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Eudaimonic Economics
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Aristotle in blue.

The consensus among political and economic leaders today is that we must maximize economic growth. This assumption affects virtually the entire political spectrum, with the exception of a radical minority of anti-growth Greens advocating décroissance (“de-growth”). Everybody would like more money in their personal pocketbook, on their company’s balance sheet, and/or the government’s finances (if nothing else, to halt “austerity” programs). In this, U.S. President Donald Trump’s obsession with the stock market’s latest numbers is not much different from E.U. President’s Jean-Claude Juncker’s mantra of “jobs and growth.”

It is true that economic growth feels good, at least in the short term. Business leaders’ perpetual anxiety about making a profit is assuaged and they can enrich themselves through bonuses or stock options. Families can more easily makes ends meet each month. The government, raking in more money in taxes, has more money to spend on welfare, education, and healthcare.

The trouble is that humans’ desire for money and financial security can never be satiated through economic growth. The more a society has, the more a high level of wealth and comfort is taken for granted, the more extraneous luxuries we have, the more money we have to spend simply to keep up social appearances. Whereas past generations lived without cars, today this is considered a necessity. Whereas only a minority of people in the 1920s graduated high school, now almost half of Westerners go to the university – at the cost of public or personal debt – for an education and diploma whose value are often dubious. Whereas past generations may have gone hungry, since the Second World War obesity has spread across the world like an epidemic. Man works, and chases after growth, for the sake of “goods” which are inherently inflationary, or which become outright “bads.”

As the French say, l’appétit vient en mangeant: the more you have, the more you want. The belly is a bottomless pit. There can be too much of an apparently good thing. I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say that postwar society is characterized by both physical and spiritual obesity.

Don’t get me wrong: while I am in awe of the voluntary poor – the Spartans, Diogenes the Cynic, or Mahatma Gandhi – I am not a primitivist who believes we should be living a subsistence lifestyle. However, I think we have forgotten a basic traditional insight: that while a minimum of material wealth is certainly necessary for a healthy human existence, after a certain level, increased wealth leads to rapidly diminishing returns, if not outright harmfulness.

This is suggested by the above chart comparing GDP per capita and life expectancy: at around the $20,000 a year per person mark, increased wealth ceases to have much effect on life expectancy. Actually, the benefits of GDP as such may be overstated by this chart, because GDP per capita is often a decent proxy for competent socio-economic organization in general, which may the underlying cause of better healthcare and safety. Thus, a competently organized country not aiming to maximize wealth might have a high life expectancy at an even lower level of GDP per capita (a good example of this is Cuba: Cubans’ life expectancy [79.1 years] being slightly higher than Americans).

I would like to propose another view of economics and economic growth, which in fact is no more than the traditional view of both classical and modern republicanism. In a word, economic growth and purchasing power are not ends in themselves. Rather, wealth is merely a means for particular ends, to be determined by citizens. The ends I propose are eudaimonic (as first posited by Aristotle): to ensure that we, as individuals, nations, and the human race, “flourish” and fulfill to the greatest extent our biological potential and faculties. This eudaimonic public good was defined by Charles Darwin as follows:

The term, general good, may be defined as the rearing of the greatest number of individuals in full vigour and health, with all their faculties perfect, under the conditions to which they are subjected. As the social instincts both of man and the lower animals have no doubt been developed by nearly the same steps, it would be advisable to take as the standard of morality, the general good or welfare of the community, rather than the general happiness; but this definition would perhaps require some limitation account of political ethics.[1]Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (London: Penguin, 2004 [reprint of second edition, London: John Murray, 1879]), p. 145.

The advantage of eudaimonism is in giving an end to our otherwise aimless economic trajectory, characterized by the accumulation of stuff. A eudaimonic economics in contrast would be aimed firstly at ensuring human survival and secondly at promoting human excellence.

This begs the question: What is human “excellence”? There can be some debate on this. Our societies however express an implicit belief: that rational and conscious creatures are more valuable than the merely animate (animals) or the vegetative (plants), and that is why humans (and possibly other sentient species) ought to enjoy certain “rights.” This reflects the belief that humans’ rationality and capacity for knowledge and consciousness are our highest faculties. This is not a bad starting point.

Human beings’ rationality, knowledge, and consciousness are furthermore developed and passed on through training, research, and culture. For Aristotle, having to work for a living was a terrible thing – he even wished that there might be divine robots to do the work for us, a dream well within the realm of possibility in the age of automation – and humans should instead, to the extent possible, engage in leisure. But leisure for him did not mean, being a pothead on the dole, but rather fulfilling humans’ potential as rational and social beings, notably by practicing philosophy (the love and pursuit of wisdom, hence the training, research, and culture mentioned above) and rational self-government (civic politics).

This eudaimonic yardstick puts a definite limits on the demands for ever-more things, ever-more growth, ever-more “economic justice.” Today’s mainstream Left, characterized by a limp social-democracy, is as obsessed with purchasing power as is the capitalist Right. Yet the fact is that, callous as it may sound, today your average unemployed northwest European lives in more comfort and security than did a king three centuries ago. That is why social-democracy has become morally exhausted.

Eudaimonic economics gives us a definite sense of what economic justice might be: to ensure collective survival and well-being, to promote excellence in all individuals to the extent possible, but indeed prizing exceptional individuals’ excellence above that. (If I had to choose between giving a thousand proletarians cars and funding a Da Vinci-tier genius’ research program, I would not hesitate for one second.) Eudaimonism means a fertile balance and dialectic between public good and individual excellence, because it both recognizes the inequality of human beings in excellence, and their fundamental interdependence as members of the community. That is to say, eudaimonism affirms the unity and diversity of human societies, rather than the social atomization and fictive equality of the today’s societies.

Eudaimonism furthermore recognizes humans’ collective excellence as societies, for we are social beings. This would mean subordinating economic growth and trade to whatever collective faculties you hold dear. For classical republicans, these might include real political-economic sovereignty as part of civic self-government (dear to both the ancient republicans and the American Founding Fathers), military prowess, or the fostering of an excellent national culture of artistic and scientific achievement.

As a practical example, eudaimonic economics would (re)distribute wealth insofar as this promoted public goods such as collective survival, social stability, civic solidarity, and maximization of each individual’s potential. On these grounds, assuming the society had the means to do so, eudaimonic economics would (re)distribute wealth to ensure all citizens have their basic biological needs met – food, clothing, housing, healthcare – and would give them educational and professional opportunities to fulfill their individual potential.

The eudaimonic rationale puts a definit limit on redistribution however. Income equality is not an end in itself, but merely a means to higher goods. The affirmation of absolute equality as a goal can only lead to perpetual dissatisfaction (as this is impossible to achieve) or even outright civil war and tyranny (as exceptional means are taken to create equality, witness the French and Bolshevik revolutions).

Eudaimonic economics clearly opposes excessive redistribution once citizens’ basic needs and opportunities to train and educate themselves are guaranteed. It would furthermore be opposed to excessive redistribution and labor market regulation insofar as these have detrimental effects on society as a whole (e.g. by squashing entrepreneurial spirit, eliminating any sense of agency in citizens, promoting a ‘bureaucrat mindset’ among even private-sector employees). Conversely, we ought not forget the old ideal of the independent farmer-citizen in the Western republican tradition, even if the idea of economically-independent citizens appears to us impractically quaint today.

Eudaimonic economics also puts a limit on the amount of wealth that needs to be produced. Put simply, once our basic needs are met, we shouldn’t be working at all but should, according to the ancient Hellenic and indeed early American ideal, enjoy leisure. Well-spent leisure doesn’t mean bumming around, by the way, but using your time to cultivate yourself free of the constraints of sheer material necessity. Once we are wealthy enough, we shouldn’t be pursuing any amount of “B.S. jobs” or government-subsidized make-work so as to be obese couch potatoes, social-media addicts, or even over-coddled consumers.

We ought to be spending our free time to practice sports and maintain healthy bodies, develop our artistic sensibility and skills, and above all cultivate and train our minds, including the pursuit of science. Aristotle himself used his abundant leisure time to become perhaps the most productive philosopher and scientist the world has ever seen, whose works on psychology, society, biology, and physics set the standard for thousands of years.

Are eudaimonic economics possible? Are they realistic? I believe so. The European Union has mulled various measures to go “beyond GDP” in the setting of socio-economic goals. Andrew Yang’s proposal of a Universal Basic Income of $1000 per month for all Americans could go in this direction,[2]Although, realistically, such “free money” should in priority go to those who would use their leisure well, your Da Vincis and so on. Whether the U.S. government is competent to identify those individuals is another question… as this means redistribution in order to meet basic human needs in the face of obsolescence, as opposed to the usual egalitarian ressentiment. In short: the capitalist wants infinite wealth, the socialist wants infinite redistribution, but the eudaimonist wants make humanity great again!


[1] Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (London: Penguin, 2004 [reprint of second edition, London: John Murray, 1879]), p. 145.

[2] Although, realistically, such “free money” should in priority go to those who would use their leisure well, your Da Vincis and so on. Whether the U.S. government is competent to identify those individuals is another question…

• Category: Economics • Tags: Economists, Poverty, Universal Basic Income, Wealth 
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  1. Cubans life expectancy is higher than Americans. Cubans life expectancy is higher than Americans. Cubans life expectancy is higher than Americans. Grow up.

  2. There were lots of discussions in Switzerland over the years whether their direct democracy is cost-effective. Because the process which leads to decisions is much slower than in many a less democratic society.
    I think the Swiss have a brilliant system even though it is very time – and engagement- and energy and motivation and good-will – – – consuming. It does not matter, as long as people are motivated to take part in all these decisions about – pension plans, military finances, weapons (!), problems of the farmers and the universities…foreign relations, the construction of new railroad lines or motorways…
    The Swiss theater system is different from the German one, in that it supports more amateur and semi-professional initiatives, whereas the German system is one that is concentrating on the professional staff at the theaters themselves. – Here again: Advantage swiss system. Especially since it helps people to spend their time in a useful and self- and collectively improving way…
    (I could go on…).

    The most helpful structural condition in Switzerland is not that there is a system of UBI (universal basic income), but that the Swiss labor market is working very well and it is very common to have a year or so off – plus and this is also very effective: To work only part-time – lots of people I know in their forties or fifties work 50 or 70% and the rest of the time, they – – are volunteering at sports clubs, or churches, or local non-profit magazines or webzines or in theaters and in communal art-galleries etc.

  3. Hence China’s goal of a moderately prosperous society…

  4. Eudaimonic economics is free market economics.

    History tells the tale, as does theory.

    Growth that is the natural consequence of the achievement of individual humans in the effort of satisfaction of their personal desires is good. “Growth” as a result of state stimulus and intervention results in malinvestment and waste, and is the cause of the unnatural inequality that leads to discontent. Inflationary monetary policy has been doctrine in the US for decades. The ills attributed to capitalism are mostly caused by this one pernicious policy.

    I think Mill beat you to it. You should give credit where it is due.

  5. IIRC Aristoteles held that states, “like tools and animals”, had a “natural size” above and below which they lost their functional qualities.
    A few years later Peter Prince Kropotkin (Tsar´s butler and aristo-anarchist) took up the idea and refined it … anything bigger than the polis (or duchy, in more Germanic terms) is of inner necessity unfree because accountability is lost (It seems to be a biological threshold like the maximum number of 12 for informal hierarchies – Otto Koenig).

    This particular little utopia is charming and engaging on many levels …
    Growth by mitosis, making big wars and borders pointless (sure there would be wars but really surgical ones for a change, local and without undue waste of potences and resources).
    Ostrakismos (lest the wokies get funny ideas, this is a conditio sine qua non; Solon´s – not Drakon´s – law included the death penalty for joblessness (i.e. lack of provable income) and was renewed thrice explicitly because it was “very good”)
    GREATLY sped up evolution of thought, science, technology, economics and politics.
    Problems of currency, language and measurements can be overcome as we have seen.
    (except for the metric system, Roman Law and a few other window dressings)

    Speaking of currency, the hard one was a check.
    Philipp II still had France prostrate before him “si no falta el dinero”.
    Since then, things have gotten a little out of hand. Easy credit has given us gratuitous wars, debt servitude and unchecked YKW power as well as the reintroduction of “salting the earth”.

    Small may be beautiful, but the fiscally, socially and environmentally responsible (“sustainable” in Newspeak) have ALWAYS been punished by the irresponsible, desperate grasshoppers
    (teste Paul Ehrlich and Hulagu Khan ;b)
    And I will not deny economics of size in science and tech.

    Still … 🙂

    • Replies: @James N. Kennett
  6. @donald j tingle

    I’ve not read Mill. I personally prefer eudaimonic to hedonistic or idealistic ethics. I tend to think “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” is too liable to be interpreted in a vulgar sense, i.e. mass comfort as our highest aim.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  7. Wantoknow says:

    Excellent idea. Perhaps infinities exist but one should stroll towards them, not run and smell the roses along the way. I suppose this shows my true colors for while I certainly don’t want to get stressed out I also want to move to some selfish, hedonistic version of the Garden of Eden where I can mix my swinish pleasures with the contemplative restraint of an Athenian philosopher.

    Not to joke too much but what will luxury be in the future? What will modest comfort be in the future? If an unemployed European lives better than a king three centuries ago then that European must be living as a king to the commoners of three centuries ago. So then what will modest comfort be three centuries from now? A slaver’s pen or some inconceivable glory?

    I have faith in the Singularity and wish to live as a god, but I am not particularly willing to accept a decorous pace towards that goal though I certainly agree that consumerism is decidedly undignified.

    As you argue there is a real question of whether all our devices constitute true goods. However, if so, it is likely that consumerism is the natural response of a pack of goods starved, opportunity starved Western peasants struggling to swallow a moldy crust of bread before some similarly starved fellow snatches it away. Can we afford eudaimonic dignity in the world as it is even if we need it?

    It would seem that employment as a means of acquiring a living needs to end. People should work for themselves at a leisurely pace in their own businesses or dump the whole mass of economic need after Aristotle onto the backs of a new angelic robotics.

    I am certainly for the latter and I wish to proceed with great haste to such a conclusion kicking any who stand in the way to the curb. So much for decorum. That can come after. Whether you call it money or robotics, the most important thing to buy with the currency at hand is freedom from the ideas and claims of people you do not enjoy. Hell is other people and never more so than now. We live among a general bad. When people become more enjoyable one can sing a different tune.

    For all the rational sensibility of a eudaimonic economics I think a stark raving mad panic to get out of the current age at whatever cost is the more sensible point of view. This age is Hell.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  8. @Guillaume Durocher

    Happiness is a tricky thing – it’s like your lost glasses: As soon as you know where they are, you realize, that you stand on them – and have crushed them (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach once remarked that. Dylan was on the same track: “I don’t seek pleasure, because pleasure causes pain” +; “Happiness is not on my list of priorities.”- ).

    Erich Fromm is very much in favor of eudaimonic strivings and says, it’s very much ok to be ok and feel good but – don’t look at happiness as your main goal.

    With a little Kantian philosophical bravery, one could say, that to emphasize personal happiness implies the risk (or even the mindset), which lets us look at others (and ourselves!) as objects = as means.

    But this is completely wrong in Kant’s cold eye because people should never look at themselves (or others) as pure means, but always as an end in themselves. – To look upon happiness as your main goal can make you behave in quite unreasonable and inhuman ways. (Now I think of the EAGLES’ Hotel California: Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she’s got the Mercedes bends (…) They stab it with their steely knives/ But they just can’t kill the beast.

    A few more in no special order: Happiness is a Warm Gun (= and that’s why it hurts? =) Lennon/McCartney.

    Peterson and Zizek debated happiness and Zizek ended up criticizing Marx (and communism) for leaning too much towards happiness, because the concept (still Zizek) implies an otherworldly quality (that’s now me, basically), which constitutes happiness at its very core and which at the same time gets lost, as soon, as you actively try to get a hold of it. Peterson agreed with Zizek; he puts this thought this way: We can’t make ourselves happy.

    Heinrich Heine had this joyous idea to fantasize of a situation, where there are plenty of sugar-peas for everybody – but, Heine makes one exception in his long poem Germany – a Winter’s Fairy Tale which could be read as a counter-argument to the universal basic income: The lazy have no right to participate in the superfluous moments of joy – which are possible – – for lots and lots of us, but should just not be granted to the lazy, because those endanger the whole affair.

    There is a thin white line, which separates reality from play, says Schiller, and you have to understand, that the realm of true freedom and happiness is – the realm of those who play – or are at play. – This is, why it is so important, to cultivate such realms where people do really play.

    Professional sports embody two sides of Schiller’s play problem: The perfect side – and the side of the means (yep, Schiller was a Kantian). To earn money is an earnest thing – no way around this insight.

    • Replies: @Curmudgeon
    , @Che Guava
  9. RJJCDA says:

    On top of Yang’s proposal, I would suggest adding 1% higher for every IQ point above the norm for adults. Lets subsidize INTELLIGENCE. And if some intelligent people become wasteful, so be it. The purpose is to allow the willing geniuses opportunity to think and create. It is an effort to TRULY benefit and advance the species.

    • Replies: @Guillaume Durocher
  10. @Dieter Kief

    I have often thought that states ought to abolish their legislatures in favor of direct democracy.

    Voting via home computer would be so easy. The original arguments in favor of representative democracy were centered around difficulty of travel and communication, which computers obviate.

    Lobbying by special interests is the source of all corruption in democracy and would be entirely eliminated.

    I wonder if the Yellow Vests have thought of this question.

  11. Thomm says:

    Guiamme :

    that while a minimum of material wealth is certainly necessary for a healthy human existence, after a certain level, increased wealth leads to rapidly diminishing returns, if not outright harmfulness.

    Obama :

    “After a certain point, you have made enough money.”

    This is pure leftism. Why not pass a one-child policy while you are at it.

  12. TG says:

    Making a simple thing complicated.

    Malthus was right. If people decide to breed like rodents, they and their children will live and die like rodents.

    An ideal society is place like (for now) Canada, Australia, California before the rich jammed 40 million plus people into it… A stable population, abundant resources, and industrial capitalism, yields a high standard of living and ecological stability.

    But the rich want cheap labor. The rich want the easy profits that come from jamming in ever more people. The average person wants an economy that provides abundance to an individual person – the total size of the economy does not matter. The rich want to maximize the entire size of the economy, and their share of it. It is the desire of the rich for cheap labor, and for economic growth for its own sake, that is the problem here.

    • Replies: @nokangaroos
  13. The economy of needs vs the economy of wants is how to split the socialist economy and the capitalist economy. Bakunin said the same thing – provide base needs so people can be on an even playing field to then express their creativity maximally. But our systems do this means tested instead of universally, so they end up being stress inducing rather than stress reducing. Iran’s 6.5% of GDP (29% of median wage) UBI is a good first generation go of it.

    • Agree: Guillaume Durocher
  14. onebornfree says: • Website

    Guillaume Durocher says: “As a practical example, eudaimonic economics would (re)distribute wealth insofar as this promoted public goods such as collective survival, social stability, civic solidarity, and maximization of each individual’s potential. On these grounds, assuming the society had the means to do so, eudaimonic economics would (re)distribute wealth to ensure all citizens have their basic biological needs met – food, clothing, housing, healthcare – and would give them educational and professional opportunities to fulfill their individual potential.”

    Guillaume Durocher says: “Are eudaimonic economics possible? Are they realistic? I believe so. The European Union has mulled various measures to go “beyond GDP” in the setting of socio-economic goals. Andrew Yang’s proposal of a Universal Basic Income of $1000 per month for all Americans could go in this direction,[2] as this means redistribution in order to meet basic human needs in the face of obsolescence, “

    Big picture: This article is just yet another egregious example of the redistributionist fantasies of the left.

    Basically this guy Durocher is just another welfare statist, dressing up his welfare statism with a fancy term: “eudaimonics” . Yeah, right ! How transparent can you get?

    Lipstick on a pig. Same old socialist B.S. , different name.

    And then we are blessed with some dimbulb commenting that “Eudaimonic economics is free market economics”.

    Governments stealing money from people at the point of a gun is “free market economics”?

    Governments creating money out of thin air [via their central banks]to insure a “Universal Basic Income” is “free market economics”?

    Yeah, right! 🙂

    The childishly naive, statist/leftist/ socialist/ communist psychology of the author is on full display in this article.

    It basically boils down to total faith in the government: ” in order to “improve” society we need the government to take money from the productive, by force, and give to the less productive, but only to such and such degree that I fantasize as being the “correct” amount” .

    As if any government redistribution plan [ let alone anything else a government has done], has ever actually improved society in the long run.

    It should be obvious to anybody who has their head screwed on straight and who closely looks at the world around them that governments never “fix” any social problem- they always make it/them worse, not better.

    The only people who benefit from government redistribution programs are people in the government and the cronies/sycophants around them.

    For society at large, government welfare programs inevitably cause a lowering of the general standard of living via the populations increasing dependency on government handouts over time, as more and more morons and willing slaves decide to go for the “free” goodies, and opt out of actual productive work as a way to improve their lot.

    As the great French economist Frederic Bastiat said:

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

    And: “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”– Frederic Bastiat

    Also: “The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic” H.L. Mencken

    “Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.” Robert LeFevre.

    “….the government is not a wealth producer. It’s a wealth destroyer. The government does not create wealth, it destroys, limits, and eats up wealth. That’s really the heart of the matter.” Bill Bonner

    “‘Everything government touches turns to crap.’” Ringo Starr

    In short: a terrible article written by an extremely naive, childish left wing statist fantasist who has been brainwashed his whole life to believe in and trust the government, when all the evidence in the real world shows that trusting the government is actually the last thing any sane, rational individual needs to be doing.

    No wonder France is in the state its in

    No regards, onebornfree

    • Replies: @Polemos
  15. @Thomm

    Obama: the guy that still charges, and receives, millions, yet hasn’t chosen to live in a mud-hut giving it all away. Wonder why he has never put his money where his mouth is? He didn’t build that!

    My question re: Mr. Durocher’s scenarios is who is doing the deciding of the issues?

    Mr. Durocher, would you be kind enough to answer, please? Thank you.

  16. @Recall Carl

    I wonder if the Yellow Vests have thought of this question.

    They do – and they ask for direct democracy!

    Novelist Michel Houellebecq, who somehow saw the Yellow Vests protest coming (!) says, that he very much likes the Swiss system o direct democracy.

  17. Lucy says:

    Why this obsession with abundance and growth? Do you want a 20-pound dog or a 10-ft (3m) tall child (not to mention 1 billion 3rd worlders polluting Europe)? There’s no need to be Pollyanna to decide less is more and to think beyond materialism and want good relationships at home and in society and time to enjoy them as well as having a little more consideration for Nature. I’ve lived all my adult life in Europe and think they manage this better than Americans do.

  18. “We ought to be spending our free time to practice sports and maintain healthy bodies, develop our artistic sensibility and skills, and above all cultivate and train our minds, including the pursuit of science.”

    Thanks, but I’m getting enough of a workout reinforcing the walls around and renovating and redecorating my chateau.

  19. Give the greedy Land.
    Build a wall around it and pour in endless amounts of gold and jewels till they a satiated.

  20. If I had to choose between giving a thousand proletarians cars and funding a Da Vinci-tier genius’ research program, I would not hesitate for one second.

    This is the choice that would be made in a Singaporean benevolent dictatorship. In a democracy, I suspect that people would vote to have the cars.

    We ought to be spending our free time to practice sports and maintain healthy bodies, develop our artistic sensibility and skills, and above all cultivate and train our minds, including the pursuit of science.

    This is a noble idea, but not everyone is as smart as Aristotle. Theodore Dalrymple suggested that Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name” was women’s inability to make use of their (Aristotlean) leisure. Men would obviously have the same difficulty.

    In areas of high unemployment, people are given enough money to survive, and are not expected to find work. The excess of leisure time may lead some to cultivate their minds, but a greater number turn to drugs or crime.

    Possibly the reason is the wrong kind of personal responsibility. If people are given enough money to survive, and told that they are responsible for managing their leisure and the cultivation of their minds, the result is boredom and chaos. If people are told that they can work as hard as they wish, and spend their earnings however they like, the result is a flourishing but imperfect society.

    The reason may be that we are descended from hunter-gatherers. This heritage is a good match to earning rewards from work, but a poor match to pure leisure.

  21. @nokangaroos

    IIRC Aristoteles held that states, “like tools and animals”, had a “natural size” above and below which they lost their functional qualities.
    A few years later Peter Prince Kropotkin (Tsar´s butler and aristo-anarchist) took up the idea and refined it … anything bigger than the polis (or duchy, in more Germanic terms) is of inner necessity unfree because accountability is lost (It seems to be a biological threshold like the maximum number of 12 for informal hierarchies – Otto Koenig).

    This is an interesting idea. Consider the EU – how can such a large unit be governed? You wake up one day and find that while preaching brotherly love it has impoverished entire countries (the poorer and less prudent members of Euroland); or it has participated in a coup in Ukraine.

  22. @TG

    Close but no cigar (I mean, of COURSE Malthus was right 🙂 )
    Marx already noted the higher living standard of the American worker but could not for the life of him see the obvious: The American worker, if miserable enough, could always opt for eating paleo, wearing expensive fur and knocking up Injun princesses while the European could not.
    – All your shining examples are of this (highly non-stationary!) kind of what I might call “adiabatic” expansion – no resistance translates to no friction and selection is by external influences.
    Both emigration and expansion select for the assertive and continue to do so as long as the expansion lasts.
    As a result the quintessential American is the robber baron.
    (“What isn´t nailed down is mine. What I can pry loose isn´t nailed down.” – ascribed to J. P. Morgan)
    Hence the hystero-epileptic American reaction to any check on expansion – they actually believe it is blasphemy(!).
    Thanks to this mechanism the US is neither a “nation” nor a “society” but a bubble without internal structure that will inevitably go the way of Little Britain – collapse unto itself, saddled with a shitload of useless eaters and bar anything anyone would want to buy.
    It has begun – the American Dream is no longer “keeping up with the Joneses” but “getting away from the Kundelungus”, ever more dependent on their (imported) cars … just raise gas prices to European levels and see what happens.

    Having agreed (in a way) it is about population pressure and established (I hope) that running away, though natural, is not a long-term solution, I think the problem is twofold.

    The “diminishing returns” curve is not new but still impressive. Really, how much do you need?
    I think this is what M. Durocher meant – the ability to recognize what is enough or, in blunt terms,
    the Kynic quality of being content.
    Take the Affirmative Action Americans: Their living standard overtook the Swedish one around 1985. Are they content?(trick question)
    – Diogenes may be elegant, but unfortunately as un-Darwinian as a twat hatter.

    Second, once you can no longer expand, there are altogether three ways:
    1) WAR
    2) generalized Malthusian misery, famine and pestilence (food production is not usually the limiting factor in developed countries; humans react to the breakdown of their personal perimeter with aimless violence, substance abuse and a host of other things; rats eat their young)
    3) a modus vivendi
    IOW, how have peoples that could or would not expand dealt with this problem?
    (a question everybody thinking about “peace”, “sustainability” or anything “social” bumps into)
    – The German model: State-as-religion, work ethic (non-Calvinist), obedience and, above all, discipline. You are free to find that blah, but it undoubtedly works.
    – The Japanese model: Similar to the German, but older and more refined; art from the Edo period is unsurpassed, as was repression complete with secret police and sword control. Far less agreeable for the average peon than the German.
    – The Chinese model: Fascinating aspects … ever since Ch´in Shi-Huang Ti unified the Empire under Heaven and instated the Public Service Exam – 2500 years! – they have selected for intelligence, industry and conformity, so self-centered they abdicated dominion of the IndoPacific
    when it was theirs to take under Zheng He; what becomes of their “social credit” system remains to be seen but their rise is inevitable – as is the US war on them.
    (in all these cases the coevolution of religion and society is interesting)

    To sum up, you need a reasonably intelligent, domesticated, homogeneous, no-too-high-testosterone populace with a pillar-of-the-state religion stressing complacency.
    Lasciate ogni speranza, America 😀

  23. @Recall Carl

    Direct democracy would address many of the problems we face with corporate power and the corrupt bought and paid for politicians they control. Funny how those who somehow seek to solve some of these age old problems inevitably end up dead. “Madman” Muammar Gaddafi is a good example.

    • Agree: BengaliCanadianDude
  24. Polemos says:

    Why is it “leftism” to notice marginal utility?

  25. Polemos says:

    Have you studied any of the cultures and histories and stories of indigenous Americans?

  26. @obwandiyag

    Why do you repeat the same sentence three times? This isn’t Twitter.

  27. @James N. Kennett

    To be a coherent geopolitical (and potentially federal) unit, really it should not have gone beyond the Founding Six (ex-Carolingian space). Instead we have a squishy trade bloc and this will not change for the foreseeable future.

  28. @James N. Kennett

    The EU is an excellent example.

    You have to understand it is first and foremost an instrument for holding down Germany (a kind of Versailles-lite).
    Germany, Austria and Finland (sound familiar?) are the only net payers.
    (IOW the Brexiteers flat out lied)
    The PIGS were lured into the euro for their votes, on the promise the Germans would pay anyway.
    The Germans were told the cheap credit would enable the PIGS to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The predictable/inevitable happened and they spent the cheap credit on gibs – which is now piling up faster than ever because they cannot devaluate. The Germans are getting fed up with having to pay AND getting demonstrated against, and only the banksters get fat.
    (I should probably note Deutsche Bank is about as deutsch as Drafi Deutscher)

    With Ukraine, it is worse. A third of the “European” parliament is of Soros´tribe, another third wholly-owned and the rest are cowed.

    Some “union” indeed.

  29. Gary says:

    With AI and robots most of us are or will be redundant. Our
    genocidal, parasitic rulers will exterminate us to maximize
    their enjoyment of peon-free, pristine world. The 1% for 5000
    years have brutally exploit the 99%. Our rulers are not going
    to keep us around if we are unnecessary to maintain their lifestyles.
    They’re not our friends.

    • Replies: @nokangaroos
    , @animalogic
  30. @Gary

    Well, maybe all is not lost.
    DNA Watson – always good for a soundbyte – dropped a little heresy the other day to the effect that maybe – just maybe – the entire bell curve is necessary for society to function because
    “the smart do not an army make” ;b

  31. It is refreshing to read this article. Thank you for presenting it to us.

    The First Commandment of Economics appears to be this:

    Thou shalt grow.

    This is expressed as the author correctly states: “The consensus among political and economic leaders today is that we must maximize economic growth.”

    To what end?

    Where is the economic theory that seeks Happiness? Where is the economist who will honestly project-forward-in-time his own work, enough to argue for a way to live and produce without growing to Malthusian limits?


    Longevity ≠ Happiness

    Average human lifespans around the world are all are within one magnitude of each other. If we want to measure real differences along a longevity scale, then we need to look at generations, not years.

    The only place where we find a real increase in the number of simultaneously living generations is in one situation: among sub-populations of people who are living in developed countries but who normally would be living in the kinds of less-developed countries that their own people maintain themselves.

    Shorter times between generations occur within populations whose youthful pregnancies normally occur in the less wealthy countries where they normally live. Only in developed nations do those people have the longevity to normally know their own great grandparents.

    Happiness is one of the stated goals in significant human thought, for example “the pursuit of happiness” mentioned in The Declaration of Independence. No one has ever sanely stated “growth” as a goal or right or anything of significance.

  32. @obwandiyag

    Do the Cubans tell you that? Not reliable. Self reported stats passed on by commies? I’ll pass. Oh and stop reiterating the same line thrice in the same comment. I don’t think of you much intellectually, but please. At least try

    • Replies: @Patricus
  33. @Dieter Kief

    A few problems with the translation, but otherwise OK.

  34. Ron Unz says:

    Actually, I think an even more obvious point is that much of the MSM focuses on “economic growth” rather than “per capita economic growth,” which is just totally ridiculous.

    Here’s a relevant comment I made a few years ago:

    Actually, I think this relates to whether or not a country is ruled by an insular extractive elite.

    Suppose you double the population of a country but everyone is 30% poorer than before. Obviously, that’s very bad for the people given the huge rise in poverty.

    However, from the perspective of a ruling extractive elite, the total wealth of the country is (0.7 * 2.0 = 1.4) 40% greater than before. So if a fixed-size elite is just skimming off a big chunk of everything from the top, they’re 40% wealthier. Sounds great to them! (This simple incentive structure may obviously also be enhanced by all sorts of political or military/strategic objectives.)

    So whereas the ruling elite in China for various reasons, both positive and negative, seems to focus on keeping the population roughly stable and raising per capita income as rapidly as possible, the American ruling elite is more concerned with raising the total wealth of the country even if the per capita income of most ordinary individuals is stagnant or even declining.

    This is not an encouraging situation.

    Meanwhile, no one should be surprised that the perspective of economists is closely associated with who pays their salaries and controls their grants. After all, isn’t personal economic self-interest the fundamental assumption of modern economics?

  35. If taxes are an investment in MAGA (…), then we as citizen investors (in our country’s/children’s future), should be allowed to invest in the area (and sub-area) of government where it would be most eudaimonic 😉 .
    Investors in a capitalist or fascist society that aren’t allowed to invest as they see fit are vassals.

    When will form 1040 long and ez have check-off boxes, and comment areas for the dept and sub dept and concept to invest in; with percentages?

    Likewise, tax any and lobbyists at 100%. A democracy for the investors doesn’t need liers to bend our representative’s ears, but if they want to talk – let them pay!

    Citizen’s United showed us money is speech; if so every citizen investor should be allowed their speech to be elucidatory.

  36. @Ron Unz

    Simple and convincing = a perfect argument.

  37. Patricus says:

    As some see it Cuba and Haiti have the best standards of living. Ask some Cubans about the struggles to eat a single egg daily. They have ideal health care but for some reason are constantly begging for care packages, e.g bandages, hypodermic needles, over the counter drugs. The Cuban government also touts a mid ranged yearly earnings (in fact about $20 per month).

    • Replies: @animalogic
  38. Miro23 says:

    Apparently the two best indicators of human happiness are being employed and being married.

    What does economic growth contribute to employment and marriage?

    Not much if your job is outsourced. Your ex-corporation may be making record profits and adding to GDP, but you’re unemployed and you’re not such a great marriage prospect. Ditto if you’re forced onto minimum waged by immigrant labour.

    As Dieter Kief points out above, the Swiss seem to get it right with their local democracy.

    They all participate in issue by issue decisions (not least on how to spend their own tax money) and it’s local people organizing society to benefit themselves . If the United States ran local democracy , Special Interests would starve, there would be no power in Washington, and no votes for sending local tax money to Israel.

    • Agree: Che Guava
    • Replies: @OEMIKITLOB
    , @Che Guava
  39. Che Guava says:
    @Dieter Kief

    Don’t ya know that happiness

    Is a warm gun?

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  40. @Dieter Kief

    To be fair, the amount of foreign money in Swiss banks must help a lot for Swiss citizens to take some time off. Just like Cuba is helped much more by rum, sugar, tobacco, abortions, and tourism, than by their system.
    But yes, democracy is going more direct in general, specially as the current system is fossilized.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  41. @Ron Unz

    Yeah GDP is but one proxy number, it’s like pretending you’re financially healthy because of your individual credit score.

  42. sally says:
    @Dieter Kief

    i think direct democracy requires constitution bounds..
    and within those constitutional bounds, laws can be
    proposed by the lawyers and legislators.. in full disclosure form.
    and presented to the voters ..

    but in addition to constitutional bounds, should be citizen
    conducted audits, of both the activities of the governors and
    the successes and failures of the governors to accomplish the
    goals set for by law and constitution.

    Any time an audit fails to pass a governors activities to be
    within acceptable norms of legal conduct the governor shall
    be required to step down.. and to report to a court to answer

    Personal participation in direct democracy should require that the
    voter pass a relevant points test taken directly from the proposal
    document, and then vote..

    Auditors should audit each law, its impact and application and present
    the findings in full disclosure documents on line for all to see.

    Amendments the constitution should be one subject one point at a time.
    would sure like to see something like this in America

  43. Making up a new name for central planning and attaching it to a screed about how everything will be ginchy if only the right objectives were in place, is just rinse-and-repeat for every failed socialist utopian wet-dream that has ever existed.

    This is Zeitgeist with a new name since Zeitgeist ‘s brand is broken because it turned out to be really, really stupid.

    These ‘eudaemonic’ objectives … they are to be determined by whom, exactly?

    Give it two generations, and the goals will be determined by same crop of single-minded, goal driven narcissistic sociopaths that currently dominate political life everywhere on the planet.

    Are the objectives going to be determined by some Rousseauean masturbatory fantasy of the ‘general will’?

    What mechanism will be used to determine that, exactly?

    Don’t dare say “democracy”, because it’s absolutely clear that no voting system satisfies the minimum conditions for a strategy-proof voting system[1].

    Central planning doesn’t work, any more than intercessionary prayer.

    Unfettered voluntary exchange has, embedded in its very DNA, mechanisms that drive producers to produce things that people want, and to use the minimum resources to do so. (It also encourages them to improve technology- even without intellectual property protection).

    To the extent that it’s been permitted to function without interference, voluntary ‘capitalist’ interaction has produced the fastest improvements in the lives of human beings that has ever happened. It has generated massive supernumerary output (i.e., output in excess of subsistence).

    An unfortunate side effect of this, is that the presence of ‘excess’ output has enabled charlatans and spivs to to bilk a living off the surplus by means of the sine qua non grift… “Without us, society would fall” – which is as false as “God wills that our family rules”, which used to work for the likes of Lizzie Battenburg-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (QEII – the old lady, not the boat).

    Worse, for the last two centuries the spivs controlled the flow of information, and took credit for such improvements as occurred simply be having the media declare that it was so. That time is over, but it will take another generation for the system to internalise the lesson.

    As Hayek made clear 3 generations ago[2], social engineering and central planning cannot overcome the information problem, no matter how much its advocates pretend it can.

    Simpletons think that they can point to computers, and ML/DL/AI and say “Take that, Hayek!” – the Zeitgeist idea.

    That’s prima facie evidence that they never read Hayek (and also evidence of the Dunning-Kruger Effect[3]).

    However Hayek’s point was not that no computer could exist that can accurately determine the currently-optimal[4] input mix for cilantro or mint (or every other agricultural commodity and industrial output)… that’s not the issue.

    It’s a trivial optimisation problem to find the optimal input mix, given
    • an output structure and
    • a set of relative prices
    • a technological state and
    • a set of consumer preferences

    Hell, you can jointly determine an entire system of outputs if you have everything nailed down.

    Once it’s solved, everything is Leontief (i.e., an input-output table) – and while Leontief’s contribution was huge, and everyone knows the world is not Leontief. (Leontief is my PhD “grand-supervisor’ – he supervised my supervisor).

    HOWEVER… a fixed-proportions production structure is only optimal if nothing significant ever happens, anywhere in the world, from that day forward.

    If something happens that changes relative prices (e.g., a tariff is applied, or an interest rate is changed)… well, you’ll want to perform the calculation again.

    Worse: if someone expects that a policy will be implemented that will cause a change in relative prices… they start behaving in ways that adapt to their expectations of future policies. Time to recalculate that table.

    And: If a policy is announced before it’s implemented (and the announcement is credible), people’s expectations will change and will alter relative prices before the policy is even drafted. Back to the computer, dammit.

    OK, so up to here we’re just having to run the model every time something important happens – i.e., where the expected change in relative prices changes the optimal input-output table in ways that make it worthwhile re-calculating the table.

    Now let’s do unanticipated changes, and/or changes in things that are impossible to forecast… tastes/preferences, and technology. There are a thousand other things that have the same future-value problem[5].

    Preference change and technological change are foreseeable, but not predictable: you know that they will happen, but you don’t know how they will be distributed… temporally, spatially, sectorally.

    Generally it’s safe to assume that industry-specific tech change is monotonically increasing – until you set up a system where it’s possible for a policy to outlaw some input (for the children!!) and forces a second-best tech to dominate.

    It’s not safe to think of preference changes as monotonic or increasing (e.g., changes in preferences for weed vs tobacco; for tobacco outright; for sugar; for abacuses, slide rules, buggy whips and Penny Farthings…)

    Think of the coriander (cilantro) and mint referred to above.

    A “Zeitgeist machine” cannot even determine the path of consumer preference between two herbs. It cannot determine the path of the optimal production process for those two basic things; it will be able to guess that the production processes will be similar but non-identical – which means it’s not forecasting one process that applies at all points in time hereafter… it’s forecasting two expansion paths that rely on parameters whose future values are not known with sufficient precision.

    So quite apart from the meta-problem that centrally-planned segments of economic systems will – with probability 1 – be captured by the worst individuals in society…. it turns out that even if angels were in charge they would not be able to reliably determine the optimal output mix, or the optimal input mix required to generate that output.

    Re-badge this bullshit again in another five years… the counter-arguments will be the same, and they are insurmountable because the present relies on expectations of the future, and key bits of the future are un-knowable (and the uncertainty is sufficient that the ex ante optimum may result in losses… ask any fund manager).

    Central planning – and government generally – causes more market failures than it ameliorates.

    [1] Voting (ordinal preference aggregation) is a shibboleth. It’s well-understood that it cannot do what it claims, even for ‘single-issue’ problems. At the very end of this comment I’ve sticky-taped in a good starting set of reasonably-short references that, if read in good faith by a dispassionate individual, will disabuse them of any residual faith in democracy’s ability to reliably identify ‘what society wants’ (much less to drive the system towards the identified goal in a net-beneficial way – that’s a whole other set of references!)

    [2] Hayek, F. (1945) “The Use of Knowledge in Society“, The American Economic Review. 35 (4): 519–530

    [3] Kruger, Justin; Dunning, David (1999). “Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology American Psychological Association. 77 (6): 1121–1134. CiteSeerX Freely accessible. PMID 10626367. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1121.

    [4] ‘Currently-optimal’ – the input mix that maximises net revenue subject to some production function, a cost function, a vector of relative prices, all of which are known to a given level of precision (which means that the mix is changed iff the doing so is expected to be net-revenue accretive)

    [5] The future-value problem is a key reason why forecasting is properly done through stochastic simulation – running the model a vast number of times, each time using a different draw from the distribution of the exogenous variables and parameters. This also implicitly means that many runs will effectively use a different model structure:when some adjustment parameter happens to be zero in a given ‘draw’, that’s like running the model – for that run – without the adjustment mechanism.

    Anyhow .. .all of that was the topic of my (quasi-abandoned) PhD, and was the thing that forced me to confront the problem of uncertainty quantification in numerical modelling… and eventually led me to abandon economic forecasting as a result: when the entire domain of stochastic variation is explored, the resulting forecast bounds are so wide that neither the sign nor the magnitude of forecast changed are statistically meaningful.

    (This problem is orders of magnitude more important in climate modelling, where the system is more complex, more nonlinear, and forecasts are performed over even longer timeframes: climate models are theological instruments)

    OK… now to the voting references – read them or don’t. Who doesn’t read them can continue to support democracy because of deliberate ignorance; who reads them and continues to support democracy is a charlatan.

    VOTING A SHIBBOLETH – or: References to Dispel the Myth of Democracy-as-Solution

    Note that all of the following references deal with the impossibility of social preference determination under conditions of full information. Adding uncertainty (e.g., the possibility that politicians lie in order to attract votes; the odds that they renege; the uncertainty of actual future outcomes and costs of policy) makes the problem worse, even if you try to model government intervention actuarially (i.e. ,as a form of insurance).

    Arrow Impossibility Theorem

    If there are 3 or more possible options, no ranked-voting electoral system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete, transitive) ranking while satisfying: ① unrestricted domain; ② non-dictatorship; ③ Pareto efficiency, and ④ independence of irrelevant alternatives.

    Arrow (1950). “A Difficulty in the Concept of Social WelfareJournal of Political Economy 58 (4): 328–346

    Geanakoplos, John (2005). “Three Brief Proofs of Arrow’s Impossibility TheoremEconomic Theory 26 (1): 211–215

    Gibbard’s Theorem

    If there are 3 or more possible options and preference expression is ‘straightforward’ (no tactical voting) then the system is dictatorial (one voter’s preferences always wins)

    Gibbard (1973). “Manipulation of voting schemes: a general resultEconometrica 41 (4): 587–601.

    Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem

    Similar to Gibbard’s Theorem, but restricted to ordinal voting

    Gibbard (1973). “Manipulation of voting schemes: a general resultEconometrica 41 (4): 587–601.

    Satterthwaite (April 1975). “Strategy-proofness and Arrow’s Conditions: Existence and Correspondence Theorems for Voting Procedures and Social Welfare FunctionsJournal of Economic Theory 10: 187–217.

    Duggan-Schwarz Theorem

    Similar to G-S, but for non-empty SET of winners as opposed to single winner – e.g., voting in the Australian Senate

    J. Duggan and T. Schwartz, “Strategic manipulability is inescapable: Gibbard–Satterthwaite without resoluteness”, Working Papers 817, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 1992.

    J. Duggan & T. Schwartz (2000). “Strategic manipulability without resoluteness or shared beliefs: Gibbard–Satterthwaite generalized”. Social Choice and Welfare. 17: 85–93. doi:10.1007/PL00007177.

    Alan D. Taylor, “The manipulability of voting systems”, The American Mathematical Monthly, April 2002. JSTOR 2695497

    Alan D. Taylor, “Social Choice and the Mathematics of Manipulation”, Cambridge University Press, 1st edition (2005), ISBN 0-521-00883-2. Chapter 4: Non-resolute voting rules.

    Holmström’s Theorem

    No incentive system exists for a team of agents, that jointly satisfies ① Pareto Efficiency; ② [Bayes-]Nash Equilibrium, and ③ adherence to a budget constraint

    Bengt Holmström, “Moral Hazard in Teams”, The Bell Journal of Economics 13, no. 2 (1982), pp. 324–340. JSTOR 3003457

    • Replies: @OEMIKITLOB
    , @Wizard of Oz
  44. @Miro23

    The Swiss people are largely decentralized from the government. The residents of the cantons hold great power and authority (rightly and properly, IMO) in whom they allow to move in. Something I wish we saw more of here in America…

    I have heard that there are some changes on these fronts to cause some members of Swiss society concern though. I haven’t verified it but it wouldn’t surprise me if true; do-gooders and busybodies have always been disrupters of peace.

  45. @Kratoklastes

    “These ‘eudaemonic’ objectives … they are to be determined by whom, exactly?”

    I inquired of this earlier in the thread. It is the first question I would have to have answered. I’ve had enough of the state, it’s administrators and bureaucrats to last me 3 lifetimes. Enough is enough. I’m all for decentralization and respect for property rights.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  46. Even though this is a more never-married and divorced nation all the time, everything is deceptively discussed under the rubric of “working families.” Whereas families worked on farms and in factories 100 years ago, children work today. And millions of households with and without children lack two earners.

    As long as a single mom has kids under 18, she needn’t worry about the extremely low pay grade of $20k or less. She needn’t worry about surviving on part-time, temp or churn jobs, and in fact, fly-by-night and part-time work is advantageous to her, keeping her qualified for multiple layers of pay from Uncle Sam for womb-productive sex.

    Depending on whether her income from a temp job or part-time work exceeds the welfare programs’ earned-income limits that month, she has access to free major bills: free EBT food, reduced-cost housing, monthly cash assistance and free electricity. At tax time, she gets a bonus check from Uncle Sam: up to $6,431 in pay for sex and reproduction via a refundable child tax credit check.

    Two household incomes at $20k equal $40k to cover rent that takes more than half of the monthly, earned-only income of single, childless citizens and single parents with kids over 18, with only $20k to cover rent and all other bills. A $20k job means about $1,400 per month in take-home pay, and rent for a one-room apartment is between $800 — $900 in a low-cost rent state.

    Dual-earner parents also get substantial non-refundable child tax credits to bump up their dual incomes, not so with the single, non-womb-productive earners. The stress level of trying to finance rent on $20k in earned-only income is very, very, very, very different than what “families”—whether they are welfare supported or dual-earner—face.

    The American economy is much more brutal for the large group of single, non-welfare-eligible earners in the bottom 80%, and it is made more brutal still by the corrupt cronyism in the many crony-parent jobs, where above-firing parents hire mostly fellow absentee parents. Crony parents can also hold onto the few quality jobs while missing tons of work beyond just their PTO & pregnancy leave.

    Statistics only state “median household income,” even though it counts the earned income of all household members.

    Articles on cities and towns always list median income, misleading single, non-welfare-eligible job seekers with false advertising that makes it look like the city’s elected leaders have brought in quality jobs, with corporations paying a wage sufficient to cover rent for those without unearned income from a spouse, a rent-covering child support check, retirement income or monthly welfare and refundable child tax credit cash.

    When perusing deceptive information compiled by “experts,” always divide by two if you lack unearned income related to womb productivity or other non-work-related things, noting the percentage of married households and the percentage of households with children under 18 in the city or town. It’s not the majority. The silent majority is single and non-welfare-eligible—either with zero kids or with kids over 18.

  47. @Che Guava

    we’ve been staying in bed for a week (Lennon/Yoko Ono) – We were trying to get us some peace

    Lennon was more sex than gun oriented (and the rest of the Beatles even more so), Commandante Che!

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  48. @donald j tingle

    “Growth that is the natural consequence of the achievement of individual humans in the effort of satisfaction of their personal desires is good. “Growth” as a result of state stimulus and intervention results in malinvestment and waste, and is the cause of the unnatural inequality that leads to discontent. ”
    The interaction between public & private “growth” is so intertwined that you basically have a chicken & egg situation.
    The issue is always one of balance.

    • Agree: Redneck farmer
  49. @Wantoknow

    We are starting to circle the drain, wanttoknow….

  50. @Kratoklastes

    You should be above appealing to that tiny portion of your readership which will cheer at your “same crop of single-minded, goal driven narcissistic sociopaths that currently dominate political life everywhere on the planet”. Mind you it is intriguing to try and construe your words so one can one say “well OK, maybe”, and, equally, more specifically, to work out what you may mean by “goal driven”. Indeed what goals drive them, even some particularly potent coterie?

    If you were to allege that most democracies are beyond the competence of politicians to manage with acceptable competence I would agree with you and point to the remarkable good fortune that allows Australia, Canada and New Zealand to be decently governable by the politicians we elect, for the time being anyway. (Thank you China). But where do your wild words come from. You look at the former Minister of Finance Kelly O’Dwyer retiring from Parliament in her early 40s so she can bear and raise more children. An exception to “narcissistic sociopaths” perhaps. No, you are not serious. Shorten and his CMFEU backers maybe but you can’t really pin it on our worthy Pentecostal PM (though that is a bit wacky on the face of it, isn’t it?). Aha, Clive Palmer, but with luck he’s finished. Nah, you can’t be serious.

  51. @Gary

    You are essentially correct, Gary. Question is — will they fuck things up so badly in the mean time that they’ll actually get their hands burnt feeding us to Moloch? (ie environmental collapse, nuclear war etc)

  52. @Patricus

    Don’t forget the 70 odd years of sanctions that Cuba has suffered. I believe Mr maga is reinstating the few sanctions that had been lifted.
    How the US loves it’s illegal sanctions….

    • Replies: @Patricus
    , @Che Guava

    ““These ‘eudaemonic’ objectives … they are to be determined by whom, exactly?”
    The individual.
    Once economic objectives are obtained (both an individual & societal decision) society will try to facilitate an environment in which people can “self improve” — painting, reading, sculpture, carpentry, gardening, charity work, community work, whatever, as long as it doesn’t include massive amounts of just sitting on ones’ arse….

    • Replies: @ChuckOrloski
  54. @animalogic

    Greetings of “moderation is all things,” from broken Scranton, Pa, Guillaume Durocher!

    Thanks very much for such an outstanding learning experience. Anong many points, I was particularly interested in your assessment that “obesity has spread like an epidenic” in my country.

    This truism is especially strange, schizophrenic (?), given all the fitness gyms & the capable percentage of consumer participation in purchases related to expensive vitamin supplements & organic foodstuffs.

    At any rate, Sir, attached below & fyr is a August 2007 “America Magazine” column written by the late-Jesuit John K. Kavanaugh. Interestingly, this JFK noted how Americans “can buy embryos, sperm, ova, breasts, chemically enhanced biceps,” and I’ll add mechanuca devices which defy excess arousal & enable the male “unit” to stay charged & hard for > 1 hour. 👍

    Father Kavanaugh also noted how, internationally, human organs are bought & sold, and trafficking also means the selling of persons.😟. Again, refer to his article, “Capitobesity,” link below? Again, thanks very much for the enlightenment, Guillaume!

    P.S.: Attempting to be objective, I also note how the late-Jesuit seemed to have bought into Alan Greenspan’s incomplete judgement that the G.W. Bush war to “liberate” Iraq was about access to oilfields. No doubt such was the case for, in particular, Exxon-Mobil Lord’s, but I regret how mention of Israel’s “benefit”😈 by Iraq regime-change was put upon an Information Diet. 😖

  55. Patricus says:

    The ‘worker’s paradise’ of Cuba has turned out to be one of the most oppressive governments in the world, a ‘boot on the neck’ totalitarian state. Before Castro, Cuba was the wealthiest Spanish speaking country in the Americas. Granted there were plenty of problems and corruption. Today they rank with Haiti as one of the worst places in the Americas. Hunger is a frequent problem for all but the government elite. Median household incomes are about $20 per month.

    The US maintained sanctions because the Cuban government stole much property belonging to Americans. Other nations have been free to trade with Cuba but they face problems when they invest on the island. The government becomes a 51% partner and confiscates most of the wages payed to employees. Most foreign investors in Cuba have walked away with considerable losses.

    They have great allies like Venezuela, Russia and China. North Korea is a good comparison.

  56. Che Guava says:
    @Dieter Kief

    Tix, I am sure not a commandandante, but think.

    I was a teen when Lennon was shot, my pnnk rock band was playing our owm mess ”One Beatle Dead and Three to Go.’ Later takes were not copies, I would think, they had the same idea, but perhaps they really had been copies? I am respectful of human life, but the fakery of Lennon, and his wife, lower my respeAt.

  57. Che Guava says:

    It is Mr. KIMSL (keep massive handouts to Israel and lie about it).

    One can’t even say ‘MIGA’, since most of the ancient history of ‘ Israel” is a confection.

    However, non-Jewish and U.S.A. readers on this site may try calculating the outflow to ‘pluccky little Israel’.

    This is not to count the many cases of theft of technology, enriched uranium, etc.

    One may make a long list of criminals

  58. Che Guava says:

    It is Mr. KIMSL (keep massive handouts to Israel and lie about it).

    One can’t even say ‘MIGA’, since most of the ancient history of ‘ Israel” is a confection.

    However, non-Jewish and U.S.A. readers on this site may try calculating the outflow to ‘pluccky little Israel’.

    This is not to count the many cases of theft of technology, enriched uranium, etc.

    One may make a long list of criims.few nr none brought to trhal.ever.

  59. @Disordered (with a bad memory)

    Banking is a minor thing nowadays in Switzerland – GDP wise a small sector, compared to Guernsey, for example – or even compared to London, and is in the same region as in Holland or the US – ca. 6% of the GDP. – The Swiss economy is a healthy mix of industry (they are building trains for example in Switzerland, and export them all over Europe…), chemistry, medicine, power plants, services, insurance, science, banking, tourism … -and even the Swiss farmers are doing well. It’s a miracle, by and large (Switzerland was so poor in many regions, that it was quite common to send Swiss kids to Southern Germany during summertime for work & eat(this lasted until the 1960ies!). Swiss hunger-migrants settled in southern German villages, near Heidelberg, for example – and in Southern America and in the US – especially in the 17th (Southern Germany) and 18th century.

    • Agree: Miro23
    • Replies: @nokangaroos
  60. @Dieter Kief

    Aristoteles was keenly aware (from experience) it takes a COURT to finance the “leisure” of the genius – IOW a bloodsucking class (and he railed against it).
    The supernumerary sons of the Swiss (whom I do admire but for their periodic, erm, “foraging” expeditions into Tyrol) made mercenaries of the highest order but no one (I think) ever was awed by their art ;b
    Bloodsucking cannot be socialised any more than genius (or ius primae noctis), period.

    That said, of course as more overproduction is available it tends to be spread more widely – just don´t make it too dysgenic, OK?

  61. Iris says:

    This is an excellent article on a topic fundamental to the survival of the human species. Thanks to the author for addressing the issue.

    with the exception of a radical minority of anti-growth Greens advocating décroissance (“de-growth”).

    The author may want to consult the works of French economist Serge Latouche, the pioneer of the “de-growth” theory who proposed many solutions for a world rid of the tyranny of growth (and of debt slavery).

    From a philosophical viewpoint, Mr Latouche also highlights how we now live in a “finite world”. The total exploitation of our biosphere can only be the announcement of the end of the world. If we want to avoid catastrophe, we must break with the unlimited development project of the West and enter a new era: the age of limits.
    The process of constantly pushing the limits is manifest in all areas (not only economic and ecological, but also political, moral and cultural) and will result in the destruction of human civilisation if not collectively addressed.

    • Replies: @Guillaume Durocher
  62. @Iris

    Thanks for the comment! Looks like a great read.

  63. Guillaume Durocher: “A eudaimonic economics in contrast would be aimed firstly at ensuring human survival and secondly at promoting human excellence.”

    Unfortunately, the endless pursuit of economic growth is bound up with the acquisition of power, and power is necessary for survival. Less powerful groups are more or less at the mercy of the more powerful, and tend to be conquered. Thus there is a kind of Darwinism at play among nations, as Alexander the Great, Aristotle’s pupil, probably perceived. If he had not conquered Persia, Persia might have returned again to conquer Greece. But empire is the death of discrete races, as racial mixing is an inherent part of it. After Alexander, Greece notably declined.

    The thrust of this essay seems to be a proposal to make life more about a “promotion of human excellence” and less about a pursuit of power; perhaps a nice idea, but unrealistic. In life, the powerful call the tune that everyone else dances to. In the multi-racial American empire, currently in the throes of a cultural revolution which sees as virtue the complete eradication of traditional white values, one can only regard with a sense of horror and foreboding what those in power promote as “human excellence”.

    • Replies: @ChuckOrloski
  64. @donald j tingle

    “The focus on equilibrium and prices is due to the hypothetico-axiomatic method, a.k.a. the deductive methodology. The axioms are postulated that people are individualistic and focus on maximising their own satisfaction (named ‘utility’, in honour of Jeremy Bentham, the first economist to argue for the legalisation of the then banned practice of charging interest; Bentham, 1787). Next, a number of assumptions are made: perfect and symmetric information, complete markets, perfect competition, zero transaction costs, no time constraints, fully flexible and instantaneously adjusting prices. McCloskey (1983) has argued that economics has been using mathematical rhetoric to enhance the impression of operating scientifically. Equilibrium will not obtain, if only one of the axioms and assumptions fails to hold. But their accuracy is not tested. Yet, one can estimate the probability of obtaining equilibrium.
    Despite the claims to rigour, the pervasive equilibrium argument and focus on prices reveal a weak grasp of probability mathematics: Since for partial equilibrium in any market, at least the above eight conditions have to be met, if one generously assumed each condition is more likely to hold than not – corresponding to a probability higher than 50%, for instance, 55% – then the probability of equilibrium equals the joint probability of all conditions, which is 0.55 to the power of 8: less than 1%. As the probability of each of the eight conditions being an accurate representation of reality is likely significantly lower than 55% (most having a probability approaching zero themselves), it is apparent that the probability of partial equilibrium in any one market approaches zero (Werner, 2014b). For equilibrium in all markets, these very low probabilities have to be multiplied by each other many times. So we know a priori that partial, let alone general equilibrium cannot be expected in reality. Equilibrium is a theoretical construct unlikely to be observed in practice. This demonstrates that reality is instead characterised by rationed markets. These are not determined by prices, but quantities: In disequilibrium, the short side principle applies: whichever quantity of supply and demand is smaller can be transacted, and the short side has the power to pick and choose with whom to trade (not rarely abusing this market power by extracting ‘rents’, see Werner, 2005).1
    Without equilibrium, quantities become more important than prices.”

    • Agree: Iris
  65. @Dr. Robert Morgan

    Dr. Robert Morgan wrote: “… , one can only regard with a sense of horror and foreboding what those in power promote as “human excellence”.”

    Hello Dr.!

    Thanks for your valuable thought & comment, including the rattling 🐍conclusion, above.

    Of course, am only human, but I conclude that achievement of inhuman “excellence” is the global-power endgame.

    Would appreciate a response statement by author Guillaume Durocher, but am not counting on such happening.

  66. @donald j tingle

    Infrastructure investment spending of the government will increase both the marginal product of labour and capital [New Keynesianism and Aggregate Economic Activity by Assar Lindbeck – Economic Journal, 108, 1998 pp167-80]

  67. @donald j tingle

    “This chapter finds that increased public infrastructure investment raises output in both the short and long term, particularly during periods of economic slack and when investment efficiency is high. This suggests that in countries with infrastructure needs, the time is right for an infrastructure push: borrowing costs are low and demand is weak in advanced economies, and there are infrastructure bottlenecks in many emerging market and developing economies. Debt-financed projects could have large output effects without increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio, if clearly identified infrastructure needs are met through efficient investment.”
    “The point estimates in panel 2 of the figure show that higher public investment spending typically reduces the debt-to-GDP ratio both in the short term (by about 0.9 percentage point of GDP) and in the medium term (by about 4 percentage points of GDP), but the decline in debt is statistically significant only in the short term. There is no statistically significant effect on private investment as a share of GDP (panel 3).
    The latter finding suggests the crowding in of private investment, as the level of private investment rises in tandem with the higher GDP as a result of the increase in public investment.
    . . . an increase in public infrastructure investment affects output both in the short term, by boosting aggregate demand through the fiscal multiplier and potentially crowding in private investment, and in the long term, by expanding the productive capacity of the economy with a higher infrastructure stock.”

  68. @Dr. Robert Morgan

    Dr. Morgan,

    I agree with your analysis and conclusion. However, I would only add one small but crucial detail to clarify the dilemma:

    “Unfortunately, the endless pursuit of economic growth is bound up with the acquisition of power,”

    To: Unfortunately, the endless pursuit of economic growth is bound up with the acquisition of power, to be exercised solely by those of the political-class and their donors at their discretion and for their exclusive benefit.

  69. Che Guava says:

    They are also armed, by obligation.

  70. Guillaume, do you ever write about Dutch politics? Or is that too far outside of your ambit?

    It appears that Euroskepticism (“Nexit”) is now on the map in the Netherlands.

    • Replies: @Dieter kief
  71. @Digital Samizdat

    Thanks – interesting!
    The well known German intellectual Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote a perfect essay about the EU called Sanftes Monster Brüssel – Oder die Entmündigung Europas, in which he asked to downsize the EU. The British have voted for this measure, Enzensberger proposed in 2011 – and who knows, what time will bring along…
    I don’t know whether this little book of 80 or so perfect pages has been translated in other languages.

    • Replies: @Dieter kief
  72. @Dieter kief

    Two translations of Enzensbergers brilliant downsize-the-EU!-essay are available:

    Brussels, the Gentle Monster: or the Disenfranchisement of Europe, 2011

    Le Doux Monstre de Bruxelles ou L’Europe sous tutelle, traduit par Bernard Lortholary, Paris, Gallimard, 2011 (ISBN 978-2-07-013499-1)

  73. @obwandiyag

    Cubans life expectancy is higher than Americans.

    It certainly feels that way.

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