Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Introduction: Get Ready...Set...Go!

“I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”
Socrates, from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

I begin this modest experiment of plunging into the Blogosphere recognizing the ineptitude of my abilities to fully grasp all there is to know. As Socrates implied, if anyone lacks anything less than perfect knowledge, one is ignorant. Often we believe all knowledge is that which we can put under a test tube, apply the scientific method, and obtain a particular conclusion. Yet, there is unseen and unidentified knowledge that will always be ignored when expounding events happening around us. This is, I believe, at the heart of what Socrates was trying to get at: Irrespective of what we do to connect cause and effect or correlation and causation, the fact of the matter is that ultimately we may have the whole thing wrong. Is this a weakness on my part? On the contrary it is my strength—just like it was Socrates’ strength. How can that be? I have reduced the probability of becoming an individual, as John Locke exclaimed, “reasoning correctly from erroneous premises.”

Having said that, Socrates also proclaimed another universal truth: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I reckon that this examination starts within us first, followed by our immediate surroundings, then extending further out as possible. Socrates’ statements may appear at first glance contradictory, but in fact they are not. We are exhorted to examine the unexamined, to take heed of our beliefs and perceptions and put them through the fire. If they stand the test, then we may have something meaningful. Ultimately, the life we live is evidence of what we hold dear. Our nature is one where it takes an extraordinary amount of energy to deconstruct what previously has been constructed—either by our own accord or exerted to us by exogenous forces—in our minds. We come to accept that evidence of absence is synonymous with absence of evidence, when in fact their repercussions are worlds apart.

I chose to name this blog uncommon insight and wisdom simply to recognize that my viewpoints may not be in line with what is generally accepted. In all frankness, I don’t take anything at face value—even in the areas of my personal life. I am an amateur skeptical empiricist—to borrow a phrase from Nassim Taleb. That is, someone who is “open-minded, skeptical, and empirical.” In other words, someone who does not easily accept things that have been packaged for mass consumption (e.g. war on terror, Obama/McCain, house prices always go up, etc). This will become quite apparent as you read my future missives.

Having expressed my caveat emptor, the objective of this project is to give commentary through the eyes of an economist on current issues that I feel are pertinent, mainly in the political and economics spectrum; although from time to time I may delve into issues that do not fit this mold. My methodology will be to try to peek behind the curtains and question (and maybe explain) what is happening. Personally, this blog is a beginning of a learning experience, which only God knows where it will lead. I welcome comments (not synonymous with ad hominems), as I am a firm believer that, as The Bible states, “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”

I conclude this introduction sharing with you the best lesson I received while in college. My professor back then (at that time we were at the zenith of the dotcom stock market stupidity) admonished us to be very careful to put into practice or take as given the words of so-called experts. I was still wet behind the ears then, thinking you can solve the world problems as if you would solve a quadratic equation. But as I grew older (and after the dotcom market crashed), the value of this simple advice made my entire undergraduate education certainly worth it. Given the predilection in our age for thirty-second sound bites and seeing an exponential growth of people who are experts in their own opinion, you can ignore the advice at your own peril.

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