Day 86: In Which I Haven’t Bitten An Economist All Week, Can I Have A Cookie Please

This one is mostly complaining about neoclassical economics

oh boy the phone is bad at pictures at night. that’s so grainy

On the upside, it’s dark enough to get some lovely stars in the morning, but they photograph even worse than planets. On the other hand, we started Environmental Economics on Monday, and I’d actually forgotten how crossed-threaded I get with economists. I’ve been tempted to start four different ideological arguments in class, before deciding it maybe wasn’t worth it.

(One was about how all the assumptions for neoclassical economics about human behavior have been disproved by other fields (how dire the straights of your field, psychology is doing better than you), one about how wrong Thomas Malthus is about overpopulation and how we shouldn’t be citing him anymore (thank you, Hans Rosling. You had such elegant graphs), one about the Tragedy of the Commons (it’s actually about how bad the Enclosure Act was in England. Also privatization causes many similar problems. Also also Easter Island is a bad and incorrect example), one about the entire concept of supply and demand curves (they don’t exist like that!). I have too many opinions and I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my blood pressure. I have been commiserating with a couple kids after class each day, and that’s been a relief. )

I also keep getting tripped up by smaller, stupider assumptions like: markets perfectly and instantaneously transmit information about price to arrive at equilibrium. And I have to sit on the urge to raise my hand and say, But quantum mechanics says perfect information is impossible, and so is instantaneous transfer. You’re bounded by light speed same as anyone. I don’t think this is helpful commentary, but it is where my brain lives.

We also have to read a paper and write an essay about it, and I’m having some serious trouble taking it seriously. It’s about inter-generational justice and climate change (in essence, how much should we make future generations pay for the privilege of having a habitable planet. yikes). About a third of the paper is spent arguing against the concept of discount rates; ie because people tend to prefer to be given money now rather than promised money in the future, money is worth more the closer to the present it is. Therefore, people are worth more the closer to the present they are, and future generations matter less. The conclusion he eventually comes to that this is time discrimination; just how people don’t choose to be born in a particular location, or race, or gender, they also don’t choose to be born a certain time, and thus they should be given equal consideration.

I feel like I’m watching someone doing open heart surgery with a banana.

(please don’t and also there Have to better tools than this. at least he’s on the right side of the argument?)

I wrote a conclusion while I was still freshly mad from finishing the article, and I think I won’t actually be able to use it, because it’s a little too stream of conscious and you can hear my teeth grinding just a little too much:

Are we so small and sad and grasping that we cannot allow our children to be better off than ourselves? Have we really shed that much of our altruism in the name of making the number in our bank accounts go up? If our children will be wealthier, isn’t that the goddamn point? That the future is better? That’s what progress means. This isn’t a simple win-lose scenario. We and future generations can both benefit.
And must crucially. The money isn’t real. What we buy with it is real – clean air, clean water, better healthcare systems, social stability. Those are real. We build economic systems to serve us, they are tools in our hands. If they are not doing the work we want them to, discard them. Build something better.

– a conclusion I can’t use, but I’d kinda like to

Not sure how well I’m going to do in the Money Class when my fundamental stance is Money Isn’t Real, but we’ll see what happens.

Otherwise, I’ve been pretty cheerful; the weather has been warm, and if not sunny (because it sets) then unclouded, and I’ve going walks on bottom slopes of the mountains, poking streams and finding blueberry bushes and hydrothermally altered rocks. I’m still having a good time, I just have to go for a walk to clean my palette more often (which is probably good for me, honestly).

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