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Showing posts from January 1, 2012

On Svevo's Zeno 1

V.S. Pritchett once wrote about the novelist’s knack of “showing how people live in one another’s lives.” This is not only a concise way of talking about what novelists do – it also points to a large economic fact, which is that people do live in one another’s lives. Surprisingly, economists are, for the most part, blind, or at least hesitant, about seeing this fact. They have even systematized this blindness and called it the ‘micro-foundations of the economy.’ Unfortunately, all too often novels, when they are considered from the aspect of economics, are considered to be free zones over which preconceived economic theories and ideas roam. But one can think of two other relations of the novel to economics – one is as a test of economic ideas, and the other is as a source of economic ideas. It might well be that the social interactions involving exchange, the symbolization of value, gifts, scarcity   – are rehearsed in a sophisticated way in certain novels to the extent that

New year predictions for the moronic inferno, version 2012

Prediction is a doddle. Successful ones usually fall into two groups: the easy and the lucky. In human affairs, the easy are usually derived from the two great grifter principles: 1. there’s a sucker born every minute, and 2. never give a sucker an even break.  applying these as your two parameters can make you seem like a genius when the subject is a society like America, the con man’s paradise. As for the lucky, they are composed of guesses that are driven forward by some unguessed social pulsation. Prediction, in this case, gloms onto a phenomenon without glomming on to its cause, and thus loses its intellectual strength. I think I can rely on the  grifter principle to predict that Mitt Romney will defeat Obama, and that Romney will face a strongly Republican house and a majority Republican senate. The problem here is that the same principles also give us an Obama win. However, the superstition that lightning never strikes twice in the same place gives the edge to Mitt. Ob