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David commented on Making Social Science More Interesting

On the subject of empathy for the working class, here is what Henry George wrote about them at the end of the 19th century:
" Near the window by which I write a great bull is tethered by a ring in his nose. Grazing round and round, he has wound his rope about the stake until now he stands a close prisoner, tantalized by rich grass he cannot reach, unable even to toss his head to rid him of the flies that cluster on his shoulders. Now and again he struggles vainly, and then, after pitiful bellowings, relapses into silent misery. This bull, a very type of massive strength, who, because he has not wit enough to see how he might be free, suffers want in sight of plenty, and is helplessly preyed upon by weaker creatures, seems to me no unfit emblem of the working masses.

"In all lands, men whose toil creates abounding wealth are pinched with poverty, and, while advancing civilization opens wider vistas and awakens new desires, are held down to brutish levels by animal needs. Bitterly conscious of injustice, feeling in their inmost souls that they were made for more than so narrow a life, they, too, spasmodically struggle and cry out. But until they trace effect to cause, until they see how they are fettered and how they may be freed, their struggles and outcries are as vain as those of the bull. Nay, they are vainer.

"I shall go out and drive the bull in the way that will untwist his rope. But who shall drive men into freedom? Till they use the reason with which they have been gifted, nothing can avail. For them there is no special providence. "


David commented on Making Social Science More Interesting

Erin, I am not sure if it is possible to "build empathy" of anyone. Empathy is an expression of what we feel for each other and the approach to a person's degree of empathy is clearly psychological. I am not qualified in this subject--what I know about it is limited and comes from experience about myself. This mechanical model is is about our attitude to society at large, and it deals with our way to understanding how it works. I suppose one can have feelings applied to social systems, but they are not empathetic ones.

I should add that when I began to write comments on the internet I first used the pseudo-name "Macrocompassion" which I took from an article I wrote about the economics pioneer Henry George. My sense of compassion cannot honestly be spread over our whole society, but that is how I felt I could help it. This compound word however, is of a tongue-in-cheek or insincere kind, but it is about the closest I can get to your use of the "empathy" expression.

Your students or friends for whom empathy might need building can possibly discover it when they realize that giving alms to charity is effective only for a brief time--until it runs out. It is unsatisfactory because it does not help the recipient to do better by him/herself (and for both the giver and receiver to feel a bigger sense of achievement). There is a Chinese proverb about giving a poor man a fish and it will last for one day, but teach him how to fish and it will last a life-time.

By teaching about how our society works it is possible that some of the students will learn (also from a book I also wrote about it, "Consequential Macroeconomics--Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works" , write to me at for an e-copy), and then find a place in the treasury department of government. Then as they say, the rest is history.


David commented on Making Social Science More Interesting

Katherine, having worked on the diagrammatic model of our social system, I decided to try to build a machine to make it easy, fun and more attractive to understand. Having tried to imagine an hydraulic analogy (and failed), the idea of the balance of money-flows took shape in my mind and what better way to balance these quantities but by a beam-scales type of solution? This compound scales was the result. Please review my recent paper SSRN 2865571 if you want to know from where the diagram came.