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Old 11-07-2011, 01:37 AM
db63 db63 is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 117
Default Re: The Big Interview (Karl Smith & Kelly Evans)

Originally Posted by db63 View Post
That was needlessly snarky. I apologize for the tone, as this was actually an interesting talk.

I think you can remove the social scientific/economics jargon and rephrase your problem in the following way (let me know if I'm wrong): People assume (with regards policy choice) that bearing costs today to put off future suffering is objectively "better" (value judgment) that putting off these costs. (n.b.: I wouldn't say this is actually how people talk about policy, as it seems that the major republican intellectual claim about climate change legislation is that the cost is too high for us to make policy changes that could theoretically effect the future climate.) But, you're saying that in actuality certain costs that we could incur today to make a better tomorrow are not actually worth it because, as Keynes said, in the long run we're all dead.

The problem, as I see it, is that this is ultimately (as you implied) a question of values. My given values may differ from yours, etc. And the issue of values is a problem that the social sciences, especially economics, cannot solve. That is to say, I don't see how you could ever demonstrably prove something "wrong" (it seems that you are implying there is a level of human suffering that cannot justify sacrifice today for tomorrow. But where you place this line is ultimately arbitrary). I am not trying to be a value relativist, but I am just pointing out that you seem to imply an economic definition to what is ultimately a philosophical problem that the discipline of economics isn't fit to solve. It seems that you would have to accept the academic division of labor here and perhaps turn to other disciplines, likely philosophy, to address the value-issues you're discussing.
I was unclear when I said "that was needlessly snarky." I was referring to my first post; Professor Smith's response was not snarky at all, but was polite and put me in my place. Jaron Lanier was right--snarkiness just degrades conversation.
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