I think there is big difference between [journalist and academic and debates] - the broad policy debate that happens among journalists, (often quite well-informed journalists with an economics background), people like Mark Carney and the debate in that is happening in the public realm, and what is happening in academia. []
# There are academic economists who specialise in environmental economics, and they are trying to, I guess, come up with some quite technical ways in which you could adjust GDP to take into account particularly the environmental impacts, but all other kinds of impacts as well. []

# To be honest, here in Canada - I'm sure it's the same in the UK and probably the US as well - the government agencies are trying to come up with these kind of ways to adjust GDP. []
# But, I guess it takes time, and also it's tough. Because whereas GDP is relatively easy to measure, some other kinds of impacts, environmental impacts / Some of them can be measured relatively easily but some are much more difficult to quantify. []


# For instance, if you build a highway and it goes through an old-growth forest or it changes a lot of habitat of animals, how do you measure that? That is difficult. We all know it is real, but it is much more difficult to measure. []

[AB: To answer DW's question: In discussing values and their assessment (measurement), we first distinguish different purposes of assessing, then suggest approaches to assessment that are suited to each. In this case, it would be for the purpose of decision-making in a specific situation. Whereas quantitative measurement might be useful in gaining an overview, it is less necessary in decision-making. In decision-making, we suggest, qualitative assessment is more appropriate, and especially to consider current and possible future aspectual functioning. ] []

[AB: On feasibility of aspectual approach. Why is GDP easy to measure? How can the governments know what money flows, in order to compile the total amount? Is it only because there is already a massive system of reporting nearly every transaction where money flows? Without such a massive system, would GDP be very difficult to measure? If that is all so, then it means that there is already a lot of effort within humanity in translating multi-aspectual value into monetary quantities and reporting that to the government. (Interestingly, how much of humanity's effort goes into all this?)

What this means is that our suggestions might be feasible. Any other system than GDP for measuring values and good and harm could in principle be possible, and would probably take no more human effort in total than measuring GDP. Is that so? ] [] ***

# DW: My point is that some of these issues that we are discussion are being taken seriously by academic economists, environmental economists, and people. They are / some of them are more difficult to actually quantify. I mean, they are being looked at in a theoretical sense, and people undertsand the issues. []
# But in some ways, it is much more difficult for agencies to actually put value of those things into something like GDP. []

Summary: Some people are trying to rethink GDP by incorporating different kinds of value, but it is difficult. [zej27]

[29.00]

----- Implementing a Framework for Good and Harm [zej28]

[Ed. Having discussed as an overall level, the conversation turned towards implementing a framework for GHU, or at Good and Harm. ]

--- Dooyeweerd's Idea of Economic Aspect of All We Do [zej29]

# DW: That was one point. I guess the other point I was wanting to throw in there as well, to think about is: I think one of the advantages of what Dooyeweerd says, is that he sort of (sorry, this is a diffnt strand of thought, thrown in there) /
# Dooyeweerd sees economics as a modal science (I guess he probably sees all sciences as modal sciences) but it's [economics] very much is a modal science. []
# He would argue that the economic aspect is part of every human activity - which I think is a very helpful way to look at it. [] ***

# And that is kind of I think that is in line with the way that modern economics sees things. If you go back to people like Adam Smith, that would not necessarily be the way that he saw things. But he was writing a long time ago. But in modern economics, I think we understand that. There is an economic realm to most activities. []

# I don't know if you've seen a book that came out a few years ago, called Freakonomics. And they tried to apply economics to all kinds of things, Looking at for instance, people dating, dating activity to try to find a long-term partner, person to marry, or a long-term partner. They look at that as a kind of search activity that's kind-of similar to the kind of search that people do when looking for a new job. []

[Ed. Steven D Levitt, Stephen J Dubner. 2005. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. Penguin, UK. Applies economic theories to seemingly unrelated sociocultural phenomena. ] []

[AB: Freakonomics seems a useful approach to embedding economics among other spheres of activity. However, it is highly criticised in Wikipedia, for making statistical errors and misrepresenting papers it cites. From an aspectual perspective, it seems to focus on assisting the formative aspect of decision-making rather than any of the 'nebulous' aspects. Hence, in our embedding of economics, we need to be more careful and honest. ] []

# DW: So I think that is something that is good in what Dooyeweerd says. He would say, "Everything has an economic mode to it". [] ***
# And I think he would say (I have to say I'd like to spend a bit more time reading Dooyeweerd), but I think he would say that there are some activities where the economic aspect is the leading aspect. []
# Obviously, that would be true of most of what we call The Economy. But it is implicit in all kinds of activities as well. []

# So, for instance, one could be doing something completely / that appears to be non-economic. Like, for instance, [...] as families, we make big, big decisions about how to use our time. And it's not something we necessarily quantify, but those are real decisions that we are making and they are real economic decisions. []
# And I think that is a very helpful aspect, of what Dooyeweerd's framework enables us to see. []
# AB: Right, excellent! [...] I think we've kind of assumed that among us, that everything has an economic mode, but it's really great to get it made explicit. Thank you very much. That's terrific, actually.

[AB: That is an excellent expression of something that I, at least, had taken for granted in our discussions. It needs spelling out like that. I think the way DW has done so is excellent. ] []

[AB: Dooyeweerd: This is about the multi-aspectual functioning that is everyday life, and about how each human activity is lead or qualified by one aspect, the one that most makes if meaningful. ] []

Summary: Every human activity has an economic aspect, though some activities are led by the economic aspect. Modern economics understands that, and Dooyeweerd's philosophy can help ground that understanding. [zej30]

[32.00]

--- Theories, Models, Equations and Calculations Recognising Good and Harm [zej31]

# AB: Your first point was about measurement, that a lot of companies and governments are trying to deal with some of these things. Did you say earlier that you know of some that are trying to bring / differentiate harmful from good economic activity? [Ed. Yes: Maryland] []
# The sort of thing I have in mind is:

[Example] GDP currently adds together the good economic activity plus the harmful economic activity to produce a total. Maybe a better way way of doing GDP would be to subtract them, subtract the harmful from the good (assuming of course that we can define those!). []

# But that's the sort of thing that might be coming up.
# AB: Have you (DW) got any comments on any of that?

# DW: Yeah. I mean I suppose what I was referring to there was the fact that I am pretty sure that the Canadian Government (I could try and find out a bit more information about it) but our statistical agency here, Statistics Canada. I'm sure that the same is happening in many other OECD developed countries. The statistical agency here I believe has a project going where they are really trying to quantify some of these environmental impacts, and other kinds of impacts too. (I have to admit I don't really know anything in too much detail. But I'm pretty sure they starting with the environmental impacts. For instance, local air pollution and things like that would be an obvious place to start. []
# ACTION AB: To look up what SC are doing and insert here.
# DW: And those would be things that you would subtract from GDP. []

[AB: I assumed subtract. But is there a better way? ] []

# DW: I mean, I think you would probably still use GDP because it is, within limits, it is helpful. []

[Ed. We recognised the slight validity of GDP a previous time. ]

# DW: But you could come up with multiple other measures, like Adjusted GDP, that adjusts for the environmental impacts. []

# AB: So there are actually thinkers actually talking about subtracting harm, as opposed to just regretting harm? # DW: yeah, absolutely. # AB: Great. []
# AH: I need to break in and say that the page I referred to the about the State of Maryland, in there it says "Maryland uses 26 indicators to calculate the State GPI." I cannot remember what GPI stands for, but it's some kind of indicator of overall health and progress they way they define it. # AB: Genuine Progress Indicator. # AH: Thank you. That's one attempt. []

Summary: Some are actively thinking about how to bring non-economic issues into their calculations, but they are few, and seem to be more in government circles than in academic economics. [zej32]

[AB: More discussion needed on getting GHU into the theories, models, equations and calculations of economics. Some is below, but not much in detail. Note that most of the above, and the following, discussion is about Good and Harm and little is about Useless, so discussion is especially needed on how (and even whether) to bring Useless in. ]

[35.10]

--- The Normative Practices Approach [zej33]

# AB: RG, anything to add so far? Or shall we go on to discuss the thorny topic of Useless and Nonessentials?

[Ed. It seems we never did discuss Useless economic activity. ]

# RG: Various thoughts going through my mind. Just last week I was finishing writing a manuscript paper about what's called "sustainable intensification in farming". A buzzword or watchword for a how faming / a sort of policy-level view on how farming around the world could be better without being very specific. The idea that there should be more production of food and less damage to the environment. []

# And I was trying to apply the Normative Practices Framework, or the Normative Practices Approach. I don't know if any of you are aware of developed by Henk Jochemsen and colleagues in the Netherlands. Initially for health, for professions. They initially applied it to the professions like being a doctor, being a nurse. And it's gradually been applied in more and more areas. Essentially, it's a Dooyeweerdian approach to thinking about norms in any social practice. []
# And there is already a paper applying it to livestock farming, and I have tried using it for farming more generally and connecting it to this research agenda of sustainable intensificaton. []
# And it got me thinking a lot, and reading more.

Summary: The Normative Practices Approach might offer a paradigmatic basis on which to develop theories. [zej34]

[AB: Needs more discussion. NPA seems promising in that is puts normativity, the distinction between Good and Harmful functioning, at the centre. However, it was not explained (nobody asked for explanation) so we don't know. ]

--- On Universal and Cultural Norms [zej35]

# RG: And the main thing, uppermost in my mind, are two areas:

# RG: [...] Let me start with this one, and maybe the economic one is a bigger/ or could be delayed:
# But Good and harm. []
# I find it very helpful to see that the latter aspects in Dooyeweerd's series, at least from the analytical onwards, as Dooyeweerd proposed, and quite possibly from the sensory onwards and possibly even earlier [the biotic] as you proposed, AB, are values themselves. []
# [...] In the manuscript I was writing, I might even read you a bit of it (nobody else has read it yet). This is what I said,

"While there may be great variability among cultures concerning things say social values, - e.g. our pride, self-confidence or independence, good or bad, or lingual values, e.g. how good are contradictions, neologisms, sarcasm [we like that one in Britain!] [laughter], or values of justice, e.g. does equality apply to individuals, or families, or lineages, does it apply to opportunities or outcomes - yet there are still basic norms of sociality, communication and justice, among others, ..." [Ed. my emph] []

# And then I mention Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven, and that tradition. And the idea of an ordered sequence of aspects. []
# And I suggested (this is what I currently believe) that the sensory aspect introduces the possibility of valuing, and from there onwards, starting from the basic notion of comfort being better than pain. There onwards, each aspect introduces a new dimension of value. And we have a table and so on. []

# So, first of all, I was just thinking that it is / in some ways it is going to be controversial to propose in a scholarly journal that there are universal norms. At least it might be. But I hope it won't. []
# Because I think that justice is, as it were by definition, a good thing. I don't think anyone can use the word justice because of how it functions in language, its intrinsically part of its definition is good. And the same for beautiful, for kindness, for love, and indeed for efficient, clear - and all these things.
# So, more or less I think Dooyeweerd's aspects are values, the latter ones at least.

Summary: Dooyeweerd's aspects offer universal norms, but how do we put them across? [zej36]

--- How Much Detail about Good and Harm? [zej37]

# RG: But I'm not sure how much further we can go in finding universal norms. Once you get below the level of a whole aspect. [] ***

# I'm just a bit cautious about thinking that we can pin it down.
# What I'm really suggesting is that it might be that when all the things that we want to say are good, already are good by definition and not by discovery. []

# We give lots of examples in the draft of things that might be harmful or non-harmful. But I feel that in general, it's the language with is doing the work. And we are using words which the dictionary more or less are telling us are harmful or not harmful. []
# And it doesn't necessarily mean that we are going to know how to implement a framework about harm and non-harm, beyond rhetoric. [] ***

[AB: Dooyeweerd: Useful comments. We need to be clear about all that. I believe that Dooyeweerd would see it this way:

Might that suggest ways to implement beyond rhetoric? Especially the equations?
] []

Summary: How may we compile a framework for Good and Harm with enough detail? Dooyeweerd might help get us further. [zej38]

[41.00]

--- Values in Combination [zej39]

# AH: RG, if you don't mind me jumping in. I think that what you are saying is true when we look at each aspect individually. In other words, comfort is always more valuable than pain, for instance. []
# But where it becomes messy and might not be true is where we combine functioning of different aspects together. []

# So, with your example of comfort and pain, maybe a little bit of pain could be seen as good if it results in more good in other aspects. For instance, if people experiencing pain learn something and therefore make better decisions from a biotic point of view. For instance, if we touch a hot stove - that's a classic example, right? - so we learn that touching stoves is painful, harmful, and we learn to avoid that in the future. []
# So, that's my view, that it might involve tradeoffs between the functioning of different aspects.

[AB: Good point. We must beware the single-aspect comparison (e.g. comfort better than pain) because there are always other aspects. It is all too easy to get trapped in that, because logic is clearest and most compelling when targeting a single aspect, and often those who want to promote a particular cause will loudly put a question in their one favoured aspect. ]

[AB: SMcG had the idea of 'cipations', which are combinations of aspects. ] []

[42.16]

# RG: But that's taking us backward as far as I can see, because we cannot even say that comfort is good. Is there anything that we can say is good, and how are we going to apply this to the economy? [] ***

[RG: (From subsequent email) At this point I had just suggested that we still have a lot of work to do to operationalise values beyond the linguistic level. My comment about "backwards" was made in that context, because Andrew's point about combining aspects seemed to make conclusive attribution of value to specific situations even more difficult (e.g. "greater good" arguments about pain). I was using "backwards" to draw attention to our direction with respect to that particular argument. ] []

# AB: Well, it may be, actually, that it's not so much that comfort is good - because I am not sure that comfort is the kernel meaning of the psychical or sensory aspect. []
# Where it seems to be taking us backwards might indicate that we are misunderstanding the kernel meaning of an aspect. [] ***
# So, for example, I would say the kernel meaning of the sensory aspect is [...] sensitivity, the ability to respond. []

[AB: A good, soundly-based and practical list of kernels is needed. Maybe Summary of Aspects might help? It shows aspects as diagrams like:


The lingual aspect and some of its constellation

Example of the lingual aspect as sphere of meaningfulness,
with kernel meaning and its constellation.


]

Summary: More difficult when aspectual norms combine, but possible in principle. We must ensure we properly identify the kernels. [zej40]

[43.15]

--- Might One Aspect Override Another? [zej41]

# RG: Can we try justice? Is justice always good? []
# I think that's undisputably close to the kernel of the jural aspect. But in Christian apologetics we routinely celebrate the fact that God overlooks justice. # AB: Yeah. # RG: And brings in mercy in place of justice. OK, we have a way of saying that justice is still upheld, but not in the direct way that we were expecting. []

[Ed: Our way of saying that justice is still upheld, even with mercy, is that God Himself took the punishment for our sins. ] []

# NO: I would say, without a lot of thought, that justice is always good by definition. And the reason: I would take you back to some of the thinking of Natural Law. []
# If there is an equation; justice is an equation. Yknow, the scales of justice, up and down. And I think that we have that as an embedded process in our bodies and our thinking and our minds and, I would say, in our soul, for Christians, from God, that there is this thing that says [that] I can look at something and say that it's fair, whether I admit it or not. And everything else I judge off of that scale. []
# chat: 01:11:23 AH: Do we truly want pure justice? Eye for eye, tooth for tooth? In the US, at least, justice is tempered with mercy. A criminal sentence could be shortened for good behavior, for instance.
# chat: 01:12:12 RG: Agreed, AH!

# NO: Also I will mention the Civic Virtues that Cicero had, I think, which were prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. I mean, if we could construct a society, Christian or otherwise, which operated on those civic virtues, it would be in pretty good shape. []

Summary: Justice (jur) tempered with mercy (eth), but not overridden. [zej42]

--- Each Aspect Introduces a New Kind of Value [zej43]

# NO: I am really interested in what you said about the sensory aspect. What you said, what AB and AH were saying [Ed. actually, RG], "The sensory aspect is the entry point [for valuing]," you say? So you are saying that is the one that is the fulcrum that you would look through, as far as making the good evaluation? Is that it? []
# RG: I'm not sure quite that. I get this from Stafleu, who suggests that the concept of valuing starts out with the basic animal concept of desiring or preferring. []
# And I think Stafleu suggests that value and valuing could be seen through the sensitive aspect as higher and higher ways of preferring things.
# NO: Who is Stafleu. # RG: I'll put the name in the chat. # AB: i don't know if he's still alive.
# Chat: 01:10:11 RG: http://www.mdstafleu.nl/

# AB: That's interesting, RG, I'll have to think about that one, that valuing starts out with animal desiring, the sensitive aspect [AB: and why that might be so]. []
# Because what it means is that there is no valuing in plants. So my immediate thought is, my immediate question is, "Is it valid to see valuing in plants?" []
# And, yeah, I can see what you mean: There needs to be some interaction with the environment, some response to the environment, in valuing, but maybe also there is a tiny modicum of valuing in plants, in that they / yknow, a plant in a poor soil does not do so well, or plant bends towards the light grows, tries to thrive, or things like that. []
# I'm not too sure, but That's something to think about.

Summary: Each aspect introduces a new kind of value, which later aspects enrich. [zej44]

[47.15]

--- A Proposal: Measure What is Good [zej45]

# NO: Let me throw something out here. [...] Suppose we just try to measure what's good. In other words, let's say that we put an Economics together that says, "The focus of this Economics is what is good? What is cultivating (back to what AH said)? What is the beneficial side of things?" And we did not really measure the negative. What we want to do is encourage the Good, and we want to incent[ivize] the Good, want to recognise the Good. []
# So, if we say that our economics is going to be what is just, what is good, and what is beneficial to human wellness and the wellness of the Earth. And that is the only thing that our measurement is going to focus on,
# [Question:] Have we achieved something that now people can begin to hang their hat on? []

[AB: Interesting. NO wants to find something that people can "hang their hat on", i.e. can easily see how they can use it. ]

# NO: Here's the point: See if I can use a sports analogy. Yknow, at the end of the day, at the end of the game, people will argue all sorts of things about shots on goal, or whatever, but the only thing that matters is the score at the end of the game, right. Then a lot of statistics come out about this is what the day score, this is what the / So if we get something that says "Here's the score" people will argue about all sorts of stuff, but we at least got them focused on the ???score.

[AB: Score measures achievement, which is meaningful in the formative aspect. ]

[49.20]

# AB: What are you trying to say? I'm not quite sure I'm with you. Are you saying we don't need to consider the harmful, measure the harmful, or are you / # NO: Yeah.
# NO: I think, if we say that we want an economics that is going to tell us among certain parameters what is Good, or has a good quotient, and we say that that's the new GDP - you can have your economic GDP in dollars and cents, or in terms of economic transaction, but here's the GDP of Good. [] ***
# Now you've got people that have got to think about the Good and measure the Good. []
# I mean it's very difficult like DW said: how do you measure the highway going through the forest? [...] I could come up with a way to do that; it involves looking at the good of both the forest and the highway. [AB: See later on attitude.] []
[50.40]

[AB: Counter comment: But in a sense, does not GDP already measure the Good, just with the presupposition that all economic transactions are good? Is it not the harmful activity, that which actually destroys, negates or undermines Good, that we need to take into account? However, maybe NO meant to remove harmful from GDP, where it is currently included - which would make GDP better than it is now, even if not perfect. ]

Summary: Proposal to redefine a GDP that measures the Good value of economic activity. Disagreement over whether it should ignore or include the harmful economic activity. [zej46]

--- Good for Whom? Good and Harm to Different Stakeholders [zej47]

# RG: But there is also, NO, Good for whom? []
# And then we come back to anthropocentrism. It's not even that simple. Because there is no such thing as the human interest. It's going to be good for some people, particularly investors. And employees. It's going to be bad for some people. It's going to be bad for most other individual plants and animals. []
# And then the question, "Do you put value on abstract things like biodiversity?" I just don't think you can even start. []

# Now, I'm not completely relativist. I do think there is a Good, and I think the Ultimate Good is the Kingdom of God. And the ultimate question, therefore, is pretty much "What would Jesus do?" but I'm not sure how we can bring that into policy! [laughter] []

# NO: Well, I don't know if I agree with you on all of that. Because I think again, I think God has - and this is going to sound terribly old-school - but I think God appointed us as humans to have the capabilities and the responsibility to, like we said, cultivate this stuff. So the view of that to some extent is valid. []
# Because, think of it another way: If we don't answer that this way, you just answered the question; there will be no answer. [] ***

# RG: I'm not saying we can do no good, but I'm very skeptical that we put a single number / []

[AB: Sadly, RG broke his sentence here and switched to a different train of thought. It would have been useful to hear about his skepticism about putting a single number on. Fortunately, the problematicness of assigning a single number is well known, and we have discussed it in the past. (a) Putting a number of anything can distort. (b) Single number ignores the difference between aspects. (c) A single number can conflate evil with good. ] []

# I mean, it's global government, with a global policy and a global GDP substitute tell everybody "This is the right way for you all to behave." # NO: Yes, I know that's horrible. And I'm a conservative poltiically, though I hate that term. # RG: Thought you might be. []
# NO: But this is the reality of the world. Let me tell you something. The insurance companies and the risk / they are putting a dollar on every damn thing there is out there. # AH: including human life. # NO: Including human life. I was in ??? the medical industry, I was in malpractice suits and so on. I know how all this works. So I'm telling you, you can put a number on. []

# What I'm saying is that a number is going to be put on whether you like it or not, so we need to put the right number on. [] ***
[53.20]

# AH: Where I work, it's called Quality Adjusted Life Years. # NO: Yeah. # DW: ???

# RG: We don't have to go / It's not somewhere where we should be ploughing on boldly. There are still such things as Repugnant Markets. So, what is the price of a human heart or a human kidney? Fortunately, most of us don't know. Now, of course, there are prices on those things, and they vary widely on the black markets of Mexico and so on. But I think many of us would agree that it should be with great fear and trepidation that we move towards quantifying the most important things, from a human perspective. And I'm also equally concerned that we try to quantify value from anyone's perspective, even in the Kingdom of God. []

# chat: 01:22:06 RG: I can recommend a paper: Adams, JGU (1974) "...and how much for your grandmother?" Environment and Planning 6: 619-626.
# chat: 01:22:44 AH: what is JGU? # 01:22:55 RG: That's his initials :) # 01:23:00 AH: his/her initials? OK. # 01:23:14 AH: not a journal. :) #
01:23:43 NO: Thank you RG!!

# I don't think we are called to put numbers on things as our faithful service to our Creator and Redeemer. Now, that can be part of our service to our Creator and Redeemer, but it's not the ultimate way of pleasing God: to do the thing that maximizes the index. [] ***
# DW: RG, I may be a little more / I think I am a little more positive about measurement and quantification than you are, but I certainly understand what you are saying about the limits. []

Summary: There is harm, evil as well as good. [zej48]


----- Decision-making that Distinguishes Good and Harm [zej49]

[Ed. Note: The following seems to be about decision-making rather than about retrospective assessment or overview. As our Rethink makes clear, such different purposes of assessment require different methods. ]

--- Making Decisions about Complex Situations [zej50]

# DW: But I do think it is important to get back to issues like the Highway. Frankly, that was, when I started out as an economist, that was a big issue. I forget what the highway was called. But there was a big issue like that in Britain, where there was a really important old-growth forest they were trying to put a bypass highway through. []
# But at the end of the day, I think it is important to realise (and I think Dooyeweerd helps us see that) that even if you are not quantifying it, even you are just sort-of [for example] briefing a politician and you basically say to them, "OK, we've got this highway that we need to put through this area. If we do this, this is going to help reduce food costs for households, because transportation costs are going to go down. On the other hand, if we are destroying this old-growth forest." I mean, someone at some level is weighing the one against the other. []
# And I think that Dooyeweerd helps us see that, implicit in every sortof aspect of life, is this implicit weighing of things against each other, and / []
# From my perspective, if we are putting numbers of those things / and I frankly think it's actually very helpful, even values of life, is actually helpful. And I disagree. []
# AH: Thank you, DW.
# DW: Somebody is still making that decision, right. []

# DW: And ultimately I would prefer to be an elected politician rather than a world government that's making a sortof (particuarly a local) politician who is making those big decisions, rather than a world government. But somebody's got to make them. []

[AB: But should not elected/local politicians always think of responsibility and consequences beyond their patch? Fully Christ-filled politicians would do so but, unfortunately, that is far from true these days (if ever it was!). If the majority of local politicians are self-absorbed, do we not get injustices elsewhere in the world? Might not that be a reason why some seem to see global government or laws as a solution? It is another reason why I see the full Gospel of Christ as the only solution to our global problems. ]

# AH: I agree [with DW], and I want to add to that, even if someone was not putting numbers on, that, still implicitly, we are [quantifying]. And any decision is going to be consistent with certain quantifications and inconsistent with other quantifications. [] ***
# So, when we don't quantify, then we are not being upfront. We are not being particular and open about the quantifications that are consistent with that decision. Things are hidden, things are secret. []
# chat: 01:20:51 AH: #1 is ANALYSIS
[56.50]

[AB: Counter comment: I would question whether we always quantify, even implicitly. The reference to "weighing" would seem to indicate quantitative measures, but I take it here to be another word for "thinking carefully about", rather than strict weighing, so need not be quantitative. We might always be making distinctions, and maybe that is what AH meant. However, in many of those distinctions, we analyse them qualitatively rather than quantitatively, not putting numbers on. So, what exactly did AH have in mind? ] []

[AB: Comment: The validity of quantificaiion depends on the purpose for which assessment is done. To gain an overview, for example, it is very useful and valid. However, to make specific decisions, it is much less valuable, and could perhaps be replaced by qualitative assessment or even by consideration of multi-aspectual functioning. This is being brought into our Rethink. So, is AH right when he says we will always make quantifications even implicitly? And that we need to admit this to avoid hidden reasons? ] []

Summary: Quantitative approaches are universally used in 'weighing up' alternatives, but perhaps need not be. [zej51]

--- Towards Wisdom [zej52]

# AB: Yeah. Now, that, I think, is one of the big benefits of Dooyeweerd. I wrote a chapter on using Dooyeweerd in everyday life, and I came up with four ways in which Dooyeweerd can help. []

# But in my view Dooyeweerd helps us towards wisdom, whether it's quantitative of qualitative. As I think DW was saying. Does that resonate with you, DW? # DW: Yes.

# NO: By the way, I'm gonna to reflect on all of this, particuarly what you just mentioned about Dooyeweerd. []

# But I want to get back to RG, and say, yknow, he is right about some of this. Because these / even though we do this thing and put numbers on things, and the society is just constructed to do that, it is something we should be prayerful about. [...] I wish that if we came to a new economics, it would have Christian values at its heart, so that those type of measurements would be done prayerfully. (Now I sound like Don Quixote, I guess!) []
# So I am going to think about this some more.
# AB: Yeah, we had a discussion on Christian values about a year ago, and the role of CHristian values about a year ago. I cannot remember what they were, but I've got them somewhere. []

[Ed. In z4, z5 briefly, and than whole discussions z6 z7 and z8 devoted to Christian Values.]

Summary: Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us towards wisdom, in several ways. [zej53]

[1.00.00]


----- Resources to Help Give Us Direction [zej54]

# AB: Folks, we should have taken an hour. We have already taken an hour and 20 minutes, although I think we took 20 minutes to introduce ourselves and things like that. Do we want to draw to a close here, or do we want to continue?

# AH: If you don't mind, I have something, AB, that really should be shared, especially in light of maybe one third of what NO was saying. []
# I will share my screen. [... shared screen] This is Portable Document Format [pdf].
# chat: 01:26:59 NO: Thank you, A H!!

--- Goudzwaard's Ideas, and The Kind of World We Want [zej55]

# AH: This is a page on Bob Goudzwaard's very famous book, Capitalism and Progress. It starts to address the question of what is good in an overall sense, what should we be shooting for. []
# And, if you've read it, Capitalism and Progress, it is a much bigger book, with many ideas. I would encourage anybody who is interested, to take a screenshot of this.

[Ed. Here is an OCR'd and corrected text of the screenshot of the page of text that AH displayed. It is page 186 of Goudzwaard's Capitalism and Progress:

186 TOWARD THE DISCLOSURE OF SOCIETY

DISCLOSURE OF SOCIETY

In view of this we must conclude that out most essential problems can be solved only when the place of progress itself in society is openly discussed. Only in open confrontation with that light at the end of the tunnel. that beckoning but forever receding and hence imprisnning goal, can we find real solutions. In order to contribute to this discussion l would like to introduce a new concept, namely, that of the disclosure of society or,
to use a commonly accepted term, the Striving for an open society. [superscript 51]

What is meant by disclosure? This term is intended to express a direction of human life quite distinct from that of a tunnel society. Disclosure implies the recovery of the meaning and value of human life outside of its subjection and service to progress. In the context of our entire discussion it means life's liberation from the closed horizon of a deadly servility to the narrow goals which we established for ourselves by accepting progress as the essence of western culture. Disclosure, therefore, is first of all a process in which the norms for human life -- like justice, trust, and truth -- regain their original validity for our decisions and acts, also with respect to that broad range of decisions and acts where at present the criteria of progress are of overwhelming importance. Secondly, in a process of disclosure, cultural institutions and societal forms -- like governments, trade unions. and economic enterprises -- regain opportunities to develop themselves according to their own distinct responsibilities. Finally, a process of disclosure removes the unbridled pressure on the individual person to adjust his or her habits and behavior to external demands. In an opened society the individual is no longer forced to exist as an anonymous object, a receptacle or plaything of economic, technical, and scientific progress. Disclosure implies that every day life is intended to have its own meaning; that today's significance is not exhausted in what it may contribute to tomorrow's ncefi and wants.

If we are to find a point of departure for the solution of
- [end of text this page] -

51. A discussion oi the philosophical parallel of the concept of disclosure can be found in the writings of Herman Dooyeweerd and some of his associates.
For Dwyeweerd, see A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, 4 vols. (Amsterdam: Paris; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed. 1953-58), vol. 2, pp. 181-330, and Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular and Christian Options (Toronto, Wedge 1979), chapters 3 and 4. See also L. Kalsbeek, Contours of a Christian Philosophy: An Introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought (Toronto, Wedge, 1975), pp. 126-141.


]

--- Books from Dooyeweerd [zej56]

# And if you have any of those resources [books], especially those listed in the footnote here, [] that is

[Ed. See references below.] []
# These all hearken to the idea of disclosure of society, in italics here. []

# And I think we would do well to review those and / to start to get some overall direction for the kind of world we want to focus on, we want to shoot for. [] ***

[AB: Very good idea: What kind of world? This might link to what we deem the Mandate of Economics. I suppose we want something like the Kingdom of God, or Creational Shalom, or what we are calling Overall Good, as defined by (the norms of) Dooyeweerd's fifteen aspects. However, that is very general, and we had been discussing that, so I sense that AH had something more specific in mind. So am asking him for more specific ideas than are offered below. ] []

[1.02.20]

# AB: Ah. What do you have in mind. You have said something very general. Can you give examples?
# AH: Well, we talk about Good versus Harm, and I think that some of these resources give us some direction on how to formulate that. []

[AB: In what way? Must ask him. ]

# AB: So are you talking about Bob Goudzwaard's book or are you talking about / What gives us some help in that? []
# AH: Well, just Goudzwaard himself does not talk about this in depth. There are a few pages here, page 187, 188. Yknow, he says here that it's not an in-depth discussion of disclosure. But he refers (and this is really what I want to focus on) he refers to these other resources that do develop that idea, down here [Ed. at bottom of page]. []
# So I'm very sorry to interrupt, but I just ah / yknow, again and again NO especially brought up that topic, and I think that that would give us a lot of help. []
# I have every one of these resources except for the New Critique (I sold mine, or I gave it away). So if somebody wants specific pages I could also pull those out. []


# AB: You know that the New Critique is available free, online? # AH: I did not know that. Wow! # AB: Dutch National Library. If you go to the Dooyeweerd Pages and go to [...] the bibliography and go down to New Critique and it will give you links to it. []

[Ed. To download Dooyeweerd's New Critique, go to: http://www.dbnl.org/auteurs/auteur.php?id=dooy002. This work has four volumes, which are available online by clicking below:

A plain text version of each volume is available. ] []

# AH: It's too bad, because I spent $150 to send my copy of New Critique to somebody in the Philippines. # AB: Well, that's a lovely sacrifice, AH, a lovely sacrifice! A functioning in the ethical aspect! That's part of good economic activity! :-) [] [laughter]
# DW: So, you can find it online at the Dutch National Library? # AB: Yeah.

Summary: Use resources from Goudzwaard and Dooyeweerd to help us work out the kind of world we aim for and the mandate of economics. [zej57]

[phone bell ringing!]
[1.04.45]

--- Understanding What Economics is About [zej58]

# DW: Just on the subject of Goudzwaard, I'll try to be very brief.
# I think it is worth looking at some of his other books as well. There's one I know called Towards an Economy of Care or something like that (it's just sitting out there on my bookshelf) [...]. He talks a little bit about what is the meaning kernel of economic aspect. I think some of his discussions and some of his publications are quite helpful. []
# Beause I think Dooyeweerd had this idea that it was about frugality, and I think he's more or less right but I think we can deepen that, and Goudzwaard has tried to to that. []
# AB: OK, that's good.
# DW: He [Goudzwaard?] uses words like "stewardship" and then he goes onto say exactly what he means by that. [] ***

# AB: Excellent, very helpful. Because there are some Dooyeweerdian thinkers, or supposedly Dooyeweerdian thinkers, who are emphasising efficiency and are using Dooyeweerd / using one statement of Dooyeweerd to support neo-classical economics and so on.

[AB: "sparing or frugal mode of administering scarce goods, implying an alternative choice of their destination with regard to the satisfaction of different human needs" NC, II, 66 ] []

And I'm still struggling with that [the use of this text to support neo-classical]. Especially one, who actually wrote a paper in Philosophia Reformata, in order to try and argue against Goudzwaard's ideas. So, thank you very much. # DW: Did you write or somebody else write it? # AB: Somebody else wrote it. Adolfo Garcia de la Sienra. # DW: OK, thanks. # AB: Very much in favour of neo-classical economics and so on. I'm struggling. I'm trying to give him / trying to really understand and listen to him, and so on, but some of the things I don't like. []
# But anyway, thank you very much.

# AH: So, AH, is that particularly wanted to say about Goudzwaard, AH? # AH: yes, that's all.

Summary: Goudzwaard can help us understand the kernel of the economic aspect, richer than just frugality. [zej59]

[1.07.00]

----- On (Harmful) Attitudes in Decision-Making [zej60]

# AB: Is anyone else wanting to specifically bring up before we stop?
# AB: [...] I'd like to end by asking DW for - it's his first time here - some impressions. []
# But first, is there anything else anyone needs to bring up?

# chat: 01:31:33 AH: AB: In 3.3, in response to "Is the harm the fault of economics as such, or of those who misuse and misdirect economic activity? " - if it was the former, then God's plan would be deficient? For your consideration later

[Ed. In a previous discussion, CA argued that economics as such is not harmful, it is the way we misuse it. ]

# AB: I had a thing to bring up, about attitude - yknow, functioning in the ethical and pistic aspects especially. And I think what I'll do, I'll actually add my comments, what I was going to say on that, into the transcript, and I'll put it in brackets so you can see it was not actually said during the discussion, rather than take up time here. []
# But it seems to me that attitudes / yknow, this highway going through this forest, I find myself, in such situations, looking at the hidden agendas and the attitudes, and the little idolatries that people have in making the decision one way or the other. [] ***

# Just the other day, there was a 600-year-old Oak tree, [it] was felled because it was feared that it would harm some houses, new houses. And, as someone said, the oak tree was here long before the houses, and they should have thought about this before they put the houses up, and things like that. Someone suggested root guards. But they said, "Well, we're not sure it will work, it'll cost too much money," and so on. And I felt rather than thought, felt, a whole lot of hidden agendas in there, and worship of money [AB: putting monetary considerations above all others] and things like that. []
# That's something to talk about, but that's not /
# AH: The same tension is present now, with the Delta Smelt in the delta around California. I think it's in the San Francisco area, where the farmers could benefit by growing more food, which would help people of course. But then you are going to kill the Delta Smelt because they are not getting enough fresh water and the water's becoming too saline. So there's a conflict of interest. # AB: OK. []

[AB: Comment, and example of how to think about Attitudes. (This will do as the kind of thing I might have said above had there been time.) It is an example of how Dooyeweerd's aspects can help us tease apart the various components of each side of the argument, so we can think more carefully and perhaps more deeply, and lay things bare. It is NOT to be taken as an actual comment on the situation, because I know too little about it, and of course the following probably shows something of my biases, but it is an example of the process of aspectual analysis.

On the one side, is the life and continued flourishing of the Delta Smelt (biotic aspect good). And possibly the juridical aspect of what is due to them, from humans, whose mandate from God is to care for the rest of Creation, which is the also the ethical aspect (self-giving love, caring) of the situation.

On the other side, the argument seems at first sight to be about growing food. Now, food (biotic aspect) is good. However, I would ask, "Is that really what is most important in this situation?" If the people of the USA or the San Francisco area were short of food, that would be important. However, my answer would take into account that there already seems to be too much food around in the USA, causing obesity etc., so the biotic need for food seems to be of minimal meaningfulness here. Then there is the financial gain for the farmers. Now, there is an economic aspect of need for the farmers' families to have a reasonable resource for a reasonable standard of living. However, I suspect that the real driver are the two aspects of attitude, and dysfunction in those: selfishness (ethical aspect dysfunction) and idolatry of financial gain (pistic aspect dysfunction). Such dysfunction acts as poison in society, as we discuss in our Rethink.

So, unless there are considerations on either side stronger than those, we have biotic and juridical good against ethical and pistic dysfunction and harm with a tiny possible amount of biotic good.

So, there is an example of the process of aspectual analysis. ] [] ***

Summary: Often, hidden agendas (selfish attitudes and little idolatries) are the things that really drive the decisions that are made in politics and economics. Aspectual analysis can help reveal these and separate out the real issues. [zej61]

[1.09.30]

----- End [zej62]

--- Impressions [zej63]

# AB: DW, would you like to / you don't have to, but would you like to give some impressions?

# DW: Yeah. I'm very happy to have been invited to this event, and it's great to meet everyone here. You've got some great ideas and some book references as well. []
# DW: RG, [...] we Have connected a bit before, in the sense that you were doing some stuff with Mark Roques and the Thinking Faith Network. I have been fortunate to meet you before. []
# It's good to meet everybody else. And, I'm excited to see people kind-of / I didn't say that in my introduction but I have a very high opinion of Goudzwaard. I think he's done / I think he's got a lot of important stuff to add. []
# And I'm excited that there's other people out there who are really struggling with these issues as well: how do we apply that to economics?
# And all kinds of other things as well. Statistics!
# Thanks for inviting me.
# AB: OK.

# chat: 01:37:17 AH: RG: I struggle with whether to quantify belief (the Bayesian way), in the same way you apparently struggle with whether to quantify the value of human life.
# chat: 01:37:47 AH: That's what Neal & I were discussing before you joined the call
# chat: 01:38:25 RG: I see... sorry I missed that discussion!
# chat: 01:39:14 AH: Key Qn: do degrees of belief follow mathematical laws?
[1.10.45]

--- Finishing [zej64]


# AB closed in prayer, thanking for our discussions; may they move God's kingdom forward.

# AH: Enjoyed our time together.
# AB: As usual I'll try and transcribe this; I'll try and get it done. I'm leaving [dates] and away for probably a couple of weeks and won't be back [early August], so it would probably be good not to have one in August. Everyone happy with that?

# NO: Well. But we can still do some follow-ups on email, I guess, right? # AB: Indeed yes.

--- Future Plans [zej65]

# AB: ??? I prepared today an email I might send round for us to think about, about what we do in the future and so on.

# We have got two more topics to consider from our current rethink. But I'm not sure whether we need to consider them. []

# AB: DW, you have come in after a lot of history of this. But thank you for coming today. What you've said is really / # DW: ??? # AB: Thank you, NO [for a chat]. And I'd like to invite you [DW] to come again, well, to continue coming. Specifically, it's been really helpful. We'll be in email contact. # DW: Great. # AB: We'll be in email contact over the next few months. # DW: Sounds good. []

# AB: So, thank you very much, everyone. And thank you for all the stuff on the chat, which I'll copy and insert.

--- Couple of Actions [zej66]

# NO: Question. ... begin ... on the spot. But would DW share his email with the group? # DW: Sure, my email address.
# chat: 01:29:18 NO: Great - thanks DW!
# ACTION AB: To send DW's email round.

# NO: Let me ask one more question of RG. You mention this paper he's working on, which sounds really interesting. Who is that going to, can you tell us more about what this is all about? []
# RG: Yes, it's a special feature in a journal called Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. I'm helping to coordinate articles and I have to write one myself. # NO: OK, that's great. Thank you. # AB: You invited me to take part, RG, and I said I would but then I thought I'm not sure if I know enough to really contribute much. # RG: You're still welcome to be a reviewer, AB. I'll email you about that later. # AB: Yeah, I am happy to review. Thank you very much. []

# AB: OK, it sounds like we don't want to go, but I'd better stop it otherwise it'll take me far too long to transcribe.
# What I'll do is make the link to the Audio recording available, so we can listen if we want, and I'll put up the raw notes that I've taken. But then I'll start to tidy them up before I go [on holiday].
# ACTION AB: Send round link to audio recording.
# AB: Thank you, everyone.
# NO: Everybody have a wonderful July here.

# AB: Actually, I'm not going to End [because I needed to copy all the chats one by one!] so I'll leave you lot to leave, because I don't want to lose the chats [need to copy them one by one, in case some do not not come with the recording]. So, Bye Bye. # RG: Thank you.
[1.17.00]

[Ed. sounds of AB copying chats, because he forgot to stop the recording!]

[end of recording]

--- Notes [zej67]


Note on the Full Gospel of Christ. This not just salvation by faith for heaven, not just holy Spirit power and presence, but also that those made mature in Christ fulfil the original mandate of shepherding the Creation. See Three Dimensions of Salvation.

--- References [zej68]

Dooyeweerd H. 1955. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol. I-IV, Paideia Press (1975 edition), Jordan Station, Ontario. Available online; see link above.

Dooyeweerd H, 1979. Roots of Western culture; Pagan, Secular and Christian options. Wedge Publishing Company, Toronto, Canada.

Gdz C+P

Kalsbeek L. 1975. Contours of a Christian Philosophy, Wedge Publishing Company, Toronto, Canada.