The Market as Information Aggregator

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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Tue Sep 15, 2015 1:06 am

Carleas wrote:I think ... we're using very different definitions of efficiency, we should be able to agree on many human systems less efficient than the market (war is one that comes to my mind).

War has much to do with the market and is one of the most profitable businesses, probably the most profitable business.

And:

Arminius wrote:By the way:

A "free market" means an absolute free market. That's logical, even tautological. The "liberal humans" want a "free market". - Okay, here is one:

Image Image

....
=>#

Carleas wrote:Population is already starting to level off:
Image

No. Besides the fact that your picture shows projections the world population is still growing:

Arminius wrote:The change of the world poulation from 1950 to 2100:

Image

Link to the source.
=>#

Right now, in this moment, as I write this sentence, the daily increase of the world population is about 230000.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Mon Sep 21, 2015 9:44 pm

Arminius wrote:War has much to do with the market and is one of the most profitable businesses, probably the most profitable business.

I disagree. War is profitable because it externalizes effectively all of the cost, and it is based entirely on rent-seeking. It doesn't create value, and probably the best way to decrease the incidence of war and increase peace is to create markets.

Arminius wrote:A "free market" means an absolute free market. That's logical, even tautological.

I think it is an abuse of language to call the relationship between a lion and a gazelle a "market". And of course, that is not what any economist means when they endorse the market as a tool to improve human well-being. It is central to an idea of a market economy that exchanges are voluntary on the part of both participants. An "absolutely free" market would be one in which any such voluntary exchange would be allowed.

Arminius wrote:No. Besides the fact that your picture shows projections the world population is still growing:...
Right now, in this moment, as I write this sentence, the daily increase of the world population is about 230000.

Sure, but the growth rate is falling, and it's been falling for decades:
Image
That decrease is centered on countries where wealth is highest, as your map corroborates. The developing world population is ballooning because millions of people are being lifted out of poverty. Once their incomes start to resemble those of the poor in the developed world, their growth rate will similarly fall.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Wed Sep 23, 2015 12:32 am

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:War has much to do with the market and is one of the most profitable businesses, probably the most profitable business.

I disagree. War is profitable because it externalizes effectively all of the cost, and it is based entirely on rent-seeking. It doesn't create value, and probably the best way to decrease the incidence of war and increase peace is to create markets.

So you do not disagree, because your arguments are not in disagreement with my argument. War has much to do with the market.

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:A "free market" means an absolutely free market. That's logical, even tautological.

I think it is an abuse of language to call the relationship between a lion and a gazelle a "market".

Nobody said that, Carleas. I said that a "free market" must logically be an "absolutely free market", otherwise it would not be a "free market" but merely either a "relatively free market" or "no market at all". A "free market" is very similar to what we call "nature". Nobody can seriously deny that.

Carleas wrote:And of course, that is not what any economist means when they endorse the market as a tool to improve human well-being.

In a philosophy forum (is ILP a philosophy forum?) the meaning of any economist is not as relevant as you obviously think.

Carleas wrote:It is central to an idea of a market economy that exchanges are voluntary on the part of both participants. An "absolutely free" market would be one in which any such voluntary exchange would be allowed.

Yes - like I said: the "free market" and what we call "nature" are very similar.

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:Besides the fact that your picture shows projections the world population is still growing:...
Right now, in this moment, as I write this sentence, the daily increase of the world population is about 230000.

Sure, but the growth rate is falling, and it's been falling for decades ....

Who said anything different? I, for example, did not say that there was no falling of the growth rate.

Carleas wrote:Image
That decrease is centered on countries where wealth is highest, as your map corroborates. The developing world population is ballooning because millions of people are being lifted out of poverty. Once their incomes start to resemble those of the poor in the developed world, their growth rate will similarly fall.

Your interpretations is vague, because the derivation of economcal data from dermographical data is not always unproblematic. Wealth has also to do with demography, yes, but it does not only depend on demography. The societies with the lowest fertility are not the wealthiest societies:

Image Image
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:26 am

Here is another interesting projection of the world population growth rate:

              b_w_j_w_v_1950_b_2050.gif
              b_w_j_w_v_1950_b_2050.gif (6.19 KiB) Viewed 2244 times
Just thinking about it.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:36 pm

Arminius wrote:So you do not disagree, because your arguments are not in disagreement with my argument. War has much to do with the market.

I do disagree; let me express my disagreement more clearly:
- Government rents are not determined by the market, they act outside the market to incentivize activity that the market would not incentivize.
- Government actors (who by and large wage war) are not market actors; they determine for themselves which costs, if any, they will pay.
Therefore, war does not have much to do with the market.

Arminius wrote:A "free market" is very similar to what we call "nature". Nobody can seriously deny that.

I can and do deny that. A market is based around voluntary exchanges. In "nature", might makes right, there are no property rights, there is no rule of law governing what one can and cannot do. A market depends on both parties to a transaction willingly entering into the transaction, agreeing to it. That is not "nature" in the sense represented by the pictures you posted (to which I was referring in mentioning the lion and the gazelle). If you mean something different by "nature", please clarify. Otherwise, the market, even a very free market, seems very different from nature.

In nature, if I can beat you up, I can take your things.
In a market, if I want your things, I need to give you enough in return to convince you to give your things to me.

Arminius wrote:In a philosophy forum ... the meaning ["market"] of any economist is not as relevant as you obviously think.

But it is still quite relevant. What's the point of discussing a concept and trying to see what follows from it if we aren't going to accurately describe the concept? We could make up a million meanings for "market" to which economists would object, and find the awful consequences of all of them, but none of them would necessarily bear any relationship to the concept of a "free market" as its supporters mean when they invoke that term. Nor, for that matter, would such discussions necessarily have anything to do with the "market" as I mean it when I describe the "market as information aggregator". I'm interested in referring to the "market" that economists are referring to, so the economist's meaning is quite relevant to this discussion.

Arminius wrote:Image

I agree that the relationship between wealth and birth rate does not seem to be one-to-one, but this chart does suggest that, up to a point, lower birth rate is strongly correlated with wealth; this chart indicates that above about $15k in gdp, virtually none of the sampled countries has a birth rate at above the replacement rate. Below about $5k, nearly all of them have birthrates well above it.

I'd argue that the causal relationship is that wealth causes a lower birth rate: as the countries stacked along the left side of the chart gain in wealth (which is a trend we see happening across the developing world), we're likely to see their birthrates fall to developed-world levels.


EDIT: edited for clarity.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:57 pm

Please do not confuse "market" with "free market"!

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:So you do not disagree, because your arguments are not in disagreement with my argument. War has much to do with the market.

I do disagree ...

I disagree. :P

Carleas wrote:... let me express my disagreement more clearly ....

It is not necessary, because the problem has nothing to do with understanding.

Carleas wrote:Government rents are not determined by the market, they act outside the market to incentivize activity that the market would not incentivize.
- Government actors (who by and large wage war) are not market actors; they determine for themselves which costs, if any, they will pay.
Therefore, war does not have much to do with the market.

Wars have much to do with the market. Government actors - as you understand them - are not absolutely free; the decision they make are decisions of their money givers who are market actors and mostly also market rulers. Governement actors depend on their money givers. So one should say that the money givers are the real government actors. What is usually called "government actors" is not much more than a joke. Wars depend on decisions, and those who decide to have war are those who domain and regulate the market, thus also the market of weapons and so on. We do not have a "free market" but merely a relatively free market. If we had a free market, then we would not be modern humans but merely humans of the Stone Age. Since humans know what a market "is" or "could be" they have been regulating it. If one denied that, then this one would not know much about humans, their history, especially the history of the market and the word "market".

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:A "free market" is very similar to what we call "nature". Nobody can seriously deny that.

I can and do deny that. A market is based around voluntary exchanges.

A market is regulated. If the market was not regulated, then it would be free, thus like nature. Economically said, the difference between the so-called "capitalism" and the so-called "communism" is not the market but the regulation degree of the market.

Carleas wrote:In "nature", might makes right, there are no property rights, there is no rule of law governing what one can and cannot do.

And "property rights" mean laws, and laws mean regulated markets, not free markets. Note: My equation was never what you falsely interpreted as such: nature = market. No. I said:
Arminius wrote:A "free market" is very similar to what we call "nature".
Not more and not less that that.

Carleas wrote:A market depends on both parties to a transaction willingly entering into the transaction, agreeing to it.

Therefor you need regulations, thus laws, culture.

Carleas wrote:That is not "nature" in the sense represented by the pictures you posted (to which I was referring in mentioning the lion and the gazelle).

Carleas, you forgot that I did not speak about any similarity of the market and nature but about the similarity of the free (thus: absolutely free!) market and nature.

Carleas wrote:If you mean something different by "nature", please clarify. Otherwise, the market, even a very free market, seems very different from nature.

No. A free market is similar to nature, not the same but similar. But the difference between a free market and a market (as we know it, namely regulated by rules/laws) is bigger than the difference between a free market and nature.

Carleas wrote:In nature, if I can beat you up, I can take your things.

No, because I am more competent (more intelligent, stronger etc.) than you. :P

Thus: It depends on the competence whether one will be successful when it comes to beat another one up and to take another ones things.

Carleas wrote:In a market, if I want your things, I need to give you enough in return to convince you to give your things to me.

Yes, and that is because our market is not a free but a regulated market. Our market is regulated by rules (laws).

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:In a philosophy forum (is ILP a philosophy forum?) the meaning of any economist is not as relevant as you obviously think.

But it is still quite relevant. What's the point of discussing a concept and trying to see what follows from it if we aren't going to accurately characterize that term? We could make up a million meanings for "market" to which economists would object, and find the awful consequences of all of them, but none of them would necessarily bear any relationship to the concept of a "free market" as its supports mean when they invoke that term. Nor, for that matter, would such discussions have anything to do with the "market" as I mean it when I describe the "market as information aggregator".

It is not relevant. This is "ILP" ("I Love Philosophy") and not "ILL" ("I Love Liberalism", also known as "I Love Lies").

Arminius wrote:(1) ILF ("I Love Fun"),
(2) ILG ("I Love Gossip"),
(3) ILL ("I Love Lies"),
(4) ILN 1 ("I love Nietzsche"),
(5) ILN 2 ("I love Nonsense"),
(6) ILN 3 ("I Love Nothing"),
(7) ILP ("I Love Philsophy") (that means: averagely merely 12.5% (1/8) are really interested in philosophy),
(8) ILSC ("I Love Social Criticism").

And by the way: You quoted me falsely. And that is not irrelevant, because the falsely quote leads to a different statement and a different interpretation of that statement. Please do not quote me falsely again.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:26 am

Carleas.

The main difference between us in this discussion is that we have different concepts of a "free market". Your concept of a "free market" is just like the concept of a "market" (= "regulated market"). My concept of a "free market" differs much from the concept of a "regulated market". We have to make a difference between a free market and a regulated narket. If we have rules (laws) for a market, then that market is already a regulated market, but if we have no single rule (law) for a market, then that market is a free market, thus similar to nature: "A" is more competent (more intelligent or/and stronger ... and so on) than "B"; so "A" beats up "B" and takes "B's" things.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Mr Reasonable » Thu Sep 24, 2015 1:32 am

What is it that distinguishes a market at all from a state of anarchy wherein thieves and robbers just take what they want without giving anything in exchange?
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Thu Sep 24, 2015 12:18 pm

Other living beings have a market too. But is it a free market? Yes and no. For example: the male bonobos, know that they get sex and offspring if they give emotions / love; the female bonobos refuse, if they can, to have sex with the male bonobos, if they do not give emotions to the bonobo children. This may be interpreted as a prestage of prostitution, and it is a market of sex / love.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:02 pm

Arminius, first, a note on "falsely" quoting: I modified your quote and used standard notation to indicate the modification, i.e. ellipses and square brackets. These changes made clear what I was responding to, by removing the editorial aside in your sentence, and including the word whose meaning was at issue (which I gathered from context). If my modifications changed your meaning, that was not my intent, but I noted the modifications so that anyone reading would be able to see them. This is a standard practice in responding to a quote, I have done it in good faith, and I will continue to do it where it is expedient to make my point.

Arminius wrote:We have to make a difference between a free market and a regulated [m]arket.

And we can. But both "regulated" and "free" are modifiers of the term "market". If what we're talking about is not a market, it cannot be a free market either. Mr. Reasonable expressed the same question I had in reading your posts: how is a state of nature a market? If it is, must we say that atoms are engaging in a market when they interact in a gas? Perhaps a pile of sand is a market, because one grain pushes down while another pushes up.

I actually agree that the concept of 'market' is appropriate for something like bonobo exchanges, or the exchanges seen in capuchin monkeys when the concept of money is introduced to them in the lab settings, although here I'd qualify them as "proto"-markets: isolated market transactions do not a market make.

Contrast these with war or theft, where there is no exchange, where value changes hands through the use of force. These aren't market transactions.

The question isn't one of free-ness, but of market-ness. And the distinction is crucial. The special properties of a market as distinct from non-market social interactions is that they involve the exchange of values, such that each party believes they are better off to exchange than not to exchange. The voluntary-ness proves that both parties believe the exchange is to their benefit, which is how markets allow goods to flow to the place they're valued most. It's what makes markets into information aggregators, and what makes them in theory efficient.

I agree that there is a difference between a regulated- and a free-market. But there is also a distinction between a market and a non-market. I think your description of a free-market includes a lot of things that are not market at all.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Uccisore » Thu Oct 01, 2015 4:23 pm

mr reasonable wrote:What is it that distinguishes a market at all from a state of anarchy wherein thieves and robbers just take what they want without giving anything in exchange?


You'd have to ask a pure libertarian how they'd answer it, but MY answer is that a free market requires at least a minimal state to enforce contracts, protect physical trade, and perhaps to maintain some minimal level of infrastructure. As far as I can tell that's been the traditional answer as well. This idea that the free market is literally just the state of nature is false; the state of nature can't support a free market.

It seems to me like Arminius' concept of a 'free-market' exists as a rhetorical tool- he's created it to be as horrible and implausible as it possibly can be, then sticks it in the mouth of people who advocate for a free market. It's used that way when he introduces his definition: 'Here is what the term 'free-market' must necessarily (tautologically) mean. Here is what liberals who advocate for a free market want'. A concept that you don't support yourself that exists purely to be put in the mouths of others you disagree with isn't a seriously defensible position. It's enough to say "You don't want a free-market under that definition, that's not what people who advocate for a free-market mean when they use the term, so why are we discussing it?"

The answer of course is, "Because if I can force my definition and get everybody to agree that all coherent market concepts are 'regulated markets', then I've created a rhetorical advantage for myself when I go on to propose some further market regulations".
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:03 pm

I'm slightly more charitable, to a point: I think Arminius may simply be making a mistake in deriving the state of nature from his understanding of what a free market entails. He seems to think that any regulation of society means that any market that is created by such a society is a regulated market, and I don't think that's totally unreasonable, though I do think it's wrong.

As I would define it, a market does not, in theory, require a minimal state to enforce, even if in practice it always does. A market is simply any system of voluntary exchanges. That can happen without state intervention, but for a robust global market to exist, some level of state is probably necessary (I think libertarians would accept this definition, but anarcho-capitalists would disagree).

There's a distinction between regulating people and regulating markets. The line is sometimes blurry, but it is still meaningful. If we establish as a set of laws governing a group of people, "you cannot lie; you cannot steal; you cannot use violence against other people", and otherwise allow the people in the group to do as they please, a market will emerge in the group fairly quickly (humans do this naturally). Because lying, stealing, and violence are prohibited, transactions will be voluntary. Even exploitative transactions will have to be voluntary in the sense I mean that term (as in choosing the least-bad of several bad options). This describes a free market, which exists even though the society itself is regulated.

Contrast it with a situation where other laws are added to the simple set: "beets can't be exchanged for corn; you can't demand more grain for beets than you do for corn; grain producers can't produce more than X pounds per year". This is a regulated market: market transactions are directly targeted by the laws.

For an example of how the distinction can be fuzzy, take a law like "people own the ideas they come up with" or "children inherit their parents property". Those target ownership, which is necessary for a market and so in one sense they are pre-market, but because they establish what counts as property and default rules of how ownership passes, they define how certain exchanges must happen, which in another sense regulates the market.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Fri Oct 02, 2015 5:11 pm

Carleas ( viewtopic.php?f=3&t=188569&p=2567495#p2566297 ).

A quote is a quote, and a definition is a definition.

If a child has to give three goodies in order to get one toy from another child, then this child knows the "price" and can only be stopped "buying" the wanted toy because of a law that is called "age of consent" / "capacity to contract", but this law does not change anything of the fact that there is a market for the said two children. A market does not have to be regulated in order to be a market.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Fri Oct 02, 2015 6:45 pm

Arminius wrote:If a child has to give three goodies in order to get one toy from another child, then this child knows the "price" and can only be stopped "buying" the wanted toy because of a law that is called "age of consent" / "capacity to contract", but this law does not change anything of the fact that there is a market for the said two children. A market does not have to be regulated in order to be a market.

I don't think this conflicts with anything I've said. My point was more that if Child 1 asks for three goodies for the toy, and Child 2 simply hits her and takes the toy, it is not a market.

A market does have to be voluntary to be a market. And that distinguishes the state of nature from an absolutely free market.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Arminius » Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:21 pm

Carleas wrote:
Arminius wrote:If a child has to give three goodies in order to get one toy from another child, then this child knows the "price" and can only be stopped "buying" the wanted toy because of a law that is called "age of consent" / "capacity to contract", but this law does not change anything of the fact that there is a market for the said two children. A market does not have to be regulated in order to be a market.

I don't think this conflicts with anything I've said. My point was more that if Child 1 asks for three goodies for the toy, and Child 2 simply hits her and takes the toy, it is not a market.

A market does have to be voluntary to be a market. And that distinguishes the state of nature from an absolutely free market.

The absolutely free market in nature can be and is not seldom "voluntary" (your word), as I already said several times. The said market of the bonobos is a "voluntary" (your word) market, because the bonobos can decide whether they "buy" or not. And my example of the children explains the same: the market is voluntary, but the laws of the adults do not or not always allow children to buy things. Your example with the girl that hits the boy because of he toy is an example that simply shows how violent regulations can be. Laws do not have to be written laws in order to be laws. The female bonobo shows the male bonobo the "laws" as well as the female child shows the male child the "laws" by hitting him. :)
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Uccisore » Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:37 pm

Carleas wrote:I'm slightly more charitable, to a point: I think Arminius may simply be making a mistake in deriving the state of nature from his understanding of what a free market entails. He seems to think that any regulation of society means that any market that is created by such a society is a regulated market, and I don't think that's totally unreasonable, though I do think it's wrong.


I think your charity is misplaced simply because his wrong concept of a free-market isn't something he endorses, he's something he's proclaiming other people he disagrees with politically endorse. Seems like a classic strawman to me.

As I would define it, a market does not, in theory, require a minimal state to enforce, even if in practice it always does. A market is simply any system of voluntary exchanges. That can happen without state intervention, but for a robust global market to exist, some level of state is probably necessary (I think libertarians would accept this definition, but anarcho-capitalists would disagree).


Yeah, state enforcement is required for a market to sustain for any length of time, not purely to exist I suppose.

This describes a free market, which exists even though the society itself is regulated.


I guess I don't find the distinction meaningful. Everybody can understand the details of a market in which contracts are enforced by the state, lying is discouraged, and violence is prohibited. Whether or not such a market is 'regulated' or 'free' seems to me only to matter to people concerned with who gets to be called a free-market advocate and who doesn't.

Contrast it with a situation where other laws are added to the simple set: "beets can't be exchanged for corn; you can't demand more grain for beets than you do for corn; grain producers can't produce more than X pounds per year". This is a regulated market: market transactions are directly targeted by the laws.


Sure. But somebody could argue that such a market is free if it's still more free than any other market out there, though it's less free than a hypothetical market which doesn't exist. I mean, ultimately I agree with you about the difference, but if somebody wants to declare that any market that occurs in a human society subject to the sorts of mores human societies have is 'regulated', I find it to be a pedantic point made for tactical reasons.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Dan~ » Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:06 pm

Bribes go around in almost any form you could imagine.
Theft and war, in its most domesticated form, would be debt and morality.

Morality of that kind is war vs the immoral.

Theft of that kind has to do with tiething, and if you don't give it,
you become "in debt".

Freedom is a large cage in a zoo.
Tyranny is a small cage in a zoo.

That's all for now.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Homo Existentialus » Sat Oct 03, 2015 1:03 am

All electronic exchanges such as the NASDAQ that deal only in virtual goods like shares of company stock are markets, and so are certain places deep in the heart of the Amazon that deal in the physical exchange of things like fried insects and witches potions. It's a bit hard to say which one of these is closer to being something like *the* market... I guess it depends on what you are, uh.... in the market for!

As far as pure "information aggregation" is concerned, I'm quite happy with my Googs:

google.com/about/company wrote:Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
This is a dynamically generated svg image hosted for free on Google's AppEngine:
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:52 pm

Dan~ wrote:Theft and war, in its most domesticated form, would be debt and morality.

I reject the idea that debt is theft, provided that the debt isn't exploitative (which in some contexts is a large proviso). I would guess that debt increases with wealth, which is what we should see in a properly functioning market economy: wealth should be correlated with productivity, and if you're level of productivity is above average, you should borrow at market rate and expect to beat the market return for the use of the money you borrowed.

Debt is a very valuable thing, it's empowering when used correctly, it allows for much more efficient and productive markets. Good proof is in societies where lending is outlawed for religious reasons (medieval Europe, much of the modern middle east), which flounder economically and produce perverse outcomes like lack of investment and high failure rates for completing development projects.

H.E., I'm not sure if Google uses any market-like processes to improve its information-access products; certain information is best collected by use of a market, but Google probably tries to connect people to those markets, rather than run the markets themselves.

I think it's a plausible argument to say that there's a market for search results, where the cost is paid in time by users looking for answers, and Google analyses user choices in that 'market' to improve its suggestions. The behavior here almost certainly has similarities to traditional markets, and I would be interested to know if they borrow from economics in designing their search algorithms.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Uccisore » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:41 pm

Carleas wrote:
Dan~ wrote:
Debt is a very valuable thing, it's empowering when used correctly, it allows for much more efficient and productive markets. Good proof is in societies where lending is outlawed for religious reasons (medieval Europe, much of the modern middle east), which flounder economically and produce perverse outcomes like lack of investment and high failure rates for completing development projects.



Another example would be China during the Great Leap Forward. When the peasents lost the ability to lend, rent, and borrow against the land they owned, it completely destroyed them economically. You can see peasent farming as a sort of small business that needs to borrow against future yields in order to get itself going after each winter.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Thu Oct 15, 2015 9:44 pm

I often use (and may have used on ILP before) the example of a friend of mine. He'd racked up some driving infractions, and his license was suspended until he paid off a sizable fine. He couldn't afford the fine, and because of where he lived, he needed to drive to get to any of the jobs available to him. So he had no money to pay off the fine, but because he couldn't pay off the fine he couldn't earn any money. Catch-22. He solved the problem by taking out a small loan, paying off the fine, getting his license back, getting a job, and then paying off the loan.

This is a toy example, and we can quibble over the details (why not get a ride from a friend? Is that a form of loan? Should the state provide public transportation? or make exceptions to laws like these?), but it illustrates one way in which taking on debt can be valuable for both the debtor and for society as a whole. Debt is a tool, and it can be used for good or ill. Unfortunately, the good that loans do is sometimes harder to appreciate than the negative feeling of being personally in debt that post people know first hand.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Tue Nov 03, 2015 2:45 pm

I came across an interesting story this morning related to the market's role as an information aggregator. A charity called Feeding America, which gets surplus food from large food producers and distributes it to local food banks, switched from a centrally planned to a market-based model to determine where food should be shipped:

Before 2005, Feeding America allocated food centrally, and according to its rather subjective perception of what food banks needed. Headquarters would call up the food banks in a priority order and offer them a truckload of food. ...

This Soviet-style system was hugely inefficient. Some urban food banks had great access to local food donations and often ended up with a surplus of food. A lot of food rotted in places where it was not needed, while many shelves in other food banks stood empty. Feeding America simply knew too little about what their food banks needed on a given day.

In 2005, the Chicago team helped design an auction-like system to allocate the food, and have been tweaking the system for a decade. Today, it runs as smoothly as eBay.

Every day, each food bank is allocated a pot of fiat currency called "shares." Food banks in areas with bigger populations and more poverty receive larger numbers of shares. Twice a day, they can use their shares to bid online on any of the 30 to 40 truckloads of food that were donated directly to Feeding America. The winners of the auction pay for the truckloads with their shares. Then, all the shares spent on a particular day are reallocated back to food banks at midnight. That means that food banks that did not spend their shares on a particular day would end up with more shares and thus a greater ability to bid the next day. In this way, the system has built-in fairness: If a large food bank could afford to spend a fortune on a truck of frozen chicken, its shares would show up on the balance of smaller food banks the next day. Moreover, neighboring food banks can now team up to bid jointly to reduce their transport costs.

Initially, there was plenty of resistance. As one food bank director told Canice Prendergast, an economist advising Feeding America, "I am a socialist. That's why I run a food bank. I don't believe in markets. I'm not saying I won't listen, but I am against this." But the Chicago economists managed to design a market that worked even for participants who did not believe in it. Within half a year of the auction system being introduced, 97 percent of food banks won at least one load, and the amount of food allocated from Feeding America's headquarters rose by over 35 percent, to the delight of volunteers and donors.

The emphasis is mine. The first emphasis is for its relevance to this thread, the second for the silly dogmatism of the idea that socialist ideals can only be achieved through Soviet means. Markets are valuable tools that price in information that central planning can't efficiently take into account. In this case, the market made achieving charitable ends easier, resulting in the charities being able to help more people. Progressives should get behind market means as a way to do good efficiently.

Here's a little more from a George Mason economist, who also deserves the hat tip for bringing the story to my attention.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Carleas » Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:24 pm

And here is a video of someone making much the same point I attempted to make at the start of this thread: that through pricing, the market aggregates a significant amount of information. The focus on the video is on just how hard it would be to aggregate and act on the information without a market mechanism.
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Re: The Market as Information Aggregator

Postby Red Skull » Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:34 pm

There really isn't much of a market anymore so much as there is now an international monopoly on labor, capital, and the value of currency through interventionism.
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