Picketty’s Plight

We are at the heart of Picketty’s plight: he has no clue of the needed grip on the grounds of the inequality in history.  So, what else can he offer but a centralist solution, taxation, to history’s drunken careening? (McShane, Philip, Picketty’s Plight, 53)

Simple-minded moralists and sentimentalists without intelligence do not provide the required normative theory which explains the process and supplies precepts for adaptation. “…man as external agent has not the systematic guidance he needs to operate successfully the machine he controls.” [CWL 21, 109]  

Academics have not discovered, understood, formulated and taught the dynamics of surplus and basic expansion.

In equity (the basic expansion following the surplus expansion) should be directed to raising the standard of living of the whole society.  It does not.  And the reason why it does not is not the reason on which simple-minded moralists insist.  They blame greed.  But the prime cause is ignorance.  The dynamics of surplus and basic expansion, surplus and basic incomes are not understood, not formulated, not taught….. [CWL 15, 82]

When intelligence is a blank, the first law of nature takes over: self-preservation.  It is not primarily greed but frantic efforts at self-preservation that turn the recession into a depression, and the depression into a crash. [CWL 15, 82]

It is the viewpoint of the present inquiry that, besides the pricing system, there exists another economic mechanism, that relative to this system man is not an internal factor but an external agent, and that the present economic problems are peculiarly baffling because man as external agent has not the systematic guidance he needs to operate successfully the machine he controls. [CWL 21, 109]  

Modern Monetary Theory and Marxism offer only sentiment without intelligence.  They need to learn the discipline of logic and of scientific reflection

A rigidly egalitarian system belongs to a perfectly egalitarian world; (but) a world in which men are, in fact, unequal must find a different system.  What system?  If the idealism is sentiment without intelligence, it is as likely as not to mate with the underground cynicism of the revolutionaries to foist upon us a dictatorship of the proletariat in which the proletariat does not dictate, a dictatorship of the Herrenvolk in which the Volk obeys the Fuhrer.  But if that idealism can be brought to learn the discipline of logic and of scientific reflection, then it will impose a generalization of the exchange economy.  To determine the nature of such a generalization is the aim of this inquiry; but at once this is at least evident.  The vast forces of human benevolence can no longer be left to tumble down the Niagara of fine sentiments and noble dreams.  They have to be assigned a function and harnessed within the exchange system, for in no other way can that system shake off its fictitious fetters to move consistently towards its maximum. [CWL 21, 36]

The materialist is a manipulator. In the end he offers only “communist power and the salutary conditions of a closed frontier, clear and firm indoctrination, controlled media of information, a vigilant secret police, and the terrifying threat of labor camps.”

As healing can have no truck with hatred, so too it can have no truck with materialism. For the healer is essentially a reformer; first and foremost he counts on what is best in man. But the materialist is condemned by his own principles to be no more that a manipulator. He will apply to human beings the stick-and-carrot treatment that the Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner advocates under the name reinforcement. He will maintain with Marx that cultural attitudes are the byproduct of material conditions, and so he will bestow upon those subjected to communist power the salutary conditions of a closed frontier, clear and firm indoctrination, controlled media of information, a vigilant secret police, and the terrifying threat of labor camps. [CWL 15, 104]

Centralist totalitarianism is not the answer.

The helplessness of tolerance to provide coherent solutions to social problems called forth the totalitarian who takes the narrow and complacent practicality of common sense and elevates it to the role of a complete and exclusive viewpoint.  On the totalitarian view, every type of intellectual dependence whether personal, cultural, scientific, philosophic, or religious, has no better basis than non-conscious myth.  The time has come for the non-conscious myth that will secure man’s total subordination to the requirements  of reality. Reality is the economic development, the military equipment, and the political dominance of the all-inclusive State.  Its ends justify all means.  Its means include not merely every technique of indoctrination and propaganda, .. but also the terrorism of a political police, of prisons and torture, of concentration camps, of transported and extirpated minorities, and of total war. [CWL 3, 231-32/256-57] [#61](Click here for previous “Single Paragraphs”)

The generality of the equilibrium of the exchange solution stands on a level above all particular products and all particular modes of production. And Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics, i.e. Macroeconomic Field Theory, stands on a level above Walrasian textbook economics.

The excellence of the exchange solution becomes even more evident when contrasted with the defects of a bureaucratic solution.  The bureaucrat … (gives the people) what he thinks is good for them, and he gives it in the measure he finds possible or convenient; nor can he do other wise, for the brains of a bureaucrat are not equal to the task of thinking of everything; only the brains of all men together can even approximate to that. … when a limited liability company has served its day, it goes to bankruptcy court; but when bureaucrats take over power, they intend to stay. … when the pressure of terrorism is needed to oil the wheels of enterprise, then the immediate effect is either an explosion or else servile degeneracy. … the exchange solution is a dynamic equilibrium resting on the equilibria of markets. … every product of the exchange economy must mate through exchange with some other product, and the ratio in which the two mate is the exchange value.  The generality of this equilibrium makes it indifferent to endless complexity and endless change; for it stands on a level above all particular products and all particular modes of production.  While these multiply and vary indefinitely, the general equilibrium of the exchange process continues to answer with precision the complex question, Who, among millions of persons, does what, among millions of tasks, in return for which, among millions of rewards?  Nor is the dynamic solution unaccompanied by a continuous stimulus to better efforts and more delicate ingenuity.  For the uniformity of prices means that the least efficient of those actually producing will at least subsist, while every step above the minimum efficiency yields a proportionately greater return. CWL 21, 34-35)

The immanent intelligibility of the macroeconomic process stands on a level above all particular products and all particular modes of production.:

the set of terms and relations capable of explaining the phenomena of the business or trade cycle would not be the same as any given pricing system that automatically coordinates a vast coincidental manifold of decisions of demand and decisions of supply,  Such a system comes to sight as bookkeeper’s entities that form the basis of the preliminary descriptive classifications that need to be explained: they are the similarities “first-for-us.”  The relevant set of explanatory terms and relations would have to expose similarities that reside in the relations of things to one another or what is “first-in-itself”: namely both the dynamic elements (distinct, implicitly-defined, productive and monetary functionings) and the differentials (velocities and accelerations) of the economic mechanism which reveal the significance of aggregate changes in prices that by themselves are in need of interpretation……prices as a concern for the bookkeepers or accountants are known- first-to-us by description and commonsense classification; and that (Lonergan’s) own functional analysis of production and circulation reveals an explanatory system known-first-in-itself (continue to lvii “significance”) (CWL 15, Editors’ Introduction  lvi)

An ‘accountant’s unity’: that is a category used in (conventional) accounting.  For Lonergan, (conventional) accounting generally denotes an enterprise within common sense which uses descriptive, as contrasted with explanatory terms (on these terms see Insight 37-38/61-62, 178-79/201-3, 247-48/272-73).  Insofar as that is true, the accountant’s unity is not an adequate index for the normative, explanatory analysis of the productive process. [CWL 15, 26, ftnt 26]

Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics, AKA Macroeconomic Field Theory, specifies “things in their relations to one another,”

“Functional” is for Lonergan a technical term pertaining to the realm of explanation, analysis, theory;  … Lonergan (identified) the contemporary notion of a function as one of the most basic kinds of explanatory, implicit definition – one that specifies “things in their relations to one another” … [CWL 15, 26-27  ftnt 27]

Lonergan … was seeking the explanatory intelligibility underlying the ever-fluctuating rhythms of economic functioning.  To that end he worked out a set of terms and relations that ‘implicitly defined’ that intelligible pattern.  When all was said and done the relations, and the terms they implicitly defined, were markedly different from either the terms of ordinary business parlance or the terms of neoclassical and Keynesian economic theory.  Moreover, not only did Lonergan’s terms differ, but he also indicated that these aforementioned terms (of neoclassical and Keynesian economic theory) were permeated, as were the terms of Newton’s theory of gravitation, with descriptive, nonexplanatory residues.  Hence, just as a mathematical equation may be said to be the most adequate expression of purely intelligible relations among explanatory terms in certain instances – for example, Einstein’s gravitational field tensor equations – something closely akin to Lonergan’s diagram seems necessary for the realm of dynamic economic functioning.  So, for example, the existence and manner of dynamic mutual interdependence of the two circuits of payment, basic and surplus, is not adequately expressed either by descriptive terms (since this pattern does not directly relate to the senses of anyone operating in a common-sense way in a concretely functioning economy) nor by the series of (simultaneous) equations that do not explicitly manifest the interchanging of ‘flows.’ [CWL 15, 179]

Lonergan’s critique (shows that) by using the technique of implicit definition, the emphasis shifts from trying to define the relevant variables to searching heuristically for the maximum extent of interconnections and interdependence; and that the variables discovered in this way might not resemble very much the objects (or the aggregates) which, in the first instance, one was thinking about.  [Gibbons, 1987]

Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics is not a bunch of Walrasian supply-demand curves.  It is not a macrostatics. It is not a textbook efficient-cause theory of action and the reaction provoked by the action.  It is a dynamical theory.  It is a Macroeconomic Field Theory.

Taking into account past and (expected) future values does not constitute the creative key transition to dynamics.  Those familiar with elementary statics and dynamics (in physical mechanics) will appreciate the shift in thinking involved in passing from equilibrium analysis (of for example a suspended weight or a steel bridge)…to an analysis where attention is focused on second-order differential equations, on d2θ/dt2, d2x/dt2, d2y/dt2, on a range of related forces, central, friction, whatever.  Particular boundary conditions, “past and future values” are relatively insignificant for the analysis.  What is significant is the Leibnitz-Newtonian shift of context. [McShane, 1980, 127]

Ought there not to be introduced a technical term to denote this type of intelligibility?  … The intelligibility that is neither final nor material nor instrumental nor efficient causality is, of course, formal causality…What we have called the intelligibility immanent in sensible data and residing in the relations of things to one anothermight be named more briefly formal causality … [CWL  3, 78/101-102]

FMD is a theory of the immanent intelligibility or “formal cause” of the objective process.  It is a field theory of the relations of explanatory functionings among themselves.  It is explanatory.  It is the theory which academics have not yet discovered.

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