Category Archives: Explanation

Abstraction in Macroeconomics; Classical and Statistical Laws

Abstraction is enriching.  The relation of things to our senses must be transcended by abstraction; abstraction yields explanatory concepts implicitly defined by their functional relations to one another.

The commonsense accounting relations constituting historical Gross Domestic Product must be supplemented by the abstract explanatory formulation of Current Gross Domestic Functional Flows.  All participants must have the scientific guidance of a normative theory in order to properly adapt their personal conduct to the principles and laws of the objective process. (Continue reading)

A Closely Knit Frame of Reference; the Channels Account for Booms and Slumps, for Inflation and Deflation,

The interconnected channels of the Diagram of Rates of Flow provide a closely knit frame of reference.  The channels account for booms and slumps, inflation and deflation.

The method of circulation analysis resembles more the method of arithmetic than the method of botany.  It involves a minimum of description and classification, a maximum of interconnections and functional relations.  Perforce, some description and classification are necessary; but they are highly selective, and they contain the apparent arbitrariness inherent in all analysis.  For analytic thinking uses classes based on similarity only as a springboard to reach terms defined by the correlations in which they stand.  To take the arithmetic illustration, only a few of the integral numbers in the indefinite number series are classes derived from descriptive similarity; by definition, the whole series is a progression in which each successive term is a function of its predecessor.  It is this procedure that gives arithmetic its endless possibilities of accurate deduction; and, as has been well argued, it is an essentially analogous procedure that underlies all effective theory. [CWL 21, 111] Continue reading

Macroeconomic Field Theory’s Higher Laws Stand Above and Are Indifferent to the Endless Complexity Within the Exchange Solution

Part I – The Exchange Solution’s Complexity and Change:

The exchange solution stands above and is indifferent to endless complexity and endless change; it stands on a level above all particular products and all particular modes of production.

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Explanation By Gross Domestic Functional Flows To Supplement Description By Gross Domestic Product

A distinction has been drawn between description and explanation.  Description deals with things as related to us.  Explanation deals with the same things as related among themselves.  The two are not totally independent, for they deal with the same things and, as we have seen, description supplies, as it were, the tweezers by which we hold things while explanations are being discovered or verified, applied or revised. … [CWL 3, 291/316]

The analysis of the overall dynamic functioning, which we call in nominal terms the economic process, must seek the explanation of the process.   It must seek the objective immanent intelligibility among the interdependent, dynamic “functionings” which altogether constitute the process.  The functionings are rates of so much or so many every so often, and, thus, they are velocities.  And the scientific analysis must be in terms of abstract, implicitly-defined, explanatory conjugates rather than in terms of the descriptive accountants’ unities of merely legal or proprietary entities called “firms.” (Continue reading)

Verification is Verification of the Real. The Real is the Verifiable.

The macroeconomic scientist must have a cognitional theory.  The real is not the ‘already out there now’; objectivity is not merely animal extroversion; verification is not merely ‘taking a look‘.  What science verifies is to be found in general affirmations. Continue reading

Facing Facts: The Ideal Of Constant Value Of The Currency vs. The Fact Of Inflation


We have recited some aspects of the dynamic economic process:

    • (Dummy) money “must be constant in exchange value.”
    • Prices alone do not explain the economic process. Prices must be interpreted in the light of those significant variables which actually explain the economic process.
    • The economic process of production and exchange always is the current, purely-dynamic process
    • The economic process is an organic whole
    • The process has an exigence for a normative pure cycle of expansion.
    • Equilibrium requires the keeping of pace and balance among interdependent flows of products and money
    • Scarcity is the normal cause of inflation
    • Maladjustment of incomes is the maladaptive cause of inflation
    • Just as the surplus phase of the expansion is anti-egalitarian in tendency, postulating an increasing rate of saving, … so the basic phase of the expansion is egalitarian in tendency; it postulates a continuously decreasing rate of saving [CWL 15, 139]
    • The central adjustment to the respective phases of the process may be formulated as adjustment of I”/(I’ + I”), the ratio of surplus income to total income
    • Interpreters of prices must distinguish between real and relative price increases monetary and absolute changes in prices We have recited some aspects of the dynamic economic process: (Continue reading)

Free Markets vs. a Central Bureaucracy; and Further Equilibria Must be Maintained

Free open markets work better than central bureaucracies.

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)

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A Philip McShane Sampler Relevant to Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics

Philip McShane had a strong background in mathematics and theoretical physics; thus he was able to understand the scientific significance of Bernard Lonergan’s macroeconomic field theory in an Einsteinian context.

First we display, in brief, key excerpts, many of which contain analogies from physics and chemistry, relevant to the science of Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics; then we show the same excerpts more fully within lengthier quotes. Continue reading

Theoretical Breakthroughs of Euclid, Newton, Hilbert, Einstein, and Lonergan

To help the reader gain an appreciation of Lonergan’s achievement of Modern Macroeconomic Field Theory we will, in each section, print leading excerpts, then highlight the key concepts of those excerpts. We will comment on the historically-significant advances in geometry of Euclid and Hilbert, in physics of Newton and Einstein, and in macroeconomics of Lonergan.

  • Euclid’s great achievement was his rigorous deduction of geometry.
  • Hilbert’s great achievement was his employment of implicit definition to reorder Euclid’s geometry.
  • Newton’s two great achievements were unifying the isolated insights of Galileo and Kepler into a unified system of mechanics and his invention of the calculus.
  • One of the great achievements of Einstein was the invention of the field theories of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Gravitation.
  • One of Lonergan’s several great achievements was his systematization of macroeconomic phenomena in his Modern Macroeconomic Field Theory. He combined the technique of implicit definition introduced by Hilbert and the concept of a field theory developed by Faraday and Einstein; and he developed an explanatory macroeconomics, which is general, invariant, and relevant in any instance. (Continue reading)

The Relativistic Invariant: The Ideal Pure Cycle at the Root of the Aberrant Trade Cycle

The heart of the normative theoretical framework that can actually explain business and trade cycles is what (Lonergan) calls the ‘Pure Cycle’ (§10, §24, 114).  This cycle generalizes into clearly articulated relationships the ideal phases characteristic of major economic transformations as they depart from a stationary phase and move through phases first of surplus expansion and then of basic expansion, only to return to a new stationary phase. … (CWL 15, Editors’ Introduction, lxiii)  (Continue reading)