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Mike Gravel on Twitter: "Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class."
"Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class.

Professional Democrats and elite journalists are largely in thrall to the cult of meritocracy, which is the solidification and beautification of inequality. It is inequality based on socially-defined merit—but inequality nonetheless. It is “talent” made god.

And because the new elite ostensibly owes its position to merit, rather than inherited privilege, it feels no sense of noblesse oblige that older aristocracies felt; as Christopher Lasch pointed out, there is no valor or chivalry in the new system, just Darwinian triumph.

Ultimately, as Lasch said, “meritocracy is a parody of democracy.” Meritocracy is an idea that allows the ruling class to hold on to power through the illusion that they deserve it because of merit (read Genovese). It tells the underclass—don’t worry, all is just in the world.

The popularity of true leftism seems to augur the return of old class-based politics, when Democrats were populists who fought for equality, not inequality under the veil of meritocracy. Buttigieg is the archetypal meritocrat—he is the perfect one to save the system.

It is the dream and hope of the meritocrats in journalism and politics that Buttigieg’s shininess distracts from the ravaged country that the current system, the one he clearly wants to perpetuate, has created.

The rule of the meritocrats, the “best and brightest,” has given us a country riven by rampant inequality, drug addiction, and endless wars abroad. Whether their name is Wolfowitz or Summers or Rubin, they’ve been in charge for decades—and look how far we’ve come!

To paraphrase Bakunin: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the Meritocratic Stick.’”

It’s time to return to a politics cognizant of class, one that is not obsessed with helping the best and brightest rise to the top, with making our unequal system more diverse, but instead concerned with leveling the system entirely. The promise of a good life for all."
mikegravel  meritocracy  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  inequality  noblesseoblige  society  socialdarwinism  journalism  journalists  education  petemuttigieg  capitalism  liberalism  neoliberalism  class  classism  rankings  success  justification  talent  christopherlasch  chivalry  power  control  self-importance  canon  politics  policy  mikhailbakunin  paulwolfowitz  larrysummers  robertrubin 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Spreadsheets of power: How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate | The Monthly
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"Most people think it is hard to put a dollar value on a human life, but they’re wrong. It’s easy. Economists do it all the time.

Most people think that all human lives are equally valuable. And most think economic modelling is boring, irrelevant to their busy lives, and unrelated to how our democracy is functioning. They’re wrong about those, too.

About ten years ago, a lawyer rang to ask if I would do some (economic) modelling. “It depends,” I said. “What’s the job?”

“We want you to put a dollar value on the life of a dead mother,” said the lawyer. “We are suing a doctor for medical negligence, and the insurance company wants to value her life at zero because she wasn’t working. She had no future earning potential. Can you estimate the value of the housework she would have performed?”

I still feel sad when I think about it: for the family, for myself, and for a society in which asking such a question is not only acceptable but also necessary. The dilemma for the widower and the lawyer, and for me, was that if someone didn’t put a dollar value on the love and care that a mother gives her children, the father would wind up with even less money to care for the kids he would be bringing up by himself.

Of course, economists have no real way to value love and affection, so I valued ironing, laundry and child care instead. I got my hands on data about how mothers with three kids use their time. I found data on the price of buying individual household services like ironing, and the price of live-in maids and nannies. I forecast the age at which the kids would leave home. My forecast was based on a meaningless average of kids who do go to uni and kids who don’t. My spreadsheets were huge, complex, scrupulously referenced and entirely meaningless. Like all good forecasters I estimated the “value” of her life to the cent, and as happens in all good negotiations, the lawyers ultimately settled for a nice round number. The only good thing about the number was that it was bigger than zero.

The topsy-turvy “morality” of economics is built in to models that politicians, lawyers, economists and lobby groups use to persuade the public, in all parts of public life: models that say, for instance, that we can’t afford a price on carbon; that life-saving medicine for some people is “too expensive”; or that the loss of an entire species is justifiable if woodchip prices remain above $100 per tonne.

Everyone who uses economic models to excuse the inexcusable wants you to believe that the models are boring. The last thing they want you to do is to pay attention.


Many economists have calculated that it will be cheaper for the world to endure climate change than to prevent it. The models they use to draw this bizarre conclusion are built on thousands of assumptions about everything from the value of human life to the willingness of consumers to buy smaller cars if petrol becomes more expensive. If any one of those assumptions is wrong, the answer will be wrong. If hundreds of the assumptions are out, the answer becomes meaningless. (Some economists then argue that if hundreds of the assumptions are wrong then the errors might cancel each other out. Seriously.)

Imagine you were asked to model the costs of dangerous climate change. Imagine you were in possession of the likely number of people who will die as a result of storms, floods and droughts. Imagine you knew what countries they would die in, and how many years into the future. Would you value all of their lives equally? Would you assume that a Bangladeshi and an American life were “worth” the same? Would you think that the death of a child in 20 years’ time was worth as much as the death of a child in 50 years’ time?

In our democracy, these ethical questions are usually answered by economists, to two decimal places.

Most economic modellers do not assume that all human lives are equal. Bjorn Lomborg, for example, one of the world’s most famous climate sceptics, uses modelling that assumes the lives of people in developing countries are worth a lot less than the lives of Australians or Americans. While the US Declaration of Independence may declare that all men are created equal, most economic models assume that all men (and women) are worth a figure based on the GDP per capita of their country.

Late last year, Bjorn Lomborg asked to meet me, and I wondered whether talking to him would be good fun or a waste of time. It was neither: it was scary and illuminating. After 15 years as the smiling face of climate inactivists, Lomborg had raised his sights. His new mission was to ensure that governments also deliver inaction on global poverty alleviation, public health and gender inequality.

When we met, Lomborg proceeded to explain how his team of economists at the Copenhagen Consensus Center had decided that a number of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals weren’t worth pursuing. His tool of choice for defending such a position? Economic modelling.

You probably didn’t know economists had an assumption about humanity’s primary goal, did you? No wonder developing countries think that the developed countries don’t really care about their suffering as much as our inconvenience. We don’t.

Assumptions such as those made by Summers sit at the heart of the economic models that are regularly used to oppose carbon taxes, support free trade agreements and prevent the introduction of environmental regulations or more generous welfare safety nets.

Much of the power of economists is based on the public’s (understandable) lack of desire to read reports written in algebra. That’s why we like to use algebra.

In 2011, Denmark’s general election saw its centre-right government tossed out of power, to be replaced by a minority centre-left coalition led by the country’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center was one of the first casualties of the change of government. When it was announced that its more than $1 million in funding would be cut, Lomborg visited the new prime minister, urging her to reconsider the government’s decision. “I’d love to show you how the Copenhagen Consensus is a good idea,” he was reported as telling her.

“I think that probably might be right, Bjorn,” she reportedly responded to the sceptical environmentalist. “But I will just get so much more mileage out of criticising you.”

Costs and benefits can be calculated any number of ways, and the modeller’s assumptions are crucial to the end result. Lomborg had confidently assumed that the Danish taxpayer would continue to fund his work. His cost–benefit analyses had found that more effort should be put into free trade and less money spent on tackling poverty and climate change. But, as with all such efforts, garbage in, garbage out.

There is a role for economists, and economic modelling, in public debate. Its role should not be to limit the menu of democratic choices. Instead it should be to help explain the trade-offs.

Good modellers aren’t afraid of explaining their assumptions. The clients who pay best, however, don’t want the best modellers. They want people who can write a fat report to slam on the fucking table."
economics  power  democracy  control  2015  economists  ideology  modeling  morality  politics  policy  lobbyists  persuasion  climatechange  justification  capitalism  larrysummers  worldbank  welfare  humanism  humanity  ethics  neoliberalism  richarddenniss  bjornlomborg  copenhagenconsensuscenter  riotinton  consensus  petercostello  joehockey  australia  inequality  poverty  representation  environment  pollution 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The Creation and Destruction of Habits
"1/ There are two kinds of stories: about forming habits, and about preserving them. Superhero movies and Christmas movies.

2/ While you have room to grow in your life, forming habits is much easier than breaking habits. Neither is easy, however.

3/ A habit, once formed, demands use. This is because it exists as a sunk cost. Disuse would imply depreciating value.

4/ A living habit generates returns and grows more complex over time. This is growth. Growing habits occupy more room over time.

5/ A dying habit generates losses and grows simpler over time. This is decay. Dying habits decay to occupy less room over time.

6/ You are grown up when you run out of room to grow and are forced to break old habits in order to form new ones.

7/ The alternative to growing up is to preserve existing habits against decay through mummification. This is ritualization.

8/ To ritualize a habit is to decide to sustain steady losses for the indefinite future. This means feeding it with make-work.

9/ Living habits are ugly. Constant growth and increasing complexity means they always appear as an unrefined work-in-progress.

10/ The reward of a ritual is comforting, relived memories of once-profitable habits. These can be passed on for generations.

11/ Rituals are beautiful. Mummification is the process of aestheticizing a behavior to produce comfort instead of profit.

12/ Comforts must be paid for. But it is an easy decision to rob the ugly to pay the beautiful. Growth must pay for decay.

13/ Living habits can be valued in terms of expected future returns. Comforts cannot because they are being sustained despite losses.

14/ Living habits have a price. Rituals are price-less. They represent comforts worth preserving at indeterminate cost.

15/ Price-less comforts evolve from things-that-cannot-be-priced to things-that-must-not-be-priced. This is sacralization.

16/ The sacred price-less is the economic priceless. We drop the hyphen and add a notional price of infinity. This is a sacred value.

17/ The ritualized habit associated with a sacred value becomes a virtue: a behavior that serves as is its own justification.

18/ Virtues are behaviors that are recognized as their own justification by their unchanging beauty. The sacred is beautiful.

19/ Vice is that which cannot visibly co-exist with virtue: it is behavior that justifies its own suppression or marginalization.

20/ Profanity is an inchoate mixture of virtue and vice. Experimentation separates ugly profanity into future virtues and vices.

21/ When your living habits cannot pay for their own growth, and you sacrifice beauty for experimentation, you get innovation.

22/ When your living habits can pay for their own growth and your comforting rituals, you have a beautiful life. This is individualism.

23/ When living habits can pay for themselves but not for comforts, you have a problem. This is failed individualism: depression.

24/ If you try to strip away comforts and retain only growth, you have cognitive-behavioral cancer. This is being manic.

25/ You can pretend that comforts are profits. To do this you deny new data and restate old justifications. This is called derping.

26/ You can also strip away rituals, deliberately making your life uglier by unburdening living habits. This is called empiricism.

27/ You can strip away enough ritual to keep your life ugly at work and beautiful at home. This is called being a loser.

28/ You can confuse the beautiful with the living and the ugly with dying and strip away the wrong things. This is called cluelessness.

29/ You can consciously develop your ability to contemplate both ugliness and beauty with equanimity. This is called mindfulness.

30/ You can strip away rituals up to the limit of your mindfulness, staying on the edge of manic-depression. This is being a sociopath.

31/ The most common response to failed individualism, however, is to get others to pay for your comforts. This is called culture.

32/ A culture that cannot pay for its own comforts overall is a called a tradition. One that has no comforts to pay for is called a frontier.

33/ Tradition is beautiful, frontiers are ugly. To mistake one for the other is the defining characteristic of the clueless middle class.

33/ A culture that is more tradition than frontier is a loser culture. Sincere partisan conservatism and liberalism are both for losers.

34/ A culture that is more frontier than tradition is sociopath culture. It offers few comforts and fewer sacred ones.

35/ A compassionate culture is one that drives each member to the limit of their mindfulness. It is inclusive by definition.

36/ A beautiful culture is one that highlights comforting tradition and hides profit and profanity. It is extractive by definition.

37/ A culture cannot be both compassionate and beautiful at once without ceasing to grow. To be a sociopath is to recognize this.

38/ A culture that ceases to grow is a culture that increasingly trades compassion for beauty, paying more for its priceless elements.

39/ A culture that chooses to grow is one that systematically devalues beauty and resists the allure and comfort of pricelessness.

40/ Civilization is the mortal tension between the imperative to keep growing and the imperative to remain beautiful.

41/ Those who choose beauty tell one kind of story, about a relatively shrinking set of beautiful things that define the human.

42/ Those who choose growth tell another kind of story, about an expanding zone of mindfulness that defines the superhuman."
culture  humans  ideology  venkateshrao  2014  habits  growth  frontiers  balance  tradition  ritual  sociopathy  conservatism  liberalism  individualism  mindfulness  cluelessness  comforts  empiricism  derping  depression  experimentation  beauty  marginalization  pricelessness  comfort  complexity  ritualization  makework  mummification  sacralization  sacredness  virtue  justification  life  living  behavior  manicdepression  civilization  rituals 
february 2015 by robertogreco
System justification - Wikipedia
"System justification theory (SJT) is a scientific theory within social psychology that proposes people have a motivation to defend and bolster the status quo, that is, to see it as good, legitimate, and desirable."

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statusquo  behavior  bias  law  legal  politics  psychology  social  sociology  stagnation  tcsnmy  learning  parenting  experience  systemjustification  justification  iexperiencethisallthetime  motivation  legitimization  society  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  schooliness 
july 2010 by robertogreco

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