Skip to main content


Showing posts from August 1, 2021

inverted envy - from A.O. Hirschman to twitter billionaire stans

Whenever I go on twitter and read the twits from stans of Elon Musk or Bebeeyed Bezos, I think of this post of mine. In 1973, A.O. Hirschman, with his characteristic, concealing modesty (it covered up the fact that he was touching on big themes that economists liked to avoid), wrote an essay about envy and the egalitarian impulse in developing economies. For two decades, Hirschman had been at work as an economist and policy maker dealing with foreign aid and plans to elevate the poorer national economies into the league of the developed nations, as they were called back then. This was the era of multi-year plans and the fad for shrinking agriculture and favoring export industries, which often, paradoxically, called for putting barriers on imports. All of this, by now, has been swept away by the Washington Consensus and the aggressive syndicate of international institutions, multinationals, and neo-liberals. In Hirschman’s time, third world countries were experiencing unprecedented grow


Life… makes nothing happen. I, too, heard the cowbells Mom Crossing the border into Switzerland And of course I thought of you. I thought of Heidi, and then of you And then of you and me Watching Heidi, was it in color or b&w? When you had the power to make me watch Movies. A coercible five. You “loved this movie” when you were a girl. Me, Heidi’s hair bun repulsed me And the uterine pull Of the cornsilk blond’s family In a Nazi dream of the Alps Lent its props To various of my nightmares. If I let go Of my mudwrestler’s grip on you, Mom Will I plunge in my worst dream down some Heidi cursed cliff? - Karen Chamisso

Coincidence and science - when Laplace isn't enough

  In Mill’s Logic, that grand old lumber room, in Chapter 18 of Book three, a principle is spelled out that, in our day, has been shorthanded into the sometimes tendentious phrase, correlation does not prove causation: “Although two or more cases in which the phenomenon a has been met with may have no common antecedent except A, this does not prove that there is any connection between a and A, since a may have many causes, and may have been produced, in these different instances, not by any thing which the instances had in common, but by some of those elements in them which were different.” Mill, in keeping with his practical bent, distills from this a question: “After how many and what sort of instances may it be concluded that an observed coincidence between two phenomena is not the effect of chance?” Another way of putting this question is: when is a coincidence really a coincidence? As Francois Mentre has pointed out, the French mathematician and scientist, Cournot, was also intest