[From Bill Williams 7:00 AM CST 17 May 2002]
Before your posting >[Bruce Nevin (2002.05.17 00:26 EDT) I wasn't at all sure
as to what was involved in the UEC thread. Previous discussions regarding the
UEC took place during a period when I wasn't on the net. But, reading your
arguments in your last post a possiblity occurred to me.
Consider model of the Giffen paradox. In the context in which the Giffen
paradox is expressed, if the price of meat is increased the consumer reacts by
buying less meat. So, Making it harder to get meat results in the consumer
expending less effort ( the consumer's money ) to get meat.
Instead of your sequence , what is involved ( in the situation I am thinking
about at any rate) is an arrangement of inter-related goals that form a
hierarchical structure -- 1) not exceeding the budget, 2) getting enough
calories-- say by consuming meat or potatoes, 3) eating more of the good
tasting meat. Note that both meat and the bread or potatoes supply calories.
So there is an interaction between the goods in the hierarchy because they
provide alternative ways to meet multiple goals ordered in terms of their
Now, consider the consumer in a situation in which there is more than enough
money availible to meet the budget, purchase enough calories, and more than
enough funds are left over to buy meat. In this situation an increase in the
price of meat ( a distrubance ? ) will result in the consumer expending more
money (effort in terms of the wages of labor, or whatever ) to purchase meat.
However, if price is increased sufficiently a point will be reached at which
further increases in the price of meat result now in the consumer choosing to
react to still further increases in the price of meat by decreasing the
quantity of meat purchased. This may not be precisely what people have had in
mind by the UEC, but maybe it is close enough to be interesting. And, as an
example it has the advantage that there have been a couple of experiments done
which are thought to provide support for the Giffen type behavior so it is not
entirely a matter of introspective speculation.
If the effect of the price of meat is ploted against expenditure, the inital
increases in the price of meat result in increased expenditure on purchases of
meat but then the expenditure begins to fall in reaction to further increases
in the price of meat. If it is assumed that there is a finite reference level
for the consumption of meat, then at first the increasing price of meat has no
effect upon the quantity consumed, but then as a result of a conflict(?) or at
least an intreaction in the budget between consuming enough calories and
eating enough meat to satisfy the meat reference level the higher priority for
calories wins out and the quantity of meat consumed decreases.
Notice, however, that the good which the consumer purchases primarily to supply
calories ( typically bread or potatoes ) does not exhibit this sort of behavior
which is described by the UEC. So, instead of a UEC being a "universial error
curve" if the analyais of the Giffen case can be considered to be
comprehensively apllicable, then N - 1 goods would behave like meat, and
exihibit the UEC tyupe behavior. However, there would be one good at the bottom
of the priority list controlled by the most powerful control loop ( at least in
the way that I prefer to model the giffen case ) that would be an exception to
the UEC. More Potatoes or bread would purchased as their price increased-- the
point at which the consumer's budget wouldn't permit enough calories to be
purchased. At this point the consumer would die. ( some one might argue that
there would be a transient effect in which when the price for the calories
required to maintain life exceeded the budget fewer calories would be, for a
limited time, purchased as the price increased. This would, however, only be
the case only during the period in which the consumer was starving to death.
( Bruce )
For each apparent example, have we really exhausted alternative
explanations employing existing properties of the theory without the UEC?
It seems to me that the Giffen type behavior generates the phenomena with which
the UEC discussion has been concerned. But, it does so "employing [the]
existing properties of the theory..." ( I'm not ruling out the possiblity that
there are other ways that the UEC might be generated or that there may be other
situations which generate a UEC. ) The Giffen effect type behavior does so as a
result of a particular configuration of goals ( budget, calories, meat
consumption ) and the means by which these goals are satisfied. The UEC type
behavior is a property of the complex configuration rather than of the
properties of a single control loop in issolation. So it may not be neccesary
to introduce new conceptions concerning control loops to explain at least some
UEC type behavior. However, if the Giffen analysis is correct, then there are
goods which in my view exhibit UEC type behavior. Bill Powers anticipated that
this might be the case in his initial posting on the UEC (24 Feb 94) when he
said, "It is possible that the UEC is apparent only, arrising from interactions
at several levels of control...." For some UEC type behavior such as the Giffen
it seems to be true.
Dag has, very generously supplied me with an extensive listing of previous
discussions concerning the UEC. But, aside from my suspicion that a control
theory analysis of the Giffen case may provide an explainatin of _some_
instances of a UEC, or at least an approach to it ( N - 1 cases at any rate ),
I don't I'm sufficiently familar with the previous discussion to make a
judgement about all that was involved back then. However, contrary to the
previous discussion, in which the UEC was sometimes asserted to be logically
connected with "coercion" or "helping" the explaination of "a" UEC by way of
the Giffen effect is carried out in terms of a person, a consumer, who is not
involved ( for the immeadiate purposes of analyais) in social interaction and
thus the phnemenon in this instance is _not_ connected with either "coercion"
or "helping". THis has the advantage in my thinking of removing, I hope, the
consideration of one type of nearly UEC (N-1) from the aftermath of the "I see
you have chosen" thread.