Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Episode 15: When We Assume

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Most every aspect of our perception of the world around us hinges on assumptions. People tell us things, and we assume them to be true. Things happen. If they happen enough, a pattern may develop, at least in the mind of the perceiver. As long as the things that happen continue to follow the perceived pattern—or as long as the pattern perceiver fails to see instances where the pattern is lacking or downright broken—the assumptions about the pattern will hold.

Episode 15: When We Assume takes a brief look at what happens when reporters assume the experts they consult on our economy's patterns and functions are not questioned enough. Sometimes there are experts out there that can refute the experts with whom we are most familiar. And many times, nothing bad will happen as a result of holding these assumptions . . . that is, until something bad does happen.

Some assumptions can be found in the Planet Money episode "The Island Of Stone Money". I point out the assumptions, and provide assumptions of my own that refute those assumptions. It's an assumption-fest!

In this episode, I read excerpts from a few books. The first was from David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Melville House Printing, 2011. The passage can be found in the footnotes on pages 394-395.

The second, a passage from Silvio Gesell's The Natural Economic Order, can be found online.

The third is from Thomas H. Greco, Jr.'s The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2009, on page 114.

Music today from Mudlark's "&" and The Freak Fandango Orchestra's "Requiem for a Fish."


  1. Good episode!

    Debt was really a mind-blowing book when it came to knocking down (actually rather flimsy but) widely-held assumptions about the history and moral context of debt and money. And it makes the dumbness of that Planet Money article really infuriating.

    (Context for others reading the comments: Graeber talks at length about societies with separate formal systems of account for weregild and ordinary goods and services, and the terrible social consequences that resulted when those societies ran up against societies that assumed all value could be measured in a single unit of account.)

    1. Thanks! Yeah, Debt was quite the intense read at times. I would go through large sections on autopilot, hoping to catch the gist of that section—like the section on weregeld—and when it, I often had to re-read. These are concepts simply not taught.

      Regarding Planet Money, I wouldn't say they were dumb for holding these assumptions; just overly reliant on Neo-classical economists . . . which turns out to be a problem when it comes to money. I saved their biggest core assumption for last. It's a doozy, though, so I feel I need a primer of sorts before introducing it (working on that now; it should be in #18, with the assumption coming in at #19).