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Balancing the Profane & Sacred, with Some Help from Law?

Representing the Profane & Sacred in a Mathematical Humanomics (modified January 2024)

McCloskey (2022, p. 102) characterizes the Humanomics frame as follows:  “I get the price theory [N:  Single Interest Theory (SIT) in Microeconomics]: that people are moved by price and property, the variables of prudence, price, profit—or, as I have called Max U’s motivations, the Profane. But the point here is that people are also moved by the S variables of speech, stories, shame, the Sacred, and by the use of the monopoly of coercion by the state, the legal rules of the game and the dance in the courts of law, the L variables. Most behavior, B, is explained by F (McCloskey uses Profane P, changed to Profane F, because MetaEcon formulations use P for price P!) and S and L, together, metaphorically speaking:


B = α + βF + γS + δL + ε.


The equation is not wishy-washy or feminine or unprincipled or unscientific. The S and L variables are the conditions under which the F variables work, and the F variables modify the effects of the S and L variables.” 


Absolutely.  The Profane is all about ego-based self-interest, the primal driver, going way back in mammalian to include Human evolution. The Profane is at the core of the mammalian brain.  The Sacred works to temper the primal driver represented in the Profane, as in the empathy-based other-interest reflected in speech, stories, shame, the shared other-interest holding the ethic, dignity, and equality of the Bourgeois, too.  The Sacred is about what the other can go along with. Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics has a placeholder for both the Profane F & Sacred S, not just the Profane as in SIT.


McCloskey (2022, p. 103) continues:  “Of course… The institution is the S, the process of the F, the legal limits L. Or sometimes the other ways around. Anyway, often, all. … You can get as technical as you want about it. For example, econometrically speaking, if the F and S and L variables are not orthogonal, which is to say if they are not entirely independent—or alternatively if there is reason to believe that a combined variable such as FS has its own influence—then an estimate of the coefficients that ignore S (or FS or FL) will give biased results. The bias is important if the S variables are important. If laws adjust to markets, to give another example, then L is affected by F, and an attribution of an exogenous effect of L would be biased—as it has been, often. The example is important, considering the obvious endogeneity of many institutions.”  Makes sense. Also, good L is dependent upon good S. And, F & S are in fact interdependent, joint and nonseparable.  At least that is a good starting point for empirical inquiry, as in using interaction terms FS as well as F separate from S in empirical tests: Test not interdependent. Will likely find not only a statistically significant but also substantive - it really matters in an order of magnitudes sense on the FS variable and not on either F or S.   DIT has been testing and making sense of it, finding jointness and interdependence as real, since first being proposed in Lynne (1995; 1999).


Also, from an e-mail exchange with McCloskey:


“It's crucial, as I know you understand, that the meta-maximizing be over a separable U function, which is to say the common sense that a mother will not cast her child over a cliff for any money payment, and men will go over the top at the Somme (Deidre McCloskey, e-mail note, November, 2023).” Well, yes and no, as the Mathematical Humanomics reflecting Mathematical Metaeconomics claims the Profane U & Sacred U to be nonseparable within that max U.  Yet, separable U is also at play:  The Metaeconomics claim is for a separable max U and meta U.  Stay tuned.

Mathematical Humanomics

Wix is not tolerant of Mathematics --- at least I cannot find a way to bring mathematics into the text.

So, click here for a short paper with the Mathematics ...  a work in progress, so please give feedback.


Also, before you go, keep in mind the fact that Empathy as well as Ego are both evolved characteristics of Humans, as pointed to in the Image below.  Also, using the Image in framing the matter of Humanomics, standard Microeconomics represents only the ego-based self-interest in an Econ, not the whole nature of a Human.  Microeconomics uses a Single Interest Theory (SIT) to represent just the ego. Metaeconomics transcends Microeconomics by bringing empathy into the analytical system, which also means it brings the ethic  into view, as in empathy-based ethics.


Metaeconomics is a Humanomics with Dual Interest Theory (DIT) at the core, representing the dual nature of Human nature, as in ego-based self-interest & empathy-based other(shared)-interest. As McCloskey (in McCloskey and Carden 2020) says it, Humanomics is an economics with the human and their ethics left in:  Said Human works to balance the Profane and Sacred,  Incentives and Ethics.  In DIT terms, it is about striking a balance in the joint Me & We, Self & Other-interest, Profane & Sacred, Incentives & Ethics, the "&" working to make clear each is nonseparable from the other because the Human brain has evolved with that nonseparability in place.

Also, it perhaps cannot be emphasized enough: The Human brain is run by the Reflective Mind (after Stanovich 2011; see Review in Lynne 2014). The Reflective Mind, in turn, operates from a frame of empathy-with the other, so is inherently in conversation with the other, interacting with the other, in the  search for what the other can go along with.  As McCloskey (2022) characterizes it, the Human as represented in Humanomics ponders  Ideas D in consort with the other, and, then, forms Institutions N

that work for the other, going in every direction. 


In DIT terms, the Ideas D help give content to the Institutions N, said N built on sufficient reason, with the latter giving content to the shared other-interest.  And, it is a particular kind of shared 0ther-interest represented in a certain kind of balance in  ethics (virtues), dignity, and equality that gives content to the Bourgeois Deal that frames the Innovism driving economic Growth G and the Great Enrichment since 1800.  Per capita income on Spaceship Earth has risen 3000 to 10000 percent since 1800: What drove it? See McCloskey's many books about the topic, and the essence of the argument in the Leave Me Alone and I'll Make You Rich book ... see a Review at Leave Me Alone and I'll Make You Rich ( 


And, while not directly acknowledged in McCloskey's books, the Human brain and mind implicit in the McCloskey rhetoric is broadly represented in this image, a cross section of the Human (and mammalian in general) brain  (For more details, click here): 


Lynne, G. D. "Review of Stanovich, K.E.  Rationality and the Reflective Mind. New York, Ny: Oxford University Press, 2011." Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics 53 (2014): 34-35.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen and Art Carden. Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich:  How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020 (see a Review at ; also a formal Journal style review is in press with the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics)

McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen. Beyond Positivism, Behaviorism, and Neoinstitutionalism in Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022.

Stanovich, K. E. Rationality and the Reflective Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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