Michael Shermer’s Mind of the Market

This book is the latest attempt to justify freedom and the market economy by reference to the knowledge of science and biology.  Here is my review, in Washington Post Book World.  Excerpt:

I’m sympathetic to Shermer’s conclusions, but I fear his standard of evaluation is too blunt an instrument. If the options are capitalism and the Khmer Rouge, no doubt capitalism wins hands down. But to what extent should we restrain capitalism to fund a social safety net? Should our government place heavy taxes on beer and potato chips to fund the National Science Foundation at higher levels? Most broadly, to what extent is it morally permissible to interfere with freedom, or can we even use freedom as a concept in a world where we do social science by hooking people up to brain scanners?

Shermer is famous for founding the Skeptics Society and editing the magazine Skeptic, which debunks claims of the supernatural. His monthly column for Scientific American is a regular plea that reason should govern human affairs. But his book raises very real questions about just how far skepticism should extend. Should we also be skeptical about using moral judgments of right and wrong to address the tough questions of politics? For instance, can we make normative judgments about who deserves to pay how much of the tax burden to finance the U.S. government, or as to whether somebody’s job should be protected from foreign trade?
Shermer either needs to dismiss moral philosophy as an illusion and a mere byproduct of human evolution, and thus display skepticism, or he needs to grant it credence and take his own moral stance. Descriptive science doesn’t tell us whether it is fair to allow kidneys to be bought and sold, even if it helps explain why some people find the practice repugnant. Judgments of right and wrong cannot be avoided, and thus we tread away from the realm of familiar natural science.
There are really two books within "The Mind of the Market." The science book is finished and polished, yet it does not present fundamentally new results. The book on capitalism discusses important questions, yet it is unfinished and unpolished. Shermer does promise us an entire new book to fill in the missing pieces here. He already has earned the right to our attention; the next question is whether he will give his philosophic and romantic side the greater rein that it deserves and requires. This East African plains ape is optimistic.


I suppose you can look at things as a purely logical Mr. Spock. Or you can look at things as several possibilities and pick the most agreeable one based on common sense and a little experience. Morality is grounded in experience. This implies trust in one's judgement to make reasonable decisions about right and wrong. Trust is the equalizer to skepticism. Without trust, we are all skeptics, without faith. Trust in reason is the basis of the modern world.

There's Ethics, and then there's Morality ... and never the two shall meet ;) seriously though, ethical standards of conduct
would revolve around what's been deemed, over time, to optimize a given society's civility and assurance of individual
rights (inherent to the social contract citizens submit to); whereas moral laws are what mostly theistic-based belief systems
that are commanded by a higher power than mankind, and that claim to be efficacious to its individual adherents (and that
they maintain ought to be universally applied as well, by logical extension). So that ethics, by virtue of its being experi-
entially based, is utilitarian-derived; morality is Deontological, and therefore implicitly faith-based. These are the
definitional distinctions I've gathered from their useage.

Great review, Tyler. Especially the last line.


A fellow ape

話說台灣徵信社都如何進行外遇蒐證 ?
1. 先調查出有關於被查者的背景資料及生活規律習慣。
2. 規劃出被查者的可疑時間點以及地點 。
3. 針對交通工具及環境,派遣調查員實施外遇蒐證。
4. 將被查者去哪?見誰? 做什麼? 予以調查並蒐集證據。

It is enlightening!

Everything is decided by the market instead of any single human being’s personal feeling.
But opportunity and efforts are same important on the way to yr goal.
Like the aion gold performance in the market.

I like Shermer when he's debunking psuedo-science. In this discussion, however, in developing his theory here, he breezes through so much world economic history, ignoring so many possible economic situations/transactions, that I can't take it seriously. It's a very selective consideration of economics.

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