American vignettes 1

Intenta alquilar un apartamento una vez llegado a N.Y o a cualquier otro puerto de entrada. Como en cualquier otro sitio tienes que dejar como señal la renta de un mes y, a diferencia de otros sitios, tambien la del mes de salida y unos cuantos pluses para garantizar la entrega correcta del apartamento.

Todo esto sube un pico; pero no es problema puesto que tienes acceso a un crédito instantáneo on line. No vale decir que tu banco en Espana te puede avalar a través de cualquier banco corresponsal: este es otro mercado. Tampoco vale que les enseñes tu tarjeta visa porque no hay un cruce de datos instantaneo entre visa y otras emisoras de tajetas americanas.

Lo que sí­ puede ser verificado instantaneamente es tu credit track record que indica las deudas contraí­das y la atención prestada a satisfacer las correspondientes cuotas. Siempre, claro está, que se trate de deudas contraí­das aqui, en los EE.UU de America.

Como no es mi caso, no tego mas remedio que arguir que mi educación general no me permite utilizar el crédito. Pero esto es mi condenación definitiva en este mercado. Si no tengo deudas no soy fiable pues por algo será, algo querré ocultar…

Total que me voy a un hotel, descanso un poco, cruzo la calle y me meto en la primera sucursal fisica del HSBC. Si, esta firma conoce mi banco doméstico, escuchan con atención la pequena historia de mi probidad financiera y me aseguran que en unos pocos dias y si las cosas, despues de verificadas, son como yo las cuento, estarán en disposicion de concederme un crédito para el alquiler del apartemento que quiero para pasar unos dias con mi familia.

Es una historia apócrifa construida con elementos reales que me proporciona mi hijo Rafa; pero me parece instructiva. En el mercado masivo de crédito instantáneo no soy nadie porque no lo utilizo. No debo luego no existo.

Pues no crean que me disgusta. Lo unico pesado es que me tengo que poner al dí­a pues no quiero ser de esos pocos hombres puros que Jehova va a salvar de la destrucción de Sodoma. Yo quiero ser destruí­do con los que han olvidado de una vez el camino recto y que se enorgullecen de que a nadie deben nada y deseo hacer mí­as las costumbres de los hombres que transitan el camino tortuoso por el que caminan todos los que, para enogullecerse, solo tienen que tener deudas y pagarlas.

Economics and ontology. Appendix 1

When young and thriving we thouht of ontology as something related to the world of essences we wanted to scape. We wanted to move on from Aquinas to Carnarp or Russel so to speack. And we certaily did without looking back or feeling any kind of nostalgia.

But recently certain philosofers of science or of Economics in particular have toyed with the idea of going back to ontoloy and some others have made of it their main research topic. So be it.

But all of a sudden one realizes it is not only a kind of sweet tolerance which alows ontology to live. And an sneaky feeling starts creeping in. What if this apparently backward move actually was aking to one of the most trendy movements within mainstream Economics?

I refer to Network Theory as away of understanding many phenomena which are not related to the functioning of the market but rather to the emergence of this particular institution and ,more generally, to many interesting social facts whih are not intermediated by markets.

Let us recall first what David de Ugarte said two or three days ago on the blogsphere. In his theses 4/5/6 he argues that the the real media is not one blog but the blogsphere itself, that this blogsphere is divided into different groups non of which is going to be the influential one forever because these sungroups change all the time and that the structure of this collection of blogs is distributed and not merely descentralized.

Let us ext move to the way I explained Lawson´s ontology in the third part of this series. The social domain, an emergent realm made by us,was like a set of social groups intrinsecally dynamic, characterized by the rules and pratices followed in them and in which each one of the individuals forming part of any group is situated, i. e is internally related to any other, if related at all.

I will not bother to underline the similitudes of the two notions under consideration. It seams to me obvious tha the blogsephere, as describes by de Ugarte is a fitting exaple of the social realm of Tony Lawson.

Now, since the bolgsphere is a network I seriously think we can learn something about ontological economics by trying to analyze networks. I want to first discuss a particular dynamics of the reshufling of groups within the social domain and then apply it to a aprticular point of feminist economics.

So I have for two other appendices.

Economics and ontology. IV:last remarks

All right, let us accept for the sake of argument that Economics has not changed the world because it cannot do it unless it recognizes the world is as Lawson thinks it is. Furthemore let also grant that many of us enter the field to change the world for the better and to avoid the marginalization of any human being. Let me now offer a couple of examples that purport to suggest that Lawson´s ontology doesn´t offer a clear suggestion of how to do it.

First example. My mother asks my advice about whether to buy a new finantial product designed for the elderly. What shall I do?. Shall I explain to her that she is old and a female, and therefore poorly situated to fight th local bank appetite to “exploit” her, or shall I try to price the new product according to Balack-Scholes formula which I happen to know as a mainstream economist? The answer is that short of doing both I certainly should advice her according to my uprisal of the quality of the finacial product offered to her.

Second example. Many of us we want to reduce personal income inequality in the world. Shall I voice in my highest pitch that exploitation is there in spite of the generalization of markets or may be because of it, or shall I fight for significant increases in educational public expenditures in spite of my doubts about certain econometric misspefications?. I know the answer. Don´t you?

Let me close these comments on the memorable visit of Tony Lawson to the UAM with an almost litteray remark. Each time I tried to challenge Tony´s examples pointing to mainstrean economic´s results that could answer his qualms, he would reply with a conmisarate “it is not that, it isn´t that”. I had experienced this attitude before but whre? O. K. I remember . It is the answer I always got from my friend Alfonso Dubois each time I came up with a simple explanation of his convoluted thories aimed at explainig underdevelopment: “it isn´t that; keep searching!”

It can be very exasparating indeed but, mind you, my friend´s insatisfaction kept me going. Thus I thank Tony Lawson´s for his challenging intelectual project. It will keep me going.

Well, may be this means that this little saga on ontology may continue. We will see.

Economics and Ontology. III: the social domain

In the last post about this topic I used Lucas 72 and Azariadis 81 to problematize the apparently obvious separation of deep structure and superficial regularities. Whatever the answer to this puzzle, Lawson takes this separation for granted and devotes his energies to try to discover this deep structure according to the trascental ontology he favours. Only after having done so can we espect to come up with some comments to these and other puzzles.

According to the many renderings of his position, including the one offered las week at the seminar he delivered in the UAM, the social domain is an emergent realm which depends on us and is made up of social groups, social rules and pratices within those groups. This social domain constitutes a closed system, intrisically dynamic and internaly related in the sense that any individual within the group is necessarilly situated in relation to others.

The implicatios are obvious. Individualism is not the appropiate methodology for Economics and the right question is never about the regularitis but rather about the departures from these apparent regularitis. It is this last fature what leeds Lawson to accept Akerloff´s market for “lemmons” article as an accepatble piece of Economics even if for almost everybody it is undoubtedly located at the very center od mainstream Economics.

But not only the implicatios are obvious. So are the remarks. First, this trascedental ontology seams very similar to undercurrents of both marxist and austrian economics and in fact Lawson claims to have found a sort of common ground for all unorthodox economic thinking, from old institutionalist to feminist economics. Second, this is not mere curiosity since it inmediatly prompts the question of intervention: do not intervene because you cannot control the unexpected consequences of the intervention or do intervene since you have apparently discovered an inmutable dialectical law. Third, the conexion of this latter point with the issue of “prediction” ought to be obvious since intervention can only be justified when prediction is more or less possible and accurate.

I do enjoy, probably out of my flare for disidence, the antiindividualist stance but I cannot help my being astonished as to the scarcity of “results” obtainable from this journey into ontological economics. Even if I was convinced, but only merely convinced, that the nature of of society was as depicted by Lawson , I will feel obliged to confront it to other possible descriptions. More important, it seams to me that if I wanted to say something specific ( and I see no reason why I should rennounce this wish) I would have to close the system, construct a model and use the deductive powers of mathematics to squeeze the juice out of it.

But may be Tony Lawson doesn´t really want to change or redirect Economics but rather he wants to change us, appealling to our awarnes of others and to the necessarilly direct contact with them beyond the arms length contact through the market.

Mre about this in the folowing post.

Piensa CRB

Carlos Rodriguez Braun es un serio economista y un polemista peligroso. También es un columnista brillante que profesa en diferentes medios, entre ellos EXPANSION.

En su columna de ayer en dicho periódico económico, CRB afirmaba que el Presidente del Gobierno es no solo algo peor que un animalito inofensivo y tonto, sino también un totalitario y alguien que no se rige por el principio de no contradicción.

Entren ustedes y léanle. Yo lo hice y no lo entendí­. No entendí­ la literalidad del artí­culo y tampoco sus econdidas intenciones si es que las tení­a. Cosa rara, no por mis pobres entendederas; sino porque CRB suele ser claro en su expresión y en su intención.

Que no es inofensivo no parece ser noticia ya. No creo que nadie haya pensado nunca que sea tonto. Por lo tanto no entiendo qué quiere decir que es peor que eso. Quizá que es ofensivo y realmente estúpido. Me creo lo primero aunque no tenga más prueba que la dureza con la que despidió a mi amiga Marí­a Jesús Sansegundo. No puedo creerme lo segundo a la vista de muchos de sus éxitos polí­ticos. No pueden ser todos el resultado de una buena racha.

Vayamos con el totalitarismo. Si dijo lo que aparece entrecomillado (“el ciudadano normal sólo tiene el poder que le da su papeleta” ) y no lo dijo como preámbulo de algún proyecto para devolverle su protagonismo, me temo que no tendrí­a más remedio que estar de acuerdo con CRB y poner al Presidente en la lista de presidentes con ramalazos totalitarios a los que hemos sufrido y sufrimos en diferentes ámbitos. Pero ¿ realmente lo dijo?. No me lo puedo creer.

Sigamos con esa fea desviación hacia la arbitrariedad, además de un peligro serio, que es el totalitarismo. Según CRB serí­a totalitario cualquiera que crea que el matriminio, la propiedad y el comercio pueden ser manipulados por la polí­tica sin grave manoscabo de la libertad. Se tatarí­a de tres ejemplos de instituciones pre-polí­ticas. Y sin embargo hay limitaciones al matrimonio canónico reconocidas por la ley, hay leyes de expropiación y el comercio está fuertemente regulado por piezas legislativas de diverso rango. Y como a mí­, ninguna de estas tres cosas me parece un grave atentado a la libertad, resulta que debo tener un ramalazo totalitario que me debiera hacer mirar. Desgraciadamente tengo otras cosas más urgentes que dilucudar en el diván.

Y, finalmente, Zapatero serí­a un violador de la lógica formal. Como ésta se refiere a las proposiciones, esta violación no me preocuparí­a en sí­. Lo que me preocuparí­a es si fuera lo que podrí­amos llamar, forzando el lenguaje, contradictorio en la acción. Y que yo recuerde sólo lo ha sido tratando desigualmente el Plan Ibarreche y el Estatut: una contradicción en la acción muy bien valorada por la gran mayorí­a de los autonombrados defensores de la libertad.

Pensar nos viene bien a todos. Yo, por mi parte, seguiré pensando en Economí­a y Ontologí­a. Pero eso será mañana.

Economics and Ontology. II: the wrong track of Economics

I will now present Tony Lawson`s opinions about the te current state of mainstream Economics.

This kind of Economics is understood to be any economic discourse which uses mathematical models. Once this is provisionally accepted, we are confronted with the following three propositions. (i) Mathematics are not necessary for a science. (ii) Mathematics are only useful in a world which could never be akin to the social world. (iii) Therefore Economics is in the wrong track.

In the sequel to this post I will try to explain how Lawson thinks a really scientific Economics could be developped from trscendental ontology. But from the time being I will just deal with the aforementioned three propositions, explaining them and then submitting some remarks.

The example of biology should suffice to accept that mathematics are not a prerequisite of scince. We really accept biology is making substantial progress in the understanding of the deep structure of living matter and yet mathematics are not substantial to these developments.

Mathematics however are quite useful in a world where things stay as they are structurally even if the observatios related to the phenomena appearing in this world are seen to be evolving. That is, mathematics are useful only to understand the workings of a closed system.

Now, since human society is a completely different system continouslly changing in structure, mathematics cannot help much and sticking to them as a tool is just a recognition of the necessity of belonging but hardly an instrument for the discovery of truth.

The three ideas are clear enough and deserve some remarks.

Consider first the following list of Nobel Laureates. Hayek, Buchanan, Coase, Kahneman, Tversky and Vernon Smith. They are mainstream and they have not used mathematics in any significant way. Of course it could be the case that in many decades we might come to realize that they did not gain any particular relevant insight into the deep nature of economic reality. It could be, but it would be quite different than stating as of today that their insights are right, if they are, just by chance, which is what Lawson is saying, I think.

The sharp distinction between events and regularities on one hand and deep structure on the other hand is somewhat contrived. For one thing we could say that models-mathematical or not- give us a glimpse into the nature or the deep structure of reality. For another thing distinguising between puzzles and problems -as I have done in the past-could also be a way of differentiating between the desire to understand the puzzling nature of things and problems whih are nothing but a sudoku which wi llbe solved sooner or later.

And to end this second post I think that Tony Lawson has to take care, if we are going to accept his critic, of the extrange nature of Lucas 72 or of Azariadis 81, both in JET.

As for te Lucas piece it is a piece of mainstream Economics if ever there was one. It consists of a matematical model which shows simultaneouslly that the deep structue of an economic system shows no sign of a trade-off between the rate of inflation and the rate of unemployment and that nontheless well defined problems of information can explain the apparent downward sloping fit of the observations recorded for these two variables.

As for Azariadis his pionnering work on selffulfilling prophesies shows mathematically that an economic system completelly deterministic could look like beyond the sadow of a doubt as a sochastic one just because the people come to belive tahat that was the case.

I thingkthat these two examples of regular mainstream Economics cast a doubt on the sharp distinction made by by Lawson between events and regularities on the one hand and deep stucture on the other. They seam to me as a stone on the shoe of any realist, empirical or trascendental. In the latter case because, unless you thing you have discovered the unique right ontology you cannot be sure that events and regukariies cannot come from some other ontology.

In summary, even if you are a realist you cannot avoid epistemic problems. Not even if you are a trascendetal ontologicalist.

Economics and Ontology.I: introducction

Tony Lawson is an unorthodox economist affliated to Cambridge University. Somebody who has spent an enormous amount otf time and effort in critisicing the way mainstrean Economics unfolds and trying to characterize the way a really scientific Economics might be developed. He visited us this week and gave a couple of seminars at the UAM.

I found some of his ideas challenging and I think it is worthwhile to ruminate them. I will do that in my own benefit in three parts beyond this introduction.

As an intoductory remark let me just say that Lawson claims to be a methodological pluralist as I said in a previous post that intended to be nothing but a pun. However he declares himself a realist ( so opposing any kind of postmodernism) and more specifically a trascendental realist. That is, he claims to be somebody who not only accepts the existance of an undeniable reality out there, generally described as a set of regularities, but also really wants to find the deep causes of this observable regularities

In the next post I will try to render his uprisal of the present state of mainstream Economics.

Moneda de cambio

Las autoridades de la Comunidad Foral de Navarra parecen temer que el principio del fin de ETA pase por concesiones a la banda armada sobre la soberaní­a del territorio navarro. Y lo expresan, al igual que lo hacen polí­ticos de partido, o que van por libre, diciendo que Navarra no será nunca moneda de cambio.

Lejos de mí­ el caer en la tentación de entrar en esa discusión que me recuerda a un jóven estudiante de francés, hijo de un amigo mí­o, que se paseaba voceando con gran autoridad impostada: “Je ne suis pas Chrarlemagne”. Vale.

Sin embargo la expresión ” moneda de cambio” siempre me ha gustado como ocasión para reflexionar. Uno de mis jefes actuales se rí­e de este tipo de expresiones aparentemente redundantes ya que, dice, no sabrí­a imaginar otra función de la moneda. Y, sin embargo, él sabe que yo, como supuesto experto en Economí­a Monetaria, sé bien que las monedas, y el dinero en general, sirven otros fines más allá del intercambio, especialmente si ese dinero no es fiduciario y se plasma en una moneda con valor intrí­nseco.

Esa moneda sirve también como depósito de valor. Durante la guerra civil mi padre compró oro, no sé si acuñado, y lo escondió en la huerta de un caserí­o. Hoy el oro y otros metales preciosos están por las nubes. Luego la expresión “moneda de cambio” no es tan redundante porque puede haber monedas que no estén ahí­ para ser intercambiadas.

Quizá sea el caso de Navarra. Quizá sea un gran depósito de valor. Y si lo fuera no serí­a de extrañar que fuera codiciada por unos y por otros. Por lo tanto el presidente de esa Comunidad Foral deberí­a especificar que Navarra no es moneda de cambio y que como depósito de valor pertenece a los navarros.

Pero si dice esto estarí­a implí­citamente exigiendo una soberaní­a “nacional” que no está reconocida en nuestra constitución, cosa que jamás harí­a Miguel Sanz.

Pero yo no querí­a hablar de polí­tica. Lo que quiero decir es solo que el mundo no va bien, que hasta Rato deja traslucir sus preocupaciones y que quizá es tiempo de comprarle una joya a su mujer o una gran cadena de oro a lo marbellí­ a su marido. Dios no quiera que sea como moneda de cambio en los tejemanejes de pareja.

La ontología y el horoscopo

Esta tarde he tenido el privilegio de asistir al primer seminario de una serie que dictará en la UAM Tony Lawson de la universidad de Cambrige.

Aunque su posición metodológica es pluralista en principio, su propuesta, segun la entiendo yo, es reconducir la Economí­a como ciencia social por el camino de la ontologí­a, un ancla firme que evite las pompas de jabón de lo que hoy es la corriente principal en la disciplina, una corriente que no admite nada que no esté modelado en términos matemáticos.

El debate posterior ha sido duro; pero sin acritud. Por mi parte me he frenado y no he hecho una pregunta y/o comentario que me bailaba en la cabeza. Era el siguiente que aunque parezca una boutade y, de hecho, lo sea, no debiera despreciarse del todo inmediatamente.

Si es pluralista debiera admitir la presunta sabidurí­a contenida en el horóscopo y especialmente en el del ABC ya que Karin Sylveira me parece un genio de la astrologí­a. Pues bien, lo que hoy me anunciaba era que como buen piscis y “personaje romántico por excelencia, no tiene (tengo) realmente interés en observar el mundo; sino en soñarlo…”

Un abuena respuesta a una propuesta ontológica. ¡Qué más da cómo sea el mundo si nuestras esoñaciones teóricas son tan bellas y tan inteligentes!

Es broma. Mañana me pondré más serio, siempre que mi horóscopo me lo permita.

House m.d.

Lo siento. No tengo tiempo de postear largo. Me está esperando el Dr. Greg House que hoy comienza su segunda temporada en Cuatro.

Comprederán que un macho que ha pasado del Far West a Wall Street a lo largo de su larga vida no se lo pueda perder.

Ahí­ está otra vez el llanero solitario que enamora a la casada mientras defiende a su marido y se aleja hacia el horizonte mientras el hijo del matrimonio le pide a gritos que vuelva: Shane, ¡vuelve!

Y ahí­ está el artista del mercado de valores que, impreganado de la información que se bambolea en el aire; pero que solo él sabe leer, da la orden de “comprar japón” sin que le tiemble el pulso.

House nos venga a todos aquellos que siempre hemos creí­do, a pesar de nustras afirmaciones, que la sabidurí­a no se puede encriptar en un protocolo de actuación.

Y lo que no es lo de menos, nos enseña a callar a no ser que tengamos algo inconveniente que decir.