Re: Capitalism is exactly like a school of piranha in a feeding

From: John Conover <>
Subject: Re: Capitalism is exactly like a school of piranha in a feeding
Date: 5 Jan 1999 20:44:16 -0000

jim blair writes:
> Milton Friedman had an answer: an INVISIBLE HAND.
> Years ago, I heard economist Milton Friedman lecture on
> "the invisible hand in economics and politics". The
> thesis of the lecture was that in ECONOMICS, each
> pursuing their own self interest act to also promote the
> general good, (as if moved by an invisible hand) as Adam
> Smith pointed out long ago. But in POLITICS people are
> often moved (as if by an invisible hand) to act against
> the common good as well as their own interest.

Hi Jim. What about the intransitivity of ranking priorities in groups,
(ie., Kenneth Arrow's so called "impossibility theorem",) where
insincere voting is used by group members to pursue their own

Frequently, the outcome in such situations is that everyone in the
group gets their least favorable ranking of priorities-a situation
that has been empirically verified.

In such cases, it is not so clear that pursuing self interest
contributes to promoting general good.


BTW, the 1956 House vote on a bill calling for federal aid for school
construction is an often cited case where insincere voting occurred
[Riker]. The battle between R. Nixon and the Supreme Court over the
White House tapes is another [Brams]. Steven J. Brams elaborates on
many more in "Paradoxes in Politics", The Free Press, 1976. (The
problem concerns what is meant by the term "self interest". If I
really want the group to do something, but doubt that I can muster
enough votes to get it through, and I really don't want something else
to be passed, I will cast my vote to preclude that something else
being passed, instead of for what I want-since voting for what I want
would be an inconsequential gesture. Note that I did not vote my
preference, but voted against my least preferential choice-which is
rational behavior under the circumstances. Lying maybe-but rational


John Conover,,

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