Saturday, November 16, 2013

Two behavioral principles overlooked by free-market apologists


1. Establishing/Motivating Operations- EOs are antecedent factors which alter the value dynamic in behavior. For example, a starving man may kill for bread, not because he is less moral than the workaday man who buys it with paper, but because the EO of deprivation has extremely inflated the value of food to him at that moment. (for more, see the work of Jack Michael).

and a related one

2. Non-Contingent Reinforcement- NCR expands upon the principle of behavior that states that behaviors which are unlikely to manifest can be made more likely (reinforced) if followed by consequences that are enjoyed by the person/animal. For example, I can increase the likelihood of my wife making me coffee in the morning if I sincerely thank her after and engage her in meaningful conversation before I trot off to work. NCR uses this same principle in an effort to decrease the functionality of unwanted or destructive behavior. For example, if my infant is crying a lot for milk and my wife responds with feeding, we are reinforcing the behavior of crying. He gets what he wants when he cries. Thus, if we establish a schedule for feeding (based on time and not contingent on behavior), we decrease the deprivation/hunger which in many cases manifested the crying behavior, while also destroying the contingency which will reinforce crying in the future. He no longer gets what he wants when he cries; he gets fed regularly, and so crying may no longer have any function.

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This is important because free-market apologists want to believe that voluntary exchange in the free market is a win-win. Yet, the market isn't free, not now, and maybe not ever. There is an accumulated effect of inequality that has created massive EOs of deprivation for many people, and which has the effect of skewing the value dynamic in the exchange of goods. This is why free-market apologists sound so calloused when they say that so-and-so is a victim of their own choices. They pretend that there is such a thing as free-will, which in this sense is libertarian and able to resist the effects of EOs.

Nobody is so free, and thus, there will never be a free market as envisioned.

The Zeitgeist Movement and Project Venus (two interesting examples of a structural resource-based answer to capitalism) both rely upon the copious exercise of non-contingent reinforcement to reduce psycho-social stress (and all detrimental EOs) and make exchange increasingly free. They must reinvent the state to do so, but at least they aren't engaging in fantasy like the free-market apologists.

I like to think of a future where we are all engaged in managing our leisure, and where all exchanges are exchanges of gifts.

To waste your time watching two windbags dance around this issue, enjoy the following video:

1 comment:

Cray Allred said...

Great stuff. It puzzles me that so many people that exist in really complicated environments and relationships can believe in the clean, neutral invisible hand or whatever pushing along the free market without any bumps in the road.