Saturday, September 7, 2013

“. . . Morality Lesson”

That’s from The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, The Euro’s Morality Lesson, 5th Aug 2013: “Economics in Germany, it has been noted, is a branch of moral philosophy. Growth is the reward for good behavior. Such virtue includes frugality and avoidance of debt. It goes without saying that, in this view, promoting growth by increasing fiscal deficits is the height of immorality. Economics in Greece is rather different. It is a branch of personal ingenuity. Morally loaded words from the Anglo-Saxon canon like “corruption” and “cronyism” have attached themselves to the Greek approach, but for Greeks following rules was a form of stupidity. If politicians were corrupt, what could be the purpose of personal integrity? Far better, Greeks thought, to trust in “fakelaki” (the little envelope) and “rousfeti” (a political favor for votes) than confuse morality with material advancement.”
“It was a German, Martin Luther, who ignited the Reformation with his objections to the papacy’s corruption, the sale of indulgences and the papal authority to absolve sin. A big case of northern probity against southern laxity, frosty rigor against sun-soaked elasticity: the clash of an attempt to hold humanity to a high moral standard with a system taking human fallibility as a starting point. A few centuries later along comes a shared currency that tries to unite the Protestant north with the Catholic or Orthodox south, a Europe that went through the Reformation with one that did not. Trouble was inevitable . . . Europe must bridge its moral chasm. Greeks can learn something of economics as moral philosophy. Germans can learn that austerity as economic tool has its limits and that the use of a fiscal deficit to finance growth is not a sin. The euro is also a morality lesson.”
"THE Philippines 'must do its homework' to bring down power costs and increase the income of the Filipinos so it could attract more foreign direct investments (FDI), ING Bank Chief Economist Joey Cuyegkeng said. [Business Mirror, 4th Aug 2013] He said investors, who would want to invest in other Asian countries, especially China and Indonesia, look at the local domestic consumers as their target markets . . . So increasing the purchasing power [i.e., GDP per person] of the citizens in the country will make foreign manufacturers go to the Philippines.”
In other words, we can’t be patting ourselves on the back that because of our large population (roughly 100 million) we have an inherent economic driver, i.e., it has a very critical qualification, purchasing power. Of course, those making the argument may also be invoking morality, especially the pitfalls of reproductive health? Theologians could argue either side, as with Papal encyclicals; meanwhile the continuing challenge of economic development remains. And it comes down to: PHL must very quickly become a developed economy – which, unfortunately, will take us at least a generation. But even more unfortunate is our inability to examine, challenge and expand our comfort zone or worldview? And that is our overarching morality challenge, because underdevelopment and widespread poverty have confounded us?
Noah Smith has an interesting note on the “death of theory” in economics. Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but there has been a measurable decline in the number of papers that offer theoretical innovations as opposed to empirical analysis, and also a harder to measure but unmistakable shift in the profession’s value structure, with empiricists reaping greater rewards and theorists valued less . . . So in my experience, anyway, theory lost its luster in trade because it could prove anything; it lost its luster in macro because it proved things that weren’t so.” [Paul Krugman, What killed theory, The New York Times, 5th Aug 2013]
“The hard truth seems to be this: We live in a vast and awesome universe in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed, where humanity clings to an obscure clod of rock. The significance of our lives and our fragile realm derives from our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We would prefer it to be otherwise, of course, but there is no compelling evidence for a cosmic Parent who will care for us and save us from ourselves [e.g., threats of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, economic collapse and mass starvation.] It is up to us.” [Carl Sagan on the meaning of life, Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, 14th Jul 2013; Wikipedia: Sagan spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. He advocated scientific skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).]

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