polymers and distribution of wealth

J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. rosserjb at jmu.edu
Mon Aug 28 14:58:33 PDT 2000

I have no disagreements with any of the specific points in this post. malak has done his/her homework, so to speak.

Most of the math in econ is derived from physics, both the new econ and the older econ. I have no problem with quoting physicists, as malak notes. Some of my best friends are physicists who have done original work in econ, only to be not cited by anybody in econ. These include Mandelbrot (who does get cited) as well as Weidlich (who does not (one of those not citing him was the infamous Paul Krugman)).

My objection is that there are a lot of physicists who are not doing anything particularly original, but claim that they are. The usual argument of this crowd, which is indeed getting to be a crowd, is that "I am a physicist, therefore I must be right, and I don't need to read any economics." Econophysics is the new label for this stuff, but the best of the ideas that came from the physicists have been picked up pretty quickly by the economists, at least some of them. We don't need something that labels itself "econophysics" to make these transfers and applications.

BTW, there is quite a lot of interesting stuff on econ being published in physics journals. Some of it is even by economists..... Barkley Rosser http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb -----Original Message----- From: m malak <mmalako at hotmail.com> To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com <lbo-talk at lists.panix.com> Date: Saturday, August 26, 2000 7:43 PM Subject: re:polymers and distribution of wealth

> comments.
> ChuckO said that 'physicists should stick to their gluons' or
>someting like that.
> J B Rosser said (approx.) the econophysicists don't know any
> My 'dissident' view is that 'money', while not a 'gluon', is
>analgous to a 'gauge boson' (which includes the gluon, graviton,
>and photon), in other words its a 'quasiparticle'
>similar to the fundamntal particles of physics. The distribution of
>it can be modeled like any other mattter distribution, composed of
>a variety types.
> this kind of point I believe is also made by, among others, Martin
>(who is an economist) with the (notorious) P Bak (who follows Celine's Law
>----men only see what they look at, and they only look at what they already
>have in mind' (eg Self-organized criticality)), who use P W Anderson's
>wave' model to show that money can be thought of this way, spin waves also
>being used to describe more fundamental particles (originating with broken
> related ideas were in Am J Physics last year.
> (Money or exchange bosons are like the 'glue' that holds a glass
>which has been broken, and is broken again. the whole world might be just a
>broken 'unity' held together by various 'colors' of glue, etc.)
> as for 'econophysicists' not knowing any econ, my feeling this is half
>right. My view is economics and physics actually are quite similar. its
>like saying because i don't know any french if i go
>there i cannot recognize a 'porsche' as a car. alot of current econ uses
>math that began as phsycis, or possibly the reverse (stochastic models in
>phsycis might be said to borrow from gambling calculus).
> For example, J B Rosser huimslef has cited the work of physicists in
>the synergetics group (Weidleich) to point out that people like Krugman,
>applied 'statistical mechanical' like models in economic geography, were
>basically 'borrowing' their results. WEidleich himslef appears to cite
>very little economic literature, yet his results are now commomly rederived
>in the socioeconomic literature.
>the implication is either doesn't need to know a lot of econ, or else that
>maybe there isn't that much to know .
> Economists and physicist both use 'Lyapunov functions', and use 'fixed
>point theorems to prove equilibrium.
> S Durlauf applies the 'ising model' (a simple condensed matter model)
>to modeling games, economies, social stratification etc. This is because
>abstractly some
>features of 'human optimizing/satisficing' behavior is similar to
>particles seeking to equilibrate their forces though as they
>physicists say, they are often 'frustrated' (like the labor historians
>ChuckO describes as in the current IWW).
> in 'Econometrica', one finds a whole lot of physics-based math----eg
>Petyton Young of Brookings writes on 'potential games' (which see humans in
>economies falling like particles down a hill into whatever states they find
>themselves in based on their 'choices'. Hence one has a newtonian like
> So what is the value of this? Mirowski and McLoskey criticize this
>as 'positivistic physics envy'. I think the models confirm what is pretty
>intuitive. They also have some important lessons----little things have
>effects, a little bit of misinformation can lead to big effects etc.
> As a result writing a model is like writing a 'poem' or song' in many
>respects. Its a different way of saying the same thing, and none of these
>actually change what they describe.
>Should 'rage against the machine' stop, or take a paycut, and should the
>econophysicists? Do we need a paper saying economies undergo
>bifurcations or cusp catastrophes?
> My own preference would be if more people preferred 'needing' those and
>needed less say 'Nikes' or 'Big Macs'. One can produce a 'paper' possibly
>using less resources than more material intensive things. One could produce
>less if more people could know more, and just have this as oral
>culture. Rather than fill journals with redundancy which 90% humans never
>even get to see (because they are playing the lotto.) Also, if one has a
>paper, then one can have a 'cheap talk', about maybe more 'cpmplex things'
>than big macs.
> i'd also rather write them than cook a big mac as part of my 'communiy
>contribution'. (Currently, of course only the elite get to, because the
>'masses' have been told 'Wal Mart' is the primary US employer.)
> But as economists say this is striclty a personal utility function,
>which maybe endogenous (learned) or innate.
> pareto's law' should be known by anyone, incluidng the derivation
>'bounded rationality' (stupidity/ignorance) as done by H Simon long ago.
>they should know the income distribution too. they should know these are
>empirical laws, naturl laws, but can be changed by changing behavior. (ie
>the have-nots don't give to the haves.) its not profound, but also its
>to be conceptually a bit beyond most people who need a 'movement' to act in
>common sense (because of a 'critical mass' required to generate a 'phase
>transition' or 'tipping point' which alters the 'trajectory' into a new
>domain of attraction, ...)
> The more recent derivations shoukd be like piano lessons for people who
>already know the basics and decide they want to learn how to play 'Bach'.
> I also dought that the new derivations really are 'new'.
> I have papers deriving income distributions using Turing's patern
>formation system, using 'maximum entropy', using 'interacting particles',
>and even something like the 'renormalization group'. i think they probably
>are all very cosely related, and think the new one by Bouchard is probably
>more complex, general variant of old wine in new bottles. they all use
>randomness plus 'self-reinforcing returns', actually similar to Thurow's
>model in 'generating inequality' (which gives the lognormal).
> well that (money transaction) polymer perhaps might also be like the
>polymers used to model cosmic strings out in the universe, ie have an
>electic field associated with it.
> this means the flow will affect the environment beyond just the
>particular charges (people) who generate those lines of force.
> in other words, inequality might generate instability because a
>polymer will change its conformation.
> i wonder if this a new idea.
> cheers mm
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