116 Re: Ryan

I have always thought and said reading Ryan's essays was a fun activity, and it still is. A classic INFJ writing style, and as I have mentioned in Regress (Part 1), the iNtuitive (N) and Feeling (F) profiles make a very interesting combination when it comes to formulating worldviews and beliefs, and NFs actually hold on to their beliefs quite strongly. This INTP still believes in "mostly anything that doesn't annoy me is acceptable". I know some of you hate the notion of classifying people into 16 boxes, but I find it expedient, and I find the inverse (i.e. everyone is unique) annoying.

I have a sinking feeling that I've just irritated some people, I'm so sorry, but moving on...

His stance towards Economics is not unfamiliar to me, I've done it in a KayEye essay before, and I was immensely satisfied with it (and not forgetting to mention, Mr. Leong found it satisfactory too). Now, here's my opinions simplified:


Economic models (like Miss Ceteris Paribus, Miss Macroeconomics, and Mr. GDP), are pretty (or handsome, if you like) at first glance. They seem to imitate scientific theories, like Newton's Laws, by being elegant, and simple but most importantly, they are Universal. (in jest, it suggests, they must all qualify for the Miss or Mr. Universe competition). However, Economic models are based on highly ideal situations, such as Perfect Information, Infinite Divisibility, Perfect Competition (indeed, every organiser's dream) and Complete Rationality. Since such conditions do not apply to real world situations, Economic Models tend to be inaccurate when making these predictions, but the irony is, the inaccuracies cannot defeat the models because the models state that the conditions have to be ideal. All they have to do is utter that famous phrase, "Ceteris Paribus!", which is a magic spell that somehow makes all other influencing factors constant.

The fact is that, Economics, like any social (pseudo) science, attempts to rationalise the wondrous pursuits of mankind. But then again, mankind is a fickle, but highly adaptable animal, and will always find a way around a stumbling block. Social science, being a science, is a decent attempt, albeit the high inaccuracy, to map out how mankind has solved a problem (of making a choice, in case of Economics). However, we are not simple creatures. Consider this analogy:

Ants are highly organised insects, they move around in trails. Every once in a while, a change in the landscape occur, say, a rock or a fallen leaf blocks the path. However, given the different possible terrain surrounding the obstacle, the alternate path would always differ from situation to situation.

Compare this to Man solving an Economics problem, and you will see why one model is simply never enough, and models change over time. This arguably is not a bad thing, since it can generally be said that the evolution of knowledge always moves towards higher objectivity But to say that models are chosen using "popularity" is a bit of a long stretch, since sometimes it's just mere expedience, coherence and practicality.


The bovine-fecalness of Economics is sometimes overly associated to its subjectivity, we complain that we can never justify an economic model, and that they are unfalsifiable. However, as many pitfalls as Economics have, they do exhibit a certain degree of accuracy. Arguing that Economics fails in situations where non-ceteris paribus conditions are present could be nothing more than splitting hairs since we have to concede that the models have played a fair game by coming with a ceteris paribus disclaimer. However, we value Economics because of its practicality, the models are generally true, and has been and will always work in most situations.

To say that Economics is a cut-and-paste mode of inquiry, is not entirely incorrect, but then, it's not unusual for a field of knowledge to be founded and/or influenced by other fields of knowledge and/or commonsense. Science, in essence, is influenced by Mathematics and vice versa, such as calculus being discovered in Science, before blooming into a Mathematical field of its own. Art is sometimes influenced by Mathematics and Science: Fractals, Golden Ratio, Geometry and the like. Ethics influences most Sciences and sometimes even Art. History affects Economics, and Economics influence Geography, and Geography, in turn, is required in History. It's an interconnected web of Knowledge, one mode of inquiry can never stand alone in providing and constructing our Knowledge. To blame Economics of plagiarism is unfair, since by slippery slope, I can go on to blame Science for applying Mathematics, and Art for using mathematical axioms.

Finally, the problem of the Homo Economus, or "the average economic man", is not a challenge on human uniqueness, but an extension of the uniformity of logic. Although the assumption itself is an ideal situation, what it means is that given that we all have the same set of information, we will all make the same decision. The contention is that logic is infallible. If we know that all A is B, and all B is C, everyone will equivocally be able to decide that all A is C. The Economic Man will always make the same decision given so-and-so information. This is the point that the Homo Economus was designed to show. Of course, feel free to shout about the idealic assumption it's based on, I've got nothing to say about that.

That's all I have to blurt out this quiet and uneventful afternoon. Look out for the Whiteboard People tomorrow.

PS: You have two more days to solve the Kindergarten Teacher's Addition Problem.