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> Worshippers Of The Unseen Butterfingers (WOTUB), Critical Reflection ⇒ Making The Invisible Hand Visible
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Jon Awbrey
post Thu 26th February 2009, 1:46pm
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I have to go dig out my Adam Smith and my Max Weber … it may take the weekend, but I didn't want to lose this number …

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Dynamic List Of Resources —

Adam SmithMax WeberIf you never read any other Social Theory, read Max Weber first. It was one of the great tragedies of the 20th Century that he died when he did, not only because the program of works he had begun would remain unfinished but also because the moderating influence he was exerting on his country's national and international affairs was suddenly dissipated.

Here is an excellent online resource on Weber —
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Jon Awbrey
post Fri 27th February 2009, 7:40pm
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While I ponder bleak and bleary on how to kickstart yet another motiv epicycle of Le Dismal Séance, allow me to quote what PBS wrote on another thread, as I think he's said a big piece of it clearer than I ever will.

QUOTE(GlassBeadGame @ Fri 27th February 2009, 2:21pm) *

Don't try to sell "false equivalence" or "we are all to blame". This disaster was caused by those who made a fetish out of market solutions for all problems. Intellectually this is Milton Friedman, his heir Alan Greenspan, and "the Chicago Boys". When these policies are applied in foreign policy it was called "neo-liberalism". When applied at home it was so ubiquitous that it either didn't have a name or misappropriated the title "economics". They have centers of influence in both the Democratic and Republican party but overwhelmingly dominate the Republican party.

Going forward all nations will have mixed economies. The political economy that prevails in each respective nation will determine the exact mix and "economics" will have to purge itself of fairy tale faith if it is to survive as an academic discipline.

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Jon Awbrey
post Sun 1st March 2009, 9:18pm
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As long as I'm excusing my lack of earnest toil on this question by means of theft from the efforts of others, let me link to a very fine work known to me, that serves to beam a much needed searchlight on a scene of action where a whole lot of formerly deprecated invisible hand-waving has already begun to direct the play.

Susan M. Awbrey (2003), “Making the ‘Invisible Hand’ Visible : Dialogue About Academic Capitalism”.

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Moulton
post Sun 1st March 2009, 9:30pm
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The other day, Kato posted a link to a segment from a BBC documentary of some interest. Among the points in the segment was the thesis that the so-called invisible hand of an efficient market is invisible because it's not really there.

My colleague, Dan Arielly, who is a behavioral economist, has made quite a splash with his recent book on predictable irrationality.

According to the BBC segment, there are only three demographic groups who are rational: Economists, Game Theory Experts, and Psychopaths.
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Jon Awbrey
post Sun 1st March 2009, 9:54pm
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QUOTE(Moulton @ Sun 1st March 2009, 4:30pm) *

The other day, Kato posted a link to a segment from a BBC documentary of some interest. Among the points in the segment was the thesis that the so-called invisible hand of an efficient market is invisible because it's not really there.

My colleague, Dan Arielly, who is a behavioral economist, has made quite a splash with his recent book on predictable irrationality.

According to the BBC segment, there are only three demographic groups who are rational: Economists, Game Theory Experts, and Psychopaths.


People may be aware of using a metaphor when they speak of the Unseen Hand (UH). Using a metaphor need not invalidate the reasoning that uses it, not so long as the metaphor has an objective referent or a consistent connotation. The meaning that it has may be impossible to approach in just a few words any other way. But people just as often lose sight of the metaphor's meaning by taking it too literally.

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Angela Kennedy
post Mon 2nd March 2009, 8:11am
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Sun 1st March 2009, 9:54pm) *

QUOTE(Moulton @ Sun 1st March 2009, 4:30pm) *

The other day, Kato posted a link to a segment from a BBC documentary of some interest. Among the points in the segment was the thesis that the so-called invisible hand of an efficient market is invisible because it's not really there.

My colleague, Dan Arielly, who is a behavioral economist, has made quite a splash with his recent book on predictable irrationality.

According to the BBC segment, there are only three demographic groups who are rational: Economists, Game Theory Experts, and Psychopaths.


People may be aware of using a metaphor when they speak of the Unseen Hand (UH). Using a metaphor need not invalidate the reasoning that uses it, not so long as the metaphor has an objective referent or a consistent connotation. The meaning that it has may be impossible to approach in just a few words any other way. But people just as often lose sight of the metaphor's meaning by taking it too literally.

Jon Image


May I add Michael Jacob's 'invisible elbow' to the mix here? (FRom the Green Economy, 1991) where Jacobs uses the metaphor as a counterpoint to SMith's invisible hand, in order to explain the hidden externalities (costs) to others of certain economic actions (e.g. environmental costs in Jacobs discussion). There could be many others of course.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 2nd March 2009, 1:00pm
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QUOTE(Angela Kennedy @ Mon 2nd March 2009, 3:11am) *

May I add Michael Jacobs' "invisible elbow" to the mix here? (from The Green Economy, 1991) where Jacobs uses the metaphor as a counterpoint to Smith's invisible hand, in order to explain the hidden externalities (costs) to others of certain economic actions (e.g. environmental costs in Jacobs discussion). There could be many others of course.


I haven't read that, but will definitely look it up.

When I first read your comment, I got a mental image of the Butter on the Fingers being due to the spreading of the Grease on the Elbow, and then I had to wonder whose Palm is getting Larded in the Process — but I think we all know the answer to that.

Anyway, let me pick a random reading that looks apt — here's an excerpt from a pre-publication prospectus by Jacobs himself:

QUOTE

The invisible elbow

Sometimes these external costs are paid in money. The West German timber industry loses around $800 million each year from the effects of acid rain. And agriculture pays further costs of $600 million in the loss of soil fertility which is also the fault of acid rain? But often the costs are not quantifiable. How do you measure the cost of brain damage to a child? And what price do you place on the species made extinct in the rainforest?

Nearly all environmental problems are 'externalities'. If consumers had to suffer all the pollution caused by the products they bought, they wouldn't buy them in such damaging quantities. It is precisely because costs are passed on to third parties that we let them occur. Environmental degradation is a genuine case of passing the muck.

There is an exception — the contamination of food and water by chemicals is an externality. If you buy a fruit or vegetable coated with pesticide residues then you are the person being poisoned. You are paying the cost of the pollution yourself — although lots of other people may pay too, such as the workers spraying the pesticides and future generations whose water is polluted. This is why there has been such a boom in organic foods and mineral waters. Consumers may not care what happens to others but they are certainly worried about the costs they pay themselves.

But all the other environmental problems affect people too indirectly to make them act. How many people will voluntarily give up driving cars to prevent acid rain or global warming? If I act alone it won't have any significant effect on the problem. So if I don't know that you will co-operate with me, why should I lose out by cutting down on my consumption?

Because only co-operative action can tackle environmental problems, they will not be resolved by unhampered market forces. Indeed, it is precisely market forces which bring them about. Environmental problems occur through the combination of millions of individual economic decisions. These decisions are taken privately, without reference to what everyone else is doing, because nobody can know what everyone else is doing. Added together, market forces generate an overall result which no-one can predict.

This is the 'invisible hand' which the economist Adam Smith argued brought general prosperity. But it can equally be an 'invisible elbow' which brings the earth's precarious ecological balance crashing down like a pile of cans in a supermarket.

Bronzed, rich and dying

To protect the environment we must force consumers and producers to make decisions which take wider interests into account. We need to 'internalize the externalities' — to bring all the costs back into the box so that the consumer pays the full price. Market forces have to be controlled and there are two main mechanisms for doing it.

— Michael Jacobs (1990), "The Price of the Future", New Internationalist, Nº 203, January 1990.

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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 2nd March 2009, 1:58pm
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Dialogue Concerning The Two World Systems —

A dialogue between Adam Smith 1759 and Adam Smith 1776, that is.

J₪N

My Favourites —

QUOTE

The rich … divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal proportions among all its inhabitants.

— Adam Smith (1759), The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part IV Chapter 1



QUOTE

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.

— Adam Smith (1759), The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part I Section I Chapter I



Available on Virtually Simulated Gold Plaques for a Nominal Donation of £1,000,000 Each — Get Both for Only £1,999,999 !!! — Brought to You by the Loving Hands and Expert Craftsmanship of the Madoff Mint.

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Jon Awbrey
post Thu 19th March 2009, 2:42pm
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Another one of those month-long weekends, but I did finally manage to get a nice initial collection of resources together —

J☼N

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Thu 26th February 2009, 9:46am) *

I have to go dig out my Adam Smith and my Max Weber … it may take the weekend, but I didn't want to lose this number …

J☼N

Dynamic List Of Resources —

Adam SmithMax WeberIf you never read any other Social Theory, read Max Weber first. It was one of the great tragedies of the 20th Century that he died before he could finish the program of works that he had started.

Here is an excellent online resource on Weber —
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GlassBeadGame
post Thu 19th March 2009, 2:58pm
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I think we might want to consider the role of Invisible Sharp Elbows have in making sure the politically well connected get their "cut" in any legislative attempt at mitigating the damages caused by market. I suspect we will be seeing rather a lot this soon.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 1st March 2010, 2:56pm
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Notes —
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GlassBeadGame
post Mon 1st March 2010, 7:56pm
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 1st March 2010, 9:56am) *

Notes —


Ok Jon, help us out here. Kent seems to be interested in how people who start out participating in a social movement or cause (like maybe building an encyclopedia?) can become cult zealots. I can see the application to WP. Weber is a very comprehensive founding thinker in social science. So his work is very broad and it is not easy to see which exact aspects apply here. He did believe that Marx was too materialistic in his understanding of capitalism and that religious ideas, especially Protestantism, have as much to do with capitalism as markets and factors of production. So how do we tie these together?
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 1st March 2010, 9:16pm
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QUOTE(GlassBeadGame @ Mon 1st March 2010, 2:56pm) *

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 1st March 2010, 9:56am) *

Notes —

Ok Jon, help us out here. Kent seems to be interested in how people who start out participating in a social movement or cause (like maybe building an encyclopedia?) can become cult zealots. I can see the application to WP. Weber is a very comprehensive founding thinker in social science. So his work is very broad and it is not easy to see which exact aspects apply here. He did believe that Marx was too materialistic in his understanding of capitalism and that religious ideas, especially Protestantism, have as much to do with capitalism as markets and factors of production. So how do we tie these together?


Just a bit of Weber Surfing. I started out trying to track down a quoted phrase in Weber's PE & SOC — probably so familiar to his German readers that he didn't bother to give the source — but the stuff I ran into along the way looked interesting, too. The last comment on this page sent me to a paper by Kent, but I ran out of time for reading it till later tonight.

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radek
post Wed 3rd March 2010, 9:02pm
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 2nd March 2009, 7:00am) *

QUOTE(Angela Kennedy @ Mon 2nd March 2009, 3:11am) *

May I add Michael Jacobs' "invisible elbow" to the mix here? (from The Green Economy, 1991) where Jacobs uses the metaphor as a counterpoint to Smith's invisible hand, in order to explain the hidden externalities (costs) to others of certain economic actions (e.g. environmental costs in Jacobs discussion). There could be many others of course.


I haven't read that, but will definitely look it up.

When I first read your comment, I got a mental image of the Butter on the Fingers being due to the spreading of the Grease on the Elbow, and then I had to wonder whose Palm is getting Larded in the Process — but I think we all know the answer to that.

Anyway, let me pick a random reading that looks apt — here's an excerpt from a pre-publication prospectus by Jacobs himself:

QUOTE

The invisible elbow

Sometimes these external costs are paid in money. The West German timber industry loses around $800 million each year from the effects of acid rain. And agriculture pays further costs of $600 million in the loss of soil fertility which is also the fault of acid rain? But often the costs are not quantifiable. How do you measure the cost of brain damage to a child? And what price do you place on the species made extinct in the rainforest?

Nearly all environmental problems are 'externalities'. If consumers had to suffer all the pollution caused by the products they bought, they wouldn't buy them in such damaging quantities. It is precisely because costs are passed on to third parties that we let them occur. Environmental degradation is a genuine case of passing the muck.

There is an exception — the contamination of food and water by chemicals is an externality. If you buy a fruit or vegetable coated with pesticide residues then you are the person being poisoned. You are paying the cost of the pollution yourself — although lots of other people may pay too, such as the workers spraying the pesticides and future generations whose water is polluted. This is why there has been such a boom in organic foods and mineral waters. Consumers may not care what happens to others but they are certainly worried about the costs they pay themselves.

But all the other environmental problems affect people too indirectly to make them act. How many people will voluntarily give up driving cars to prevent acid rain or global warming? If I act alone it won't have any significant effect on the problem. So if I don't know that you will co-operate with me, why should I lose out by cutting down on my consumption?

Because only co-operative action can tackle environmental problems, they will not be resolved by unhampered market forces. Indeed, it is precisely market forces which bring them about. Environmental problems occur through the combination of millions of individual economic decisions. These decisions are taken privately, without reference to what everyone else is doing, because nobody can know what everyone else is doing. Added together, market forces generate an overall result which no-one can predict.

This is the 'invisible hand' which the economist Adam Smith argued brought general prosperity. But it can equally be an 'invisible elbow' which brings the earth's precarious ecological balance crashing down like a pile of cans in a supermarket.

Bronzed, rich and dying

To protect the environment we must force consumers and producers to make decisions which take wider interests into account. We need to 'internalize the externalities' — to bring all the costs back into the box so that the consumer pays the full price. Market forces have to be controlled and there are two main mechanisms for doing it.

— Michael Jacobs (1990), "The Price of the Future", New Internationalist, Nº 203, January 1990.




The thing is, this view is pretty standard within economics. Even Milton Friedman supported "internalizing the externalities" (despite the so called Coase Theorem (warning: Wikipedia article on the subject is horrible), which also came out of the Chicago School) in one way or another.
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GlassBeadGame
post Wed 3rd March 2010, 9:38pm
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QUOTE(radek @ Wed 3rd March 2010, 4:02pm) *

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 2nd March 2009, 7:00am) *

QUOTE(Angela Kennedy @ Mon 2nd March 2009, 3:11am) *

May I add Michael Jacobs' "invisible elbow" to the mix here? (from The Green Economy, 1991) where Jacobs uses the metaphor as a counterpoint to Smith's invisible hand, in order to explain the hidden externalities (costs) to others of certain economic actions (e.g. environmental costs in Jacobs discussion). There could be many others of course.


I haven't read that, but will definitely look it up.

When I first read your comment, I got a mental image of the Butter on the Fingers being due to the spreading of the Grease on the Elbow, and then I had to wonder whose Palm is getting Larded in the Process — but I think we all know the answer to that.

Anyway, let me pick a random reading that looks apt — here's an excerpt from a pre-publication prospectus by Jacobs himself:

QUOTE

The invisible elbow

Sometimes these external costs are paid in money. The West German timber industry loses around $800 million each year from the effects of acid rain. And agriculture pays further costs of $600 million in the loss of soil fertility which is also the fault of acid rain? But often the costs are not quantifiable. How do you measure the cost of brain damage to a child? And what price do you place on the species made extinct in the rainforest?

Nearly all environmental problems are 'externalities'. If consumers had to suffer all the pollution caused by the products they bought, they wouldn't buy them in such damaging quantities. It is precisely because costs are passed on to third parties that we let them occur. Environmental degradation is a genuine case of passing the muck.

There is an exception — the contamination of food and water by chemicals is an externality. If you buy a fruit or vegetable coated with pesticide residues then you are the person being poisoned. You are paying the cost of the pollution yourself — although lots of other people may pay too, such as the workers spraying the pesticides and future generations whose water is polluted. This is why there has been such a boom in organic foods and mineral waters. Consumers may not care what happens to others but they are certainly worried about the costs they pay themselves.

But all the other environmental problems affect people too indirectly to make them act. How many people will voluntarily give up driving cars to prevent acid rain or global warming? If I act alone it won't have any significant effect on the problem. So if I don't know that you will co-operate with me, why should I lose out by cutting down on my consumption?

Because only co-operative action can tackle environmental problems, they will not be resolved by unhampered market forces. Indeed, it is precisely market forces which bring them about. Environmental problems occur through the combination of millions of individual economic decisions. These decisions are taken privately, without reference to what everyone else is doing, because nobody can know what everyone else is doing. Added together, market forces generate an overall result which no-one can predict.

This is the 'invisible hand' which the economist Adam Smith argued brought general prosperity. But it can equally be an 'invisible elbow' which brings the earth's precarious ecological balance crashing down like a pile of cans in a supermarket.

Bronzed, rich and dying

To protect the environment we must force consumers and producers to make decisions which take wider interests into account. We need to 'internalize the externalities' — to bring all the costs back into the box so that the consumer pays the full price. Market forces have to be controlled and there are two main mechanisms for doing it.

— Michael Jacobs (1990), "The Price of the Future", New Internationalist, Nº 203, January 1990.




The thing is, this view is pretty standard within economics. Even Milton Friedman supported "internalizing the externalities" (despite the so called Coase Theorem (warning: Wikipedia article on the subject is horrible), which also came out of the Chicago School) in one way or another.




"I found a flaw" Greenspan, in his blubbering testimony before congress explaining how the "free market" let the rich allocate risks to the those least able to absorb them.
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post Wed 3rd March 2010, 9:56pm
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QUOTE(GlassBeadGame @ Wed 3rd March 2010, 2:38pm) *


"I found a flaw" Greenspan, in his blubbering testimony before congress explaining how the "free market" let the rich allocate risks to the those least able to absorb them.

What an asshole. This guy has spent his WHOLE LIFE in an industry (the financial industry) where the main goal is to keep the profit for yourself, while getting somebody else to assume the risk. Thus, people don't invest for themselves and take the risk-- they run hedge funds whereby they "manage" other people's money and take a fraction of it, while the OTHER people take the risk. They don't trade stocks; they become stock traders where they make a commission on sales, and thus benefit whether the sales are good or not. They write books for other people on how to get rich, and they themselves make money from the writing. Even better, they write investment newsletters, and have investment TV shows.

Geeze, Greenspan. Just take a look at the ordinary way most people make money on Wallstreet. Derivatives were TOTALLY predictable. And if you knew about them, what did you THINK was going to happen with them? Did you think the people who bought these loans were going to go down with ship? You're a better man than I, Gunga Din? Please.

And BTW, don't blame Milton Friedman for this one. This is Greenspan and Rand. Friedman believed in truth-in-labeling. And he died with a lot less money than Greenspan will.
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GlassBeadGame
post Fri 5th March 2010, 2:51pm
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I've been thinking about "markets" and flagged revisions. Maybe a little about Weber too. It seems to me there are two kinds of Oppose votes on the issue:
  • Those who believe that all wiki contributions are valuable because, even or malicious wrong ones and wrong ones because the stimulate discussion and analytical processes that lead to better decisions and improved content. These people are wrong because the discussion and processes on WP are not real but merely simulated, conducted by persons who lack the capacity to engage in the kind of that might, in a better environment, lead to improved content.
  • Those who believe mindlessly in the wisdom crowds, and who take as an article of faith that atomized content and unregulated immediate edits on a wiki will organize itself as if by magic into self improving and rectifying content.

The some of the former might be eventually brought on board but the latter never will. The are the Ayn Rands and Alan Greenspans of wikis.

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Jon Awbrey
post Fri 5th March 2010, 3:18pm
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There's some kind of disconnect here.

People who affect devotion to the Will and Wisdom of the Market may say they think the crowd is smarter than them, but that is obviously just part of the con. They have no intention of submerging their worship of self in any kind of collectivism. What they really believe is that they secretly know the Will Of The Deity Formerly Known As God, and that it always intended to leave the kingdom to them.

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Jon Awbrey
post Fri 5th March 2010, 5:36pm
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Weber started with the Doctrine Of Predestination (DOP) and the effect that it has on the psyche of the believer. It creates an effectively unsoothable anxiety whose compulsions can be diverted but transiently through the conspicuous accumulation of material wealth. Note that I say "accumulation" not "consumption", since the truest of the true believers are forbade to enjoy the fruits of their unceasing labors.

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GlassBeadGame
post Fri 5th March 2010, 5:39pm
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Fri 5th March 2010, 12:36pm) *

Weber started with the Doctrine Of Predestination (DOP) and the effect that it has on the psyche of the believer. It creates an effectively unsoothable anxiety who compulsion can be diverted but transiently through the conspicuous accumulation of material wealth. Note that I say "accumulation" not "consumption", since the truest of the true believers are forbade to enjoy the fruits of their unceasing labors.

Jon Awbrey


"Editing for free" is a perfect vehicle then. It gives a way of measuring accumulation (edit counts) without providing any possibility of consumption.
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