Timesizing® Associates
©2006 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing.com Party, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

For Linguists

Our background audience here at The Timesizing.com Party is linguists, because they supply our basic research method. Let's add constructivism and introduce this audience with and to a series of questions. Can Chomsky's version of Occam's Razor be applied to economics? Chomsky said the better of two grammars is the one that accounts for the same amount of linguistic data with fewer rules. How can we translate that into economese? How define the better of two economic grammars, alias core designs, alias paradigm systems? For example, the better of two paradigm systems in economic theory is the one that explains the same amount (or more) of economic phenomena with a simpler paradigm structure. In short, it abides by Bucky Fuller's dictum, "Do more with less."

Some of the articles about the recent death of John Kenneth ("Ken") Galbraith have illuminated this approach. Ken pit intimidatingly felicitous language against the intimidating econometrics of the rest of the economics profession; he "worried about the excessive confidence of his more mathematical colleagues." (From Richard Parker's article, "Unconventional - The Real John Kenneth Galbraith," on p. E1, Boston Globe 5/07/2006.) Phil Hyde was almost as leary of Ken's fine language as he was of the others' premature and unfocused jumps to quantification (but then Phil went too far the other way = nerdic clarity). So Ken spent his life reaching for a simpler paradigm structure in economics, but like his predecessor in maverick economics, Thorstein Veblen, and like Einstein in physics, Ken never quite found that simpler paradigm. Phil found it but hasn't quite articulated it or or published the authoritative version. This website is articulating, polishing, and publishing the version under construction.

Let's have another go at it here on this webpage. In "American Capitalism" (1952), Ken focused on a number of valuable phenomena, like balance and power - his concept of "countervailing power" combined both. Did Ken ever notice or write about the kind of power that Malcolm Muggeridge mentioned in his article, "The Queen and I" (p. 277 in Tread Softly for You Tread on my Jokes, 1966): "Some years ago I wrote an article in the Saturday Evening Post on the English Monarchy. It aroused, at the time, a good deal of controversy and abuse.... The deadly solemnity with which my article was received, and the furious indignation it generated, made me feel that the Monarchy, at any rate as a social phenomenon, deserved to be taken more seriously than I had previously supposed. Nothing is more illustrative of the true nature of society than a brush...with its manipulators. One sees then, in terms of a personal experience, how Lenin's famous axiom - who [is doing it to] whom? - really works. The actual flywheels and pistons are discerned beneath the machine's quiet, reassuring hum." Or was Ken himself so much a part of the American aristocracy that this level of repression was invisible to him. Indeed, it merges easily into the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis: your language (including your job dialect) determines, and constrains. the class of ideas that you can get and imaginings that you can do. (Unless you're particularly good at at finding and filling gaps in paradigms, we would add, and indeed finding paradigms in the first place, based on all kinds of unorthodox methods: not just morphological {eg: seniority vs. *juniority} and semantic {eg: volume vs. area vs. *line}, but phonological {ie: from puns like "you can lead a whore to culture..."} and etymological {magnus/quantus = parvus/*quarvus}.)

As to Ken's concept of countervailing power, he "gave us [t]his concept...as America's proper goal" (Parker, ibid.) or, one presumes, the proper goal of any well-designed national (or global) economy. But power without purpose is trivial, so what is that power for? Did Ken ask that question? (At any rate, here's a sample answer.)

Ken believed that markets and governments "must work together for the larger good" (Parker, ibid.), but did he ever define their respective roles or realms? (Sample answer: the market handles "per job" variables, like money per job alias wages, and the government handles "per person" variables, like money per person alias income per person or wealth per person). Did Ken ever characterize their respective roles? (Sample answers: government defines the framework of the market by identifying, and refereeing the adjustment of, the currently appropriate variable for power concentration/centrifugation, and the market defines and adjusts variables within that framework, such as prices and wages and interest. Or, government establishes or adjusts the slope or power-gradient of the playing field - for example, keeping it level enough to prevent the intensity and speed of concentration from sucking the whole system into a kind of economic black hole - and the market determines the plays, given that slope. Or in game theory, government establishes the ground rules of the game and the market determines the moves and rewards of the players based on those ground rules.)

Might Ken's concept of countervailing power, had it been phrased less impressively (eg: "balanced powers"), have led him to connect with the phrase "self-balancing power" and to design a welcome homeostatic feature into the economic structure. (We know he did not simply assume, with classical economists, that the market is completely self-balancing anyway.) But then, did he ever focus on, or even come up with, the concept of economic design? If he did, he may also have come up with the idea of basing one's economic design project on nature's design principles, or specifically, ecological design principles, since ecologese is the most likely candidate to replace economese. (In his article, Parker defines power as "that elusive juncture of politics, economics, sociology, psychology, and history" - did he ever think of asking whether this 5-set paradigm of social sciences could be arranged in chronological order based on each of their focuses? (Our sample sequence prefaces the series with a social science that's missing from Parker's list, anthropology, and identifies his psychology as the first, balance-seeking period in a follow-up ecological age.)

Ken saw countervailing power in terms of "big corporations balanced by strong unions, big producers by big retailers (for consumers, better that Wal-Mart face off against Proctor & Gamble [P&G] than hapless mom-and-pop stores)." (Parker, ibid.) Did Ken ever ask what underlay union strength, if there was to be any? (Sample answer: employer-perceived labor shortage.) Did he ever ask the identity of the key control variable for harnessing market forces on the side of labor to balance the naturally more concentrated power of management? (Sample answer: worktime per time unit per person alias, for example, the workweek - but worktime is notoriously difficult to stay focused on because time is such a pervasive, background-blended and misunderstood variable. See our paradigmatic definition.)

Did Ken ever ask how unions could stay strong? (Sample answer, resume focus above all on shorter hours, as unions had for the 100-150 years prior to 1940 when the workweek became frozen in concrete.) Did Ken not foresee an overriding natural alliance between P&G and Wal-Mart that would gradually, invisibly, short-sightedly weaken the consumer base upon which they both depended - and to which a proliferation of small mom-and-pop corporations (with "inefficient" employment) contributed much more than a concentration of automated and robotized giant corporations? Hapless (ie: powerless) they may be, but mom-and-pop stores in their multitudes add a lot more "inefficient" but vitally necessary employment-wages-spending to the consumer base than giants like P&G and cancerous mega-retailers like Wal-Mart, whose constant assumption appears to be that the consumer base (and the forests, and the fisheries, and ocean purity, and the groundwater, and the ozone layer...) are infinite and undamageable.

At least we know that Ken (and Parker apparently) had asked and answered several preliminary questions that linguists might ask, such as, are there job dialects within English that enable, for example, truckers and lawyers to say the same thing in totally different words? (Sample answer: yes.) Are there, among these job dialects, power dialects; that is, vocabularies used by those among whom power is concentrated? (Sample answer: yes, certain professional jargons, for example, economese, politicese, ecologese.) Do these power dialects change under long-term social evolution? (Sample answer: yes.) What is the power dialect of the current age? By selecting economics as his profession, Ken implicitly answered this question: economese. Given that succesive ages of social evolution are messy and overlapping, what power dialect is economese replacing? (Sample answer: politicese.) What power dialect is most likely beginning to replace economese for civilizations that will continue in the long term? (Sample answer: ecologese.)

For more details, our laypersons' handbook Timesizing, Not Downsizing is available at bookstores in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass. or from *Amazon.com online.

Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.

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