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    you know that farting sound kids make when they deflate a balloon?..., 2008-10-28 13:00:51 | Main | Slate: trading on inside inf..., 2008-10-29 08:18:24

    haz nobel?:

    I'm somewhat fascinated by this grumbling by economist and bad speller, Edward Prescott:

    Society needs religion to get around the time inconsistency problem.

    "Time inconsistency" just means that people do not have consistent preferences one moment to the next and tend to put a premium on the preferences they have right now. In dieting, this makes fatter people. Another example: McCain telling us his super secret plan to capture Bin Laden would alter Bin Laden's preferences and the super secret plan might no longer be effective. See? McCain understands time inconsistency. In my case, last week I had a lively fear of commitment, this week I'm unexpectedly hearing muffled wedding bells stuffed with money thanks to my informational enrichment concerning a particularly nonsensical federal tax incentive, but because I announced my intentions to fake it on this blurg I have altered the preference set of my mate away from tax avoidance and material gain to talking about the emotional advantages to be had in moving to Oaxaca.

    But, uh, what's that got to do with religion? Ooooooooh. This is apparently the economic - if not economical - version of the Euthyphro dilema as applied to the implied incapacity of atheists to adhere to a moral code without a "higher power" - like say, reason - threatening them with eternal damnation, or other, less imaginary, adverse consequences of being a bad person.

:: posted by buermann @ 2008-10-28 19:06:26 CST | link


      I can sympathize with Prescott. My own speciality, free range tautologies, are invariably bollixed up by people who keep changing their plans based on the changes I make in my plans. If I could simply make them stop thinking, then I could stop thinking. No more cutthroat competition! Farewell, race to the bottom! And my models would work out perfectly every time.

      Sadly, he's got it bass ackwards as far as religion goes. Invariably the seekers turn to seeking the divine. God changes his plans accordingly (I welcome his proof to the contrary, ho, ho, ho...). That mean old inconsistency thing's going to bite Prescott's ass every time.

    posted by Zomg @ 2008-10-28 23:29:26 | link

      "Invariably the seekers turn to seeking the divine. God changes his plans accordingly."

      I feel confident that this example should replace the archetypical illustration by Homer.

    posted by buermann @ 2008-10-29 00:07:34 | link

      It's always tempting to speculate. What if Prescott et alia made an empirical study of situations in which the participants were aware of the potential problems. This could be a diverse group, with differing needs, life-experience and goals. The level of awareness varies too. Throw in some barriers to timely and clear communication, some frustrated good faith and a smidgen of successful bad faith. Throw in a natural disaster or two, and an economic precondition in which the overwhelming majority of the participants were engaged in work that was, essentially, performed under duress, with only the most tenuous connections to personal, family and community utility. I believe scientists call the combination of the compounded conditions "misery".

      In the effort to posit a solution, one might very well call for the creation of an overarching metacondition that could trump the others separately and in aggregate. Preferably, this metacondition would not be the kind that eliminates the livelihoods of metaconditioning specialists. Ideally, it would create sustainable, pleasant economic niches for them, with the economy of scale that comes from being able to maximally disincentivize the people whose labor makes the niches possible. It might be too much to hope for, but if the "people" could police themselves into compliance and crowd-source their discipline..., without creating a burden on the metaconditiong specialists -- cuz that would be parasitism, and unfair -- the "misery" would effectively be eliminated, or at least removed as a component of the problem. There oughta be a prize for labor towards that end. Others might want to address the "misery" more directly. That's insane, needless to say, and there's an appropriately horrific penalty.

    posted by Zomg @ 2008-10-29 08:14:26 | link

    go ahead, express that vague notion

    your turing test:

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