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March 12, 2007

The Mahdi

Mbunting does seem to get a little confused here. Dawkins, Hayek, Buchanan, all are simply preaching selfishness and as this doesn't accord with the altruistic society she  would prefer then we should all do something different. Apparently.

That all three are rather explaining why a certain method of organising society doesn't work seems to escape her. They're not preaching that selfishness is good, all point to altruistic behaviour. What they are saying is that if people have power over others they're likely to act in selfish ways. So, in order to have the more altrusitic society that the Mahdi wants we need to have fewer concentrations of such power, devolve decisions to individuals: exactly the opposite of what she usually argues for.

March 12, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink


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Anyone know if it's possible to get hold of a transcript? I was trying to count the number of times Curtis intoned the word 'mathematical' as if it had been invented by the Space Lizards.

BTW, Bunting has clearly never read Dawkins, Hayek or Adam Smith. Curtis should never have read R.D.Laing. Neither of them understand Game Theory - Curtis claimed it had originated as an attempt to describe poker. Von Neumann liked to play poker, as it happens, but that's just silly.

Posted by: David Jones | Mar 12, 2007 6:25:13 PM

Curtis's documentary was depressingly ignorant and stupid, made more so by so many previewers and commentators talking about how 'profound' and 'deep' it was.

The notion of mathematical modelling of the pursuit of self-interest does not begin with Nash, but with the develoipment of neoclassical economics through the nineteenth century. Nash's insight was how to extend this modelling to situations in which peoples' actions affect one another (as opposed to just providing an unchanging background against which people optimise). It was taken up by cold war strategists, but also and quite independently by economists (and others). So to describe this form of economic modelling as a relic of the Cold War is doubly nonsense. If the Cold War had never happened, this mathematical advance would presumably have taken place around the same time (it is, like the best advances, obvious in retrospect) and would have been taken up by economists.

Oh, and there is a world of difference between an equilibrium concept in a mathematical model and any kind of recommendation for how people should behave. The implication of the programme was 'Nash was paranoid and this theory is about people behaving badly, so it's a paranoid theory'. Insulting and stupid. It's maths, just maths.

So I thought Curtis was intellectually lazy. But that's nothing compared to Maddy herself, who gets to write up a television programme almost verbatim and gets paid for it!

Posted by: Erasmus | Mar 12, 2007 8:14:06 PM

The Grdnuiaa certainly specialises in dim broads.

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 13, 2007 12:11:14 AM