Friday, April 20, 2007

What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

The words of Frederic Bastiat are always on my mind here.

"In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen."

Here is a question. Does the city of Pittsburgh generate lot's of bad economists or lots of good politicians?

1 comment:

Chris Rywalt said...

You'd appreciate Bucky Fuller's idea of precession. Well, it's a concept from physics, but Bucky (as usual) applied it across more fields. The idea is that the statement "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" is only true theoretically; in real life, all actions have three parts: The action, the reaction (which is almost never at 180 degrees), and the result, which is the sum of the first two.

His favorite concrete example of precession is the honeybee. Nature didn't program the honeybee to go out and pollinate flowers. The pollination of flowers is a side effect of the honeybee's gathering of nectar. The pollination is precession in action: The honeybee is aiming for the nectar but is doing something else.

Bucky's idea was that if we could harness precession in our own lives -- act in directions other than 180 degrees, or straight lines -- we could be much more effective.

When it comes to real estate developments, it seems to me there's a lot more impact precessionally than directly, and almost all of it is bad. And yet somehow they keep happening.

Don't we all have enough shopping malls by now?