Television

9 May, 2022 at 14:07 | Posted in Politics & Society | 1 Comment

Tid är en bristvara i tv. Om man likväl ––som så ofta nu för tiden — använder dyrbar sändningstid till struntsaker och menlös ”underhållning” måste det finnas ett skäl. Televisionen är — fortfarande — för en stor del av befolkningen en viktig källa till information och världsbild. Att fylla ut programtablåer med trivialiteter blir därför ett effektivt medel att — istället för att fungera som ett effektivt instrument för åsiktsbildning och reflektion — tränga undan viktig information som medborgarna skulle kunna använda för att utöva och utveckla sina demokratiska förmågor.

Bäst i test | SVT PlayTelevisionen skapar via sin personfixering och banaliserande fokusering på allehanda ‘affärer’ en dålig grogrund för verklig kunskapsspridning. Istället för seriös opinionsbildning får vi demagogiska program där snabbtänkta tyckmyckentrutar med lätt kunskapsbagage får breda ut sig om allt och inget, men speciellt om sådant som de ingenting vet. Brådska är legio och utrymme för tanke litet, så det gäller att snabbt servera den färdigtuggade kultursnabbmaten i förhoppningen att åskadrna inte ska känna behov av egen tankeverksamhet. Och alltyckarna är alltid lika redo att haspla ur sig något klatschigt och käckt svar på programledarnas alltid lika omöjliga frågor.

Eller så har vi nyhets- och ‘debatt’program där kompetenta forskare och sakkunniga under tjugo sekunder försöka göra sin röst hörd när en narcissistiskt självbespeglande programledare ständigt avbryter och tar ordet ur munnen på dem. Att bara föra ett lugnt och bildat samtal duger minsann inte i vår tids tv-sända gladiatorspel. Finns inga meningsmotsättningar snickras de snabbt ihop så att ett fiktivt meningsutbyte kan äga rum inför tv-kamerorna. Och trots att de ofta inte får säga något ställer ‘experterna’ upp vecka efter vecka. Tydligen är man beredd till vilka förödmjukelser som helst bara för att få synas och mingla på tv-parnassens estrad.

Tv-tittande har blivit ett av vår tids populäraste legala sedativ. Från arbetslivets stress och otrygghet kommer vi hem till den konstlade tryggheten i tv:s ställföreträdande av våra liv. När vi inte själva orkar leva våra liv kopplar vi upp oss på tv:n. Där får vi i karikerad form ett återsken av det liv vi kunnat leva. För att inte gå under i enstöringens andliga vanmakt anpassar vi oss. Antingen hänger du förbehållslöst med eller så blir du oeftergivligt avhängd. Ve den som inte kan delta i dagen–efter–snacket om kvällen–före–avsnittet av det senaste “spring-och-lek-programmet”! Därför sitter vi där, dag efter dag, av rädsla för att kanske gå miste om något. Vi vet inte vad, men något måste det vara och den som inte tittar riskerar alltid att gå miste om det.

I tv-rutan odlas framgångsmyten och förverkligas våra önskedrömmar. Tv sanktionerar kravet på smörja genom knäsättandet av den totala harmonin. ”Ge folk vad folk vill ha”. Det vill säga låt folk få den tv som tv själv frambesvurit. Konformismens credo — ständig upprepning och imitation — reproducerar ständigt samma krimskrams.

Tv-underhållning har blivit en förlängning av arbetet där verklighetens efterbildningar ska ge oss ny ork. Dess falskhet är till för att vi som åskådare ska kunna värja oss från vår egen. Vår förtvivlan blir i tv-seriernas värld ett löfte om en — trots allt — fortsatt framtid. Verklig tragik upplöses i ett intet. Mänsklig kontakt blir ytlig beröring. Djup blir glättig yta. Television har blivit vår tids känsloindustri, där djupa mänskliga emotioner omvandlas till varor som via etern kan köpas och säljas. Allt ska hämningslöst levas ut. Att följden av att ständigt matas med falska känslor blir en utarmning av våra själsliv och svårigheter att känna igen äkta känslor oroar inte medieindustrin och dess apologeter.

Människor och mänsklighet reduceras till ett maskeradspel av stereotyp förljugenhet där endast överdriften är sann. Världen och verkligheten måste till varje pris filtreras genom såpornas sammanhangslösa ordning. På så vis skapas illusionen att verkligheten är en förlängning av det artificiella liv som utspelas på tv-skärmen. I tv-serierna förverkligas postmodernisternas avskaffande av individen i form av de pseudoindivider som flimrar förbi på rutan.

De numera massproducera tv-serierna — löpande bandsprincipens senaste inkarnation — är ett sätt att fly undan vardagen med syntetiska dagdrömmar där förespeglad tillfredsställelse ska kompensera verklig försakelse. Med televisionens och strömningstjänsternas aldrig sinande utbud av smörja har kulturen avsvurit sig sin autonomi för att – som Adorno och Horkheimer uttrycker det – ”stolt inordna sig bland konsumtionsartiklarna.” De är ett av de synliga tecknen på bildningens barbariska förfall i den globala kulturmarknadens kolonisering av vår livsvärld.

Tv behöver inte längre utges för att vara kultur. Att den inte är något annat än geschäft används i själva verket som legitimitet för den hänsynslöst nivellerande smörja som tillhandahålls dess tittare.

Televisionens programutbud har i stort blivit ett system av icke-kultur — ”ett stiliserat barbari” — som bara i liten utsträckning skiljer sig från reklamfilm. I själva verket är det väl så att många upplever den kommersiella televisionens reklamavbrott som en befriande andhämtning från alla de fördummande lek- och frågeprogram och andra sopor som vi förorenar mediet med.

Att som yours truly våga kritisera televisionen bannlyses som förhävelse från den som tror sig bättre än andra. Televisionens apologeter ser på sin produkt som folkets kultur befriad från onödig och skrymmande estetik och etik. Kritisk distans är bara kultursnobberi. Vad som ovillkorligen måste motarbetas är den tänkande människan. Att utveckla egen tankeverksamhet är farligt. Mångfald får bli enfald. Och skapande och kritiskt tänkande ersättas av passivt och avhumaniserande konsumerande.

Underhållning är verkligen flykt, men inte som den själv påstår flykt från en tröstlös verklighet utan från den sista tanke på motstånd som denna verklighet ännu rymmer.

Max Horkheimer & Theodor W Adorno

Enlightenment and mathematics

9 May, 2022 at 09:27 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 6 Comments

Dialectic of Enlightenment (Cultural Memory in the Present) - Kindle  edition by Horkheimer, Max, Adorno, Theodor W., Noeri, Gunzelin Schmid,  Jephcott, Edmund. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.When in mathematics the unknown becomes the unknown quantity in an equation, it is made into something long familiar before any value has been assigned. Nature, before and after quantum theory, is what can be registered mathematically; even what cannot be assimilated, the insoluble and irrational, is fenced in by mathematical theorems. In the preemptive identification of the thoroughly mathematized world with truth, enlightenment believes itself safe from the return of the mythical. It equates thought with mathematics. The latter is thereby cut loose, as it were, turned into an absolute authority …

The reduction of thought to a mathematical apparatus condemns the world to be its own measure. What appears as the triumph of subjectivity, the subjection of all existing things to logical formalism, is bought with the obedient subordination of reason to what is immediately at hand. To grasp existing things as such, not merely to note their abstract spatial-temporal relationships, by which they can then be seized, but, on the contrary, to think of them as surface, as mediated conceptual moments which are only fulfilled by revealing their social, historical, and human meaning—this whole aspiration of knowledge is abandoned. Knowledge does not consist in mere perception, classification, and calculation but precisely in the determining negation of whatever is directly at hand. Instead of such negation, mathematical formalism, whose medium, number, is the most abstract form of the immediate, arrests thought at mere immediacy. The actual is validated, knowledge confines itself to repeating it, thought makes itself mere tautology. The more completely the machinery of thought subjugates existence, the more blindly it is satisfied with reproducing it. Enlightenment thereby regresses to the mythology it has never been able to escape …

The subsumption of the actual, whether under mythical prehistory or under mathematical formalism, the symbolic relating of the present to the mythical event in the rite or to the abstract category in science, makes the new appear as something predetermined which therefore is really the old. It is not existence that is without hope, but knowledge which appropriates and perpetuates existence as a schema in the pictorial or mathematical symbol.

En plats i mitt hjärta (personal)

7 May, 2022 at 14:53 | Posted in Varia | Leave a comment

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Sankt Pauli mellersta kyrkogård i Malmö är en plats som, sedan flytten tillbaka till Malmö efter femtio år, kommit att betyda mycket för yours truly. Hit söker jag mig gärna för långa promenader med min hund, men också många gånger för att söka vilsam kontemplation ‘far from the madding crowd’. En lisa för själen.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,

   Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;

Along the cool sequester’d vale of life

   They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,

   Some frail memorial still erected nigh,

With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,

   Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Julian Assange et la liberté de la presse

7 May, 2022 at 10:57 | Posted in Politics & Society | Leave a comment

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Economics phrasebook

7 May, 2022 at 08:53 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

In 1990, two economics PhD students at the University of Chicago, Jeffrey Smith and Kermit Daniel … composed “Economics to Sociology Phrase Book” in order, as they put it, “to help economists adjust their way of speaking in a manner that will make it comprehensible to Sociologists” … Concerning economics terminology, by the way, one can see that not much has changed since then.

Oleg Komlik

economics sociology phrasebook

Nationalekonomiska föreningens årsmöte

6 May, 2022 at 18:37 | Posted in Varia | Leave a comment

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Economic modelling

4 May, 2022 at 16:19 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

A couple of years ago, Paul Krugman had a piece up on his blog arguing that the ‘discipline of modeling’ is a sine qua non for tackling politically and emotionally charged economic issues:

economist-nakedIn my experience, modeling is a helpful tool (among others) in avoiding that trap, in being self-aware when you’re starting to let your desired conclusions dictate your analysis. Why? Because when you try to write down a model, it often seems to lead some place you weren’t expecting or wanting to go. And if you catch yourself fiddling with the model to get something else out of it, that should set off a little alarm in your brain.

So when ‘modern’ mainstream economists use their models — standardly assuming rational expectations, Walrasian market clearing, unique equilibria, time invariance, linear separability and homogeneity of both inputs/outputs and technology, infinitely lived intertemporally optimizing representative agents with homothetic and identical preferences, etc. — and standardly ignoring complexity, diversity, uncertainty, coordination problems, non-market clearing prices, real aggregation problems, emergence, expectations formation, etc. — we are supposed to believe that this somehow helps them ‘to avoid motivated reasoning that validates what you want to hear.’

Yours truly is, to say the least, far from convinced. The alarm that sets off in my brain is that this, rather than being helpful for understanding real-world economic issues, is more of an ill-advised plaidoyer for voluntarily taking on a methodological straight-jacket of unsubstantiated and known to be false assumptions.

Let me just give two examples to illustrate my point.

In 1817 David Ricardo presented — in Principles — a theory that was meant to explain why countries trade and, based on the concept of opportunity cost, how the pattern of export and import is ruled by countries exporting goods in which they have a comparative advantage and importing goods in which they have a comparative disadvantage.

Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, however, didn’t explain why the comparative advantage was the way it was. At the beginning of the 20th century, two Swedish economists — Eli Heckscher and Bertil Ohlin — presented a theory/model/theorem according to which the comparative advantages arose from differences in factor endowments between countries. Countries have comparative advantages in producing goods that use up production factors that are most abundant in the different countries. Countries would a fortiori mostly export goods that used the abundant factors of production and import goods that mostly used factors of productions that were scarce.

The Heckscher-Ohlin theorem — as do the elaborations on in it by e.g. Vanek, Stolper and Samuelson — builds on a series of restrictive and unrealistic assumptions. The most critically important — besides the standard market-clearing equilibrium assumptions — are

(1) Countries use identical production technologies.

(2) Production takes place with constant returns to scale technology.

(3) Within countries the factor substitutability is more or less infinite.

(4) Factor prices are equalised (the Stolper-Samuelson extension of the theorem).

These assumptions are, as almost all empirical testing of the theorem has shown, totally unrealistic. That is, they are empirically false. 

That said, one could indeed wonder why on earth anyone should be interested in applying this theorem to real-world situations. Like so many other mainstream mathematical models taught to economics students today, this theorem has very little to do with the real world.

From a methodological point of view, one can, of course, also wonder, how we are supposed to evaluate tests of a theorem building on known to be false assumptions. What is the point of such tests? What can those tests possibly teach us? From falsehoods, anything logically follows.

Modern (expected) utility theory is a good example of this. Leaving the specification of preferences without almost any restrictions whatsoever, every imaginable evidence is safely made compatible with the all-embracing ‘theory’ — and a theory without informational content never risks being empirically tested and found falsified. Used in mainstream economics ‘thought experimental’ activities, it may of course be very ‘handy’, but totally void of any empirical value.

Utility theory has like so many other economic theories morphed into an empty theory of everything. And a theory of everything explains nothing — just as Gary Becker’s ‘economics of everything’ it only makes nonsense out of economic science.

Some people have trouble with the fact that by allowing false assumptions mainstream economists can generate whatever conclusions they want in their models. But that’s really nothing very deep or controversial. What I’m referring to is the well-known ‘principle of explosion,’ according to which if both a statement and its negation are considered true, any statement whatsoever can be inferred.

poppWhilst tautologies, purely existential statements and other nonfalsifiable statements assert, as it were, too little about the class of possible basic statements, self-contradictory statements assert too much. From a self-contradictory statement, any statement whatsoever can be validly deduced. Consequently, the class of its potential falsifiers is identical with that of all possible basic statements: it is falsified by any statement whatsoever.

On the question of tautology, I think it is only fair to say that the way axioms and theorems are formulated in mainstream (neoclassical) economics, they are often made tautological and informationally totally empty.

Using false assumptions, mainstream modellers can derive whatever conclusions they want. Wanting to show that ‘all economists consider austerity to be the right policy,’ just e.g. assume ‘all economists are from Chicago’ and ‘all economists from Chicago consider austerity to be the right policy.’  The conclusions follow by deduction — but is of course factually totally wrong. Models and theories building on that kind of reasoning are nothing but a pointless waste of time.

Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique

2 May, 2022 at 18:38 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 1 Comment

I always found Foucault’s work frustrating to read. His empirical accounts are interesting and some of his concepts fruitful – disciplinary power, capillary power, surveillance, technologies of the self, the entrepreneur of the self, for example – and he was prescient about neoliberalism, but his theoretical reasoning is often confused. His attempts to define power, and his unacknowledged slippage between different concepts of truth in The History of Sexuality Part I are examples …

Andrew Sayer - SASEFoucault’s accounts of the social world have a generally ominous tone, but they fail to identify what is bad and why, so one is left wanting to write ‘so what?’ in the margin. Thus, sociologists of health sciences inspired by him would often describe certain practices as involving the ‘medicalization’ of certain conditions without saying whether this was appropriate or inappropriate, or good or bad, and why. If we don’t know whether people are harmed or benefitted by a practice, then we don’t know much about it; cryptonormative accounts of social life are also deficient as descriptions.

Actually, the problem goes beyond Foucault: self-styled critical social science has often failed to explore in any depth the normative issues concerning what is bad about the objects of its critiques, as if it could rely on readers reading between the lines in the desired way. This was an effect of the unhappy divorce of positive and normative thought in social science. Tellingly, Foucault invoked the is-ought framework to defend his refusal of normativity, saying that it was not his job to tell people what to do, as if normativity were primarily about instructions rather than evaluations. While post-structuralism did provide novel insights, the combination of its resistance to normativity (as reducible to the limitation of possibilities through ‘normalizing’) and its anti-humanism (‘humanist’ became another sneer term) also made social science less critical.

Andrew Sayer (interviewed by Jamie Morgan)

Spirit in the Sky (personal)

1 May, 2022 at 17:58 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Spirit in the Sky (personal)

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Marcel Proust hade sin Madeleinekaka. Jag har musiken. Den här låten är för mig alltid förknippad med sommarminnen på 70-talet från Hästveda och Luhrsjön, där jag och kompisen Johan (Ehrenberg) brukade spela flipper vid strandcaféet och den här låten gick varm på jukeboxen. Minnen som fortfarande värmer och som glömskan inte rår på.

Problems with Propensity Score Matching (wonkish)

30 Apr, 2022 at 14:42 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Problems with Propensity Score Matching (wonkish)

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Neues von Gerhard Schröder

30 Apr, 2022 at 10:16 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Neues von Gerhard Schröder

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Statistical inference and sampling assumptions

28 Apr, 2022 at 12:55 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Statistical inference and sampling assumptions

Convenience Sample Grab Accidental Samplingor Opportunity Stockvektor  (royaltyfri) 1612664491Real probability samples have two great benefits: (i) they allow unbiased extrapolation from the sample; (ii) with data internal to the sample, it is possible to estimate how much results are likely to change if another sample is taken. These benefits, of course, have a price: drawing probability samples is hard work. An investigator who assumes that a convenience sample is like a random sample seeks to obtain the benefits without the costs—just on the basis of assumptions. If scrutinized, few convenience samples would pass muster as the equivalent of probability samples. Indeed, probability sampling is a technique whose use is justified because it is so unlikely that social processes will generate representative samples. Decades of survey research have demonstrated that when a probability sample is desired, probability sampling must be done. Assumptions do not suffice. Hence, our first recommendation for research practice: whenever possible, use probability sampling.

If the data-generation mechanism is unexamined, statistical inference with convenience samples risks substantial error. Bias is to be expected and independence is problematic. When independence is lacking, the p-values produced by conventional formulas can be grossly misleading. In general, we think that reported p-values will be too small; in the social world, proximity seems to breed similarity. Thus, many research results are held to be statistically significant when they are the mere product of chance variation.

Richard Berk & David Freedman

In econometrics one often gets the feeling that many of its practitioners think of it as a kind of automatic inferential machine: input data and out comes casual knowledge. This is like pulling a rabbit from a hat. Great — but first you have to put the rabbit in the hat. And this is where assumptions come into the picture.

The assumption of imaginary ‘super populations’ is one of many dubious assumptions used in modern econometrics and statistical analyses to handle uncertainty. As social scientists — and economists — we have to confront the all-important question of how to handle uncertainty and randomness. Should we define randomness with probability? If we do, we have to accept that to speak of randomness we also have to presuppose the existence of nomological probability machines, since probabilities cannot be spoken of – and actually, to be strict, do not at all exist – without specifying such system-contexts. Accepting a domain of probability theory and sample space of infinite populations also implies that judgments are made on the basis of observations that are actually never made!

Infinitely repeated trials or samplings never take place in the real world. So that cannot be a sound inductive basis for a science with aspirations of explaining real-world socio-economic processes, structures or events. It’s not tenable.

And as if this wasn’t enough, one could — as we’ve seen — also seriously wonder what kind of ‘populations’ these statistical and econometric models ultimately are based on. Why should we as social scientists — and not as pure mathematicians working with formal-axiomatic systems without the urge to confront our models with real target systems — unquestioningly accept models based on concepts like the ‘infinite super populations’ used in e.g. the ‘potential outcome’ framework that has become so popular lately in social sciences?

One could, of course, treat observational or experimental data as random samples from real populations. I have no problem with that (although it has to be noted that most ‘natural experiments’ are not based on random sampling from some underlying population — which, of course, means that the effect-estimators, strictly seen, only are unbiased for the specific groups studied). But probabilistic econometrics does not content itself with that kind of populations. Instead, it creates imaginary populations of ‘parallel universes’ and assume that our data are random samples from that kind of  ‘infinite super populations.’

But this is actually nothing else but hand-waving! And it is inadequate for real science. As David Freedman writes:

freedWith this approach, the investigator does not explicitly define a population that could in principle be studied, with unlimited resources of time and money. The investigator merely assumes that such a population exists in some ill-defined sense. And there is a further assumption, that the data set being analyzed can be treated as if it were based on a random sample from the assumed population. These are convenient fictions … Nevertheless, reliance on imaginary populations is widespread. Indeed regression models are commonly used to analyze convenience samples … The rhetoric of imaginary populations is seductive because it seems to free the investigator from the necessity of understanding how data were generated.

In social sciences — including economics — it’s always wise to ponder C. S. Peirce’s remark that universes are not as common as peanuts …

Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone

27 Apr, 2022 at 23:51 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone

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Nils Frahm — Some

27 Apr, 2022 at 23:22 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Nils Frahm — Some

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Fisher’s exact test (student stuff)

27 Apr, 2022 at 08:44 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Fisher’s exact test (student stuff)

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