Production function and preference relation: Archetypes of economics

In my gradual process of trying to figure out what I am going to write when comparing Tarot Cards to Economics, it has become increasingly clear to me how the production function and preference relations of economics function (the primitives of an economic model) as “archetypes” for our discipline – and how many non-economists do not share these archetypes and as a result find it hard to translate what we are saying.

Now at first brush this seems strange – these relations are surely not archetypes, but are surely instead symbols. Why?  Well a symbol in the view I’m using here is a “given” descriptive term without any complicated cultural relations getting in its way – so a production function is a primitive as production comes from inputs being translated into outputs, preference relations merely state that people have preferences.

These symbols are then tied together to fit archetypes/models of situations.  We can then take these archetypes/models together in order to discuss or explain something in the real world. To me this is akin to the “Credible Worlds” view of economic models, or even the old school Mill view – we take these symbols/primitives and create models which capture some tendency in the real world.  We then tie together these tendencies that are captured by models in order to provide policy conclusions.

This is the way I did see the process of economic model building.

But now I’ve moved the status of production functions et al to the area of archetype.  From good old Wikipedia we have:

In Jung’s psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations

The very idea of using a production function flavours the way economists interpret ideas and the way we understand phenomenon.  Often when communicating we do not observe the production function, or have any idea of all the inputs into it – in this more limited way of viewing the process, the fact that we apply an implicit view of a production function to it is akin to the production function being an archetype in our description of what is going on.  More importantly, the symbol of something like a production function becomes an archetype as it becomes accepted as a central part of the way economists communicate with each other – when we tell each other stories we ALWAYS have a production function in mind.

This matters as the fact we look at data and the world around us through the view of a production function and preference relations is probably the key difference between the way economists view phenomenon and the way non-economists interpret it.

Yes, the models that we build off of production functions et al are archetypes as well – but they of course rely on our prior assumptions about primitives (the production function).  The model can itself be boiled down to these fundamental primitives – primitives that when not used in their most general form are in fact archetypes.

As a result, when it comes to explaining, justifying, communicating, or educating and economist requires a clear head when it comes to looking at these fundamental archetypes – and needs to be able to justify why these archetypes are appropriate for describing social phenomenon.

This is just where my head is at right now – if anyone has any comments or wants to correct me on anything that would be super.

Tarotnomics: Part 1 – The cards

While enjoying the economics at the NZAE conference this year, I felt that, in 2013, I should really submit something.  After a few beers I worked out that my comparative advantage likely lies outside the core of economics – and so I decided that a paper on the economics of tarot card reading was in order.

Now I have written on this issue briefly before, and I have even given the economy a tarot card reading at one point.

With the idea in mind, and motivated by the suggestion at NZAE from Berk Ozler that crowd sourcing papers was a good idea – I’m going to put together the concepts on the blog.  The way I see it, I’m doing the paper in my spare time, and I do the blog in my spare time, so why not mix the two.

As a starting point I want to do something pretty simple – I want to explain broadly what the actual tarot cards are.  Once we have that, we can move on to thinking about readings, and then get an idea of how a tarot card reading represents a type of “model”.  With that in mind, we can work out what attributes of a model this reading has.

Once we’ve then listed down what an economic model is, we can compare and contrast – through this process, we can hopefully shine a light on what economic models represent, how they are useful, the things we have to keep an eye on, and the possible pitfalls.

Note:  If there is anyone around with knowledge about analytical tarot card reading then comments would be much appreciated – especially if you are also well versed in economic methodology, given that’s the direction I’m coming from here.

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