62. Economic Complexity and the Engine of Psychology

Industry-GovernmentCon­text: The essay con­sid­ers eco­nom­ics as a psy­cho­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non with the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a com­plex dynamic sys­tem. It is an ini­tial and some­what play­ful explo­ration, not a math­e­mat­i­cal paper on sys­tems the­ory. The orig­i­nal con­text was a dis­cus­sion group back­ground paper which evolved away from its ori­gins. The start­ing pro­posal adopted (for argument’s sake) was that “the most eco­nom­i­cally suc­cess­ful soci­eties have always depended upon a high level of gov­ern­ment col­lu­sion with com­merce and indus­try, if not con­trol. This argu­ment is a way of say­ing that the “invis­i­ble hand” of the mar­ket is not enough to main­tain an effi­cient mar­ket, at least beyond vil­lage level. There has to be an inde­pen­dent umpire, or forced con­trol (dic­ta­tor, mafia … )”. It became clear that the gov­ern­ment-indus­try col­lu­sion issue was really a sur­face gloss on a much more com­pli­cated real­ity.

1. The writer of this essay, although not quite eco­nom­i­cally or polit­i­cally illit­er­ate, is nei­ther an econ­o­mist nor a politi­cian. Prac­ti­tion­ers of those dis­mal pro­fes­sions will there­fore fall about laugh­ing at what fol­lows. On the other hand, the pur­pose here is to provide food for thought and debate, so hav­ing a yokel stum­ble into the palace may offer a lit­tle dis­trac­tion from the cemented-in assump­tions and clichés of pro­fes­sional courtiers.

2. The start­ing con­cept used here of what eco­nom­ics is about needs prior warn­ing, since it vio­lates the usual con­ven­tions from Eco­nom­ics 101 text­books which mil­lions have imbibed uncrit­i­cally (see May, Thor 2011 for some more impo­lite remarks about this mind­set). I take eco­nom­ics to be the study of cer­tain psy­cho­log­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tions, not per se an analy­sis of the avail­abil­ity and ratio­nal allo­ca­tion of resources etc. The argu­ment behind this psy­chol­o­giz­ing of eco­nom­ics, crudely put, is that in the end resources (mate­rial, cap­i­tal, labour) may not mat­ter so much. These things can always be stolen, bor­rowed or bought. Take the right group of Kore­ans, Japan­ese, Chi­nese, Eng­lish­men, Ger­mans … and put them on a desert island. In short order you will find the place turn­ing into another Sin­ga­pore. On the other hand, bil­lions of dol­lars poured into so-called for­eign aid has usu­ally made a des­per­ately pathetic con­tri­bu­tion to the real eco­nomic futures of recip­i­ent soci­eties (though often enriched source coun­try con­trac­tors).

3. Polit­i­cal lit­er­a­ture is awash with ide­o­log­i­cal debates about the virtues of cap­i­tal­ism and social­ism, each bear­ing their own mytholo­gies about the char­ac­ter­is­tics of gov­ern­ment and the mar­ket econ­omy. These con­cepts have each accu­mu­lated more mean­ings than a chameleon’s cam­ou­flage, while their descrip­tions veer (often inco­her­ently) between claims of eco­nomic ratio­nal­ity, moral supe­ri­or­ity and his­tor­i­cal neces­sity. In fact, an objec­tive look at real nation states and the social spaces within them, makes it pretty clear that no sus­tain­able com­mu­nity has ever really been “social­ist” or “cap­i­tal­ist”.

4. The sur­viv­ing human story has always been one of com­pro­mise, in the eco­nomic dimen­sion or any other. Nowa­days, whether the topic is Rus­sia or China or Viet­nam or Uruguay or Venezuela or Swe­den or Aus­tralia or Nige­ria or the United States of Amer­ica, or a sprawl­ing refugee camp of state­less per­sons (of whom there are tens of mil­lions), we all live in “mixed economies”. The mix varies, and it varies on many dimen­sions. There is always a level of gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tion for var­i­ous rea­sons, effec­tive or inef­fec­tive, and always attempts by out­side forces to influ­ence gov­ern­ment. There is always an “infor­mal econ­omy”, which in some cases dwarfs the offi­cial econ­omy. There are always indi­vid­u­als, small busi­nesses and cor­po­ra­tions (some transna­tional) which inter­act in var­i­ous ways with gov­ern­ments, national and local. 

5. The end­less ide­o­log­i­cal tirades about “social­ism”, “com­mu­nism”, “cap­i­tal­ism” and lots of other –isms are there­fore mostly polit­i­cal white noise, divert­ing atten­tion from real prob­lems which need to be solved in real com­mu­ni­ties in the most prac­ti­ca­ble avail­able ways. Some­times those ways will involve the engage­ment of some level of gov­ern­ment. Some­times they won’t. I per­son­ally dis­like ide­olo­gies strongly held, and dis­trust deci­sions that are dri­ven by them. If there is a moral pref­er­ence evi­dent in this paper it is prob­a­bly that wherever action occurs, in gov­ern­ment or busi­ness or indi­vid­u­ally, it should be as com­pe­tent and humane as pos­si­ble.

6. The account to fol­low tries to remain free from the more tra­di­tional cat­e­gories of pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics, or at least to use them when needed with a very light touch. Instead I will intro­duce some new cat­e­gories as a kind of thought exper­i­ment. These cat­e­gories are play dough. Read­ers should feel relaxed about reshap­ing them, prod­ding, knead­ing and even pinch­ing them apart. It is OK to be a bit naïve. I’m naïve. It helps think­ing, as in going where even fools fear to tread, since we aren’t respon­si­ble for any­thing in a mere essay.

7. A soci­ety is a life-long col­lec­tion of peo­ple. One descrip­tion of an econ­omy is how that col­lec­tion of peo­ple inter­act together firstly to provide sub­sis­tence needs, sec­ondly to provide and dis­trib­ute per­ceived needs, and thirdly how they man­age any sur­plus. Let us call this con­cept Econ­o­my1. An entirely dif­fer­ent descrip­tion of an econ­omy is how abstract enti­ties such as cor­po­ra­tions, indus­tries and gov­ern­ments inter­act to gen­er­ate the objec­tives desired by their con­trol­ling elites. Let us call this con­cept Econ­o­my2. Econ­o­my1 and Econ­o­my2 obvi­ously evolve over time in emer­gent rela­tion­ships, but the met­rics of pro­duc­tiv­ity in each only partly over­lap. An often fluid set of rela­tion­ships between Econ­o­my1 and Econ­o­my2, medi­ated by indi­vid­u­als, asso­ci­a­tions and insti­tu­tions could be called Econ­o­my3.

8. Econ­o­my3 is essen­tially a ser­vice econ­omy from the per­spec­tive of indi­vid­u­als in Econ­o­my1, and a defen­sive econ­omy from per­spec­tive of the much smaller num­ber of indi­vid­u­als who closely iden­tify with Econ­o­my2. A sim­ple exam­ple of this would be Econ­o­my1 peo­ple view­ing unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits as a sub­sis­tence safety net (or in extreme cases, a long term source of income), while Econ­o­my2 types might view the ben­e­fits as insur­ance against any social unrest which could threaten their advan­tage. The mar­ket­ing of unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits would of course be expressed in terms of broad social jus­tice (i.e. an Econ­o­my1 notion of a pro­duc­tive out­come), not the inse­cu­rity of elites (an Econ­o­my2 notion of a cost to be min­i­mized). How­ever, the actual pol­icy deci­sions and the nec­es­sary mobi­liza­tion of cap­i­tal would occur by Econ­o­my3 pro­fes­sion­als act­ing as agents for inter­ests in Econ­o­my2.

9. The dom­i­nant human rela­tion­ships within the elite Econ­o­my2 in almost every national and trans-national juris­dic­tion are dri­ven by patron­age sys­tems which co-opt exper­tise as needed. His­tor­i­cally, this has always been the case, regard­less of rev­o­lu­tions, ide­olo­gies, laws, or offi­cial sys­tems of gov­ern­ment, or declared sys­tems of man­age­ment in com­pa­nies. The actual mechan­ics of patron­age are often deter­mined by local cul­tures, and are some­times so famil­iar that they are assumed to be eth­i­cally desir­able. Monar­chs, bish­ops, pres­i­dents, prime min­is­ters, may­ors, direc­tors and dic­ta­tors have always felt it was their proper role to dis­pense favours, sta­tus and sinecures in exchange for unques­tion­ing loy­alty.

10. How­ever in the cur­rent era, dis­pas­sion­ate pro­fes­sional and tech­no­cratic deci­sion mak­ing is usu­ally the pub­lic cloak for what­ever rul­ing elites wish to arrange. The eco­nomic dis­course of pub­lic media is a sig­nif­i­cant part of this cloak. Terms like “GNP” and “pro­duc­tiv­ity” come trip­pingly off the tongues of peo­ple who have no seri­ous under­stand­ing of what they mean, but who will vote under the delu­sion that they do. The ideal out­come is to per­suade all the mem­bers of a society’s sev­eral economies that each deci­sion is the best pos­si­ble com­pro­mise.

11. Often enough pro­fes­sional and tech­ni­cally dri­ven solu­tions are the best pos­si­ble out­comes for the largest num­ber of par­tic­i­pants in Economies 1, 2 and 3. How­ever, this is by no means always the case. Where there is a seri­ous con­test of inter­ests, Econ­o­my2 par­tic­i­pants will over­whelm­ingly pre­vail in sub­stance while media machi­nes are deployed to cam­ou­flage that sub­stance in the wider pub­lic domain (Econ­o­my1). Nev­er­the­less, where the human rela­tion­ships within Econ­o­my2 are exces­sively hier­ar­chi­cal and irra­tional, the human weak­nesses of peak power hold­ers may be a threat not only to Econ­o­my1 and Econ­o­my3 play­ers, but also under­mine the integrity of Econ­o­my2. At an extreme, insta­bil­ity in Econ­o­my2 can pre­cip­i­tate chaotic change. 

12. Think­ing very broadly, the par­tic­i­pants in Econ­o­my1 are con­cerned with the per­sonal human life cycle of child­hood, grow­ing to matu­rity, find­ing a part­ner, mak­ing a fam­ily, secur­ing an income, fol­low­ing hob­bies and spec­ta­tor sport, accu­mu­lat­ing some per­sonal sta­bil­ity in the form of a house and mod­est pos­ses­sions etc. That is, atten­tion is focused at a very local level, and allows for only the briefest inter­est in the wider social struc­ture, national polit­i­cal and eco­nomic issues, or pat­terns of his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment. Knowl­edge of these things tends to be sketchy, often linked to gen­er­al­iza­tion and prej­u­dice, and is prone to manip­u­la­tion by more sophis­ti­cated play­ers through mass media. How­ever, since Econ­o­my1 par­tic­i­pants make up the bulk of any pop­u­la­tion, big num­bers of them mov­ing in one direc­tion (e.g. as in an elec­tion) will have a large effect, regard­less of whether the move­ment is wise or fool­ish. The impli­ca­tion here is not that Econ­o­my1 par­tic­i­pants are stu­pid, but that their pri­or­i­ties (i.e. their notions of per­sonal pro­duc­tiv­ity and worth) are often at vari­ance with the par­tic­i­pants in Econ­o­my2 (i.e. rul­ing elites). This is a ques­tion of indi­vid­ual psy­chol­ogy, unre­lated to and mostly unchanged by pub­lic ide­olo­gies of the day such as Cap­i­tal­ism, Social­ism, or name-your-reli­gion-ism. In other words, the argu­ment I am mak­ing is that this Econ­o­my1 is not defined by any tra­di­tional def­i­n­i­tion of eco­nom­ics, such as “a sys­tem for the allo­ca­tion of resources”. That sort of thing is sec­ondary to the more immutable prin­ci­ples of psy­cho­log­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion.

13.  The par­tic­i­pants in Econ­o­my3 are bound­ary play­ers. They medi­ate the rela­tion­ship between Econ­o­my1 and Econ­o­my2 by offer­ing all kinds of func­tional ser­vices, which objec­tively they may per­form well or poorly. It is their ser­vice role which deter­mi­nes that this group is most effec­tive when they can oper­ate in a mer­i­to­cratic envi­ron­ment. Of course, in many juris­dic­tions the mer­i­to­cratic par­a­digm is not pos­si­ble for them, usu­ally because power hold­ers in Econ­o­my2 set unfair con­di­tions on their engage­ment or co-option. 

14. For exam­ple, even the hum­blest of Econ­o­my3 par­tic­i­pants in some coun­tries may be required to pur­chase employ­ment. I under­stand that the price to become a police­man in Rus­sia now stands at around US$50,000, a bribe which must be recov­ered of course by vio­la­tions of jus­tice at the expense of the mem­bers of Econ­o­my1. When I taught in cen­tral China, my stu­dent nurses upon grad­u­at­ing would have to bor­row from rel­a­tives up to RMB 115,000 just to secure base level employ­ment in a hos­pi­tal for a monthly salary of RMB2,500. Anal­o­gous bur­dens might be large stu­dent debts accu­mu­lated by Amer­i­can stu­dents for ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion (see Collins, 2013). Dis­tor­tions of this kind set up their own long term local­ized eco­nomic cycles with per­sonal pri­or­i­ties which no pass­ing polit­i­cal “reforms” can eas­ily break. 

15. Gen­er­ally Econ­o­my3 par­tic­i­pants have  some kind of pro­fes­sional train­ing, so that as a con­stituency edu­ca­tion is very impor­tant to them. Since these peo­ple tend to be aspi­ra­tional, they value sta­tus and the vis­i­ble lifestyle mark­ers which dis­tin­guish that sta­tus. Income is an essen­tial enabler in this. There­fore they are vul­ner­a­ble to manip­u­la­tion by Econ­o­my2 power hold­ers, either directly through con­trol­ling access to sta­tus and priv­i­lege, or indi­rectly through pro­vid­ing income oppor­tu­ni­ties. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Econ­o­my3 par­tic­i­pants do have a sophis­ti­cated knowl­edge of national level social and eco­nomic behav­iour, so this gives them a cer­tain power as agents to con­trol (or even oppress) Econ­o­my1 par­tic­i­pants. When the inter­ests of Econ­o­my3 par­tic­i­pants are severely at risk, they also have the knowl­edge and some­times the means to dis­place Econ­o­my2 power play­ers.


16. In the last 30 years or so, stu­dents of Com­plex Sys­tems The­ory have come to real­ize that almost all dynamic sys­tems in nature scale in ways which can be quite unpre­dictable in their details of change while retain­ing a kind of order within degrees of free­dom. Fac­tors which dis­pose such sys­tems to order have been called strange-attrac­tors. In the eco­nomic sphere, the con­scious plans of human beings amount to a vari­ety of strange-attrac­tors, yet mil­lions of those beings plan­ning to their own ends gen­er­ate eco­nomic out­comes, both as indi­vid­u­als and as con­stituents of a sin­gle pop­u­la­tion, which can oscil­late with text book pre­dictabil­ity, or some­times swing chaot­i­cally out of con­trol.

17. Long ago I was assigned to teach eco­nom­ics to a high school class using a text book which described Par­adise Island. That was nice. On Par­adise Island we traded in fish and bananas, then invented money for con­ve­nience. There­after trans­ac­tions fol­lowed ide­al­ized notions of sup­ply and demand, exe­cuted by utterly ratio­nal per­sons act­ing in their own inter­ests. Over the years I have lost track on the num­ber of news­pa­per head­li­nes which talked to us as inhab­i­tants of Par­adise Island. Elec­tions have been won and lost on Par­adise Island. 

18. Eco­nomic man­age­ment (as I under­stand it) is largely the domain of co-opted Econ­o­my2 pro­fes­sion­als, who may see their dilemma as how to gen­er­ate the best illu­sion of Par­adise Island for Econ­o­my1 con­stituents, the most sta­ble oscil­la­tion of com­plex eco­nomic sys­tems for Econ­o­my3 ser­vice con­stituents, and the most dynamic, yet low­est risk growth for Econ­o­my2 con­stituents. We might wish that those pri­or­i­ties were oth­er­wise, but this con­fig­u­ra­tion seems to be the way of the world. 

19. In soci­eties with small homo­ge­neous pop­u­la­tions, the rul­ing elites both within gov­ern­ment and for­mally out of it in indus­try, prop­erty hold­ings etc are likely to be well known to each other. They will have gone to the same schools, prob­a­bly share sim­i­lar val­ues, and may even come from the same fam­i­lies. Chil­dren of these play­ers who grow up to become pro­fes­sion­als will slip seam­lessly into sup­port­ing roles through their net­work of social con­nec­tions. What­ever laws are passed to reg­u­late eco­nomic behav­ior within this Econ­o­my2 cir­cle, it is incon­ceiv­able that the imple­men­ta­tion of those laws and prac­tices will not involve close col­lu­sion between gov­ern­men­tal admin­is­tra­tion and com­mer­cial prac­tice. If delib­er­ately man­aged (though per­haps con­cealed) such col­lu­sion can yield great syn­ergy. The gov­ern­ment-chae­bol par­a­digm in South Korea is a clear exam­ple of this kind of syn­ergy. Where elite col­lu­sion between gov­ern­ment and indus­try is sourced purely in nepo­tism to the exclu­sion of com­pe­tence, then the eco­nomic cost will be stag­na­tion or destruc­tion. Any num­ber of third world states fit that descrip­tion.

20. As soci­eties become very large with tens of mil­lions of peo­ple, no rul­ing elite can main­tain absolute con­tact and loy­alty from pos­si­ble recruits to its cir­cle. What emerges in fact is a kind of frac­tal struc­ture. Frac­tals, read­ers may recall, are sys­tems which retain self-sim­i­lar­ity what­ever the scale. Nature is full of frac­tal struc­tures like this, from tree leaves to the veins & arter­ies in human bod­ies. Each iter­a­tion is slightly dif­fer­ent, within degrees of free­dom, yet math­e­mat­i­cally the pat­tern (which might, for exam­ple, be a set of genetic instruc­tions for cell repli­ca­tion) can be a fairly sim­ple self-repli­cat­ing non-lin­ear equa­tion. Note how­ever that the equa­tion does not have to be sim­ple. For pur­poses of the dis­cus­sion here, the rel­e­vant fea­ture is that socio-polit­i­cal eco­nomic arrange­ments in large soci­eties have frac­tal prop­er­ties of self-sim­i­lar­ity. That is, they are iter­ated at a mul­ti­tude of lev­els from local com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions to the nation state. If this is true, then the pat­terns of col­lu­sion I have described in para­graph 19 will also be repli­cated on many lev­els.

21. How­ever, it is also a defin­ing prop­erty of com­plex sys­tems that the whole behaves in ways which exceeds the sum of behav­iours of its con­stituents. (For exam­ple a human being is more than the sum the indi­vid­ual behav­iours of 100 tril­lion cells). The behav­iour of a whole national econ­omy will embed the col­lu­sion of indus­try & com­merce with gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions at many “frac­tal” lev­els. It will also embed count­less other inter­ac­tions, whether con­scious col­lu­sions or not. 

22. Some sub­sidiary inter­ac­tions which are suc­cess­fully con­tained within accept­able lim­its at a lower level may pre­cip­i­tate unpre­dictable out­comes at a higher sys­tem level. We often see this effect for exam­ple in local trans­gres­sions of the law, nor­mally hav­ing a con­tained effect on some indi­vid­ual or com­pany, but when appealed to suc­ces­sively higher courts cre­at­ing a national prece­dent affect­ing the whole nation in unex­pected ways. 

23. Even the frac­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics of socio-polit­i­cal eco­nomic arrange­ments are not suf­fi­cient to account for over­all out­comes in whole national economies. In addi­tion, as a thought exper­i­ment here I have also sug­gested three macro con­cepts of Economies 1, 2 & 3, dri­ven by over­lap­ping but some­times com­pet­ing forces. In other words, there is not a sin­gle frac­tal equa­tion to describe what is going on here, but a whole fam­ily of frac­tal equa­tions. To describe an over-arch­ing sin­gle econ­omy is there­fore daunt­ingly com­plex, and emer­gent effects will often be impos­si­ble to pre­dict. The detailed argu­ments to sup­port that propo­si­tion would be very involved, and are beyond the scope of this essay. Sim­i­larly, my descrip­tions of Economies 1, 2 & 3 them­selves are obvi­ously car­i­ca­tures of what are likely to be far more com­plex actual pat­terns, but they suf­fice for illus­tra­tion. 

24. The crit­i­cal behav­iour of frac­tal sys­tems occurs wherever there is a bound­ary con­di­tion. A bound­ary con­di­tion sets the lim­its of self-sim­i­lar­ity, or in terms of for­mal com­plex­ity the­ory, defines an “attrac­tor”. If we are think­ing in terms of dynamic social, polit­i­cal and eco­nomic sys­tems, bound­ary con­di­tions will be invoked in set­ting the rela­tion­ship between one frac­tal scale and another, as well as between one frac­tal set and another frac­tal set (which is the nature of plu­ral­is­tic soci­eties).

25. For exam­ple, to take an imag­i­nary sin­gle frac­tal set, the rela­tion­ship between mul­ti­ple munic­i­pal coun­cils and a sin­gle state gov­ern­ment (both struc­turally sim­i­lar enti­ties) will fluc­tu­ate within “accept­able” lim­its, but at a cer­tain point of provo­ca­tion will become unsta­ble, unpre­dictable, even chaotic. 

26. A dif­fer­ent kind of equa­tion is gen­er­ated when two dis­sim­i­lar but over­lap­ping social frac­tal sets inter­act. For exam­ple, one imag­i­nary frac­tal set might be the rela­tion­ship between media orga­ni­za­tions and the frac­tal set of polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions in a coun­try, from local com­mu­nity groups, through local gov­ern­ment, state gov­ern­ment and national gov­ern­ment. The bound­ary effects might be quite dif­fer­ent at each level. Some Aus­tralian media orga­ni­za­tions con­trol both com­mu­nity news­pa­pers and media with state and national reach. The media-gov­ern­men­tal col­lu­sion pat­tern might, for exam­ple be ben­e­fi­cial (or not) at local level, yet severely dis­tort polit­i­cal out­comes with unpre­dictable con­se­quences at national level. 

27. This essay started with a dis­cus­sion pro­posal: The most eco­nom­i­cally suc­cess­ful soci­eties have always depended upon a high level of gov­ern­ment col­lu­sion with com­merce and indus­try, if not con­trol. This argu­ment is a way of say­ing that the “invis­i­ble hand” of the mar­ket is not enough to main­tain an effi­cient mar­ket, at least beyond vil­lage level. There has to be an inde­pen­dent umpire, or forced con­trol (dic­ta­tor, mafia … ). On the face of it the pre­ced­ing argu­ments seem to have scarcely addressed this dis­cus­sion pro­posal. For exam­ple, I have made no dis­tinc­tion between gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence in indus­try and the inter­fer­ence by indus­try in gov­ern­ment (though there are libraries of argu­ment about both). Yet the sub­stance of the argu­ments I have given is that the dis­cus­sion pro­posal could never be in seri­ous doubt, what­ever the polit­i­cal rhetoric of the day. It has not so much been a mat­ter of what is desir­able (except for polit­i­cal spin) as where the money and the power lies, and how that advan­tage has been exer­cised. The own­ers of money and power have always  effec­tively owned both the gov­ern­ment and what we quaintly call the econ­omy. The actual inher­i­tors of the money and the power might change over time, or even with rev­o­lu­tion, but the real con­fig­u­ra­tions of economies do not change with that. They are  not really founded on the effi­cient allo­ca­tion of resources (this allo­ca­tion merely reflects under­ly­ing symp­toms), but in much less mal­leable dimen­sions of human psy­chol­ogy (hence Economies1, 2 & 3). 

28. If I were a min­is­ter in the state of Utopia, tasked with mak­ing actual deci­sions about real issues of indus­try inter­fer­ence in gov­ern­ment, or gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence in indus­try, my choices would not be gov­erned by ide­ol­ogy. They would be based on a clear eyed look at the avail­able tal­ent in each domain and how to make the best uses of it (and that of course is the point of the graphic at the begin­ning of the essay). The con­test for com­pe­tence IS a major deter­mi­nant of real out­comes, and I have writ­ten about it else­where (ref­er­ence in the read­ing list). 

29. Back on earth, some­thing we may be able to influ­ence is how well the real con­fig­u­ra­tions of economies are under­stood, and by whom. With the broad­en­ing of such under­stand­ing beyond a small con­trol­ling elite comes the pos­si­bil­ity (and it is only a pos­si­bil­ity, not desired by many with exist­ing advan­tage) of opti­miz­ing ben­e­fits to a wider pop­u­la­tion base. How­ever even with the best under­stand­ing avail­able, the effects of change in com­plex sys­tems is ulti­mately unpre­dictable. The road to hell is paved with good inten­tions.



Extra Read­ing  (infor­mal, not strictly aca­d­e­mic. Note that the inclu­sion of these read­ings in no way implies that I agree or dis­agree with their argu­ments. The many Wikipedia links offer mixed value, but they form a good start­ing point for entry into par­tic­u­lar con­cepts).

Wikipedia (2013) Com­plex­ity The­ory. online @


Wikipedia (2013) Com­plex­ity Eco­nom­ics. online @


Wikipedia (2013). Mixed Econ­omy.  online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_economy

Wikipedia(2013). Gov­ern­ment Inter­ven­tion­ism. online @


Wikipedia (2013) Sta­tism. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statism

Wikipedia (2013) Amer­i­can School. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_School_%28economics%29

Wikipedia (2013) Cor­po­ratist econ­omy. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism

Wikipedia (2013) Dirigisme. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirigisme

Wikipedia (2013) Dis­trib­utism. online @  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism

Wikipedia (2013) Nordic model. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_model

Wikipedia (2013) Rhine cap­i­tal­ism. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhine_capitalism

Wikipedia (2013) Social cor­po­ratism. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_corporatism

Wikipedia (2013) Social mar­ket econ­omy. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_market_economy

Wikipedia (2013) Social­ist mar­ket econ­omy. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_market_economy

Wikipedia (2013) Wel­fare cap­i­tal­ism. online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_capitalism 

Wikipedia (2013) Cap­i­tal­ism.  online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

Wikipedia (2013) Social­ism. online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism

Wikipedia (2013) Com­mu­nism.  online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism

Wikipedia (2013) Eco­nom­ics. online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics

Wikipedia (2013) House­hold Income (inter­na­tional com­par­ison). online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income

Ather­ton, David (March 2013) No Con­test: Cap­i­tal­ism vs Social­ism. Thecommentator.com online @ http://www.thecommentator.com/article/2970/no_contest_capitalism_vs_socialism

Battaglia, Gabriele (7 August, 2013) Bei­jing read­ies for new urban­iza­tion. Asia Times, online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/CHIN-01–070813.html

Collins, Chuck (May 28, 2013) The Wealthy Kids Are Alright. The Amer­i­can Prospect @ http://prospect.org/article/wealthy-kids-are-all-right

Debate.org (2011 )  Debate topic: Cap­i­tal­ism vs Social­ism. online @ https://www.debate.org/debates/Capitalism-vs-socialism/1/

Eley, Tom (2008) Social­ism vs. the gov­ern­ment bailout of cap­i­tal­ism. World Social­ist Web­site, online @ https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2008/10/soci-o15.html

Gle­ick, James (1987) Chaos – mak­ing a new sci­ence. pub. Lon­don: William Heine­mann Ltd

Halsey, Ash­ley (March 19, 2013) U.S. Infra­struc­ture gets D+ in annual report. Wash­ing­ton Post, online @ http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013–03-19/local/37846681_1_civil-engineers-infrastructure-report-card

May, Thor (2011) If a Mar­ket Not a Mar­ket. online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/marketnotamarket.html

May, Thor (2012) The Con­test for Com­pe­tence. online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/competence.html

Mil­ton, Chris (2012) The Mis­con­cep­tions of Cap­i­tal­ism vs Social­ism | Build­ing a Sus­tain­able Econ­omy. The Eco­pre­neurist, online @ http://ecopreneurist.com/2012/12/19/the-misconceptions-of-capitalism-vs-socialism/

Mitchell, Melanie (2009) Com­plex­ity, A Guided Tour. pub. UK:OUP and also Kindle e-book edi­tion.

Orr, Deb­o­rah (June 2, 2012 ) We did social­ism and cap­i­tal­ism, and we’re still in a mess. But there is hope. The Guardian news­pa­per, online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/01/middle-class-recession-financial-crash

PublicIntelligence.net (May 31, 2013) DHS Says Aging Infra­struc­ture Poses Sig­nif­i­cant Risk to U.S. . Pub­lic Intel­li­gence, online @ http://publicintelligence.net/dhs-national-risk-profile-aging-infrastructure/

Scimia, Emanuele (7 August, 2013) China bets big on new global links. Asia Times, online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/CBIZ-02–070813.html

Zhang, Lisa (n.d.) This house believes that cap­i­tal­ism is bet­ter than social­ism. Inter­na­tional Debate Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion. Includes bib­li­og­ra­phy. online @ http://idebate.org/debatabase/debates/philosophy/house-believes-capitalism-better-socialism


Pro­fes­sional bio: Thor May’s PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, Lan­guage Tan­gle, dealt with lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Thor has been teach­ing Eng­lish to non-native speak­ers, train­ing teach­ers and lec­tur­ing lin­guis­tics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven coun­tries in Ocea­nia and East Asia, mostly with ter­tiary stu­dents, but with a cou­ple of detours to teach sec­ondary stu­dents and young chil­dren. He has trained teach­ers in Aus­tralia, Fiji and South Korea. In an ear­lier life, prior to becom­ing a teacher, he had a decade of drift­ing through unskilled jobs in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and finally Eng­land (after back­pack­ing across Asia in 1972). 

con­tact: http://thormay.net    thormay@yahoo.com

aca­d­e­mic repos­i­tory: Academia.edu at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay
dis­cus­sion: Thor’s Unwise Ideas at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/unwisendx.html

Note: Economies need a high level of gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence (?) is online at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/Economic-Complexity-and-the-Engine-of-Psychology.htm and also linked from Dis­cus­sion Top­ics at http://discussiontopics.thormay.net/


Economies need a high level of gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence (?)” © copy­righted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2013

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