Welcome Guest.   Make a donation to an author on the site October 25, 2014, 11:29:39 PM  *

Please login or register.
Or did you miss your validation email?


Login with username and password (forgot your password?)
Why not become a lifetime supporting member of the site with a one-time donation of any amount? Your donation entitles you to a ton of additional benefits, including access to exclusive discounts and downloads, the ability to enter monthly free software drawings, and a single non-expiring license key for all of our programs.


You must sign up here before you can post and access some areas of the site. Registration is totally free and confidential.
 
The N.A.N.Y. Challenge 2010! Download 24 custom programs!
   
   Forum Home   Thread Marks Chat! Downloads Search Login Register  
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Down
  Reply  |  New Topic  |  Print  
Author Topic: Google in Sicko Storm - Welcome to democracy google style  (Read 12068 times)
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« on: July 02, 2007, 11:38:30 AM »

This is one example of the future of the internet and democracy, google style.  And it's one more reason why i don't consider myself a fan of the company.

Quote
"Does negative press make you Sicko?" asked Google health account planner Lauren Turner. She was referring to the new documentary by left wing demagogue Michael Moore about the US health provision.

Turner used the corporate blog to condemn his use of "isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst". Why couldn't the media concentrate on the positive aspects of the system such as 44m uninsured Americans er, "the industry's numerous prescription programs, charity services, and philanthropy efforts."

This segues neatly into a plug for Google's core business, as she goes on to explain:

Many of our clients face these issues; companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through "Get the Facts" or issue management campaigns. Your brand or corporate site may already have these informational assets, but can users easily find them?

We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message. We help you connect your company's assets while helping users find the information they seek.
...
"Advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue," she urged.


So.. got a few million dollars of advertising money? Then you too can participate in democracy and buy yourself some relief from pesky bad press and a bad reputation.  If you get caught behaving unethically - use your democratic dollars to buy yourself an advertising campaign that can neutralize those pesky investigators.  It's all about advertising.

Here we have the advertiser's/lobbyist's middle-man game, telling each side they had better quickly get out their checkbooks and starting buying millions of dollars of advertising to try to quickly dominate the message and shout down the other guy's message.

My apologies for the semi-political rant..
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 11:41:42 AM by mouser » Logged
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2007, 12:29:40 PM »

I need to clarify something -- i shouldn't pick on google.

google is probably the most ethical, most interesting, and most technically exciting mega corporation, whose entire business model centers around dominating the web and making trillions of dollars by putting their advertising on everything.

(sounds sarcastic but i'm serious).
Logged
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 939



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2007, 03:01:35 PM »

I really don't get what the hubbub is about this story. No sarcasm here: what Google and Mr. Turner are doing is exactly the thing necessary to enable democracy to work properly.

For democracy to work, people need to understand what they're voting for (or asking their representatives to vote for, etc.). Communicating this information isn't free, and there's only a finite amount of bandwidth to carry it.

So companies that can carry this information -- from all sides of the political spectra -- are giving the public the opportunity to weigh the information on their own.

The fact that Google (and other companies that can help spread a message) charges for the service is really necessary. As I said, there's only a finite amount of bandwidth. Without having to account for the price of the communication, every nutty cause ("nuke the gay baby whales for Jesus") would be demanding the bandwidth to which they're "entitled". But when they're charged to send the message, these advocates must determine which messages are really worth the expense.

Thanks to Google and others charging to carry the message, we get the benefits of keeping the bandwidth useful for non-political messages as well (like DC!), and of stratifying the causes that people really believe in.

Man, I love the free market!  Kiss
Logged



Lashiec
Member
**
Posts: 2,374


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2007, 06:44:28 PM »

Regardless of Ms. Turner personal opinion about 'Sicko', the thing is that the second part of the article practically says "if you have money, welcome in". That is, they don't seem to give a damn about wether the company is ethical or no, but about what Google can do for them for the right amount of money. Incredible. It's what mouser says.

About democracy, and the need for mass media to deliver all political opinions, there are two things to consider. First, Google influence over Internet ads is overwhelming. Second, is Google going to give equal space to every opinion, or are they going to use their algorithms to decide what to show next?. Considering that politics is all PR these days, and the individual has been obscured by his/her public persona, we don't need more ads in political campaigns (do we really need political campaigns?)

Unlike mouser, I'm not that optimistic about Google (well, nothing new there), for the simple reason that they're adopting their competitors' behavior at a extremely fast rate. In 5 years, this will be worse than Microsoft.

</Political rant>
Logged
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2007, 06:57:49 PM »

I'm seeing an interesting phenomena happening with google..

Last year i got a call on my answering machine from google, wanting to talk to me about "an opportunity for a collaboration between google and donationcoder"

When i called back, very curious to hear about this collaboration, i discovered that the caller was a google salesperson and the "collaboration" idea was to put adsense ads on our site. hah! what an exciting collaboration.

What is happening with google is that it is becoming 2 companies in one.  A part of the company is developing cool technical stuff, and probably couldn't care less about advertising.  Then there is the huge machinery of google advertising, whose job is to game the rest of the google machine in order to make huge revenue from advertising sales.  Basically the google sales people are doing the search-engine optimization tricks in order to try to get advertisers ads *on google* to have higher placement, etc.

I guess television and magazines have the same kinds of pressures between their advertising and editorial divisions.  It just seems more dangerous to me when it's happening on our internet, and when small changes in the kinds of results google returns for searches can have such a huge impact, and it means their are huge internal pressures for google to favor sites that advertise with them.

To me it feels like a conflict of interest.  If a company is going to so completely dominate the web search gateway we all use, they shouldn't be profiting from sending you to specific sites that run advertising with them.  Note that I'm not suggesting their should be a legal rule against this, only that I don't think it's ethical or a good idea, and I'd prefer to use a search company whose profits do not depend on sending me to sites that pay them money.  The only problem is that the entire web is more and more moving to an advertising-revenue system, and it's just become accepted that nearly everything on the web should be free and make money by creating a ton of users and selling them advertising.

Question for the economists: Is it possible that one day in the near future there will be no more actual products to buy, and everything just becomes free and funded by advertising?  i.e. your computer and monitor are now free, but have ads on the side of them?  Or does there eventually have to be at least one object in the universe that you have to buy in the end?  Maybe in the future each person will have 1 and only 1 thing to buy in their lifetime, a "uniwidget" and all other things are free but come with advertising for uniwidgets?
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 07:08:04 PM by mouser » Logged
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 939



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2007, 10:11:52 AM »

I can see that in some cases this might be a conflict of interest. However, I think that Google has gone to almost heroic efforts to prevent such an effect. The fact that there's a clear differentiation between non-augmented search results and sponsored links makes it difficult for them to play games. It's true that even the presentation of ads is influenced by algorithms that Google doesn't make public, and they could potentially game these results. But it seems like doing this in any significant way would be cutting off their core income in favor of a small degree of prejudice, and would be very unwise.

Still, you're free to bring your search business elsewhere.

I wonder why you believe that Google should be even-handed when it comes to spreading a political message.
  • Why don't you criticize the movie theaters that are showing Moore's movie? Within my community (having very few theaters), the choice of which movie to play certainly influences public opinion, and I haven't seen theaters providing any kind of equal time to those who disagree with Moore.
  • Moore himself is notoriously unfair. It's well documented that he edits interviews, going as far as to assemble sentences that the subjects never uttered. One might go as far as to call it lying. Why should we be interested in defending his work, of all things?

It seems like anything that's presented in the form of "the struggle of the people against 'Big Xyz' " automatically becomes a cause célèbre, one worthy of defense, by definition. But why should we fight for Moore in preference to others, and be outraged if someone offers "Big Xyz" a means of getting out their side of the story?

And in this particular case, why haven't we learned our lesson about Michael Moore. It's well established that the content of Bowling for Columbine was largely out-and-out lies, and the rest being indirection and gross exaggeration. My understanding (I didn't see it) is that Fahrenheit 9/11 may have been better, but once grandstanding was boiled out, the remains were either ho-hum old news, or suppositions founded on the most tenuous connections.

Certainly the issues addressed in these films are things worthy of debate, but Moore's style of presentation does not foster debate; it seeks to preclude debate by causing people to make up their minds without the benefit of all information. I'm willing to fight for someone's right to make a statement, but it's absurd to place Moore's poor-quality work on a pedestal above others.
Logged



mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2007, 10:31:06 AM »

Your points about google are well taken.

Let's not get into debate about michael moore since it could lead to loong political discussions, and i really wasn't trying to say anything about whether i approved of his stuff or not, and i don't think it's relevant.

As you say, right not the pressure keeping google from really slanting results to favor sites showing adsense is just that if they bias the results *too much* in this way, people will start using other search engines.  so there are ecological pressures on them to present good results, and they seem to take that seriously.

On the other hand it seems to me that each year, and as they become more domineat, they discard a little more of their ethics and go a little bit farther in the direction of pushing their ads.

I think your points about scarcity of resources are good -- the key dilemna here is that if you only have a certain amount of space on the top results page, or a certain # of movie theatres, who decides what gets shown.  For movie theatres, this is probably usually based on what movies will bring in the most money, though there are also other things like contractual obligations to theatres, etc.  For search engines.. it's a combination of wanting to send people to advertisers so you can really make money, vs. presenting useful results to the user so they come back and use you again.  I guess this is where my anti-capitalism inclinations come through -- there are just some things that i don't want to be driven by forces which seek to maximize profits.

However, I do think that the scale of this problem is relatively minor, because as we have both acknowledged, there is also a very high pressure on any search engine to return useful results, and if any search engine really went too far in pushing irrelevant advertising above useful content, people would switch away.  And as long as that is the case, i do think this problem is relatively minor.  As long as the "cost" of switching to a new search engine is low enough, and as long as it isn't prohibitively expensive to compete with google in terms of ability to index the web (this might be a real impediment though), then there will be alternatives to choose from and this will keep google from becoming too evil i suppose.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2007, 10:33:50 AM by mouser » Logged
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 939



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2007, 11:05:40 AM »

Agreed, Mouser.

I'm about as pro-capitalist as one could imagine, and I am quite sure that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" will make sure that everything does achieve equilibrium. But in order for that to happen, we must have these conversations. If Google does act unethically, then it's certainly our prerogative to take business elsewhere, but we can only do so if we debate the issue.

And fwiw, I agree that there are reasons to be concerned (even if I don't think that this topic is one of them). I'm thinking of conversations I've had with uISVs about Google's handling of click-fraud. Google really reaps the benefit of the "long tail", with most of their ads (in my experience) being from small or niche advertisers. These people are most susceptible to click-fraud, but since any one of them is only a tiny drop in the bucket to Google, they don't have any leverage to force Google to address the problem, at least in any significant way. To me, this is a serious problem.
Logged



Lashiec
Member
**
Posts: 2,374


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2007, 01:46:19 PM »

Interesting thing. The big media here is reporting the news, but they completely ignore what we are discussing here (ethics) and they instead focus on the error that Ms. Turner made. They prefer to turn the attention to the possibility of Google picking up on Mr. Moore. Fine.

Of course, I should mention that the big media didn't do their homework, and they are basically copy-pasting what TechCrunch said. Hurrah for prominent bloggers Sad
Logged
Jimdoria
Charter Member
***
Posts: 244


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2007, 02:41:54 PM »

I think the Register article makes the essential point here very nicely. When the cluetrain leaves the internet, and heads into the real world, it jumps the tracks. It's great for people to talk about letting your employees be themselves and tearing down the walls between companies and their markets. But if you really do this, and one of your people says something unpopular, the attack dogs that make up the modern media will eat you for lunch.

One of Google's core values is supposedly "do no evil" or some such. This may have even been their guiding principle once - and by once, I mean when they were privately held. But when a company goes public, they no longer make their own rules in any meaningful sense. They play by the rules established by Wall Street, and those rules are actually pretty gung-ho when it comes to evil. (Oops, sorry, I didn't really mean "evil", I meant "fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value".)

I always have to smile at the mention of the invisible hand, though. It's a 230-year-old metaphor, yanked out of its original context about the balance between foreign and domestic trade, and given a whole new life as a universal palliative. The invisible hand takes the frightening, highly ambiguous complexity of the real world of market dynamics and reduces it to a simplistic, soothing mantra which assures us all will be well. Whenever the invisible hand shows up, I take it as a clear signal of what kind of discussion is actually taking place: one about religious belief.

And yes, someone who says that advertising=democracy is either so calculatingly cold as to be sociopathic (hardly impossible) or rather befuddled on the finer points of what democracy actually is. There's an old saying that goes "never attribute to malice what can be explained by mere incompetence". So I tend to think Google's Ms. Turner probably spent the social studies class that covered democracy passing notes and doodling on her workbook.
Logged

- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2007, 02:47:36 PM »

Jimdoria, I hope you are a professional writer - and if so, please point me to more stuff of yours i can read -- you really write well and in an entertaining style.  thumbs up
Logged
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2007, 01:15:42 PM »

Nice followup essay:
http://radar.oreilly.com/...7/07/googles_authent.html
Quote
So, to recap, the recipe for a disaster is easy: hire marketers with no authentic voice, ask them to pimp offal, and when they're busted for it make them force out an apology in which they blame it on their authentic voice.
Logged
Jimdoria
Charter Member
***
Posts: 244


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2007, 02:14:36 PM »

Aw, thanks, Mouser!  embarassed

Actually, I am a professional writer, or rather I was, if you count technical writing as professional writing. I was a tech writer for years, and did write the (very) occasional column for trade magazines, although some of these were done anonymously.

Unfortunately, product cycles being what they are, I probably couldn't point you to a single thing online that I've written, other than my blog, which is also a very occasional affair.

Anyway, thanks for the compliment!  cheesy
Logged

- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 939



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2007, 03:53:56 PM »

I always have to smile at the mention of the invisible hand, though. It's a 230-year-old metaphor, yanked out of its original context about the balance between foreign and domestic trade, and given a whole new life as a universal palliative. The invisible hand takes the frightening, highly ambiguous complexity of the real world of market dynamics and reduces it to a simplistic, soothing mantra which assures us all will be well. Whenever the invisible hand shows up, I take it as a clear signal of what kind of discussion is actually taking place: one about religious belief.
Obviously Adam Smith couldn't have been speaking from experience about a world so mind-bogglingly interdependent, with near-instantaneous communication, overnight exchange rate arbitrage, etc., but these things actually bolster his point.

To be sure, there's a kernel of truth in your comment about religious beliefs. The whole point is that the system is so complex that it is literally impossible for any one entity to comprehend, let alone engineer. So there must be some element of a leap of faith. But the leap to accept it from what we know scientifically isn't a large one. I think it's very much analogous to accepting the theory of evolution. In that case, we know that evolution does occur, we know a great deal about how it works, and can provide rational explanations for why certain paths were taken. But this doesn't actually prove that it did happen in order to produce humans.

Smith's writing may have been more Gedankenexperiment than real science, but that's no longer the case. Modern economics and econometrics let us verify that the market really works, and even get an understanding of why it sometimes behaves counterintuitively. This is no longer in the realm of a soothing palliative. When today's economists talk about the invisible hand, they are talking specifically about emergent self-ordering systems, precisely the same kind of thing that evolutionary biologists describe: the emergence of a highly complex and fine tuned system (e.g., the human body) from a staggeringly chaotic environment.

There's been a lot of work on this in recent decades. For example, F.A. Hayek won a Nobel Prize in 1976(?) for describing the way that prices serve as the communication mechanism for signaling, e.g., the availability of resources and their relative interchangeability. This is what I was trying to get at above, when I mentioned the scarcity of bandwidth and how important the partisan considers his message.

If you can stomach a book on economics and political philosophy, let me recommend that you read Hayek's The Fatal Conceit. I suppose that for any avid reader, there are just a few books you encounter in your life that truly and deeply effect the way that you think; for me, this was one of those books. Beforehand your "religious" comment would have been apt. But after having read this I understand (as well as any non-economist) why the system is, necessarily, the way it is, whether or not we like it.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2007, 04:44:18 PM by CWuestefeld » Logged



mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2007, 03:58:26 PM »

CWuestefeld, thank you as well for a great post.. I'm going to read Hayek's book on your recommendation.  I really do appreciate your thoughtful comments.
Logged
Grorgy
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 820

see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2007, 05:57:22 PM »

The major trouble with free market economic theory is that there is virtually no free market.  Oil is controlled by a few major players, pharmaceuticals by a few, and the list goes on.  On the other side governments provide various payments to those in need, in the form of welfare and rent assistance and so on, and subsidies to business for providing employment and infrastructure that the the state cannot or will not provide. 

Interestingly organisations like the world bank and IMF who at one stage demanded that help to poorer countries was dependant on their economies opening up to free trade and reducing welfare have  been forced to rethink their strategies as large multinational and transnational companies  bought up all the resources in these countries and provided grinding and worsening poverty to most of the people in these countries.  Fortunately, but after untold deaths through starvation and ill health associated with poverty the thinking has changed.  But possibly to late to save the world bank and IMF as can be seen by some South American nations setting up their own bank and removing themselves completely from the world bank.

Smith realized his invisible hand would not work even in his day as there where not sufficiently free markets then and for this to be resurrected (to keep with the religious overtones) 230 yrs later when free markets still do not exist, well it seems to me Adam Smith should be remembered for his contributions to an emerging science? and that his comment on the beauty of Irish prostitutes is the only one worth following up on today.
Logged
Jimdoria
Charter Member
***
Posts: 244


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2007, 09:59:09 AM »

I think we are going to have to agree to disagree, CUWestfield. For one thing, I have a philosophical problem with regarding Economics as a science, although I can certainly see the parallels with biology. I think my issue here hinges on what you call "emergent, self-ordering systems". In nature (the realm of the hard sciences), absent a religious component, there is no inentionality. Systems do not act to organize themselves, it simply happens. This is not true of economic activity. Economic activity is always the result of intentional human activity, although the consequences may be unintended ones, and the overall complexity of the system is daunting, as you say.

Economies do not just arise. They are built. And like all human structures, they are built with particular goals and priorities.

The "science" of Economics is generally one of measurement, not of direct observation. And the method of measurement is not trivial in determining the conclusion. Currently, Economics assigns no value to anything that doesn't generate economic activity, and assigns positive value to anything that does generate economic activity. I see this as a deeply flawed approach to mirroring or even understanding human reality.

Under this scheme, a clear mountain stream has zero value unless it can can be converted to some economic activity, such as food production, energy or tourism. A polluted stream has more potential value, as there is a need to clean it up, which generates economic activity. Yet the stream's intrinsic value is immediately obvious to just about any actual human being who stands beside it, because humans instantly recognize there are kinds of value other than monetary.

Economics also exhibits scale bias. According to the rules of economics, large-scale economic activity is intrinsically more valuable than small-scale economic activity, as monetary value is generated more quickly and efficiently. But small-scale economic activity generates positive non-monetary value: good will, strong community ties, heightened political awareness, a sense of personal well-being for the participants. Economics cannot measure these and so their value is effectively assigned to zero.

The entire basis of economics is monetary value. And that's the problem: I am highly distrustful of making monetary value the final and absolute arbiter of what is good for a society and its members.

This is what's so fundamentally wrong about Ms. Turner equating advertising with democracy. Advertising is "might makes right" although it's economic might rather than brute force at work. But this is actually the opposite of democracy, where the central tenet is that the mighty cannot be allowed to simply overpower the weak if we are to have a just society.
Logged

- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.
urlwolf
Charter Member
***
Posts: 1,784



see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2007, 03:38:37 PM »

wow, good thoughts. Keep them going...
Logged
CWuestefeld
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 939



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2007, 05:31:43 PM »

[Natural] Systems do not act to organize themselves, it simply happens. This is not true of economic activity. Economic activity is always the result of intentional human activity...

Economies do not just arise. They are built. And like all human structures, they are built with particular goals and priorities.
This is not generally true, and this is trivially demonstrated. Before Adam Smith gave us a framework in which to think about economies, it would have been literally unthinkable to engineer an economy. Clearly it did arise from the unorchestrated actions of the individual "organisms" working within it.

To be sure, there have existed intentionally-engineered economies. These are failures without exception: the USSR, North Korea, the P.R.C. (the only reason the latter survived to its recent point of reformation was a thriving underground market).

In the book I mention above, Friedrich Hayek's The Fatal Conceit, he devotes a fair amount of ink to describing how a society, including its economy, arises through a process of evolution. Those societies that have the traits best allowing them to thrive expand across the globe, subsuming others. Traits of these others find their way into the larger organism, and -- without knowing why -- they make the engulfing society stronger or weaker. So once again, I urge you to read that book for a fuller understanding of this.

Quote
Currently, Economics assigns no value to anything that doesn't generate economic activity, and assigns positive value to anything that does generate economic activity.
Again, this is simply incorrect. Modern economists think in terms of "utility functions", which are sort of black boxes that give an individual's value of "utility" value for something -- that is to say, how useful the thing is to moving a person toward his goals. One need not know what the person's goals are, or how the something helps achieve those goals; only that the person perceives the relative value there. Consider this, from Ludwig von Mises' Human Action (http://www.mises.org/humanaction.asp ):
Quote from: Mises
It is fashionable nowadays to find fault with the social sciences for being purely rational. The most popular objection raised against economics is that it neglects the irrationality of life and reality and tries to press into dry rational schemes and bloodless abstractions the infinite variety of phenomena. No censure could be more absurd. Like every branch of knowledge economics goes as far as it can be carried by rational methods. Then it stops by establishing the fact that it is faced with an ultimate given, i.e., a phenomenon which cannot--at least in the present state of our knowledge--be further analyzed [7].

The teachings of praxeology and economics are valid for every human action without regard to its underlying motives, causes, and goals. The ultimate judgments of value and the ultimate ends of human action are given for any kind of scientific inquiry; they are not open to any further analysis. Praxeology deals with the ways and means chosen for the attainment of such ultimate ends. Its object is means, not ends.

In this sense we speak of the subjectivism of the general science of human action. It takes the ultimate ends chosen by acting man as data, it is entirely neutral with regard to them, and it refrains from passing any value judgments. The only standard which it applies is whether or not the means chosen are fit for the attainment of the ends aimed at. If Eudaemonism says happiness, if Utilitarianism and economics say utility, we must interpret these terms in a subjectivistic way as that which acting man aims at because it is desirable in his eyes. It is in this formalism that the progress of the modern meaning of Eudaemonism, Hedonism, and Utilitarianism consists as opposed to [p. 22] the older material meaning and the progress of the modern subjectivistic theory of value as opposed to the objectivistic theory of value as expounded by classical political economy. At the same time it is in this subjectivism that the objectivity of our science lies. Because it is subjectivistic and takes the value judgments of acting man as ultimate data not open to any further critical examination, it is itself above all strife of parties and factions, it is indifferent to the conflicts of all schools of dogmatism and ethical doctrines, it is free from valuations and preconceived ideas and judgments, it is universally valid and absolutely and plainly human.
(why do we care about some guy named Mises? He was a very influential economist; see this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Von_Mises )

Economics also exhibits scale bias. According to the rules of economics, large-scale economic activity is intrinsically more valuable than small-scale economic activity, as monetary value is generated more quickly and efficiently... The entire basis of economics is monetary value.
The above quote from Mises also demonstrates why this argument is incorrect. The amount of "monetary value" that is generated is not the only, or even the most important, sort of value that economics is interested in. As I see it, economics tries to understand (and predict) why a person, given a range of choices, will opt for a particular one.

This is what's so fundamentally wrong about Ms. Turner equating advertising with democracy. Advertising is "might makes right" although it's economic might rather than brute force at work. But this is actually the opposite of democracy, where the central tenet is that the mighty cannot be allowed to simply overpower the weak if we are to have a just society.
Again, I'm afraid you've got it quite backwards. The "might makes right" epithet should be applied to democracy, for it is this philosophy that allows 51% of the people to choose the fate of the remaining 49%, for no better reason than the strength of their numbers. Always keep in mind that America is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. In our society, the thing that protects the weak from abuse is the Constitution's limitations on the government, and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights. Voting democratically has virtually nothing to do with it.

Moving to another post, trying to avoid political policy issues and sticking to the science of economics:
The major trouble with free market economic theory is that there is virtually no free market.  Oil is controlled by a few major players, pharmaceuticals by a few, and the list goes on.  On the other side governments provide various payments to those in need, in the form of welfare and rent assistance and so on, and subsidies to business for providing employment and infrastructure that the the state cannot or will not provide.
As I read your argument, there are two main prongs: (1) large enterprises interfere with the workings of the market; and (2) government regulations interfere with the market.

Point #2 seems to lead to circular reasoning. You seem to want the government to wield stronger economic policy because they are already meddling. So I won't address that.

Point #1 is worth debating. Your point is certainly representative of conventional wisdom, but it's far from clear that the "common sense" point is correct here. Many modern economists would argue that monopolies are a red herring for a variety of reasons. (http://www.reason.com/news/show/29727.html )
Quote
Not that cartels necessarily hurt consumers. In line with a recent strand in economics that University of Chicago economist Lester Telser began, Bittlingmayer argues that cartels can be an efficient way of preventing ruinous competition when firms' fixed costs are very high and their variable costs are low. If you doubt that that's a problem, take a look at airline profits since deregulation. The added cost of taking another passenger is close to zero, which is why airlines get into so many price wars and are often on the verge of bankruptcy.

In any case, governmental efforts to control monopolies generally do more harm than good. For example (same article):
Quote
Beginning in the early 1970s, economists studying antitrust found that it often created monopoly by preventing companies from pricing too low or expanding too much. Antitrust authorities, they found, often were more interested in preserving competitors than in preserving competition.

Economists also found that regulated industries often lobbied for the anti-competitive regulation in the first place. Consumers never asked for an Interstate Commerce Commission to prevent new truckers from entering the business. Nor had consumers been heard from when the federal government set up milk marketing boards to restrict the supply of milk and drive up the price. The main players were truckers and milk producers, who wanted to limit competition.

I would encourage anyone who wants to disagree with these points to provide actual citations for their arguments. Simply asserting that "Big [insert industry name here] is too greedy" or other "common sense" arguments really doesn't add anything.
Logged



Jimdoria
Charter Member
***
Posts: 244


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2007, 05:13:50 PM »

I'm not an economist either by profession or avocation, so I'm not in a position to participate in an informed debate about the finer points of economic theory. I haven't read the book you recommend, so I'm not really in a position to discuss that either.

Was it "unthinkable" to engineer an economy before Smith? I'd argue that mercantilism (which predated Smith and to which Smith's work was a reaction) was an effort to "engineer" an economy. I'd also say that government policies regarding tariffs and trade, imports and exports, the setting of interest rates by the Fed, etc. are all efforts to "engineer" an economy. The planned economies of the (so-called) Communist states are a particular approach to engineering an economy. The fact that a single approach fails does not automatically invalidate all other approaches.

Do economies arise by evolution? Well, yes and no. In any competitive system there will be winners and losers. This is "selection" but is it "natural selection" i.e. evolution? A city grows by similar processes, but I don't think this makes cities "organisms". Cities are structures built by people, partly planned and partly unplanned, partly based on the natural environment and partly in opposition to it. The same is true of economies. Also, is the biggest, strongest society that subsumes others automatically the best? This is just what I meant by scale bias. Couldn't it be that it's simply the most ruthless, or the best armed? Can we be sure it's always the best ideas that are winning out? I don't have your faith in this, and I'm not sure it can be proven.

Quote
As I see it, economics tries to understand (and predict) why a person, given a range of choices, will opt for a particular one.


This is one of the things economics does. I think it falls short as a concise, complete definition of economics, however. Wikipedia's is "the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services," a definition that seems centered on the exchange of value, and although monetary value is not specifically mentioned, I think in most modern contexts is can be inferred.

However they also give as an apt definition "the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses" which hews much closer to CWuestefeld's definition. So perhaps I am being too restrictive in my understanding of economics as being primarily concerned with markets, GDP, spending vs. saving, etc. Still, I think this is the "common" conception of the term, even if it is not entirely accurate.

I will admit I was imprecise in my language when I used the word democracy. I was referring to specifically to American democracy (and similar modern forms of democracy) which includes the concept of human rights and personal freedoms. Again, I believe that this is the common understanding of the term, just as "communism" is generally assumed to refer to Marxist states, rather than Shaker communities or Benedictine monasteries. But if you were seeking to ding me just for the extra semantic points, you did it. Wink

There is quite a leap taking place in the bit about cartels/monopolies. It's the necessarily that bugs me. This is one example of one kind of cartel that may not be bad for consumers. Quite a far cry from providing evidence for a general rule that "monopolies aren't bad for consumers"! And a very, very shaky foundation upon which to base a broader assertion, which seems to be that common wisdom about monopolies is wrong. (And don't think I haven't noticed that we've slipped into discussing "consumers" rather than "citizens" or "people", linguistically flattening the individuals in question into just their marketplace activity.) Anyway, some more succint questions might be:
  • Is competition required for a free market?
  • Does price fixing among supposed competitors interfere with a free market?

It may be true that governmental efforts to control monopolies generally do more harm than good, but is this really relevant? The fact that response to a problem is incorrect has no bearing on whether a problem is real or not. 18th century medical efforts to control infectious disease generally did more harm than good. It doesn't follow, however, that infectious disease was therefore not a problem in the 18th century.

CWuestefeld saw 2 prongs in Grorgy's post. I saw two examples in support of his main claim: There is virtually no such thing as a free market. I'd agree with this. Free markets are ideal forms and as such do not, and I'd go so far as to say cannot, exist in the real world. The real questions are: "why would we want them to?" and "how much control do we want the marketplace to have over the rest of our society?" I just don't get the whole "power in the hands of a big government is to be greatly feared, but power in the hands of big corporations is to be much desired" school of thought. (Although somehow it always calls to mind that old Bob Dylan lyric "you just want to be on the side that's winning.") The marketplace is responsive and has its efficiencies. But it's got equally large pitfalls and blind spots as well. Also, speaking of circular arguments, the logic behind this ideology seems to be that our elected officials are not accountable enough to the citizenry, so we must turn the reins of power over to entities that are even less accountable. Huh? huh

To bring things back to the original point, it's clear people must first understand issues in order to act on them in an enlightened way. What's not so clear is the rest of CWuestefeld's equation. The "finite amount of bandwidth" is kind of a bizarre claim, IMHO. I see it as an attempt to justify Google's tactics by taking the old false scarcity created by broadcast journalism and applying it to the Internet, where no such scarcity exists. And let's be clear, we're not talking about charging for the delivery of objective information, we're talking about rates for advertising - the delivery of highly biased information with the specific purpose of promoting a particular agenda.

BTW, Sicko is not advertising. It is propaganda. Propaganda is highly biased and persuasive information with a political intent. Advertising is propaganda with a commercial intent. And Ms. Turner's battle cry is simply "Fight propaganda with advertising!"

Also, CWuestefeld later said:
Quote
If Google does act unethically, then it's certainly our prerogative to take business elsewhere, but we can only do so if we debate the issue.

I'd say we can only do so if a viable alternative to Google exists. And there's the danger of a monopoly. A monopoly is to the marketplace what an autocratic government is to the political space. Absolute power concentrated in too few hands. Millenia of human experience tell us that absolute power is always abused sooner or later, leading to corruption and injustice. The only way to prevent the creation of absolute power in a system is to rig the system so that such power is checked before it arises. In the U.S. we have three branches of government that act (so far, mostly) to prevent absolute power from occurring in the government. There is no such mechanism in place in the free market, except for perhaps the "invisible hand" which I don't believe in. That's why I don't think the free market by itself is sufficient to ensure a just society, and why I'm so leery of turning over the functions essential for the functioning of democracy to the marketplace.

Finally, sorry, but I'm not going to do citations. This isn't a thesis paper or a peer-reviewed journal, it's a discussion (in the Living Room, remember?) My opinions are my own, based on logic and my observations and experience. I try to abide by the rules of reason and civil discourse (no ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments, etc.) but I'm not going to start adding bibliographies to my posts. embarassed
Logged

- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,598



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2007, 05:32:22 PM »

Let me add something i think is important for this discussion:

Most of economic theory seems to be based on the presumption of a fairly rationale (in terms of their self interest) and informed public.

One of my biggest concerns about the world we live in is that the commercial marketplace has their hooks in every level of power in our society, and is set up to distributed advertising/propaganda/misleading information in an incredibly effective fashion, and leveraging every innate weakness of the human psyche.

In such a situation, it's my belief that the normal controls that a "free marketplace" might excercise are ineffective in practice.  You don't get the benefits of democracy if most of your population is not informed about the issues.
Logged
Cpilot
Charter Honorary Member
***
Posts: 293



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #21 on: July 13, 2007, 06:16:52 PM »

Let me add something i think is important for this discussion:

Most of economic theory seems to be based on the presumption of a fairly rationale (in terms of their self interest) and informed public.

One of my biggest concerns about the world we live in is that the commercial marketplace has their hooks in every level of power in our society, and is set up to distributed advertising/propaganda/misleading information in an incredibly effective fashion, and leveraging every innate weakness of the human psyche.

In such a situation, it's my belief that the normal controls that a "free marketplace" might excercise are ineffective in practice.  You don't get the benefits of democracy if most of your population is not informed about the issues.
The tools for the population to be informed are already out there if that population chooses to be informed.
The problem isn't different companies trying to spin favorable opinions about their products, they exist to make money. It's no different than when someone goes to a job interview and inflates their resume' to spin their abilities in a more favorable way, how many times you think someone would hire you if you emphasize your negative characteristics?.
The problem is the decline in critical thinking skills, the ability to determine absolutes with society emphasizing relative thinking over logic.

If someone feels that a product, service or idea is garbage they are put into a position to defend that feeling by others who are always pushing to "see it from another angle".
The problem is looking at issues from a relative position, no one nowadays is allowed to have an absolute opinion on anything.
People are susceptible to marketing because society is wishy-washy.

« Last Edit: July 13, 2007, 06:22:02 PM by Cpilot » Logged
Grorgy
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 820

see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2007, 06:26:27 PM »

Im interested in how you can satisfactorily discuss economics in more than a very theoretical sense if you remove issues of public policy.  It seems to me that the 'laboroatory' for the 'science of economics' is the real world, and in that real world it is public policy which to a large degree determines what will happen in economic policy.
Logged
Lashiec
Member
**
Posts: 2,374


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2007, 06:34:08 PM »

I should mention that although PR departments in big companies are full of liars, some of the blame should be put on the people for believing downright lies (that's what all ads are about). Sometimes it's because of simple ignorance, but most it's caused by lack of time to properly weight all the alternatives. Media should be doing this job, but they need money to survive, and they lost objectivism time ago. Individuals on the Internet have to cover this hole, but unlike the people around DC, some of them are not trustable anymore. Consumer organizations are also a good, objective group (at least in Spain).

But what do you expect considering the people in charge of everything are being taught the wrong things? The first thing they taught me about economics is that companies pursue the ultimate objective of making the best products of the market. The teacher almost kicked me out of the class, because I was laughing so hard embarassed

Good opinions, everyone. My rhetoric can't compete with your well-thought opinions. And to think we are (theoretically) just a bunch of software fanatics Grin
Logged
alxwz
Charter Member
***
Posts: 115


View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2007, 06:40:08 PM »

Let me add something i think is important for this discussion:
Most of economic theory seems to be based on the presumption of a fairly rationale (in terms of their self interest) and informed public.
That's not necessarily correct. Only the most basic economic theories are based on such assumptions, and most economists are well aware that this is a crude way of modeling. There are a lot of economic theories that deal with informational asymetries (like the principal-agent theory), different risk aversions, non-rational choice and the like. But AFAICT (it's been quite a while since dealt with that stuff at university, and my curriculum only included parts of economics then) there is no unified theory to wrap all this into a big picture. The problem is, IMHO, that some people generalize the most primitive theories to help them pursue their agenda and their real (hidden) interests.
One of my biggest concerns about the world we live in is that the commercial marketplace has their hooks in every level of power in our society, and is set up to distributed advertising/propaganda/misleading information in an incredibly effective fashion, and leveraging every innate weakness of the human psyche.
In such a situation, it's my belief that the normal controls that a "free marketplace" might excercise are ineffective in practice.  You don't get the benefits of democracy if most of your population is not informed about the issues.
This point of view is pretty much mainstream in most parts of Europe (at least Western and Central Europe), and most people here agree that there has to be a strong "social" component in economy and society, and that effective controls have to be in place to regulate the "free marketplace". The problem is that there has been a lot of pressure lately from the U.S. (and globalization in general) to abandon all those social "hurdles". Life has become a lot tougher here over the last 10-20 years.
Wrt advertising, I'd like to say that I'm pretty fed up with all the aggressive advertising everywhere nowadays.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Up
  Reply  |  New Topic  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  
   Forum Home   Thread Marks Chat! Downloads Search Login Register  

DonationCoder.com | About Us
DonationCoder.com Forum | Powered by SMF
[ Page time: 0.066s | Server load: 0.08 ]