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Fertile Utopian Fallacies WAS: Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Systems and goals

PJ wrote:
> In which case, maybe we (unrevvers unite!) need to fire up
> some serious debate and research into what long term system goals
> humankind should
> have on the table now?    (01)

Thankfully, I'm not naive enough to believe that even if we can cook
up a utopian vision that it should constitute anything more than what
George Soros describes as a fertile fallacy.
Here is an instructive excerpt from the beginning of (the
arch-libertarian) Ludwig von Mises' "Human Action" (1949, & 4th ed. 1996):
    "Philosophers had long since been eager to ascertain the ends which
God or Nature was trying to realize in the course of human history. They
searched for the law of mankind's destiny and evolution. But even those thinkers
whose inquiry was free from any theological tendency failed utterly in
these endeavors because they were committed to a faulty method. They dealt
with humanity as a whole or with other holistic concepts like nation, race,
or church. They set up quite arbitrarily the ends to which the behavior of
such wholes is bound to lead. But they could not satisfactorily answer the
question regarding what factors compelled the various acting individuals to
behave in such a way that the goal aimed at by the whole's inexorable evolution
was attained. They had recourse to desperate shifts: miraculous interference
of the Deity either by revelation or by the delegation of God-sent prophets
and consecrated leaders, preestablished harmony, predestination, or the
opera-tion of a mystic and fabulous "world soul" or "national soul." Others
of a "cunning of nature" which implanted in man impulses driving him
unwittingly along precisely the path Nature wanted him to take.
    "Other philosophers were more realistic. They did not try to guess
the designs of Nature or God. They looked at human things from the
view-point of government. They were intent upon establishing rules of political
action, a technique, as it were, of government and statesmanship.
Spec-ulative minds drew ambitious plans for a thorough reform and
of society. The more modest were satisfied with a collection
and systematization of the data of historical experience. But all were
fully convinced that there was in the course of social events no such
regularity and invariance of phenomena as had already been found in the
of human reasoning and in the sequence of natural phenomena. They did
not search for the laws of social cooperation because they thought that
man could organize society as he pleased. If social conditions did not
fulfill the wishes of the reformers, if their utopias proved
unrealizable, the fault was seen in the moral failure of man. Social problems
considered ethical problems. What was needed in order to construct the
ideal society, they thought, were good princes and virtuous citizens.
With righteous men any utopia might be realized.
    "The discovery of the inescapable interdependence of market
phenomena overthrew this opinion. Bewildered, people had to face a new view of
society. They learned with stupefaction that there is another aspect
from which human action might be viewed than that of good and bad, of fair
and unfair, of just and unjust. In the course of social events there
prevails a regularity of phenomena to which man must adjust his actions if he
wishes to succeed. It is futile to approach social facts with the attitude of a
censor who approves or disapproves from the point of view of quite arbitrary
standards and subjective judgments of value. One must study the laws of
human action and social cooperation as the physicist studies the laws of
nature. Human action and social cooperation seen as the object of a
science of given relations, no longer as a normative discipline of things that
ought to be-this was a revolution of tremendous consequences for knowledge
and philosophy as well as for social action."
    "For more than a hundred years, however, the effects of this radical
change in the methods of reasoning were greatly restricted because people
believed that they referred only to a narrow segment of the total field of human
action, namely, to market phenomena. The classical economists met in the pursuit
of their investigations an obstacle which they failed to remove, the
apparent antinomy of value. Their theory of value was defective, and forced them
to restrict the scope of their science. Until the late nineteenth century
political economy remained a science of the "economic" aspects of human action,
theory of wealth and selfishness. It dealt with human action only to the
extent that it is actuated by what was -very unsatisfactorily-described
as the profit motive, and it asserted that there is in addition other
human action whose treatment is the task of other disciplines. The
of thought which the classical economists had initiated was brought
to its consummation only by modern subjectivist economics, which
converted the theory of market prices into a general theory of human
"It is true that economics is a theoretical science and as such abstains from
any judgment of value. It is not its task to tell people what ends they should
aim at. It is a science of the means to be applied for the attainment of ends
chosen, not, to be sure, a science of the choosing of ends. Ultimate decisions,
the valuations and the choosing of ends, are beyond the scope of any science.
Science never tells a man how he should act; it merely shows how a man
must act if he wants to attain definite ends.
It seems to many people that this is very little indeed and that a science
limited to the investigation of the 'is' and unable to express a judgment value
about the highest and ultimate ends is of no importance for life and action.
This too is a mistake...."    (02)

Von Mises was writing in 1949, the 'father' of Austrian Economics, as
it came to be known. F.A. Hayek is one of his best known students.
I hope economic theory is even better these days than it was in 1949.
So it would seem to me that if the choices for mankind can be put
clearly on the table, then the tools to attain the ends chosen (even if
healthily considered only as fertile fallacies) either already
exist, or can be readily cultivated.    (03)

Peter    (04)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Jones" <ppj@concept67.fsnet.co.uk>
To: <ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org>
Sent: Monday, July 15, 2002 9:14 PM
Subject: [ba-unrev-talk] Systems and goals WAS: Re: Offlist: Re:
[ba-unrev-talk] NOT: Really, It's That Simple    (05)

> (Henry, I'm moving this back on to the list as I think we're
> hitting some interesting territory that perhaps needs discussion in
> the wider arena.)
> OK, but that would bring me to another point.
> In the ABC model, A = productive process, B = improvement
> process, C = improving improvement process.
> However, I would have thought that one way to ensure
> improvements all the way was to assert a 'short-circuit' between
> C and A and suggest that one could improve from C by making
> A highly flexible from the outset. If A is highly flexible then
> surely B must be even more inventively flexible but easier because of
> that. And from that
> it follows that C must itself be even more highly flexible in its
> provision
> of recommendations for flexibility back down the line or via
> the short-circuit but is easier because of that. So in introducing
> flexibility we've introduced what looks like an extra efficiency into
> the whole.
> But what happens is that that flexibility in essence flattens the
> hierarchy
> more into a huge system of interdependent variables without order of
> control.
> And this implies that variable control in the system might not be
> possible - the domains of factors might be too big (chaos theory). And
> these
> systems are so rarely properly closed.
> So it seems that there is a limit to the extent to which the
> ABC model is applicable and it is perhaps lower than one
> might like.
> Therefore, one might argue that the ABC model only applies in system
> where the production goals
> are very clearly defined, and where fundamental flexibility is known
> not to introduce a direct improvement in the whole.
> Now those thoughts can be spread across the dimension of time, not
> production systems. The long haul goals aren't known. Some short haul
> goals are. So if we fix the short term ones that gets us to...?
> set of
> short term problems caused by fixing the last lot? How do we prevent
> that?
> By suggesting an ideal end state perhaps - the Heaven on Earth
> Does anyone agree what the HoE scenario should be? No, we've just
> said that no-one knows what that should be.
> So in the absence of defined end goals it looks as if we aren't
> with a production system here.
> In which case, is the ABC model applicable to the whole at present?
> Doubtful, I think.
> Does it make sense to apply it in part to particular activities and
> others?
> Doubtful too, because you can't track the influences.
> Doug is a holist (I hope I'm correct in asserting that -  he seems to
> to me) and
> so am I and, I think, many others on the BA lists.
> In which case, maybe we (unrevvers unite!) need to fire up
> some serious debate and research into what long term system goals
> humankind should
> have on the table now?
> --
> Peter
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Henry K van Eyken" <vaneyken@sympatico.ca>
> To: "Peter Jones" <ppj@concept67.fsnet.co.uk>
> Sent: Sunday, July 14, 2002 11:43 PM
> Subject: Re: Offlist: Re: [ba-unrev-talk] NOT: Really, It's That
[snipped]    (06)