Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Robert Johnson — What About the Questions That Economics Can’t Answer?

Can economics be morally centered? And perhaps more importantly, should it be?
These are questions that society is grappling with in the face of the economics profession's failure to confront the global impact of exploding inequality within and between countries.
Yahoo Finance
What About the Questions That Economics Can’t Answer?
Robert Johnson | Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Global Finance Project for the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in New York

41 comments:

Matt Franko said...

If 99% of the Profession is operating as if we are still on the gold standard and believes that banks "lend out the reserves" then what good is it discussing so-called "morally centered" in the first place?

Should be "Can economics be moronally centered"? Answer: Apparently yes.

rsp,

paul said...

I'm can't see how there could be any transfer mechanism or relationship between morality and the spending necessary to support a stable economy (stable defined as full employment with price stability). I'm all eyes and ears.

I would like to see a defensible argument demonstrating a relationship between morality and flows. Where would it factor into the sectoral balance identity? It would have to be embedded within (I - S).

Surely one of our Nobel-prize-winning neo-classical or New Keynesian economists could quantify it with one of their fancy models.

jrbarch said...

At the center of your universe there is a human being.

That's you; that's 'I'. Are we a 'moral' being - well, if you define morality as something you can feel which we universally call 'good' I think so. That is our essence; consciousness begins there. Morality is not a code but rather a feeling that arises from the heart. How we formulate that as code is something else (culture ect).

Therefore if we are 'moral' then the good is reflected in what we create. If we are 'immoral' then that is an absence of the effects of the good, not an entity in itself. It's simply a matter of being out-of-touch with the good. Like an eclipse of the Sun. That is why Robert Johnson ('standin at the crossroads') wants to get back in touch - but thinks that it is a conceptual problem.

It's a human thing ...! No need for angst or to grapple; just feel, and express. The good in human beings is actually far more powerful than its absence. When light enters a room, darkness (not an entity) disappears ...!

David said...

I'm can't see how there could be any transfer mechanism or relationship between morality and the spending necessary to support a stable economy (stable defined as full employment with price stability). I'm all eyes and ears.

On one level, it's just actions (or inactions) followed by predictable consequences. As an analogy, take farming. In the west farming requires irrigation. If crops are not irrigated at the right time or not sufficiently you will have crop failure. That's just logic. But if, say, irrigation water was withheld because some authority holds a bizarre belief that crops do better when they're stressed or that allowing failure serves some greater good like "fiscal health," then the sanity or morality of that authority would be called into question.

The fact is basic necessary flows are disrupted all the time for political purposes, often with some quasi-economic or "national security" justification. Does this not go to morality?

Of course, I now see that you may have intended that tongue in cheek.

Matt Franko said...

"some authority holds a bizarre belief that crops do better when they're stressed or that allowing failure serves some greater good like "fiscal health," then the sanity or morality of that authority would be called into question."

I think it would have to be the sanity as if you are growing feedstocks in the first place, science dictates that the plants need water... now if the authority knew what the feedstock needs of the population was, and only planted 80% of the acreage required to meet that need, then that would be "immoral"...

What we have today are people who are tasked with building a 1000' bridge and only bringing 800' of materials to build it, ie loans create balances for the principle and not the interest, and they are coming up short and literally cannot figure out why they are coming up short.

This is like Hamilton in Federalist 12 knowing where the gold and silver was (Europe) and then proceeding to set up a system here in America that required these metals that didnt even exist here, why fight the revolution in the first place???

If you look at my Plato post down thread: " And to secure exactness, let the guardians of the law refer to the registers, and inform the judges of the precise truth, in order that none of the lots may go uncultivated for want of money."

These Greeks some would probably say "invented" morals, but Platos argument here is NOT a moral one. Feedstocks were critical to the society (food AND beasts of burden) so this is a LOGICAL argument.

To not take the actions that Plato advises here would be illogical or imo stupid or insane.

imo leave the "morality" out of it until we're sure the population fully understands ALL of it's options as per Roger's theme, once everybody knows the full scope of our options, THEN morality can come into play in deciding which options to pursue.

We're jumping the gun if we start talking about 'morality' at this point...

rsp,

paul said...

"Of course, I now see that you may have intended that tongue in cheek."

Not really, I believe the underlying statement is true.

"The fact is basic necessary flows are disrupted all the time for political purposes, often with some quasi-economic or "national security" justification. Does this not go to morality?"


This line of thinking is the target for my argument.

Political choices are just that…choices. Same thing with morality or any human behavior, choices. In the case of human behavior. Innumerable choices made on a linear path by millions of people simultaneously…random.

The path of economic flows at the macro (sectoral balances) level are not random, they are 100% predictable. Which direction the path of flows take is subject to the input determined by choices, but we can't be surprised by the outcome when we make choices…for example we know what cutting spending will do to an economy in the general sense.

This is where I separate the SYSTEM from the EVENTS that occur within it.

Events are random (although in the aggregate they can have a pattern) but the behavior of the system has only one path.

This is why (for me) everything else is below the top hierarchy of the system. Neoclassical economics does not work this way. MMT does.

Does this make any sense to you? It's easy to think in abstract terms, very difficult to translate it into language (for me anyway) because something always gets left out.

paul said...

Matt, I like the way you think.

Matt Franko said...

Makes sense to me anyway...

People need to know what their full menu of choices are tho IMO Paul.

I don't think they know all of their options at this point where we find ourselves.

So people can easily appear to be acting immorally when all that they are doing is making a choice for one sub par option out of a deficient set of options that does not include the optimal.

RSP,

John Zelnicker said...

Matt -- I disagree with holding off discussions of morality until people have a better understanding of the options available. It is already part of the discussion. The neoliberal paradigm makes repaying debt the highest moral good. Every other part of a person's life and livelihood must be subservient to the moral imperative to repay one's debts. Of course, changing a person's moral stance is extremely difficult. However, as long as debt repayment is seen in this way, it is going to be hard for people to even consider that other options may be morally superior.

paul said...

"The neoliberal paradigm makes repaying debt the highest moral good."

The question is, is this a function of morality or propaganda? Fortunately recent events are undermining this particular moral trap.

I don't see anything wrong with discussions of morality as long as it's kept separate from economics, at least the system part of economics. It has no place in a mathematical model.

I suppose the message should be that morality or lack of did not and can not cause the world economy to collapse.

I pose this argument to many of my right-wing friends that claim it is poor people (the CRA booga- booga) that put us here. It's hard to be respectful of other people's opinions when they dole out drivel like that, even if they are friends.

Talk about defective and self-destructive thinking.

Tom Hickey said...

Pure (theoretical science) is amoral, being non-normative. However, the use to which scientific knowledge is put is normative. So economics as a theoretical discipline can be considered a positive science, but political economy, that is, the application of economics to society, is normative. Some of those norms are ethical and some moral, the difference between ethical and moral being the difference between custom that may be particular to a culture and universal "laws" that govern human behavior based on human nature. Virtually all moral systems recognize "the Golden Rule" as the fundamental moral imperative. This is called intra-species reciprocity and inter-species mutualism.

paul said...

Tom,

You're going to have to translate your comment for me or I'm just not going to get it.

Tom Hickey said...

Matt, To not take the actions that Plato advises here would be illogical or imo stupid or insane.

imo leave the "morality" out of it until we're sure the population fully understands ALL of it's options as per Roger's theme, once everybody knows the full scope of our options, THEN morality can come into play in deciding which options to pursue.

We're jumping the gun if we start talking about 'morality' at this point...


Matt, I am sure that Roger can explain to us how biology shows that genuine morality rather than moralizing is evolutionary. Organisms act in ways that moral for species advantage rather than purely individual self-interest, even though individuals do not realize this. Human have multiples of degrees of freedom in comparison with other organisms. As result humans are dependent on the use of intelligence rather than instinct. That is a distinct advantage in developing complexity, but it can be a disadvantage in meeting the challenges of increasing complexity if not used in a species-specific way.

This is why I harp on the need to address macroeconomic questions from the POV of the global economy being a closed system that constitutes the material life-support system of humanity. Unfortunately, human individuals and groups can become parasitical on the system to the disadvantage of the species in the context of rising complexity.

In nature, the way that organisms dealt with parasitism is mobilizing against the parasites. This is also true in groups and "societies" (hives), where free riders are excluded and even terminated. There are clear parallels at the human level.

Tom Hickey said...

paul, theoretical economics just leads with quantitative systems represented by modeling functions that relate variables. Some models are very simple, and too simplistic to be representational. Others are more complex but no economic models have been developed to date that are sufficiently complex to be representation in the sense of corroborated by successful prediction. There are just too many variables, known and unknown. So as a science, economic is a proto-science that depends on a lot of arbitrary selection and assumptions. Moreover the modeling is based on computational convenience rather than representation.

When it comes to policy formation, economists are trundled out as "policy experts." Policy is normative and economists often make normative pronouncements as if they were "scientifically true." That's just ideology talking.

MMT just says that certain things follow from applying double-entry accounting rules due to accounting identities. If the rules are violated (stock-flow consistency) or the identities ignored, then the computational results will not be consistent with actual practice.

Different MMT economists then engage in policy formulation based on normative preferences, which they are argue are also consistent with economic efficiency and effectiveness.

paul said...

Ok thanks, now I understand.

I have a tenuous relationship with language. Trying to up my game.

paul said...

"where free riders are excluded and even terminated"

In our world a fundamental confusion is over who is what.

Society seems to see the weak and poor as free riders.

I see the few controlling wealth and power as the free riders.

Tom Hickey said...

Society seems to see the weak and poor as free riders.

I see the few controlling wealth and power as the free riders.


Exactly. This is of course by artifice, aka propaganda. Parasites are generally quite adept at masking themselves as productive units. This is a reason they are difficult to eradicate.

Matt Franko said...

"Society seems to see the weak and poor as free riders"

That is because 99.999% of society looks at "money" as exogenous...

rsp,

David said...


The path of economic flows at the macro (sectoral balances) level are not random, they are 100% predictable. Which direction the path of flows take is subject to the input determined by choices, but we can't be surprised by the outcome when we make choices…for example we know what cutting spending will do to an economy in the general sense.

I do get that. The power of the MMT explanation (which is getting traction despite everything) is that the basics are non-controversial. As Bill Mitchell says, macro is simple. Some people still "don't get it." One should, to a degree, have patience with slow learners. For example I'm pretty sure Pres. Obama doesn't understand MMT, but he has said he gets "the Keynesian thing." So I don't evaluate him by his understanding of sectoral balances, even though any bright 12 year old could understand it. The thing is, by his actions, he doesn't even appear to "understand" Krugman. I think it is quite valid to judge him on that. The president considers himself a non-ideological pragmatist. I say "pragmatism" itself is an ideology, and Obama is a dogmatic, devout, high-church Pragmatist, indeed. Just like the "monetary realists" who schismed.

I just don't think you get very far into economcis before morality comes into play and I would resist any attempt to try to separate the two. All the economists that I resonate with are fundamentally moralists: Bill Mitchell, Henry George, Michael Hudson, Mason Gaffney all came at economics from different sides, but their starting point was the same: "The good people are getting screwed, I have to get to the bottom of this."

Matt Franko said...

""The good people are getting screwed, I have to get to the bottom of this."

Good point that I think we all can agree on...

rsp,

jrbarch said...

"Can economics be morally centered? And perhaps more importantly, should it be?" [Robert Johnson]

I think a lot more could and should be said about this.

Linked to my thoughts on the 'good' in human beings above: on the one hand we have the skin of the earth and its resources; on the other, human values, technology and production.

Underlying this we have basic human essentials such as food clothing shelter, health, education, sustainability for all living things on the planet, and peace.

Commanding resources are the public and private sectors with an intermediate not-for-profit sector. The general principle of the public sector is sharing; of the private sector self-interest; of the not-for-profit sector caring.

Production and distribution is a matter of which principle is given priority; and the mix - all resting on human values.

Choices are made.

What do human values rest on - that is the more interesting question? The world is a mirror ...

paul said...

"I just don't think you get very far into economcis before morality comes into play and I would resist any attempt to try to separate the two. "

No one is saying that morality doesn't come into play. The two must be kept separate in order to perform analysis. Otherwise the solution become indeterminate.

There is no mathematical transfer function between morality and flows.

Ironically, understanding morality and human behavior seems to be th eeasy part, when the reverse shoud be true.

If everyone got the easy part we could spend our time on the fine tuning of maximizing human behavior for the good.

If we don't get the system part right (MMT) the other part focusing on morality and human behaviour will get no traction.

Garbage in garbage out.

Tom Hickey said...

Systems are not designed arbitrarily but to meet specific goals. Management is about effectiveness in achieving goals efficiently.

"Efficiency is doing things right and effectiveness is doing the right things." Peter F. Drucker. This is the point Drucker makes in The Effective Executive.

"Doing the right thing" is normative in that "right" is indicative of a normative approach to goal-setting and decision-making. With respect to human systems such as an economic system "right" means achieving material goals like resources provision and other goals that neither moral nor ethical in themselves. However, choice of goals and means to achieving them also involves issues that are bound up in social, moral, ethical and legal considerations that are not economic in nature. These matters are "supervening" and are imposed on purely economic issues.

To the degree that economics involves goals, ti is normative, since human goals other than survival and reproduction are not natural givens. The basis of economics is about creating a life-support system for a group with a growing population sufficient to meet its material need for continuing survival and reproduction. Obviously, there is a lot more to human societies and their economies that this, and to that degree other goals are involved. These can be either imposed by a privileged section of society, usually a ruling elite, or else chosen by the society collectively, which is the aim of liberal democracy. To this degree, economics becomes normative, and some of those norms are social, moral, ethical, and legal in addition to "natural" or purely economic.

On the other hand extreme forms of liberalism argue that there is a "natural" economic order that applies in nature and therefore to human beings as products of nature. According this view, there are two "natural" rights — the right of individual freedom of choice and the right to ownership of private property. Everything else is to be left to the efficiency of "natural law," however brutal the application may be and fairness not withstanding. We frequently hear neoliberals say, "Life is not fair" in justification of all sorts of injustice. I saw that Mayor Bloomberg said this just recently as I was perusing the news this morning.

As a philosopher, I am here to say that the neoliberal argument that is a concocted crock, based on arbitrary assumptions that are supposedly self-evident, being natural, or else argued to based on other assumptions that are specious. Moreover, this view is clearly not "natural" in light of biological, anthropological and sociological findings, let alone millennia of philosophical debate over such issues.

All the most respected teachers of humanity taught exactly the opposite of the extreme individualistic liberal view, and evolutionary biology, anthropology, and sociology contradict these assumptions as being either well-reasoned or grounded in fact. Moreover, humanity as a chiefly social species is developing in the direction of greater universality and greater appreciation of its species nature rather than extreme or narrow individualism.

Why does a supposedly intelligent society let economists, many of whom are "interested men" in Tom Paine's sense and the very people whom he warned against, dominate one of the most important policy debates? Why are other voices not being listened to by policy-makers? Are humans such sheep that they will allow themselves to be driven over a cliff?

jrbarch said...

There is so much one can say about this business of 'morality'.

For example, morality has two faces. One is on the outside where morals are coded; the other on the inside where morality is felt - and the interplay between the two.

I find the inner sense of morality more compelling. After 200,000 years on the road for homo sapiens, how deeply is our moral sense developed? Are we just silly sheep as Tom is lamenting? Senseless killers and maimers of our own species, and desecrators of our planetary home? Even scarier: are policy-makers and 'world-leaders' actually of any practical use? (Room for plenty of Russian jokes there ...)

Take a simple code on the outside: 'don't kill'; immediately disqualified by CAUSES with exceptions and excuses to kill. Then there are those who will not turn a gun upon another human being no matter what; simply through a feeling of doing no harm.

The difference is in the value: how much do you value another human life? Even deeper: how valuable is one single human existence? How do you measure that? Even deeper: how much do you value your own existence - is it so much that you could never ever contemplate taking anothers, or wasting your own? If you are turning towards a code for your answer you are turning away from yourself!

I do not think the mind can measure human life; nor is it the proper tool to even try. I think the only thing in man that can measure to the last millimeter (!) human life is the human heart. That is why I think morality begins first in the human heart.

I think we should be tackling sexuality too. The 'sharing and caring' I mentioned above are more predominant in women because they rear the babies: 'self-interest' more predominant in males. (If you think 'winning' is everything, check out your predecessors). Sharing and caring is one of the reasons women are generally more intelligent than men. The 'bull of the earth' has done enough blind damage.

After 200,000 years on the road, we desperately need to sort out the basics. Human beings would actually enjoy peaceful living and security. We might even start trying to discover who we actually are.

David said...

Ironically, understanding morality and human behavior seems to be th eeasy part, when the reverse shoud be true

No, Paul, "the math" actually is the easy part. Warren Mosler, who's basically an engineer, came along a few years ago and analyzed the economy as a system of flows and said we could reconcile all those supposed irreconcilables like unemployment and inflation. That should have been big news. He even took it around to some rather highly placed individuals who said "You're right, but it would never fly politically."

Economists haven't solved the main problems in their field, not because they're not bright but because they are, by and large institutional men (and women). Most economists are just working to get their next paper published, their next grant, their next appointment or promotion, etc. It's the same with other institutions. Do you think cops really want to solve crime or does the Cancer Society really want to cure cancer?

You're right that the moral philosophy of a particular agent within a larger system probably doesn't make an enormous amount of difference. Krugman has said that the Bernanke he knew at Princeton is not the same as Fed Chairman Bernanke. It probably has more to do with the fact that Bernanke is now working in an institution that was set up by bankers to serve banker's interests than some kind of profound personality change. Again, Mosler has more or less solved the design problem and could cetainly institute a cybernetic system to manage flows and free up congress for things like planning keggers or voting on who gets to be prom king. But how do we get them to give up that power that they have; a power that makes them big shots in office and wealthy men when they leave office. Assuming that obstacle were overcome, who would set up the automatic system and upon what principles? Unfortunately, it's politics, politics all the way down.

Tom Hickey said...

I think we should be tackling sexuality too. The 'sharing and caring' I mentioned above are more predominant in women because they rear the babies: 'self-interest' more predominant in males. (If you think 'winning' is everything, check out your predecessors). Sharing and caring is one of the reasons women are generally more intelligent than men. The 'bull of the earth' has done enough blind damage.

Interestingly, recent research is revealing that man and women have characteristics of entirely different species. Therefore, lumping men and women together under "man" is highly misleading and contains hidden assumptions that are not true.

Tom Hickey said...

You're right that the moral philosophy of a particular agent within a larger system probably doesn't make an enormous amount of difference. Krugman has said that the Bernanke he knew at Princeton is not the same as Fed Chairman Bernanke. It probably has more to do with the fact that Bernanke is now working in an institution that was set up by bankers to serve banker's interests than some kind of profound personality change.

I have seen this transformation happen in an instant. Often it is a gradual process, but for some people, it is an instantaneous transformation into virtually another person. Actually, this happens both for good and for bad in different cases. It is a "conversion of the heart" in one direction or the other. Sometimes it is glorious and sometimes tragic.

Tom Hickey said...

I do not think the mind can measure human life; nor is it the proper tool to even try. I think the only thing in man that can measure to the last millimeter (!) human life is the human heart. That is why I think morality begins first in the human heart.

That is the teaching of perennial wisdom. The goal of self-development is achieving a balance of head and heart.

Plato's model is the integration of prudence (phronesis), justice (dikaiosyne), temperance (sophrosyne) and fortitude (andreia). Prudence rules over the "head," fortitude over the "heart," temperance over the "stomach," and justice is their balance and harmonious interaction. This model was adopted by later Jewish and Christian teachers. The English words are not very accurate renderings of the Greek concepts, nor is "virtue." Under religious influence, the underlying notion of balance and harmony that is paramount in ancient Greek thought was lost.

There are as many levels of "heart" as there are of consciousness. The level of collective consciousness is the level that predominates in a society, but it is a bell curve of different shapes in different societies based on different of distribution of unfolded potential. Thus the conventional norms of a society (Greek ethos, Latin mores, thus English"ethics" and "morality") may be different from other societies and from the universal aspect of "morality," the fundamental "rule" of which is unconditional love — which Jesus, for example, reportedly called the whole of the Law (Torah) and all the prophets.

As Aquinas said, paraphrasing Aristotle, "A small mistake in the beginning become a great one by the end." Economists take note.

paul said...

"No, Paul, "the math" actually is the easy part."

David,

That's what I wrote, you misunderstood. I admit my grammar structure was awkward.

Yes, the math is the easy part and it looks like 95% of the population still doesn't get it, making it much harder than it should be. That's what I was trying to say.

Of course understanding human behavior at the science level is more difficult.

We do however have 2000 years of recorded history demonstrating behavior that hasn't changed much over that period, so our macro understanding of behavior is pretty good. There aren't many surprises forthcoming.

What we don't know very well is why people behave the way they do. Why doesn't have much effect on economic flows, at least it doesn't appear to to me.

If we understood the why maybe we could nudge people towards less self-destructive behavior and build an economic system around it.

jrbarch said...

Interestingly, recent research is revealing that man and women have characteristics of entirely different species

.... my better-half reckoned straight-away women always knew that; and it's men doing the research!!

jrbarch said...

There are as many levels of "heart" as there are of consciousness.

Maybe it would be good to highlight the heart - paraphrasing Prem Rawat:

Your heart is that voice that has stayed with you all of your life.

The heart has no curiousity. The heart wants to know.

A child is willing to learn - that is the difference.

The heart knows how to receive and how to give.

Follower you will be. However, in this life you have an opportunity to be a follower of the heart.

The mind lives on vapour; the heart on substance.

Judge only with the heart.

With the mind I can think, I wander from past to future; the ego dances its little dance - my heart says here, now.

The heart is a door.

There is no end to the ability of this heart, to reward you with the gift of joy.

jrbarch said...

The level of collective consciousness is the level that predominates in a society, but it is a bell curve of different shapes in different societies based on different of distribution of unfolded potential.

I think I am really fuzzy about this collective consciousness thing? Some people seem to speak of the 'collective consciousness' as an entity in itself? If the Sun is reflected in 10,000 rain drops, then I guess you could say there is a collective consciousness of the Sun in the raindrops (if they are paying attention - maybe that's where the bell curve comes in - raindrop ADS)?

So I would say collective content in individual consciousnesses, defining a consciousness as an entity. What that consciousness is aware of something else.

What collective consciousnesses are mutually aware of and in agreement with (usually incredibly imperfectly) - really something else. Most of the time they seem to be fighting against each other. In fact it scares the living daylights out of me ....!

I don't quite get the whole group thing: seems to me there needs to be harmony within the individual first before there can be an orchestra?

jrbarch said...

the universal aspect of "morality," the fundamental "rule" of which is unconditional love

This I really like. Torah is a wonderful word.

Kabir said: 'Standing in the marketplace (this world) with everybody passing by. No-one is my friend and no-one is my enemy. To each, I wish fare well.'

The essence of the whole human being is love. The essence of our mind, curiousity. The heart likes to know. When the heart knows, the mind is gob-smacked: then it kind of settles down and begins to understand!! The heart and the mind, are two very different spheres. The heart is singular. Morality is a little bird that flies back and forth between the two and sings a sweet song.

I don't know why we make the world such a complicated place, when in our being we are so simple. Love is simple ....!

If the mind really wishes to understand, it should first of all - be still. Then listen to the heart.

Tom Hickey said...

@ jrbarch

Right. The "heart" has "eyes" and "ears." Jesus: "Those who have ears, let them hear."

On one hand, people can "harden" their hearts, and on the other, not all hearts are equally open due to what different people bring in with them. Finally, social influences also have an influence on the openness of hearts. Aquinas: It is difficult to be a good person in a bad society.

This is a key area that contemporary psychology is just beginning to recognize and attempting to approach scientifically, although it is ancient wisdom.

Tom Hickey said...

I don't quite get the whole group thing: seems to me there needs to be harmony within the individual first before there can be an orchestra?

Yes, and playing in an orchestra, or even a band, influences the musicians involved. The individual consciousnesses make up the collective consciousness of the group and the collective consciousness of the group then influences the individuals. Music is a good example. Any team, too, that exhibits "teamwork." A functioning team is not just an aggregate of individuals that happen to get thrown together.

Tom Hickey said...

I think I am really fuzzy about this collective consciousness thing?

Collective consciousness has two major meanings. First, sociologically it means the predominant level of experiencing that influences a culture and determines its institutions. In a broad sense, so-called primitive cultures experienced the world in terms of numinous forces or "spirits." This developed into the various religiously dominated ways of experiencing the world. Then, the predominant way of "advanced" cultures experiencing the world is in terms of scientific understanding. Nothing mystical about this. There is no entity corresponding to collective consciousness, even in Hegel's Zeitgeist. That is a misunderstanding.

In the spiritual sense, level of collective consciousness relates to the predominant level of universality that is is manifested. In evolution, the first manifestation of this is kinship. This notion of kinship expanded in universality to the concept of the "nation" as the aggregate of clans and tribes related by blood. America is really the first country that is a "nation" not determined chiefly by kinship.

Higher levels of spiritual development are characterized by greater degrees of universality, the highest leve being the the unmediated realization of the unity of being. The level of collective consciousness of different groups is determined on the basis of the degree of universality exhibited in the culture and its institutions.

So-called primitive societies may exhibit a higher level of collective consciousness than societies that are advanced materially but not very reflective of universality, being very individualistic and materially oriented.

jrbarch said...

"Yes, and playing in an orchestra, or even a band, influences the musicians involved".

Made me think: in orchestral music there is a composer who hands on a score to the orchestra who dutifully follow the interpretation of the conductor. Then there is free-form jazz and ragas; improvisation either within a scale or atonal. Cycles base on 52 beats rather than the standard 4 in the West. Music viewed as 'attacks' on the imperturbable Silence. Yet homage paid, to the stillness that remakes itself complete - forever in motion.

Then there was Beethoven - deaf - and apparently able to hear a composition as a totality: write it down as a lineal piece in Time. People who see and feel music as colour and colour as music; Tibetan monks who used sound to drive away hail storms that could damage crops. Ancient legends of 'airships levitating' and battles involving weapons of sound. The noise of humanity on this earth. The sounds that Nature makes.

The Silence within - that draws ones attention back from the senses and the mind to a place inside.

Sometimes, I swear there is a great joy and laughter peeling throughout the stars. Then there is the pain and sobs and wailing all down to ignoring, on this planet earth.

I guess when one walks away from the concert hall, all that can be taken with you is a feeling - and that soon fades away. Some sounds help to focus; some are just expressions of very frustrated people!!

Like 'listening' to this blog sometimes, hey Tom ....!!!! The colours that people paint and the forms constructed; the sounds that echo.

There has got to be a way to bring some joy back into economics - somebody said recently 'economics' means hearth.

Tom Hickey said...

There has got to be a way to bring some joy back into economics - somebody said recently 'economics' means hearth.

The problem with economics is that it gets isolated from life in the attempt to make it "scientific." Then it loses its soul and becomes a numbers game.

Abraham Maslow wrote a book on management from the vantage of humanistic psych called Eupsychian Management, republished after being out of print as Maslow on Management. Here are the assumptions. It's based on Maslow's hierarch y of needs and self-actualization.

jrbarch said...

I once touched on Maslow and Glasser, proof reading assignments for a teacher-in-training. Both of them caring people to think what they set down. That means much more to me than the 'trouble' they ran into with 'empirical assessments'....

I think though (and you may not agree with this idea) they began their thinking from the wrong starting point.

There is a 'key' to human psychology and that key is the heart.

Glasser described the four fundamental psychological needs of the human persona and the choices it makes. He developed a therapy based on the 'reality' of the human persona. His needs are the needs of the persona: most importantly 'love' is interpreted as love felt and received by the persona. Everything revolves and orbits around this mysterious little thing called 'I'. Sometimes it spirals out of control.

Maslow and humanistic theories of realising full potential and self-actualisation and peak experiences are a little step forward, but still held within the universe of the persona. The qualities of self-actualised people (B-values) are still qualities of the persona, as are the hierarchy of needs.

Both thinkers remain without and unconscious to the universe of the heart. That probably sounds like a very sweeping or challenging, perhaps ignorant statement, but I don't mean to do anything other than speak truthfully and simply (as I see it)!

Wherever there is kindness, gentleness and generosity, clarity and inspiration, the heart is active in my opinion - but it is not necessarily seen and understood. There is a 'Sun' within a human being, that is just as real as the sun in the blue sky, who's rays carry to the persona all of the qualities mentioned. Problem is the persona 'appropriates' these rays and applies them to its own world, affixed to the 'I'.

The heart has only one desire in my understanding. To carry that 'I' back to the universe within so that it may gaze upon the 'Sun' on the inside, and in its light see itself for who it really is. We are not the persona: the 'I' caught up in the world.

I think Maslows ('peak experience - high points in life when the individual is in harmony with himself and his surroundings') - should be the starting point! When the persona is at rest - when the physical body is at rest it feels nothing but good; when the emotional body is at rest it feels nothing but good; when the mind is at rest it feels nothing but good - then is the time to withdraw the attention inside and knock on the door of the heart, see if you will be ushered in. It is not the choice of the persona in my understanding; it is something much more magical - something about which I know absolutely nothing other than it works - I think we call it Grace!!!!!

That is the key

Tom Hickey said...

@ jrbarch

I would agree that Maslow's humanistic psychology was a "baby step" but still a giant step for the West, which is engulfed in Skinnerian behaviorism at the time. Maslow eventually moved from humanistic to transpersonal psychology.

Working around the same time as Maslow in the West was P. R. Sarkar (Shri Shri Anandamurti) in India. His socio-economic program based on holistic spirituality is called PROUT, Progressive Utilization Theory.

Also notable at the time was E. F. Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful, whose project included introducing Buddhist economics to the West.

One would think that a Christian economics based on universal love would have developed in the West, but it hasn't happened yet.

jrbarch said...

One would think that a Christian economics based on universal love would have developed in the West, but it hasn't happened yet.

Not surprising Tom, because you actually have to fall in love with something that is 'universal' to have universal love.