Empiricism , Time Preference, and Economics

Math and religion are framed by the left as being diametrically opposed, but both are attempts to explains things that do not readily yield themselves to the senses and immediate understanding and gratification. The third option, empiricism, is most closely linked with tribalism and primitivism and involves neither intellectualism nor religion, and seeks instant gratification. Although empiricism can be useful, heuristically, at the individual level, one cannot build a civilization unless some sort of transcendence is invoked. In addition to high time preference, for the empiricist, only the present matters, with little concern for the past or future, and are how solipsism and empiricism are related. This explains the immature behavior of the far-left, because their actions are motivated by feelings, which are immediate and short-term, and hence they cannot entertain the possibility that their emotions about an issue are secondary to a greater, transcendent over-arching system/belief. The withdrawal reflex precludes logic and the accretive process of understanding.

This is also applicable to economics. Demand-side economics is about providing immediate gratification: hand-outs such as welfare that may profit a temporary boost to the economy and appease the masses, but don’t actually advance civilization itself. Supply-side, however, is about delaying instant gratification for long-term results and investment. Why does money have value? Because of what you can buy with it. Demand-side says money for the sake of money is good; supply-side cares about maximizing the utility one can extract from money, but more specifically, one’s labor and capital investments. So instead of giving everyone more money, it’s preferable to increase the utility of existing money and man hours. That’s not to say all welfare should be proscribed, but investment, which is long-term, is invaluable.

This is evident in purchasing power: although American laborers and Ethiopian laborers worth roughly the same number of hours a day, the American laborer derives much more utility from his or her income and man hours, as manifested by a higher standard of living. An African laborer who converts a day’s worth of labor from his or her local currency into US dollars, would have very little. This is also related to my criticism of some aspects of effective altruism, which I think puts too much emphasis on quantity of lives saved (in a utilitarian sense) than quality. Just giving more money to impoverished Africans simply means they can buy more dirty water, versus, say, investing in a purification system that will produce clean water.