Words are important because they are our major tool of communication. What is, indeed, communication without words? Unfortunately, words can also obfuscate communication. A recently published article in the New York Times Magazine makes it clear that words are so used in economics.
This writer is sensitive to this subject because up until recently he thought that many problems, in many fields, arose from basic definitions in economics fostered by the publication of Keynes’ General Theory in 1936. A deeper study of the issues led him to conclude that Keynes was compelled to use the words he selected because of what Adam Smith—and the Enlightenment in general and Rationalism in particular—did to the language. But that was not conclusive research after all. The abuse of words or, more specifically, the abuse of language started with the Greeks.
As is well known, the Greeks led the way to the abstractions of intellectualism. What is not generally acknowledged is that intellectualism is a very dangerous phenomenon, not only because it is so widespread that it controls the mind of way too many people, but also because it allows us to break away from reality and hide into the cocoon of illusion—the illusion that we are right, just because we believe we are right. Reason is infinite, it seems. Unaided by principles of logic, the human mind is so inventive that it will find another reason—and then another—to justify its errors.
ABUSED WORDS IN KEYNES’ GENERAL THEORY
There are many reasons why a new generation of economists might want to abandon mainstream economics. To me the most powerful one results from the following fundamental analysis. R. W. Goldsmith, a professor of economics at Yale, in a three-volume study of saving in the United States calculated that Saving in economics assumes 100,000 possible meanings (Vol. II, pp. 68, 69n). This is clearly in contravention of the principle of identity, the logic of which commands us to use words with one meaning, and one meaning only, throughout any conversation/discipline.
Principles of logic are ancient. The need for their use is acknowledged by just about everyone in the abstract. Conversations are stopped cold by the expression, "This is not logical." This much is acknowledged, not only in common parlance, but also at the highest levels of academia. In both mathematics and philosophy there is total agreement, mirabile dictu, in relation to the characteristics of the rules of logic.
The trouble is there are many systems of logic. And the distinction among them is not a matter of common knowledge. Hence, in the practical application of the rules of logic we plunge into a disordered world. The atmospherics change in accordance with the needs of the speaker of the moment.
Let us be specific. If we do not respect the rules of the principle of identity in relation to the use of Saving in economics, how do we know which of the possible 100,000 meanings the writer wants to convey to us? Indeed, how does the writer know which definition to use? Furthermore, is the use consistent throughout the text, or does it incur inadvertent changes in mid-discourse?
There is much more. What is not at all recognized in economics texts is that, since Investment is assumed to be equal to Saving, Investment also unavoidably assumes 100,000 possible meanings. This is the reason why all conversation about "capital," as demonstrated by the swirl of ideas about Piketty’s work, is inconclusive.
Let not forget that capitalism is a derivative of capital.
Any wonder there is such a cacophony of sounds in economic—and political— discourse today? Is there any other reason why mainstream economists abound in the extraordinary ability to manipulate theories, but they know not of the concrete operations of the economic process?
Hoarding does not exist in mainstream models; therefore, economists do not find it in daily reality.
Consumption, non-economists will never know, means "expenditure on consumer goods." How arbitrary is this? Keynes knew it was an arbitrary definition, but his mathematical model—a syllogism, really—left him no other choice. Are expenditures on capital goods not an expenditure also? (Keynes’ full mathematical model of the economic system can be found in chapters 20 and 21 of the General Theory; see, Brady and Gorga 2009).
Attempting to be a "pure" science, and heralding to the four winds the word/idea of (financial; notice carefully, financial) "efficiency," mainstream economics is ferociously against the consideration of "values," especially moral values. (The mention of financial efficiency bears the reminder that mainstream economics does not factor in periodic financial disasters involving the economy as a whole.) The exclusion of "moral" values is accepted in economics without a peep. Yet, this mental discipline imposes its values upon our entire language and culture. In addition to efficiency, is scarcity not a supreme economic value? Is scarcity not the ultimate justification for the prevalence of economic privileges granted by society to the few? Scarcity is an invention of economists who have never set foot in a supermarket, or even a market, in developing countries, let alone highly developed countries. Nature, left to her own devices, suffers from no scarcity: A codfish lays one million eggs at a time; a tree scatters thousands upon thousands of seeds in the wind. As a result of predator/prey relationships, there is sufficiency in nature. More pointedly still, economists have not yet learned how to let robots do the work of the slaves; thus, we are deprived of the fruits of digital abundance. Hint: Study the thought of Louis O. Kelso.
Gold and silver are scarce, and economists have agreed to measure the value of things in money based on gold and silver; hence, everything becomes artificially scarce (formally, or legally, this linkage was broken by President Nixon in 1971; informally, this mental habit persists in too many subtle ways). Few economists realize that economic values can be accounted for in computer digits just as well. While everything is measured in terms of money, in mainstream economics there is a series of ever changing definitions of money; hence, there is no definition of money. Functions of money, yes; a definition, no. Any wonder that economists, lacking a precise target, never seem to reach their goals?
Cases can be multiplied. Yet, the purpose of the above few examples is for the reader to consider the overall effect of the tone of the economic discourse. Very few will not notice that with a steady abuse of words, economists are destined to confuse themselves and to confuse others. Worse still, paraphrasing Confucius (Analects, Book XIII, verses 4-7), if you want to corrupt the people, corrupt their language first. For some of the effects of corruption, see the important work by Sarah Chayes titled Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (2016).
The language of economics corrupts our common language. Unless we purge that corrupted language, we shall never eliminate corrupted practices from our social, economic, and political institutions. The use of words is that important. Plato knew.
But why? Why such intellectual contortions in the language of economics? The reason cannot be found in the General Theory. The reason is that Keynes, while working under the impression that he was fighting against the formal, jejune economics of Marshall, was actually the slave of Adam Smith’s definition of Saving.
ABUSED WORDS IN ADAM SMITH’S WEALTH OF NATIONS
Morality and hoarding are inextricably tied together through relatively complex relationships that are respectively analyzed in Gorga (2002, 2009a, 2016) and Gorga (2012). Adam Smith, powerfully aided by the culture of the Enlightenment, corrupted the one and obliterated the other.
Morality. no longer rooted in the virtues, became a "sentiment," a fickle feeling subject to the vagaries of the person at each moment in personal development. Morality, rooted in the virtues, was traditionally conceived as a steady activity of the virtuous person. Adam Smith transferred the basis of morality unto the abstraction of sentimentality. (Adam Smith’s theory was not facile sentimentalism, but a highly sophisticated interaction of elevated feelings and opinions. His construction of the autonomous conscience is crowned by the conception of the "impartial spectator"—a construction that falls apart upon the discovery that the impartial spectator is lui meme). In 1756, he published the Theory of Moral Sentiments. Out of the innumerable consequences of the destruction of the foundation of morality one, certainly unintended, was clearly the worst. From the level of objective control over one’s actions, we gradually passed to the realm of uncontrollable feelings. And then Freud came along. And then Hugh Hefner came along.
Equally serious was the obliteration of hoarding from economics. Before Adam Smith, everyone knew what hoarding is: wealth stored away in a passive state. After Adam Smith, no economist could identify this phenomenon any longer. As explained in more detail elsewhere, Smith conflated two words—hoarding and investment (capital)—into one: accumulation.
The fundamental problem is this. While hoarding disappeared from sight, economics was inadvertently left with two words (saving and capital/investment) that contain two contradictory conceptions: active wealth and passive wealth bundled into one. Unable to distinguish between the two, economics, in search of accumulation of inordinate wealth, has plunged into the la la land of abstraction and has lost practical—as distinguished from political/cultural—influence and relevance.
ABUSED WORDS BY THE ENLIGTHENMENT
Hard to believe it, and hard to put it in a few words, but a full-length essay makes it clear that we are living in a 250-year-old dream, the ideal of the Enlightenment that is encapsulated in three words in which we all fervently, automatically believe: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. This is the key passage from that essay:
We live in the culture of liberty that we have inherited from the Enlightenment, and we are proud of it. Therefore, it is hard for us to realize that the three most appealing ideals of the Enlightenment, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, are deeply flawed. They are platitudes; hence, we have wasted much of our money and many of our lives trying to pursue them during the last 250 years. In the process, our attention has been diverted from reality. Here is where we stand today: As for liberty, we have been left with not much more than the appearance of political liberty; we have no fraternity or brotherhood in our hearts; and certainly we have no economic equality.
As pointed out there, we need "to substitute the abstract ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity with the ancient—but… necessarily improved—concrete ideals of Freedom, Morality, and Justice. These are not verbal changes; they are changes in substance…"
Liberty, of course, is the pivot. Liberty, as usual, is under attack these days. The attack comes, not only from the left of Socialism/Communism, but also from the right of Fascism/Nazism: see the recently published Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty by Jeffrey Tucker (September 19, 2017).
But why? Why is such a fundamental construct of our private and political life not nailed down in its meaning?
DEEP CULTURAL ROOTS OF THE MODERN ABUSE OF WORDS
There are three deep cultural roots for the abuse of words in our modern culture: first, Martin Luther’s rejection of external authority; second, Descartes’ cultivation of the mind at the expense of body and soul; third, in between, the insistence on self-reliance. As it can be seen, these three factors are strictly interrelated; they, and that is a very uncomfortable position, rely on each other.
Once Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Magisterium of the Church, human beings were left on their own; and, as Shakespeare pointed out, the undirected conscience is in continuous torment, in continuous doubt: "To be or not to be." This is the bitter fruit of the tree of freedom of conscience. Another unintended, and certainly undesired, consequence of Martin Luther’s rebellion was to switch the basis of human freedom away from the force of morality onto the realm of politics. Freedom depended no longer on one’s own moral strength, but, becoming political liberty, it was made dependent on the will of others. And on what basis did other people decide for themselves and for others? Well, the basis was none other than one’s own opinion.
It was, in fact, Descartes who decreed the supremacy of the individual mind: "I think, therefore I am." Doubt plagued the Renaissance. An authority as high as Lorenzo il Magnifico, the beloved supreme civil authority in Florence, had nothing better to recommend to people than carpe diem (grab the day) of sophists and the stoics: "Chi vuol esser lieto sia, del doman non c'è certezza." (Be happy, tomorrow is uncertain). The elimination of doubt that plagued the Renaissance was resolved by the assumption that the mind is fount of all certitude. Some specifications are in order here. Our mind cannot deal with doubt, because doubt leads to mayhem. Certainly, doubt is more reasonable than false certainties; but the perennial goal is to reach "true" certainties.
As it is becoming more and more evident through concentration on these issues, especially spurred by the recent publication of Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland (2017), religious and intellectual freedom brought to us via Martin Luther and Descartes have morphed into a fierce entitlement to custom-made reality, a world of illusion, a world of collective delusion. To make this analysis incontrovertible, we have to come down from the stratosphere of pure thought to the daily practices of concrete human beings. What do we find in the realm of the apparently strictly personal?
Religious and intellectual freedom yielded to pride, the pride of religious and intellectual freedom as extraordinary achievements of the human mind. Especially in America, both freedoms eventually were reinforced by Emerson’s insistence on the supremacy of self-reliance.
What to say of this approach to life? Rooted in pride, self-reliance is a strong mixture, in equal parts perhaps, of cynicism (there is no one to help you), braggadocio (I can do it alone), and sadness (poor me, there is no one to help me). It ultimately reveals a total misunderstanding of the true nature of human beings, and accordingly it reveals absence of God, lack of faith in God, and an absolute absence of love for God. As Bruce Lee points out, "There is fear and insecurity in pride because…" quoting Eric Hoffer, "the core of pride is self-rejection" (1999, p.11).
Words matter. Words cause actions. The conception of self-reliance, of course, plays directly into the hands of economists, who believe in the hyperbole of aggressive, destructive competition and have not yet assimilated into their science the reality of interdependence pointed out to them by Leonard Read. Nor do practical consequences stop there. "Find your own truth, don’t trust anybody else." Was not this the maxim of hippies? Has not this maxim infected post-modern academy with its insistence on a half-baked understanding of relativism?
These three characteristics of the modern world—religious freedom, intellectual freedom, and self-reliance—have, indeed, gradually led to our present fall into relativism. As at the end of the Renaissance, we are no longer certain of anything. And just as then, we are covering our insecurity with such bravado—and anguished—expression as "truth doesn’t matter."
But truth matters. Truth does not only matter in itself; truth matters because, as pointed out elsewhere, without truth we cannot have morality and we cannot have beauty in our lives, either.
It behooves us to search for truth.
For Christians there is a group of theological reasons why the search for truth is all-important. After realizing that truth is a dialectic concept whereby truth can only be established in relation to falsehood and that absolute truth resides only in God, Christians believe that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. As the Word through whom all things were made, Jesus is the Alpha. And he is also the Omega, toward which all words/all works must tend. The search for truth is an obligation for Christians, because, as Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." In the end, the search for truth trough Jesus cannot be found only in highly complex theological truths. There is a very practical reason why Jesus is the Omega. In his fervor, Paul explained to the Philippians, "For me, 'life' means Christ."
Strip the resistance to Jesus down to its bare essentials, correlate it with the demands that he imposed on us, and you discover three truths: we are not loving ourselves; we are not loving our neighbor; we are not loving God. Do examine the harshest of our daily realities though these three lenses, and all becomes clear. There is no other way to build a sustainable society, unless it is built on solidarity.
With all intellectual disquisitions aside, we have to admit that it is for our own sake, for our own wellbeing, and for our own sanity, that it behooves us to search for truth.
If we do that, a surprising reality comes to the fore. Staying away from other ancient cultures, it is possible to state that the first human beings to abuse words were the Greeks. We know that the Greeks were the founders of our Western civilization; yet, we do not fully realize that the Greeks tortured, not only, individual words, but abused the very principles of logic which allowed our early ancestors to define—with certainty—each and every word. Does anyone ever argue about the meaning of tree?
ABUSE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE BY THE GREEKS
On the basis of Alexander Marshack‘s discovery of bones upon bones and stones upon stones with notations on them, which were accumulated in anthropological museum of the world, a discovery publicized in a book whose title is very revealing, The Roots of Civilization (1972), it can be concluded that for thousands of years our early ancestors used the principle of equivalence to distinguish one word from the other. They established this equivalence:
This notation ≡ one digit ≡ information about the moon.
By using the principle of non-contradiction, they were careful to state that this information is not about the salmon. To try to identify the characteristics of the salmon, they used another mountain of stones or bones that established this equivalence:
This notation ≡ one digit ≡ information about the salmon.
Through an incalculable number of observations, human beings such as the Cro-Magnon man—if not much earlier hominids—were able to identify the characteristics of nearly every conceivable concrete object that fell under their observation—and to name each object. It was an incalculable number of men and women and not "the legislator of words," as the Greeks assumed, who gave names to objects which sustain our lives. Astonishingly, when considered in the midst of our relativistic culture, they were able to agree to call the salmon "salmon" and the moon "moon." In full respect of the principle of identity, the moon is the moon forever.
Smart as they were, the Greeks thought that there were no more objects around them that lacked a name.
What were their restless minds to do?
They came up with a brilliant idea. Why not use the principle of equivalence to investigate the meaning of abstract ideas? The Greeks established this equivalence, which, to make things more interesting but more confusing, they named a syllogism (a syllogism is the equivalence of three propositions):
Men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Socrates is mortal.
Do not laugh. At the foundation of all major discoveries in philosophy and science during the last 2,500 years, no matter how buried, no matter how disguised, there is a syllogism like this—or one of the many variations on this "form." Even Keynes’ model of the economic system is a syllogism. And Keynes knew it.
The Greeks established an equivalence relation among these three elements: man, Socrates, and mortality. All three elements had the most important common characteristic that they were perishable. And they used three sentences which are structurally, syntactically, identical to one another.
That was syllogistic logic, a mode of thought and expression that has guided our reasoning for the last 2,500 years.
Using three fundamental principles of logic (identity, non-contradiction, and equivalence), we have cultivated our gardens. We have built our culture. Astonishingly, 2,500 years ago was an extraordinary time for humanity: Some of the most important human beings who warned us to follow the Golden Mean were alive and very vocal then: Plato and Aristotle in the West, Buddha and Confucius in the East. All of them in one way or another alerted us to the need to follow the Golden Mean. The Buddha was perhaps more specific than any of the four. He advocated "a path he called the middle way, which avoided both asceticism and worldly indulgence" (Khilnani, 2016, p. 12).
But we, human beings, did not listen carefully. We are tied at the hip to extravaganzas in more ways than we can imagine. Since we humans are an integration of mind, body, and spirit, the central dysfunction of much of today’s life can be measured by this dichotomy: In the West, there has been an abuse of the word (and the functions of the) Intellect, thus leading us into Intellectualism; in the East, there has been an abuse of the word (and the functions of the) Spirit, leading us into Spiritualism. The case against Intellectualism is so vast and so deep that it does not deserve to be highlighted any longer. It is Orwell who put it straight: "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them." After going to India, full of expectations to find deep Spiritualism there, and not finding it, to his utmost consternation, this writer has developed a short "brief" against Spiritualism. Since it is very personal, and might be quite misguided, it is buried in the Appendix.
HOW TO SET THINGS STRAIGHT
Rather than insisting on the variegated abuses of Intellectualism and Spiritualism in the abstract, it might be more valuable to inquire, "What are men and women to do"? After fifty years of working and publishing in a vast interdisciplinary program of research, this is the conclusion reached by this writer: Intellectual sanity lies in moving from linear and complementary thinking to relational thinking.
Linear thinking forces us to focus on one idea at a time, which separated from the rest of the universe, can lead us quite astray into Intellectualism and/or Spiritualism: externally cocksure of all our pronouncements, internally uncertain about everything. Complementary thinking leads us into 360° gyrations: so sure in the morning; so uncertain in the afternoon.
Safety lies in relational thinking. This is a mode of thought and expression that makes use of all three fundamental principles of logic—identity, non-contradiction, and equivalence—and, through the principle of equivalence, subjects each concept to nine "proofs," because each one of the three concepts in the relation of equivalence must be reflexive (always identical to itself), symmetric (exchanging one concept with the other one obtains always consistent results), and transitive (one concept leads dynamically into another concept that might belong to a completely different mental discipline—hence, mental boundaries are practically dissolved). Thus, we have to go through nine loops of logic before we can be sure of anything.
This answer basically suggests the need to go back to the Greeks and to apply the principle of equivalence, not to propositions, but to individual concepts. We can thus fill many holes left empty over the centuries.
We start with mathematics.
In Mathematics. As things now stand, mathematics shows us the clearest formulation of linear thinking: from one (and minus one, through zero), to infinity. What does it mean? In one way or another experts assure us that "no meaning has any meaning; you make the meaning up as you go along" Thus relativism reigns: We know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Complementary thinking is exercised when one is put in relation to two; in such a construction as one man plus one woman yielding two persons. And there the battle of the sexes ensues. Fortunately, mathematics goes way beyond the simplistic constructions of linear and complementary thinking. Mathematics, and geometry, do not advance one inch before ascertaining that the proposition under consideration is indeed an equivalence relation. And yet, a simple look at the number system reveals a simple verity: zero, one, and infinity are treated as sequential "numbers," whose meaning is perhaps made clear by the entire number sequence. Not so. A simple look at philosophy and history reveals that zero, one, and infinity are not three numbers but three concepts that can be written down in this fashion:
Zero ≡ One ≡ Infinity.
There are innumerable consequences that ensue from this relationship. The most important of which perhaps is this: Mathematics can measure only the number sequence—that includes negative numbers. It cannot measure zero or infinity, namely two thirds of its constituent reality. With this formulation, we also switch from the word number to the "meaning" of numbers; thus, the three entities link math to religion and philosophy. For some details, see Gorga 2010.
In Physics. Forever, human beings have studied matter as an infinite sequence of material atoms. Thus, linear thinking. With Einstein, we passed to the study of two entities: matter and energy. Observed through complementary thinking, these two elements have generated many practical uses, from the cybernetics of computers to the quantum theory of atomic bombs—and many heated discussions and controversies in between. A great stride forward might be made if, following Einstein’s intuition that matter and energy are linked by an "equivalence" relation, we make a serious effort to find a third term that alone will create a logically valid relation. What is the third term? No third term, no equivalence. As soon as at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic, reading Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics (1975), this writer concentrated his attention on this empty equivalence, the third term as if by magic "appeared": Spirit. He was thus able to write
Matter ↔ Energy ↔ Spirit.
There are innumerable consequences that ensue from this relationship as well. The most important of which perhaps is this: The separation of the social/moral sciences from the natural sciences is unsustainable. For some details, see Gorga 2007.
Directing the equivalence relation inwardly, we reach a goal that has so far defied physicists. They still proceed without a definition of gravity. The dictionary definition of gravity, namely "The force of attraction by which terrestrial bodies tend to fall toward the center of the earth," is a non-operational entity. The operational definition is this: Gravity is the process of action and reaction, which can be clarified by putting it in a relational format, namely
Action ↔ Gravity ↔ Reaction.
Neither action nor reaction constitute gravity; it is a third element, their interaction, that constitutes gravity. One element is not operational, it does not even exist in the physical reality without the other two: It is the joining together of action and reaction that gives us gravity. Thus, we find anti-gravity. Anti-gravity is just a word.
These are laws that apply in the physical realm forever: Determinism ensues. In the social sphere, freedom rules: Reactions are not necessarily nor immediately related to actions.
In Economic Theory. Much of economics is mired in its linear thinking about money. About 5,000 years of concentration on this entity has yielded much heat, but not much understanding. So much for linear thinking in economics. There are many practical examples of complementary thinking: production and consumption; natural resources and people; money and people. But, to the knowledge of this writer, no serious effort has ever been made to build a strong theory on their basis. The conspicuous, certainly inadvertent, exception is modern economics, which has been built on the "equality" of Saving to Investment—with disastrous results. To build a theory on this basis is like squeezing clouds. There are many reasons for this effect; the essential one is this: Savings deposited in a bank are the lowest form of investment.
After a summer of intense intellectual struggle with Keynes’ General Theory, chasing one theory after another built on the equality of Saving to Investment—and gathering no understanding—this writer changed one equation in that model. Basically, he reintroduced hoarding into economics, and found himself in an entirely new intellectual world. It took him about 49 years to realize that this intellectual world is the world that existed before Adam Smith—and indeed goes all the way back to the Mosaic Laws of the Jubilee and Jesus’ Parable of the Talents. He reached this equality: I = C. The equality of Investment to Consumption. Taken aback by the enormity of the discovery, he left this draft in a desk drawer for about ten years. Having lost, first the War on Urban Renewal and then the War on Poverty, the writer went back to that draft, and since the purpose of Investment is to produce wealth, he changed I to P for Production. Then, after studying logic and having become steeped in the thought of Luis O. Kelso, he constructed the equivalence of P ↔ D ↔ C, where D stands for Distribution of the value of ownership rights. The resulting new—quite closely mixed with the old—paradigm is synthetically expressed in this geometric representation of the economic reality:
Figure 1. – The Economic Process
This figure makes it evident that even the purchase of a chocolate bar respects the prerequisites of the economic process: Real wealth (chocolate) passes from producers to consumers, while money passes from consumers to producers. Both have to be owners of the wealth they exchange. The sales slip is evidence of ownership of the chocolate bar. This understanding is defined as Concordian economics.
Most economists insist on ignoring this work. One can only repeat with Galileo, "I did not put those elements in the economic process."
One fundamental benefit that results from this understanding of the economic process cannot be passed under silence. This benefit is of overwhelming importance: The language of economics becomes the same as the language used by common mortals. The enormous cultural importance of this transformation is better appreciated if one delves into the nuances of the issues, as John Lanchester (2017) has recently done in an article whose title bears stressing here: "How Economic Gobbledygook Divides Us." His conclusion is this: "The experts need to set terms for the debate that everyone can understand. So yes, when it comes to economics, language matters."
More important still, perhaps, is the transformation of economic theory from a linear to a fully relational discipline: Everything is now put in relation with everything else, both internally and externally.
In Economic Justice/Policy. Cogent evidence of the relational character of Concordian economics is obtained by placing economic theory (of the economic process) back-to-back with economic policy. One obtains the following construction:
Figure 2. – Economic Theory and Economic Policy
Thus, one observes the indissoluble unity of theory to policy/practice: One is the back side of the other; one is the mirror image of the other; any plank of the one is in a one-to-one correspondence with a plank of the other.
Economic policy not only makes the theory useful, it also completes the Aristotelean/Aquinian construction of the doctrine of economic justice by adding participative justice to the traditional planks of distributive justice and commutative justice.
The plank of participative justice helps us concentrate our attention on the modern factors of production (land, labor, financial capital, and physical capital), and makes it patently clear how does inordinate inequality of income and wealth develop: It is the disordered access to these factors of production that causes inordinate concentration of wealth in a few hands to the exclusion of the majority of the people. No. It is not the disordered mind of insatiable "capitalists" that is the problem; it is the deficient understanding of the process of accumulation of inordinate wealth combined with a disordered set of available solutions that is the problem. We allow the few to legally acquire inordinate wealth, a. by not paying adequate taxes on land; b. by reserving access to credit to those who already have capital assets; c. by denying to workers a share of the capital appreciation they have created by their work; and d. by tolerating the excesses of the Pac Man Economy. Then we ask these people to divest themselves of their legally acquired wealth through moral suasion and compulsory taxation, namely moral and legal extorsion. Both quite shortsighted tools.
To set things straight, Concordian economics suggests the ordered exercise of four economic rights and responsibilities, one for each factor of production.
In Politics. Prequel: It is impossible to fix politics with politics, namely to fix politics with words. It is only sane and sound economics that can fix politics.
Individualism follows linear thinking by pursuing only the interests of the Individual (read "capitalists"); Collectivism follows linear thinking by pursuing only the interests of Society (read "socialists"). And both meet ruination, as we have seen especially during the last two or three hundred years. Woe to the ones who, following complementary thinking, try to present a world of compromises between the two extremes; they are attacked as being traitors, feeble-minded, and worse.
Political science is torn between the two extremes offered by John Locke and Karl Marx: The Individual and Society. The discussion, or better, the incomprehension goes back and forth—not only in the practical world of politics but in the academy as well. See the non-discussion between Keynes and Hayek—and their followers—that is carried on to this very day.
Whence the confusion, if not from the abuse of words?
The Individual does not exist; it is a creation of the last four to five hundred years of confusing thought. Even less concrete is the word Society (without individuals?), of course. The social reality is composed of men and women in the social context: as this writer like to call it, Somism. One can thus write:
Individualism ↔ Somism ↔ Collectivism.
Again, innumerable consequences follow from this construction. The most important of which is the concrete hope of building a Party of Concord one day. If we destroy our illusions about both "The Individual" and "Society," are we not creating a platform upon which reasonable people will reach agreement? They will be immeasurably helped along, if we do away with the cruelties of modern economics.
In Sociology. There is an enormous amount of work to be done in sociology. Focusing on the tiny bit that transpires from the above, namely that a sustainable society can only be built on solidarity, we can write:
Sustainability ↔ Love ↔ Solidarity
But wait. There is also the obscurantism of ontology to dissipate. This can also be done if we truly put everything in relation with everything else.
In Ontology. Forever, it seems, this field of study in philosophy has been the attempt to understand all the characteristics and all that is contained in the word Being. The focus on this one word has been an exercise in linear thinking par excellence. This study has given rise to Western philosophy. In a parallel intellectual venture, Eastern philosophy has focused its attention on the negative side of Being, the idea of not-Being. Linear thinking has been the tool for the construction of Eastern philosophy as well.
Whether aware of it or not, the rather recent attempt to fuse Eastern and Western philosophy has been an exercise in complementary thinking. This effort is well founded because most concepts are dialectic concepts: They contain their opposite within them. Thus, Being is better understood only if put in the context of not-Being.
This is certainly an improvement in our thinking process, and it raises the hope that intellectual peace and concord will finally set over the East and the West. But it runs into the danger of circular reasoning. To paraphrase the classic definition of a writer, complementary thinking gives us a revelation in the morning, only to destroy it in the afternoon.
Definite progress can be had through relational thinking. We need to construct an equivalence out of the many building blocks that can be found scattered in a great variety of books. The next mental tag of war that has existed for an equally long time in Ontology is the mental framework that sets Being in contraposition with Essence.
Who knows what Essence is? How many nights has humanity spent focusing on this word!
Will we ever be ready to stop chasing the cloud of Essence and concentrate on the reality of Existence?
And even then, we discover that there is an unbridgeable gap between the two. Even such an acute thinker as St. Thomas Aquinas fell into it. Proclaiming supreme "realism," he maintained that "all that exists is."
Nothing could be further ontologically removed from the truth. But the truth comes forward only when one sets these entities within the logical constraints of the principle of equivalence. One then discovers a third term, also long argued pro and con. This term might be more acceptable today than ever in history. The term is Becoming. One then sets the logical sequence as follows:
Being ↔ Becoming ↔ Existence.
All too briefly, "Being" is the "I am," the Absolute, the Creator. The Creator is not static: the creator creates, which means he/she/it is Becoming something different from a moment ago, and this something else manifests itself as Existence, namely all that exists physically and spiritually. Cast into our convenient geometric format, this set of relations manifests itself along these lines:
Figure 3. – Relational Ontology
These relationships have been formulated in a near infinite variety of ways. This is a compressed version that should help us clarify our understanding of very complex issues. For instance, one then reformulates St. Thomas’ expression along these lines:
Only Being "is"; Existence exists only in relation to Being.
For some details, see Gorga 2009b.
In Theology. Even the word "God," by itself, leads to linear thinking. We have been there many times: from here to infinity, and back—with not much understanding in the process. A peculiar form of complementary thinking, of course, is negative thinking. It leads to any one the well-known formulations as God/no-God. Believers and atheists have been locked into this mental construct forever. We know that safe haven can be found in relational thinking. Here are some suggestions.
If we have to love ourselves as the other, we cannot do this without Spirit or God. Spirit/God is the link between ourselves and the other: I ≡ Spirit/God ≡ The Other. This is a construct that leads to a question: Will we ever escape disquisitions about Spirit/God or the absence of Spirit/God? How can we be fully employed building a civilization of love? We can reach this ancient ideal if we write: I ≡ Love ≡ The Other.
In theology, the equivalence, of course, is between God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Besides looking forward to the day in which we purify our language and our minds of all sexual connotations, nothing ought to be said on this equivalence in this context—nothing except for a personal recollection. It is this equivalence that has always guided this researcher’s steps.
The language of Relationalism is alive and well. This is not an end. Ideally this is a new beginning. A beginning that one does not dare postulate where it will take us. We can only fervently hope that this new/old relational mode of thought and expression will lead us to a world of justice and peace, a world of concord.
Why? Because, instead of being forcibly passive, befuddled consumers of culture, this new beginning makes us all active participants. Rather than being repelled at almost every turn by false words, we can enter the conversation at any point. And the conversation remains concrete throughout; it eschews the abstractions of Rationalists (mind alone), Empiricists/Materialists/Pragmatists (body/matter alone), as well as Spiritualists (spirit alone). A Relationalist rests content with putting things in relation with each other and letting people draw their own conclusions.
Conceivably, Relationalism leads to a set of just and durable solutions—intellectual as well as practical solutions—because it lets us see the world as it is. It let us see the human being, each human person, as a mind-body-soul, namely the intersection of reason (mind), matter (biophysics) and invisible realities (spirit), which are made even more visible by human communities, as icons of unity in diversity. More pointedly, Relationalism describes how the world of unjust inequality develops and how it can be overcome. Concordian economics, a new/old paradigm that stands at the core of Relationalism—in unison with economic justice that stands at the core of Concordian economics—calls, not for a redistribution of other people’s wealth, but for the opportunity to build our own wealth and to keep a fair share of what we create. Thus, it eliminates the root causes of discord.
There is no need for the redistributionist program; scarcity does not exist in nature. If people are free to produce and to own what they need, they will reduce waste, and will always find enough resources to satisfy their needs; population growth, which seems to threaten the natural balance of things, is "naturally" petering down.
Let us finally focus on matters of pure spirit. Relationalism, with its implicit equivalence of God, Love, and Life (God is Love; God is Life), offers a platform on which all religions can meet in full respect of each other’s traditions. Here is the Way. Christianity, by fixing its gaze on the Cross, is mesmerized by the pain and sufferance that exists in the world. And then, in this writer’s humble opinion, it commits the sin of attributing pain and sufferance to God.
God then becomes the frightening enemy of mankind.
It is by fixing our gaze on the Resurrection that the Spirit of God is revealed in full force. Then we are forced to realize that The Spirit does not want us to be in pain, but wants to be in touch with us. Pain and sufferance then become evidence of separation from the Spirit, separation from God.
It is a duty to be happy. Only then will we be equipped to withstand the blows that life throws at us. Only then will we take those blows as tests that make us stronger.
Once Christianity reaches this stage, Christianity captures the full force of God of the Old Testament. Full reconciliation will then be possible, not only between Christians and Jews, but even among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and practitioners of all Eastern and Western religions. This is not a vain hope. If Jesus is God, then Jesus is Yahweh—as well as Allah; if Buddha is not God, then Jesus is also Buddha; if Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu are "the" Divine Trinity, we all had better pierce the veil of words and adjust to the reality.
The Abuse of Spirituality
It was a year ago, October 2016, that, as the achievement of a life-long desire, my wife, Joan, and I sat on a red shawl cast upon the seat at the bow of the boat at five o’clock in the morning in Varanasi. I felt like we were King and Queen exploring… Heaven?
After that most excited, mysterious feeling, my antennas went up; but I was not able to express anything. I became a passive receptacle from the moment the sun rose upon the Sacred Ganges.
Why did the excitement of finally being in India, finally being in the most Holy City of Hinduism vanish so completely?
I was not even aware that I was so stunned that at first I could not recall anything that happened for the next two days. Then, I woke up in the middle of the night; I had an instant recall; and many events became attached to highly charged questions.
In the middle of the night I heard again our guide excitedly telling us, who were in a tuck-tuck amidst the crowd, "Look, Look. They are two holy men." I remembered seeing the back of two men, proudly striding forward. They were stark naked. The question that assaulted me in the middle of the night was, "If I had met them frontally, while walking with my eight-year-old daughter, what would have I told her?"
"These are holy men?"
Other questions soon cascaded from my brain. Why did our guide keep his back to the sun rising? Why was he not touched by the holiness of the moment?
Why did he continue telling us that such and such a castle-like estate on the Ganges belonged to such and such a wealthy person, a wealthy group, a holy group?
Why were those men washing their dirty clothes on the banks of the Holy Ganges?
Why was it that women were not allowed at the cremation ceremony? Were they not close to the dead person? Were they not mothers or wives or sisters or daughters?
Why was the debris from the pyres, logs half burned, and clothing half dismembered, set free to float into the Sacred Ganges?
Why was the man with a long pole stocking the fires that were dying down? Was he not concerned he might break the skull or a leg of the person being cremated?
Why are people who die in Varanasi tied to a stone and left to decompose in the Holy Waters of the Ganges?
Why were men in yellow robes, whom we had seen the day before on the steps of the Ghat winding down the river accepting alms? Were they trying to remain alive for a few more hours or a few more days?
Why were these men systematically aligned on the steps of the ascending Ghat, after we left the boat, ready to receive alms? If I give something to the first and the second person, what will I say to the other fifteen or more people for whom I have nothing to offer?
After my nocturnal awakening to what I saw as the reality of India, questions in the following days kept piling up. Why alms-taking in India appeared to me almost like a profession?
Why do the civil authorities tolerate so much construction debris on the side of every road, it seems, whether in Varanasi or Mumbai or Delhi?
Why was the public market in Goa so dirty as to leave a rug imbedded in mud on the street? The rug must have had a bit of a worth at the moment of the fall. Why did no one pick it up?
Why was so much of the landscape of the large geographic area we visited over our 30-day trip so clearly exploited and abandoned?
Why was traffic everywhere so noisy? Why did the drivers encourage each other to use the horn?
Why was traffic everywhere so congested?
Why such abject widespread poverty?
Why are the Brahmins still so clearly powerful and rich today?
No. I have not found justification for the caste system in any of the great Eastern thinkers I have read. Lao Tzu (604 BC- 531 BC), for instance, in Chapter 29 of the Tao Te Ching proclaims: "All the people in the world are sacred."
I stand to be corrected. But I found a deep systemic explanation for each one of these questions.
Each situation I have mentioned, if I am not mistaken, is an expression of abuse of spirituality.
It seems to me that, since nearly every person in India is so deeply spiritual he, more likely than she (I admired the modesty of the attire of women and the richness of their saris), he can do what darn well he wants.
1. See, e.g., https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/how-do-we-communicate-without-using-words-402346. Even semiotics, the study of signs, uses words to identify the meaning of non-verbal communication. Music and graphic arts communicate the incommunicable.
2. John Lanchester, How Economic Gobbledygook Divides Us, The New York Times Magazine, November 6, 2016, p. MM18.
3. As usual, things are more complicated in economics, because, while the external formal logic of modern economics is clearly deficient, the internal logic is a moveable feast: As soon as a contradiction is discovered in that structure a patch is found; thus, a chain of balancing contradictions is built. See, Gorga 2002, 2009a, 2016, pp. 49-50.
4. See, Giovanni Gentile’s approach at www.pelicanweb.org/solisustv12n09page4.html.
5. An in-depth systematic treatment of the issues is in Gorga 2002, 2009a, 2016, pp. 3-158.
6. See, Gorga 2017a.
7. Keynes, 1936, p. 61, did not use the harsh word "arbitrary"; he just talked of "any reasonable definition."
8. See, Gorga 2017b.
9. At page 328 of the General Theory, Keynes gives up on any rational explanation of the equality of saving to investment. He simply insults the reader by attributing his inability to "confusion of mind" of the reader.
10. The anti-intellectualism of America is an expression of self-rejection; proudly and justly so, when it comes to the rejection of European abstractions. There is, of course, a place for the proper exercise of one’s intellect. What America is waiting for, what the world is waiting for, what this writer has long been advocating is the discovery and acceptance of the thought of four American deep thinkers: Benjamin Franklin, Henry George, Louis D. Brandeis, Louis O. Kelso.
11. See, http://logiccurriculum.com/tag/256-forms-of-mood-and-figure/
12. A most painful exhortation to intellectuals, signed by the elite of the moment, is included in Romain Rolland "Declaration of the Independence of the Mind," 1919, available at https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/07/declaration-of-the-independence-of-the-mind-romain-rolland/.
Brady, M. E. and Gorga, C. 2009. "Integrating the Formal, Technical, Mathematical Foundations of Keynes’s D-Z Model of the Theory of Effective Demand Into Keynes’s Decision Theory: Toward a New (and Final?) Interpretation of the General Theory," International Journal of Applied Economics and Econometrics, (July-September) 17 (3): 195-235.
Goldsmith, W. R. 1955-56. A Study of Saving in the United States. 3 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gorga, C. 2002, 2009a, 2016. The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture. Lanham, Md. and Oxford: University Press of America. Third edition by The Somist Institute.
Gorga, C. 2007. "On the Equivalence of Matter to Energy and to Spirit," Transactions on Advanced Research, Volume 3 | Number 2 | ISSN 1820 - 4511: 40-45.
Gorga, C. 2009b. "Toward Relational Ontology: From Matter to Spirit through Physics and Metaphysics." Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/author=856905.
Gorga, C. 2010, "On the Transformation of Mathematics from a Linear to a Relational Discipline - Toward the Reunification of the Physical and the Social Sciences," International Journal of Mathematics, Game Theory and Algebra, vol. 19, issue 4, pp. 235-244.
Gorga, C. 2012. "Ethics in Concordian Economics." Available at http://rio20.net/en//?s=Gorga.
Gorga, C. 2017a. "Concordian Economics: An Overall View." Available at http://econintersect.com/a/blogs/blog1.php/concordian-economics-an-overall-view.
Gorga, C. 2017b. "Money, Banking, and the Economic Process." Available at http://econintersect.com/a/blogs/blog1.php/money-banking-and-the-economic.
Keynes, J. M. 1936. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. NY: Harcourt.
Khilnani, S. 2016. Incarnations: A History of India in Fifty Lives. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Lanchester, J. 3016. "How Economic Gobbledygook Divides Us," The New York Times Magazine, November 6, 2016, p. MM18.
Lee, B. and Little, J. 1999. Bruce Lee: Artist of Life. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carmine Gorga is president of The Somist Institute. The mission of the institute is to foster sensible moral leadership. He is a former Fulbright scholar and the recipient of a Council of Europe Scholarship for his dissertation on "The Political Thought of Louis D. Brandeis." By inserting Hoarding into Keynes’ model of the economic system and using age-old principles of logic and epistemology, in a book and a series of papers Dr. Gorga has transformed the linear world of economic theory into a relational discipline in which everything is related to everything else—internally as well as externally. He was assisted in this endeavor by many people, notably for 27 years by Professor Franco Modigliani, a Nobel laureate in economics at MIT. The resulting work, The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture, was published in 2002 and has been reissued in a third edition in 2016. For reviews, click here. During the last few years, Dr. Gorga has concentrated his attention on the requirements for the unification of economic theory, policy, and practice calling this unity Concordian economics. He is also integrating this work into political science, which he calls Somism, and culture in general, which he calls Relationalism.
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