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Presidential economics

2008-07-14 16:00:20.798773+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

[ related topics: tolkien Currency Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-14 16:56:14.660821+00 by: ebradway

This rant could go under here or the Phil Greenspun topic...

The more I learn about Geographic Information, which, on the surface, is a very technical topic, the more I realize the significance of human perception. This is, perhaps, the crux of post-modern theory - that the human effects on any system likely overshadow any hard-fast "laws".

Let me try to expound a bit: physical sciences attempt to understand the world around us in a truly objective manner. The laws of physics and chemistry (a subset of physics) exist independent of human existence. When a tree falls in the forest, it goes down due to gravity whether or not Newton ever existed.

But there are other entire realms of knowledge and understanding that surround systems that are really human constructs: psychology, sociology, economics, political science, etc. Without humans, these constructs would not exist. The nature of these systems is constantly being constructed in the minds of people. These "sciences" defy the concept of "laws" - probably due to a sort of circular reasoning: psychology is listed as one of the sciences.

So I think what we are seeing when comparing economic indicators to the party of the sitting President might not follow the same cause-and-effect cycle that we think. Perhaps there are prevailing psychological states among people that result in changes in the economy or the election of a particular President.

Maybe Phil Gramm is right - we are experiencing a "mental recession" - but maybe ALL recessions are due more to psychology than economics.

BTW, in the case of Geographic Information, geographic phenomenon can be split into two categories: physical and human. The physical geographic phenomena behave according to physical laws: hydrology, oceaonography, geology, etc. Human geographic phenomena exist entirely based on the perception of people. Cartographers sit under the interogatory spotlight of deconstructionism because what gets put on a map is frequently viewed by people as what really exists. But what exists for one person doesn't for another (e.g., property boundaries).

What's really fun is when humans try to alter physical geography to match their view of the world! When the levee breaks...

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-16 00:27:39.95856+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've had a couple of responses to this that have gotten lost because they've stretched out longer than a browser session, so a quick revisit which doesn't do your observations justice:

I think you're right: "...ALL recessions are due more to psychology than economics." If people behaved rationally, there would be no discipline called economics.

I think too that there's a lot of truth to the old line about "nothing with 'science' in the name actually is, the social sciences, computer science...", because all of those things are about studying from the inside, they're about studying human reactions to things, not the things themselves.

And, Elf looks further at that presidential correlation.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-16 06:13:26.342651+00 by: ebradway

Humans aren't robots (or Vulcan). Expecting people to behave rationally is dehumanizing. What demarcates "humanity" is our ability to go beyond rationality and logic. It imbues society with richness while defying positivist deconstruction.

Can you give a source for that line about science?

Human reactions to things ARE the things themselves: sociology, psychology, information science...

Information science is about representing a human perspective within the constraints usually created by computers (but it pre-dates computers in libraries and encyclopediae). This is why the concept of Ontologies that underlie the Semantic Web are significant. It's an attempt to imbue a sense of Epistemology (differences in human perspectives) into databases.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-07-16 13:15:57.717114+00 by: Dan Lyke

I don't have a source, that line's been around for forever. Brooks, who probably originated the name 'Computer Science', mentions it in his acceptance of the 1996 acceptance of the Allen Newell award:

A folk adage of the academic profession says, “Anything which has to call itself a science isn’t.” By this criterion, physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy may be sciences; political science, military science, social science, and computer science are not.

Or, in the silly side, Political Science Major Insists He Will Work as a “Scientist”:

This incident is just the most recent in a string of actions for Chinsile. Classmate Sarina Choy stated that Chinsile wore a lab coat to his Tuesday section of Poli-12 last Tuesday. She recounted, “He’s been wearing the lab coat all quarter. Last week, he wore safety goggles”.