Friday, October 11


A reader took up my challenge to find a term that was more descriptive than "economic collectivism." She pointed out that what I'd described wasn't so much collectivism, in the sense of the many folded into a group, as "singularism" in the sense of the many being conceived of as a single entity; e.g., the Statistical Person, the Economy. She pointed out that this view was closer to totalitarian than collectivist.

These are interesting observations, particularly because the denunciation of collectivism as a great evil, by observers as diverse in their politics as Ayn Rand and George Orwell, is clearly more of an indictment of totalitarian government than state-enforced interpretations of collectivism -- or at least as much as an indictment.

However, I shy away from associating totalitarianism with the over-application of statistical reasoning because it would have to go through several steps to end up as a justification for totalitarian government, wouldn't it?

With regard to the term singularism: I checked a few dictionary definitions, which differ slightly but which can be boil down to "any philosophy that explains phenomena from a single principle" (Collins Dictionary)

But the phenomenon I'm describing is basically psycho-epistemological one, not philosophical. It's a mindset that arises from mentally jamming a tremendous amount of diverse statistical data into a single concept, such as "the economy." I think the mindset, when translated into economic policies, veers toward the collectivist viewpoint. So while I might get an argument from the reader and others, at this point I  prefer economic collectivism to singularism, although I thank the reader for her suggestion.

I realize I was the one who started this discussion but it's beginning to remind me of a scene in the movie "Ladyhawk." The evil bishop's soldiers shout curses at the drunken overseer of a rundown monastery as they fall off a rickety collapsing footbridge. He shouts back, "I'm a monk, not an architect!"

I'm a pundita, not a scientific epistemologist. If you're happier with economic singularism, or economic statisticalism, or econo-singular statisticalism, or tofu, just so you're in the ballpark about what I mean by economic collectivism.

I'm simply trying to move us from point A to point B, then we can all get on with our lives. My discussion of what I've termed economic collectivism is to identify a big hidden obstacle standing in the way of sorting out America's financial problems: the public's unawareness of the tendency for fiscal and monetary policymakers to overly rely on statistical reasoning when crafting policies.

So there's the over-reliance, and the public unawareness of this. So this is actually a two-part problem. The over-reliance part is for scientific epistemologists to grapple with. I'm interested in the second part. But having pointed out the obstacle in the "Economic Collectivism" posts, I'm content to proceed to the next milepost.

This is not to discourage suggestions, by the way. I'd be glad to see a better term than economic collectivism. But there's another problem with singularism. The term is now being used to describe a kind of quasi-religious or philosophical view that humanity is set to make a singular leap in consciousness because of our machines, or something like that.

It seems the idea has attracted several techie types and it's becoming controversial in some quarters. I think Wikipedia might have an article on the term, as it's applied in this case. Anyhow, I wouldn't want economic collectivism to be confused with that interpretation of singularism.


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