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Unintended consequences
Posted by: Popup (
Date: January 24, 2013 04:34PM

First of all - is there really no forum for 'The Woman Who Died a Lot'?

I ran in to an interesting parallel to what is described as 'The Commonsense Party Inverse Consequence Directive', in Nassim Talebs latest blockbuster 'Antifragility'.

Redmond Van de Poste:
Bearing in mind that well-meant ideas often had negative unforeseen consequences, it was argued that daft, pointless or downright bizarre ideas might have unforeseen positive outcomes.

Nassim Taleb:
Perhaps the idea behind capitalism is an inverse-iatrogenic effect, the unintended-but-not-so-unintended consequences: the system facilitates the conversion of selfish aims (or, to be correct, not necessarily benevolent ones) at the individual level into beneficial results for the collective.
Maybe not quite word-for-word the same policy, but definitely the same sentiment. What is intended as a selfish act turns out to be for the common good.

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: SkidMarks (
Date: January 24, 2013 08:18PM

Hi Popup, where have you been hiding?

regarding TWWDAL thread, I expect that JF has been a bit busy, and to be honest the individual book threads only see sporadic activity.

Your main point just shows something which those cleverer than me will explain soon!

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: Popup (
Date: January 25, 2013 09:41AM

Well... I got caught up in this thing called life (highly overrated, btw).

I only recently discovered the magical universe that Mr Fforde has created, and I greatly appreciated the 'readers guides' available here to provide some more information where I missed an inside joke, or lacked the requisite background to fully appreciate the literary, cultural and avionic allusions.

I was thinking that a similar guide for the latter books would be great, but nothing of the sort appeared to exist.

One thought that struck me was that a wiki-style collaboration could probably strike an ideal balance between a community-effort and centralized guidance.

(For reference, there used to be an Annotated Pratchett File, about all Terry Pratchetts books, but it hasn't been updated for five years, and has largely been replaced by a fan-run wiki, which sees quite some activity.)

Does anyone here think that such a project could work out?

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: PrinzHilde (
Date: January 29, 2013 07:48PM

<political rant on>

The argument Mr. Taleb brings on is old-and-well-known one: It's ok if you are selfish, greedy and generally an a...le, capitalism will make it turn out right anyway.

Rings an Ayn Rand-style bell?

Sorry, I don't subscribe to that point of view.

<political rant off>

By the way: do you think capitalism would be correctly described as "daft, pointless or downright bizarre"?

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: Popup (
Date: January 30, 2013 10:27AM

Not to rant - but the paradoxical fact remains that uncontrolled wild capitalistic economies have performed better (for most values of better) than polities where careful attention has been given to controlling minute details of everyday life.

I have travelled in both US and the (ex-) soviet block, and the differences are enormous. I was in East Germany in 1988, and the relief when we finally emerged through Checkpoint Charlie into West Berlin was palpable. We made some friends with people in the (then) DDR, whom we visited a couple of years later, and for most people life was incomparably better.

Not to say that an Ayn Rand-style 'greed is good' world is a panacea. (Present-day Russia is a mess! The kleptocracy of Putin and his cronies is ruining an already broken country. )

What Taleb meant was (I believe) that on the paper it looks like US-style 'pursuit of happiness' would create a nation of competing beggars and that a command economy ought to create wealth for everyone. The latter half of the 20th century shows that it doesn't work that way.

By the way: do you think capitalism would be correctly described as "daft, pointless or downright bizarre"?

And the most bizarre is that it works surprisingly well. (It's by no means perfect, though, and recent development has shown where some of the cracks are.)

I'm sorry to go on - but this is a subject that interests me greatly.

I think that present-day 'West' is in danger of becoming overly reliant on huge Goliath-like megacorporations. When the banks where deemed 'to big to fail', it was indeed a sad day for the rest of us. On the other hand - I don't think that the solution is to give more power to politicians.

I think that Acemoglu and Robinsson explain it fairly well in Why Nations Fail. For a country to work there must be order, and there must be law. But law must always trump order. And the population should be able to change the laws.

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: geg (
Date: January 31, 2013 12:52PM

I can't imagine why you're squabbling about the operating system when the problem is clearly the end user.

Any system enitirely operated by kind, generous, selfless people would work well for eveybody.

Of course the unepected consequence of removing selfishness would have been the death of the human race whilst everybody sat in the cave refusing to take the first bite of woolly mamouth.

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: OB (
Date: February 12, 2013 10:50AM

Thank goodness for the man who removed the woolly bit and made the meat edible

so we could all squabble over the last juicy bit : a tradition that continues in various forms to the present day.

Re: Unintended consequences
Posted by: bunyip (
Date: February 18, 2013 03:36AM

Then some smartarse would take a bit of hipppotamus and start ther whole thing over again, with the addition of religious division as to whether god was of the characteristics of a mammoth or of a hippopotamus.

But, as written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, with hippopotamus you do get marvellous crackling

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/2013 12:08AM by bunyip.

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