Monday, October 06, 2008
An Economy is not Teleological
Here is a marvelous article on the bailout and a proper understanding of political philosophy and political economy. The author observes that when we engage in bailouts and economy interventions, we are thinking of the economy as being teleological. But the economy does not have a goal, so imposing a telos on it is inappropriate. Worse, it is harmful to the very system. Spontaneous orders, like economies, science, democratic governments, art, literature, and ecosystems are not teleological in nature. We should not confuse such systems with emergentist systems like organisms which, in their development from a fertilized egg to an adult organism, do in fact have a telos, or end-state. When we make false analogies, fully imposing one model on another, we misunderstand the world. Both spontaneous orders and emergent systems are self-organizing systems, but they are also very different kinds. We must be careful that we don't get confused in our metaphors. In other words, we need to be careful that when we hear "Achilles was a lion," we are thinking of the attributes of courage, nobility, and kingliness -- not having large canines, long claws, and a tufted tail.