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Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality 2019-12-06 18:22:14

Summary:
John Holbo: Ersatz Better Angels? http://crookedtimber.org/2019/12/04/ersatz-better-angels/: 'We tend to think of the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory as aspirational and/or clarificatory. Ideal theory represents either 1) a distant point towards which you ought to move; 2) a pristine expression of your real values, unblemished by extraneous, pragmatic considerations. You could sort of roll 1) and 2) up together and say: ideal theory should be a polestar. A clear, fixed point by which you can steer somewhere better than where you are. But, in these Vavilovian/Steelwool cases... the point of dragging in ideal theory is, in effect, to footdrag, extenuate and obfuscate.... You are bad (see above), so pretending to be GOOD-good is hard. But you might be able to pull off

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John Holbo: Ersatz Better Angels? http://crookedtimber.org/2019/12/04/ersatz-better-angels/: 'We tend to think of the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory as aspirational and/or clarificatory. Ideal theory represents either 1) a distant point towards which you ought to move; 2) a pristine expression of your real values, unblemished by extraneous, pragmatic considerations. You could sort of roll 1) and 2) up together and say: ideal theory should be a polestar. A clear, fixed point by which you can steer somewhere better than where you are. But, in these Vavilovian/Steelwool cases... the point of dragging in ideal theory is, in effect, to footdrag, extenuate and obfuscate.... You are bad (see above), so pretending to be GOOD-good is hard. But you might be able to pull off semi-not-bad, from a middle-distance. So you invent a semi-not-bad aspirational self. Angel of my less-bad nature! But, really, this aspirational self is just there to provide plausible deniability. This ersatz angel lets you stay bad, rather than making you have to be even a little better...

Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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