Monday, February 6, 2017

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Kiwi's Egg

Among the many changes, many are awful … because we do not hear the intelligent voices, drowned out by the public pseudo-intellectuals, the lairs – commended by our Liar in Chief – and the vox papuli as selected by people who edit the news, and often get it wrong. These tireless sub editors are willing to blame anyone else for their mistakes. But there are a few good things even and missed all of the bad things. For example, Guardian and others admit they are is a constitutional crisis – though the opinions as to what caused it are still vague.

And there is also a permanent victory, in that many of the public pseudo-intellectuals are dethroned. Of course there are obvious targets, such as Maureen Dowd, and most especially Thomas L. Friedman – who will be a punchline that will dog the Pulitzer prizes of our age. But I take a special delight in the slow and gradual collapse of Paul Krugman – whose lectures I use to attend when he talked at MIT. But there was a problem for me in the allegiance that I felt, and the growing problems with his recitations of liberal economic Theory. On the one hand – and note that I said it, because it is actually important – all of the theories I agreed with, and particularly because I was an absolute fan of his lectures – on the other hand – applying those theories, had problems, and they were the problems that cannot be reduced to matters of economic theory. ( points if you know the original speaker)
What the problem was, became an obsession with me, because I tried to explain that the theories did not match the actual practice. This is actually a deep problem, because it shows why the theories are not put in to practice. Not only with economics, but evolutionary biology, climate change and other sorts of disciplines.

Why do the theories get mine approval, when the actual results do not? The answer lies deep in the 1990s, when people would ask me “Is the treaty, NAFTA, a good idea or not?” I would reply that it came down to the details and how they were applied. This did not gain me any friends in either direction, because from the economical standpoint, it should be obvious that yes was the only correct answer – but there were large number of Democrats who saw the pain that union people would experience, and for whom “No” was the doctrinaire position. It troubled me immensely, and then when a new treaty was put up, I happily said that my position was “No”, though I was still a neoliberal economist. And still am one, but there is a difference, which I can now express.
The difference came to me not through economics but evolutionary biology. It may sound strange that the two disciplines are intertwined, but the math is actually the same for both, and they both draw the same conclusions. And it is in EvBio were the problem is phrased in more clear terms – at least to me. Because it is in evolutionary biology that the question is phrased in different terms. For a long time, Darwin was the end of the discussion for a large group of biologists – including EO Wilson, Richard Dawkins, James Watson, and others – in fact a lot of others. But they were wrong, and I can tell you how.

First let me say up front that I worship Darwin, and do not believe any sort of deity or deities had any and in creation of the world. Because this is the attack that the list of luminaries goes with. Instead I detest such people who try to lie, cheat, steal, finagle, or otherwise try to get the Christian God as an actor in the creation of the universe. I believed long before it was fashionable in the big bang and the inflationary universe, my credentials are impeccable. I do not believe anything that touches religion has any place in the theory of creation of the universe. Full Stop.

I do not believe that Darwin is the end of the discussion, instead he is the beginning. And what pointed this out to me were two theories which I knew to be wrong. The first one was the Kiwis egg. At the time, it possible biologists. So I sat down for two straight days – no sleep involved here – and calculated that because the Kiwi did not have natural predators, it could become smaller. But here is the catch, if it does not fly, it can become smaller than any flying bird. The trick is to find a supply which will feed the bird, without them having to catch their meals in flight. So there are very few places where there is a supply of food, and not just a few but zero predators. That is why there is only one place where the Kiwi can survive – all of the other places either do not have enough food, or they have predators which can only be avoided by flight. So trees, for example, are right out. The problem is when predators are introduced, the Kiwi suffers predation intensely. Which in the case of New Zealand was because people introduced cats and dogs into the area. The Kiwi when it was introduced to New Zealand was tall, tall enough to fly. But over time it grew shorter and did not need flight. And because there were zero predators, again not just a few but none – it could stay in a few areas which were rich in food.

But there was a limit, and that was the limit of a baby fledgling. Remember the Kiwi is still warm blooded, and that is an advantage as it chases it is food, but there still is a limit to how small the young Kiwis a can be. This means there is a trade-off, between how small the adult Kiwi can be, and how large the newborn chick can be. When it reaches this trade-off, it stops growing smaller. But without predation, this can be a lot smaller than any other bird that lays the scale of egg it does – the result is that the Kiwi's mother lays an egg that is a quarter of its own size. Which if you think about it would be huge, imagine a mother giving birth to a baby which was 70 pounds. And we are at the high end of the mammalian birth curve.

So there are few places where the model that produces the Kiwi's weight, because otherwise the predators would start killing the mother for her egg, thus there have to be zero external predators (inner ones e.g. disease are a different story), and they cannot use flight – because flight consumes a great deal of calories, where as the Kiwi does not. This meant that a small island would be preferable – almost likely in that it would not have chances to evolve many predators. The key is with no predators, a life form which had absolutely the minimum of body heat and the minimum of egg laying capacity could evolve – having shrunk down to this size from a much larger weight. New Zealand is just large enough to support such an environment, but not too large to evolve predators.
But in the way of the scientific world, I sent this letter in and got rejected. This is because it crossed swords with the unspoken agreement that Darwin was the and of the discussion. A few people persisted because they had tenure and could resist such devices – such as Woese and Marguiles ( the wife of Perl Sagan), but for a long time it was a very small world. And I was not part of it – which was fine for me, because I had many other contributions to make which did not lead me to cross swords with the overwhelmingly dominant theory of the times.

How does this kiwis egg (and other clues from the world of evolutionary biology) connect to Paul Krugman and the world of macro economics?

The reason is that the math is similar, and the crux of it is that for any given species there are two forces that they have to supply, they have to be large enough to secure food, and small enough to produce offspring – normally there is a third force – they have to be able to escape predators. Normally the only species that does not have to escape large predators - because they are all able to fall victim to bacteria and viruses – is the apex predator, which will grow as large as it can. There is a side problem why land predators are much smaller than dinosaurs, where as sea going predators are as large, and even sometimes larger, than their opposite numbers in the dinosaur age. Points for getting it right, or at least looking it up.

The same is true in economics, normally the economic actor must both gain money, and prevent from losing it. It is food is, economically, the same. It must be able to outwit, or outthink, or just brute force its meal – and at the same time it must watch out for what is eating them. But as with the Kiwi's egg there are a few exceptions that do not fit within the top predator model. And this is why Darwin is the first but not the last word in EvBio, and the same thing is true in economics.

The problem is with the rate of capital, because under most circumstances, the rate of capital goes up with every step from the source. In Classical theories of economics, the rate is determined by the people who dig up gold and silver, and other sorts of monetary valued metals. But this runs in two the problem that if it is not profitable to dig things out, the amount of money in fact grows smaller – this is because there is a “ natural rate of interest” which has a barrier. And that barrier is much like the barrier to producing young. In almost all of the cases, this is not important. But in a few of the cases, it assumes a vast importance. Whether producing young, or digging up gold. There is a barrier that has to be surmounted, with her it is the barrier to warm blooded, or the barrier to throne enough men at the problem to dig another cold out of the ground. Remember, after a little while, gold is deep and hard enough to find, that there is a barrier. And once you have enough people in the world, they will no longer be able to find it productive, so they have to to use their wits. The problem is, what happens when the Reproductive capacity of people is greater than their ability to find gold. And this is what happened in the great depression.

What happened then was that the discipline of economics gave two roots out of this problem – the conservative view is that it was a once offer a deal, and would not occur again. The liberal view was that they could control the amount of specie so that it would not happen again. The problem is that both of these views are the same if 1% of the population controls basically half the wealth. You can do things that will allow you to escape the problem, for a little while. But eventually the economic man departs from the real one, because the real one only has a very short period to reproduce, while the economic man does not. Time is the key factor, which is why the conservative discipline basically assumes that people live forever. You can look it up.

But the liberal point of view is seduced by the promise of neoliberalism as the endpoint of international planning. Now in the future, we will have one world with one nation, but that time is not now, nor anything close to it. Right now, there are places which have almost nothing in comparison to the developed world. And this is my disagreement with other neoliberal economists.

You see, I am a both/and not a either/or. An either or would say that neoliberalism is good, again full stop. The problem is that neoliberalism will be very good for the top 1% and some fraction of the workers. For example, pillaging the environment is good for the members of the working class who pillage, but not for everyone else. The everyone else else would rather it not happen, or they will boil to death. So neoliberalism must be both rewarding the few who make money, and a lot of money, and reward the many who do not make money. But that is not the way treaties are written, instead they are written by the few who make money, with no concern for the many who make just a little bit of money and the few who are pillaged. There is a reason why this is the case, because climate change is a basic structure that will penalize everyone, except the people who can buy their way out of a it. And that will be fewer and fewer.

So the math that said that egg makes sense, also says that you must compensate the ones who lose. Moreover, many of the people who profit abroad are also the ones who in their turn pillage the environment. It does not do any good for the many of the population to substitute people next door pillaging the environment, for people overseas pillaging the environment. Eventually the pollution is a global, not local or national problem. In the short term you may be able to say this, but that short-term is long past.

 That is why I am glad that Paul Krugman is gradually not listen to anymore, because he actually represents a defect in the way that mathematics is taught, and spreads out among evolutionary biology, macroeconomics, climate change, and a whole host of others. The solution is actually very simple: we must become both/and not either/or and we must take into account time as a variable. It also will mean that the good things that the people who are wrong in this one area can be appreciated. Because EO Wilson has done amazing things, but they do not erase what Woese has accomplished, or any of the forgotten people such as Lynn Margulis, Motoo Kimura,   

Goodbye and good luck

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