Tag Archives: reading

Postal Worker/Photographer

While I was sitting in the post office waiting to submit my passport application, I watched as the postal worker became full of life every time he had an applicant who needed their photograph taken. He had a bit of a bounce in his step as he grabbed the camera. “Tilt your head up. A little bit less. That’s it.” He reviewed each picture meticulously while we waited patiently.

An Attempt to Articulate The Thoughts of The Woman on The Elliptical At The Gym

“Turn your head and look at me! I know you can see me through the corner of your eye as you spray disinfectant on that paper towel. Let me know you acknowledge me by turning your head.”

This is what my body is saying. I have no control over it. My back straightens without my consent. I have no control over the accentuated movements of my thighs and buttocks while I move up and down. By the time I have control, I go along with it.

I’m not even attracted to him. His body is too short and stubby. He looks like a hobbit. I want a man who is at least six feet tall. A man who can wrap me up with his body. Like a comfortable blanket. But this does not matter to my body because it craves the acknowledgment. My body does not rationalize. My body does not think about the long term plans. It does not think about what our kids would look like or the success of our future.

All of these people surround me and non of them see me.

Adam Smith and Self Interest

Born in London, England, on May 20, 1806, John was the eldest of nine children of James Mill, a prominent philosopher, statesman, and political economist. James Mill believed that all people are born with equal ability, so he carefully supervised his son’s education. John’s intense education included Greek, Latin, philosophy, history, mathematics, and political economy, and he was writing and publishing works by his mid-teens. When he was twenty he suffered from what some would consider a well-deserved nervous breakdown.

According to Adam Smith, specialization and economic growth are motivated by self-interest. At the same time, pursuit of self-interest by individuals promotes the well being of the rest of the community.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to the their own interest” Smith’s logic here is simple and effective. Society benefits by having goods provided. People don’t provide those goods for us because they like us, but because it is a way for them to generate income to satisfy their own wants. If, to earn that income, the butcher, brewer, and baker must compete with others in their industry to sell their products, it encourages the production and sale of quality goods at lower prices.


The wealth of a nation could be increased, according to Smith, by specialization, also known as “division of labor”. Smith illustrated the concept by describing the workings of a pin factory.

This allegory of the pin factory is also seen in the automation essay found here.


To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture; but one in which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour had rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certain could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

But though they were poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day.


An interesting side Note:

Before focusing his attention on political economy (the old term for economics), Smith published The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759. This work concentrated primarily on philosophy and ethics, and in particular the moral forces which guide behavior. Smith’s best known work, the work that clearly defines Smith as an economist, was An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (often referred to simply as Wealth of Nations), published in 1776. The 900 pages of Wealth of Nations contain not only the articulation of many time-tested concepts in economics, but also a refutation of the economic philosophy known as mercantilism. Mercantilists believed that nations should enact trade barriers with other countries so as to reduce imports and achieve a trade surplus. Their belief was that the wealth of a nation was in the gold and silver (bullion) it possessed, and that trade surpluses were a primary means to accumulating bullion. Smith argued that the wealth of a nation was the real goods it produced, not the money it possessed.


What I learned today.

Woman In the Window

There is a woman I pass by each day on my way to school and then again on my way back home. Her expression seems to change depending on the wardrobe she has on. Sometimes she seems cynical from a lifetime of disappointment. As if she has spent an entire lifetime constructing a mask which has prevented her from feeling. Other times she seems very young and her eyes seem very bright with hope for the future.

This is her in one of her frosty days. It looks like she just barely had the energy to slip her dress over her head to get out of the house.


In the picture below I can imagine her in her getting ready in her closet excited for the brunch she has been invited to. She wants to see the flowers blooming and drink a martini while watching kids play in the park.


This skirt is something she only wears in her closet where no one else can see.


Utilitarianism eller Utilitarisme

The premise that people attempt to maximize pleasure (utility) and minimize pain (disutility) is as important to understanding economic behavior. 

Premisset om at folk prøver å maksimere glede ( utility ) og minimere smerte ( disutility ) er like viktig å forstå økonomisk atferd.


Even today Bentham can be found sitting at University College London, his skeleton padded and dressed, with a wax head atop his body

Selv i dag Bentham finner du sitter ved University College London, hans skjelett polstret og kledd, med en voks hode oppå kroppen hans

The first writings on utility can be traced back to the Englishman Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Like many classical economists, Bentham did not begin his academic career studying economics. At age 4 he studied Latin, by age 12 he was enrolled at Queen’s College, where he completed his degree at age 15. Bentham then turned to the study of law, but after a short career in the legal profession, devoted his life to the study of philosophy and economics.

Bentham held a keen interest in the advancement of scientific knowledge. Prevailing attitudes toward death discourage people of the time from donating their bodies for anatomical research. In an effort to change this, Bentham had his body dissected. That, however, was not the end of Jeremy Bentham. He left his entire estate to University College London, on condition that he be present at all board meetings. Even today Bentham can be found sitting at University College, his skeleton padded and dressed, with a wax head atop his body (his real head, preserved using South American headhunting techniques, is locked safely away in a college vault).

Bentham’s philosophy is referred to today as “utilitarianism.” Derived from the Greek philosophy of Hedonism, the fundamental principle is that people seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. As Bentham expressed it in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation in 1780:


De første skrifter på verktøyet kan spores tilbake til engelskmannen Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Som mange klassiske økonomer, gjorde Bentham ikke begynne sin akademiske karriere studere økonomi. I en alder av fire studerte han latin, etter 12 år han ble immatrikulert ved dronningens College, hvor han fullførte sin grad i en alder av 15. Bentham deretter slått til studiet av loven, men etter en kort karriere i den juridiske profesjon, viet sitt liv til studiet av filosofi og økonomi.

Bentham holdt en stor interesse for fremme av vitenskapelig kunnskap. Rådende holdninger til døden hindre folk i tiden fra å donere sine organer for anatomisk forskning. I et forsøk på å endre dette, hadde Bentham kroppen hans dissekert. Det var imidlertid ikke slutten av Jeremy Bentham. Han forlot hele sin eiendom til University College, London, på betingelse av at han være til stede på alle styremøter. Selv i dag Bentham finner du sitter ved University College, hans skjelett polstret og kledd, med en voks hode oppå kroppen hans (hans virkelige hode, bevart ved hjelp av søramerikanske headhunting teknikker, er låst trygt bort i en høyskole hvelv).

Bentham filosofi er referert til i dag som “utilitarisme.” Avledet fra det greske filosofi Hedonism, er det grunnleggende prinsippet om at folk søker å maksimere glede og minimere smerte. Som Bentham uttrykte det i en introduksjon til prinsippene om moral og lovgivning i 1780:


Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a many may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while.(1)

Naturen har plassert menneskeheten under styring av to suverene mestere, smerte og glede . Det er for dem alene for å peke ut hva vi burde gjøre , samt å finne ut hva vi skal gjøre . På den ene siden standarden på rett og galt , på den andre kjeden av årsaker og virkninger , er festet til sin trone . De styrer oss i alt vi gjør , i alt vi sier , i alt tror vi : alle anstrengelser vi gjør for å kaste av våre under , vil tjene, men for å demonstrere og bekrefte det. I ord en mange kanskje later til å avsverge sitt imperium . Men i virkeligheten vil han fortsatt være underlagt det all den stund ( 1 )


For Bentham, utilitarianism was not merely an explanation of cause and effect in human behavior, it was an ethical standard, a justification for self-interested behavior.

As an ethical standard, Bentham argued that governments should pursue that which promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. In so doing, however, the government should maximize the community’s happiness by promoting individual happiness.

The community is a fictitious body, composed of the individual persons who are considered as constituting as it were its members.The interest of the community then is, what? — the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.

It is vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual. A thing is said to promote the interest … of an individual, when it tends to add to the sum total of his pleasures; or, what comes to the same thing, to diminish the sum total of his pains.(2)

For Bentham , utilitarisme var ikke bare en forklaring på årsak og virkning i menneskelig atferd, var det en etisk standard, en begrunnelse for egeninteresse atferd.

Som en etisk standard , Bentham mente at myndighetene bør følge det som fremmer den største lykke for flest mulig mennesker . Dermed bør imidlertid regjeringen maksimere samfunnets lykke ved å fremme individuell lykke.

Samfunnet er en fiktiv kropp, sammensatt av de enkelte personer som anses å utgjøre så å si sin members.The interesse av fellesskapet da er, hva ? – Summen av interessene til flere medlemmer som komponerer det .

Det er forgjeves å snakke om interessen for samfunnet, uten å forstå hva som er av interesse for den enkelte. En ting er sagt å fremme interessen … til en person, da det har en tendens til å legge til summen av hans gleder ; eller , hva som kommer ut på det samme , for å redusere summen av hans plager. ( 2 )

The premise that people attempt to maximize pleasure (utility) and minimize pain (disutility) is as important to understanding economic behavior today as it was in Bentham’s time.

Premisset om at folk prøver å maksimere glede ( utility ) og minimere smerte ( disutility ) er like viktig å forstå økonomisk atferd i dag som det var i Benthams tid.