“The hard problem” of socioeconomic organization, Nietzsche, dialectics instead of dualities, and a prologue to “the mechanism” itself
The logic of a people’s economy will indirectly come to be a major influence behind how they see the world. If the economy suggests there is a hard difference between “price” and “value,” then this is dualistic, and the majority of people will likely be Dualists. It’s natural: much of a person’s day is spent working and operating through economic exchanges, and so the nature of that system can naturally organize and shape their practices. Within Dualism, both a “hard spiritualism” (Gnosticism) and “hard physicalism” (Materialism) tend to arise (together, in response to one another, etc.): we either claim that all that exists is “the body” and facts, disregarding “spirit” entirely, or that “the body” and money are dirty and corrupting, disregarding “materiality.” In this way, Gnosticism and Materialism can arise together in a dichotomy, and I would argue that Modern Economics has mostly operated within that very dichotomy. And that has worked well enough for most of history, but today as we find ourselves having to effectively price and organize “horizons” (as I call them), and for “horizons” what worked for pricing “goods” and “services” no longer proves sufficient.
“Price” and “value” are not identical, but the question is if they are dualistic or dialectic? I would argue that the Modern Economic paradigm is Cartesian, and as a result we have a pathological relationship between price and value. However, when sociologically we “believed in God” and had shared “givens” and/or “first principles” (as described throughout Belonging Again), the problems of this problematic relationship were more hidden and concealed, in the same way that when “our environments where Christian for us,” we did not face the consequences for lacking philosophical and existential training. Now though, things are very different, which brings to mind Nietzsche, for “overcoming” our modern problem requires us to not have “values bestowed,” but instead for us to own the fact that values are created.¹ If we fail to meaningfully face this reality and “put our money on it” (“skin in the game”), then we will struggle to address “The Economic Problem of Pricing Horizons.”²
Before starting, I would like to quickly clarify my language and the logic behind it.
Treating price and value like mind and body in Cartesianism, which is to say they influence one another but are not dependent on one another and/or only dependent on one another one way (the mind doesn’t need the body, for example, even if the body needs the mind).
Once we make the mistake of Dualism, we easily end up in one of two positions, which tend to arise together in dichotomic opposition.
Gnostics believed that matter was evil while the spirit was good, and in a similar way Economic Gnostics can believe that prices and economies in general are “bad,” while values and more personal activities are “good.” The Gnostic tends to be very critical and skeptical of the economy, as the Metaphysical Gnostic can be very skeptical of science and the physical in general.
Materialists who do not believe in realities beyond what is physical, and though it doesn’t characterize all materialists, many of them also believe that what is real can be observed (if it’s not empirical, it isn’t real). An Economic Materialist then is someone who doesn’t really believe in value, only price, which is to say “value is price.” Sure, they understand that money is ultimately just paper and that a hammer is only worth something because it helps me build a house, but for the Materialist all of these realities are entailed in and given by the price: value has no needed or additional role, similar to how Descartes’s “mind” adds nothing in explanatory power. It is removed by Occam’s Razor.
(Please note that we could also say that “Economic Materialism is Economic Reductionism,” for we “reduce” value to price, as “Economic Gnosticism is Economic Idealism,” for we suggest “value” doesn’t need price. I don’t use the language of Reductionism or Idealism much in this context, but I also wanted to note their relevance.)
Ultimately, my aim is to argue that Economic Dualism, which leads to Materialism and Gnosticism, is the root mistake, and that this Dualism needs to be replaced by a Dialectic, which is admittedly very similar but also different in critical ways (“price” and “value” are not reducible to one another but also only give rise to certain emergent results when they relate “tensely” to one another). As evidence that “Economic Dialecticism” is best (or “Economic Hegelianism”), consider that if I had a thing but not a price — it would be hard to value it, yes? And I certainly would struggle to quickly and efficiently community its “potential value” to my neighbor, let alone to millions of people whom I’ve never encountered or met (and who don’t share my worldview). I would have to convince others of the value, which is to say I would need to “negotiate” (as I’ve discussed regarding Game B, notably with Kevin Orosz), a requirement which becomes increasingly unlikely at scale. The larger the system, the more I have to move to “a programable system,” which risks the human element — which is when we can slip into “thinking exclusively in terms of price” and thus “Economic Materialism.” But funny enough, if I had just a price and not a thing, it would be hard to know the relevance of that price, yes? Prices without things to apply them to are meaningless, a point which suggests the mistake of “Economic Materialism.” If I had to choose, I would prefer an experience to a price, which suggests that believing “experiences/values are more important than prices” is more reasonable, but I think it is potentially a more reasonable mistake, if in this act we lose the capacity to scale and spread. Considering this, it might be better to be an Economic Gnostic than an Economic Materialist, but ultimately an Economic Dialectician is best (and certainly necessary if there is to be any hope of “spreading Absolute Knowing,” as discussed throughout O.G. Rose).
Economists mostly discuss “goods” and “services,” as they also discuss “supply” and “demand.” This is all valid terminology which plays a critical role, but it is also terminology which occurs in Dualism (and within the dichotomy between Gnosticism and Materialism). Gnosticism in economics is when value is everything and price dirty, while Materialism is where price is all there is and value indistinguishable. Modern pricing mechanisms work well enough under either metaphysical paradigm, the details of which are explained brilliantly by Friedrich Hayek, but only for goods and services. I have spoken elsewhere on Hayek’s thinking regarding pricing, and though I will not repeat all the details here, basically the point is that the pricing system is an information system and “test” by which we effectively allocate resources and provide “best reason to believe” where value is located in the system. If water in New York is expensive, water is shipped to New York, which brings down the price; if a given refrigerator is bought all across the country, there is reason to believe that more of the refrigerators should be built and others not produced; and so on. Prices are not merely in the business of profit but information, and without pricing we cannot effectively organize the socioeconomic system. The complexity is too vast.
Anyway, the pricing mechanism is necessary for effectively dealing with the vast complexity and information of a socioeconomic order, and without it tyranny almost seems inevitable. But how do we price something so that it might enter into the system in the first place? Well, there are generally three ways in which an entity is priced and thus translated into something economically computable:
1. The facticity of life makes it clear that we need a hammer, that a hammer thus has value, and so hammers are priced. This is when “the world” gives us a value that we then price.
(External value to price.)
2. We see a trinket in the store that is valued at $20 and thus come to believe its value is $20.
(Price to value and/or “price is value.” The first is dualistic, while the second is materialistic.)
3. We decide that something in the world has value, which doesn’t in its facticity provide us with a clear sense of value, and then we set the price according to that value we believe is present.
(Intrinsic value to price.)
All socioeconomic systems throughout history have likely consisted of all three of these angles, but we today see the spread of situations and enterprises which fall under the category of 3 and an increasing need to move in the direction of 3. As mentioned, this is an economic move into thinking that is more akin to Nietzsche, for we are moving from “Bestow Centrism” to “noble morality,” to needing the ability to say, for ourselves, “This is valuable.”
Christianity does not in its very facticity necessarily force us to say, “There is value here,” in the same way that a broken pipe “says to us” (in its being) that, “Fixing this would add value.” We have to believe Christianity is valuable, and why should we believe that versus think Atheism is more valuable? In the past, our environments basically answered that for us, because the very “givens” of the society made us “thoughtlessly” accept that “Christianity was true” (we absorbed it). We didn’t have to answer the question of why we thought it was true, because it “was” true, per se, and thus it made sense to economically support it. The value of Christianity was “given,” as supported by our sociology, and where there is value money “ought” to support it. How much exactly and to what extend was left to individual citizens to decide, but the fact that Christianity “ought to be” financially supported was “given.” Here, we can see where sociological conditions and economic problems, mechanisms, etc. are linked and connected, for what we have to worry about pricing is utterly relative to what our sociological condition. If Christianity “is” valued, then money will organically flow into it (to some relative degree) — there is no need to worry about “proving value” or the like.
Ours might be the first historic period that must convince people of the value of metaphysical systems so that money might flow into them without the plausible possibility of “givenness.” Yes, Christianity had to start out and raise money (it wasn’t always “given”), but all major religions started when the existence of metaphysics and Transcendent Realities were “plausible” and widely accepted. Thus, if a system of values could “get over the hump,” it was possible for it to gain “givenness,” at which point its financial sustainability was addressed (to some degree) in being integrated into the sociological order itself (which organized rationality in its favor). “Gaining givenness” is no longer possible (in the same way), and that means a new economic mechanism is needed for value systems, especially new ones or ones which are more so new (Christian churches can still benefit from their tradition and “The Shadow of Buddha,” per se). This changes everything, and for me this means a new system of investment is needed (for investment is how an enterprise is sustained, while “purchase” and “donation” are more temporary).
Our age is unique in that the existence and importance of metaphysical dimensions is not “given,” and thus “a new community of values” cannot use a strategy of “trying to gain givenness” in order to become economically viable. “Gaining givenness” was once “the sustainability strategy,” per se, but now that this option is gone, some “new mechanism” must be employed to make sustainability possible. As will be discussed in O.G. Rose, this is a mechanism for “investing directly in value” and will require using resources found in Web 3.0.
Once we claim for ourselves that something is valuable (versus have that valuation “bestowed” on us thanks to “givens,” others, etc.), we then have to place the entity within the economic system and pricing mechanism, and that requires us to give it a price. But it will not prove sufficient to say out of thin air, “This is worth a thousand,” for that is arbitrary and ungrounded. I need to invest in what I believe has value, which means I put “skin in the game,” the very act of which increases the quality of the information regarding that entity (as then signaled to the rest of the market). Without a price, an entity cannot be positioned within the market to benefit from pricing mechanisms, but that again begs the question of how an entity might be positioned within those mechanisms and then taken up by them effectively. This requires investment.
Because entities must be priced to create information about them so that they then might be processed by the economic system effectively, we are always at risk of Dualism (as is the case if we are dealing with dialectics, actually). We cannot avoid pricing, but we have to somehow avoid making the mistake of believing that “price is value” or that “value doesn’t need pricing.” Furthermore, we need for our valuation to be meaningful and to increase the probability that information regarding our valuation is of a high-quality — this is why investment and risk play a critical role in economic computation and coordination.
If I say, “I like dogs,” and that’s that, you will be more likely to believe someone who says the same thing and then spends $100 on a dog. Money speaks, for money is a means of making abstract values concrete and deeply consequential (a Hegelian point). This doesn’t mean the person who doesn’t spend money “necessarily” doesn’t care about dogs as much as the second person, but the presence of money increases “reason to believe” that the statement of values corresponds with actuality. Money and investment hence increases the quality of information (in helping orientate probability), which increases the probability that we locate a signal in the system. Sure, there could easily still be values and potential signals in a system without money and prices, but locating them will be all the more difficult and perhaps even “practically impossible.” More can be said on this, as hopefully can be found in “The Value Theory of Digital Assets, Commons, and Investment” by O.G. Rose, but the point is that risk, investment, and money are needed to help us effectively locate quality information about values and valuations. Without it, the likelihood we find a signal through the noise is lower, and furthermore we require them for decentralized signal-creation, which is to say for us to avoid the creation of “a single signal” which then everyone follows (which could be totalitarian).
Markets decentralize signal creation across billions of people and trillions of pieces of data, and without prices market systems prove impossible. We need prices, money, and investment, which means that if “enterprises of horizons” lack these, their production, implantation, and spread will be very inefficient, which might be interpreted as evidence that they don’t offer value, when really the problem is a lack of pricing mechanisms. By “horizon,” again, I mean “systems of values” and “ways of seeing the world,” which can be associated with religion and worship. After “the death of God,” our society cannot simple “give us horizons (relative to givenness),” and so we must choose and create “horizons” for ourselves (as Nietzsche claimed). And we require “horizons” precisely because we will have worldviews and philosophies and will have to confront the existential difficulty of Pluralism, “The Meta-Crisis,” etc. All of Belonging Again can be seen as evidence that “horizons aren’t optional” — the question is simply “which” we will choose for ourselves. But even if x is indeed “the best of all possible horizons” which actually could “spread Absolute Knowing” and address “The Meta-Crisis” (as discussed throughout “The Net”), without economic sustainability, that outstanding horizon will likely fail. This is why our situation is so dire: it will not prove sufficient to simply find “the right horizon,” for we also require a pricing mechanism to sustain it. If we take amazing technologies and place them in nations without markets, those technologies will make little difference and spread little — so it goes with “horizons.”
For me, this suggests why it is not enough for philosophers or theologians to generate a new abstract system of values which is internally consistent, for even “the best of all possible metaphysics” will prove unsustainable in lacking a pricing mechanism. I like to call economics “the hard problem,” similar to how many philosophers consider consciousness, for economics is where the physical and metaphysical come in contact (price and value), as consciousness is where the same occurs. Furthermore, a system which cannot survive economic testing or critique cannot be made concrete, and in Hegel we learn that this basically means the system is an abstraction and hardly even that (I like to say that an idea I cannot realize is arguably not even an idea). It is one thing to create an idea for “a new possible horizon,” but an entirely other matter to make one which takes seriously societies and economies, and of which can sustain itself in that context. This for me is why Dr. Last is right to associate economics with “The Real” of Lacan.
Sociology and economics are profoundly linked, and what happens to one impacts what happens to the other. If the values of a society changes, then so likewise will change how money flows through the system, how money is allocated, and the like. After “the death of God” and loss of “givenness,” I think we must take seriously a third category of economic activity.
This is a movement from “prices and values” to “prices/values” — a movement from a split to a tense but generative dialectic. Personal values and economic value are profoundly linked, which is to say ultimately economics must be “(meta)physical,” not just metaphysical and not just physical. “Price” and “value” are not identical, but the question is how shall they relate: dualistically or dialectically (and/or “incarnationally”)? For most of history, economics has reflected Descartes, whereas I am claiming economics must become Hegelian. If this does not occur (which I think is now possible with Web 3.0), we will fail to address “the hard problem of economics” which we’ve always faced but today is pronounced in its difficulty (due to Pluralism and collapse of “plausibility structures”), and we will not address “the pricing problem of horizons,” which is to say we most certainly will not “spread” the conditions which make possible say “Absolute Knowing” (which isn’t guaranteed anyway), which we have argued throughout O.G. Rose is necessary for us to address “The Meta-Crisis” and other dire problems.
The work of O.G. Rose talks often about “self-forgetfulness” and “flow,” and I believe all Dualisms are threats to entering into and achieving these states of being. Where “body” and “spirit” are divided, it becomes harder to forget about both, but if the two dialectically relate and can harmonize, then indeed “flow” becomes possible. Gnosticism also makes connections of “body” and “spirit” undesirable, for then body might contaminate spirt, whereas dialectical thinking makes both optimal and harmonized when they interact. In this way, ending “Economic Dualism” could help us resituate our economy to focus on the cultivation and presence of “flow,” which I believe is vital for “Absolute Knowing.” If it is the case that spreading “Absolute Knowing” is necessary for us to overcome “The Meta-Crisis,” for example, which seems impossible where there is widespread Dualism, then the end of Economic Dualism is utterly necessary, for economic systems are what (subconsciously) train people into metaphysical habits.
I will note here that I am of the opinion that (socio)markets become less efficient when they fall into either Economic Materialism or Economic Gnosticism, which is to say that the reality of “the efficient market hypothesis” is contingent upon to the degree the society is Economic Dialectical. We do what we think and think what we do, and thus how we believe “price” and “value” relate will profoundly impact where we invest our time, health, and money (three major categories I often stress). In the spirit of this point, the fact ethical and hence metaphysical values closely relate to economic values might suggest “the way” by which metaphysics ended up “in” the technology which Heidegger saw as turning the world into “standing reserve” (and furthermore contributing to our “capture,” considering Deleuze). Because metaphysical values can slip into economics, and because economics tends to create new technologies in order to gain profits, there is a natural trajectory by which metaphysics can become a force of reductionism. And yet avoiding metaphysics entirely is not an option (as hopefully O.G. Rose has argued), so what should be done? Well, I think keeping in mind the dialectic between “price” and “value” is a big part of it, for then we cannot let value “slip” into price without losing the dialectic, which is to say we will stop the “slip” that must occur for us to unintentionally start turning the world into “standing reserve.” Ideas have consequences, and if we see economics as dualistic versus dialectical, we will suffer for it.
In conclusion, today we basically must invest directly in metaphysics, which is incredibly paradoxical, for how do we do something physical to something non-physical? Well, it’s only possible if “physics” and “non-physics” can relate to one another and should relate to one another, which suggests that Dualism is wrong. And if we must “invest directly in value” and metaphysics to survive “The Meta-Crisis,” then we must deconstruct Economic Dualism, and the very fact we must suggests that it’s time for Hegelian Economics. This doesn’t mean Economic Dualism didn’t have a “historic period” in which it played a role and needed to play that role, but that we are now reaching an age in which Economic Dualism must be “sublated” into Economic Dialectics (Hegelian “dialectical (meta)physics”). Everything in Hegel is contingent and matters of “timing” (to allude to Javier Rivera’s work), and we haven’t yet made a mistake to entertain Economic Dualism — that will depend on what we do now and if we sublate it into Hegelian Economics. What is “now” a mistake played a role in the development of history, but if those “mistakes” overstay their welcome, they indeed become mistakes — and I believe there is very good reason to think today that the visit needs to come to an end…
Looking ahead, we have argued for an end to Economic Dualism (which requires an economic change for the shift to be wide-“spread”), framed “The Economic Problem of Horizon,” and suggested the necessity of “investing directly in value.” Next, we must describe what that mechanism is and how it might practically work, and that will take us to the topic of Web 3.0 and amazing work found at Intrinsic Research Co.
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¹For more, please see my argument that Nietzsche is a thinker who deconstructs “Bestow Centrism,” as presented at Philosophy Portal, pioneered by Dr. Cadell Last.
²Please note I have referred to “approach” in the past, but gradually have come to prefer the language of “horizon,” considering the rich philosophical and hermeneutical meaning of the word.