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Saturday, November 21, 2009

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs

Wifey on "The Free Market As a Manifestation of Distributed Cognition"

The free market, the prince of peace to some and the angel of death to others, is a manifestation of distributed cognition (‘tis of no matter, on which side one butters one’s toast). In the brilliant parade of modern life, there are many such manifestations; but what is interesting about this particular manifestation is the existence of a direct counterpart with which we can compare it, thus addressing the question: are all manifestations of distributed cognition created equal?

How does the free market manifest distributed cognition? A truly free market “decides” the value of a particular entity (an object, an act, or an act upon an object) based on the thought processes of an interactive group of deciders, bound together by (among other links) shared symbolic systems. In a free market, every individual with an ability to behave within the market influences the decisions of the “cognitive entity”. Just in case there are some readers out there with an underdeveloped theory of mind (was that you, Mr. Brunschvicg, in the back of the lecture hall with hands raised?), a decision must result in an action with consequences in the environment and quite possibly on other organisms. For example, if you decide that you value higher education but put very little of your time and effort into the acquisition of higher education, then your “decision” doesn’t count as a decision.

Does a socialist economy manifest distributed cognition? A truly socialist economy abolishes value. Objects, acts, and acts upon objects are produced according to the needs of the social organism as a whole. The needs of this organism are defined by a central committee, in other words a central processing unit, and the demands are distributed outwards to the interactive group of providers who are charged with the task of meeting the demands as specified by the central processing unit. Capabilities are defined by those doing the demanding, as are the needs. Neither the decisions nor the burdens are distributed.

In a free market economy, decisions are distributed, and burden is something that those who are better at deciding (i.e., their decisions approach the distributed decision) avoid. In a socialist economy, decisions and burdens are centralized. The individual is discouraged from becoming a good decider. Unfortunately for the US, this description of the free market doesn’t jibe with our present predicament. What happened? There are a few possibilities, two of which I’ll mention. The first is, the shared symbolic systems were violated, which drastically interfered with the efficacy of distributed cognition. The second is, the US doesn’t operate according to a truly free market, and the flow of distributed cognition is thereby disturbed.

Are all manifestations of distributed cognition created equal? We still don’t know, because socialism is not a manifestation of distributed cognition.

Post #1,012 From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs

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