Vale: William Williams 12/01/1945 - 12/09/2004

With deep sadness and regret, I wish to inform you all that Bill Williams has passed away.

The cause of his death is unknown at this stage.


[From Bill Powers (2004.12.09.0644 MST)]

Michelle Ivers (2004.12.09) --

With deep sadness and regret, I wish to inform you all that Bill Williams
has passed away. The cause of his death is unknown at this stage.

I am shocked and saddened to hear this news. I had hoped that somehow the
future might hold a way for Bill to return to the status of a friend and
colleague. I knew him for many years, close to 20, in that kind of
relationship and much enjoyed his wit and his great breadth of knowledge.
The last time he visited my home he was just starting a new career at the
University of Kansas as a professor in the department of economics, which
was not only a great step up professionally, but a welcome end to a rather
lonely kind of life. When I last saw him here his health had improved; he
was in wonderful physical condition (at one point I drove him to a
10,000-foot mountain pass and waited while he ascended Engineer Mountain
from there). This was a very different man from the one with whom I had
such difficult communications in the next two or three years.

His struggle is over. I will remember him as the person I knew over all
those years, the man who resolved the Giffin Paradox, the man who thought
me a good enough friend to call me in tears for solace when his mother
died, the man who gave a large part of his life to trying to increase our
understanding of the human condition. There are many who will miss him, and
I am among them.

Michelle, when you know more I hope you will tell us of the circumstances
of his death -- am I to understand that he was in Australia? Have you told
Greg Williams?


Bill P.

[From Dick Robertson, 2004.12.09.1335CST]


From: Michelle Ivers <michelle_taylor@OZEMAIL.COM.AU>
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2004 0:27 am
Subject: Vale: William Williams 12/01/1945 - 12/09/2004

With deep sadness and regret, I wish to inform you

all that Bill

Williams has passed away.
The cause of his death is unknown at this stage.

I'm shocked, stunned, in fact and saddened. I had a
lot of respect for Bill's work in the past, and I
was puzzled and grieved at his later change of
personality ( if that was what it was). I feel sad
especially that there was no final reconciliation or
even clarification. I


Dick R.


[From Bruce Abbott (2004.12.09.1830 EST)]

With deep sadness and regret, I wish to inform you all that Bill Williams
has passed away.
The cause of his death is unknown at this stage.


I met Bill only once, when a group of us from the midwest with an interest
in PCT got together for a visit at Gary Cziko's, and liked him
immediately. He seemed then to be a decent and reasonable guy, and I
suspect that the character of his recent exchanges on CSGnet reflected more
the ravages of his badly regulated diabetic condition than anything about
his essential character. I am shocked and saddened to hear of his passing.

Bruce A.

[From Kenny Kitzke (2004.12.9)]

I am so sorry to learn that Bill Williams has left the world of the living.

He was a very unusual control system, even by PCTer standards. Difficult to understand as a human at times.

But, I have a number of indelible memories of Bill from several CSG conferences. Ones that bring a smile to my face, and joy to my spirit. I will miss that Bill, but not the one who more recently soured this forum during his economics diatribe.

May he rest in peace.


[From Bjorn Simonsen (2004.12.10,18:45 EST)]

As other CSG-ers I was shocked and saddened to hear about Bill Williams

I have spent some time reading some of his mails and I found a mail from
Bill P. in 2001.
This I will re-post here so it shall be easy for all of us to remember one
of William Williams contributions.
I send this after encouragement from Bill P.

Read the essay and think upon Wiliam Williams.


Essay from Bill Williams

[From Bill Powers (2001.10.16.0931 MDT)]

[This is a communication from Bill Williams, the third draft of a reply to
my question of the difference between "individual" and "person" in economic
writings. I thought it was full of ideas that CSGnet members would be
interested in. After the first draft I asked if I might post it to CSGnet
and he agreed, also sending a second draft. After the second draft, I
suggested to Bill that he might want to reduce the length of the references
list, considering the audience, and he did. Now I'm not so sure he should
have listened to me. I'm sure that if anyone wants to see the whole list,
Bill will be happy to post it to CSGnet. Commentary, of course, is welcome.
I've added title lines and cleaned up a few typos.]




I didn't intend to "inflict" the _whole_ of the reference list on the net,
there is a difference in the function assigned to such lists in the natural
opposed to the cultural studies. In cultural fields the reference list has
one of its functions the task of indicating if the author is sufficiently
familiar with the field[s] of inquiry involved to have a warrent to assert
whatever is being asserted. Given this sort of reference list it is
possible to
scan the listing and see where the author is coming from and what portion of
the literature the author is familiar with.

We've discussed the question of "individualism" and inconclusively several
times in the past. Apparently this go-round succesfully communicated why
I find the use of the term impolitic. So, I am convinced would many people
the various specialties within social theory.

                        Individual vs. Person
                         William D. Williams
                   University of Missouri Kansas City

Both orthodox economists and their critics describe the standard economic
analysis as based upon the assumption of "atomistic individualism." By
"atomistic" they both mean that the orthodox analysis assumes that a market
is a process that involves so many agents that no one agent can do anything
to make a significant difference in the outcome of trades taking place in
the market. This situation is closely approximated by a grain farmer's
situation. Most contemporary economic activity, however, takes place
in markets in which there are only a handful of economic actors mainly
corporations on at least one side of the market. Orthodox economists,
however, rather than attempting to consider a typical market and the
society of which it is a part of instead prefer to begin their analysis
with something like Robinson Crusoe-- an economic agent in isolation.
Then after describing, how, per impossible, such an isolated individual
would make economic decisions, they move on to an analysis of trade
between such still isolated atomistic individuals as they might
interact if the only knowledge they had of each other was obtained
by way of signals about prices and quantities. In this world there is
no "keeping up with the Jones." There is according to the assumptions
of the analysis no possibility for envy. See however Thorstein Veblen's
1896 _ The Theory of the Leisure Class _ And, because the market is
considered to be "atomistic" there is in this idealized representation
none of the collusion or efforts to corner the market that are a part
of the actual economy. Built into the analysis is an assumption that the
"atomistic individual" has complete knowledge of all options which
are available or will in the future be available. Consequently there
is no point to advertising in such a world.

The whole point of the orthodox analysis is to construct a "proof" that
a "rational individual" as an economic agent will generate supply and
demand functions which in tern in the context of a perfect market result
in outcomes which are stable, equitable and efficient. As a consumer, it
is asserted the quantity demand will decrease as the price increases,
The same is true on the side of supply for the activities of the
"rational individual" acting as a producer-- except that supply functions
will slope upward-- as the price increases more will be produced. The
proof that free markets generate optimal outcomes depends upon the
interaction between the downward sloping demand curves and the upward
sloping supply functions. The orthodox have invested a great deal of
effort into constructing "proofs" that such must be the case. So they
have very little interest in the "paradox" of the Giffen effect which
asserts that in some cases the demand function will slope upward and
consequently pose a hazard to economic stability.

There is it might be noted no unemployment in the orthodox world--
it can't happen! They have definitions which exclude it. So much
for the definitions you might say, but until someone comes up with
a more convincing set the fact that the orthodox have what appears
to be an orderly body of theory counts for a lot. John M Keynes
perhaps the most effective critic of orthodoxy had this to say about
the basis of the orthodoxy's dominance

     "The completeness of the Ricardian [ economic orthodoxy ]
     victory is something of a curiosity and a mystery. It
     must have been due to a complex of suitability in the
     doctrine to the environment into which it was projected.
     That it reached conclusions quite different from what the
     ordinary uninstructed person would expect, added, I suppose,
     to its intellectual prestige. That its teaching, translated
     into practice, was austere and often unpalatable, lent it
     virtue. That it was adapted to carry a vast and consistent
     logical superstructure, gave it beauty. That it could
     explain much social injustice and apparent cruelty as a
     inevitable incident in the scheme of progress, and the
     attempt to change such things as likely on the whole to
     more harm than good, commended it to authority. That it
     afforded a measure of justification to the free activities
     of the individual capitalist, attracted to it the support
     of the dominant social force behind authority.
       pp. 32-33. _The General Theory_

And, this "orderly body of theory" is all derived from assumptions
which are built into the conception of orthodoxy's "economic man."
Both the orthodox and their heterodox critics are in implicit
agreement to describe this conception in terms of "individualism."

Unfortunately, when the critics of economic orthodox attempted to
construct alternatives to economic orthodoxy they did so in large
part by adopting what were inverted or converse assumptions. ( There
is, however, an exception to this trend represented by the works
of Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey, and my mentor in economics J. Fagg
Foster who was also an exception to this trend. ) So that where
orthodoxy is described in terms of an "individual[istic]" conception
of behavior nearly all heterodox formulations are to some extent
collectivist in their assumptions. This means, for you, that nearly
all of the critical work in economics is associated with an absurd
starting point. In terms of control theory, the orthodox "individualistic"
assumptions make much more sense. And, the criticism by some very
conservative economists of heterodox and radical economists
attempts to use behaviorism meets with your approval. And, I
would have to agree in the sense that nearly all of the dissenting
economists have to some extent adopted either explicitly or
implicitly assumptions derived from behaviorism. So, at a very
basic level, however much I disagree with their politics the
orthodox are more correct in regard to their most elementary
description of how choices are made--they are made by discrete
organism. It is within the biological specimens that choices are being
constructed and carried out.

However, after correctly locating choice within the biological
specimens, the orthodox economists made the mistake of attributing
an absolute and unexceptional validity to a market determination
of all economic values. They have tailored most of their
efforts to supporting this attribution of unexceptional validity
to market outcomes. Thus the real worth of a person consists
of, and only of, what purchasing power they can bring to the
market-- and this is all there is to the question of value and
human dignity-- at least as far as the orthodox are concerned.
The attribution to an impersonal market as the sole decision
making institution in society required a very clever intellectual
feat-- ( See Keynes above ) the construction of a explanation
which would explain in sufficiently elaborate detail why only
a market was equipped to express human choices. The task of
constructing this explanation was begun by Adam Smith.

While Smith's analysis was widely considered persuasive,
his _The Wealth of Nations_ contained a number of logical
inconsistencies which took over a hundred years to provide a
proximate solution-- the neo-classical formulation the basics
of which are still taught in introductory economics a century
later. Unfortunately, the path which the orthodox analysis
took after correctly locating choice in the "individual"
biological specimens attempted to use a reformulation of the
ancient doctrine of hedonism expressed in terms of the methods
of physics. ( See Mirowski, Philip. 19?? _More Heat than Light_ )
Obviously a hundred years ago it would have been all but impossible
for them to have adopted a control theory conception of behavior.
The result was primarily a pseudo scientific defense of the rights
of property expressed in an elaborate mathematical formalism. As an
intellectual matter, it is a formalism that has, despite many critics,
endured without major revisions throughout the 2Oth century.
A principle basis of the orthodox formulation's dominance has
been its claim to be the only economic doctrine which has an
analytic explanation of the way in which prices are determined
in the marketplace-- hence the common designation of the course
in which it is taught as "price theory." (See Liebhausky) As
long as our society is one in which markets assume a dominant
role, it is unlikely that any rival formulation of the economic
process can displace orthodoxy without offering a superior analysis of
markets and the formation of prices. None of the contemporary rivals to
economic orthodoxy and its conception of "Economic Man" contain
the basis for developing an analysis that is capable of explaining
how decisions regarding transactions in a market-- the prices and
quantities at which trades take place has any prospect for
displacing the orthodox doctrine.

Control theory, however, as demonstrated by initial applications
concerned with the "paradoxes" of the Giffen Effect, the Backward
Bending Labor Curve, and anomalies such as the Veblen/Duesenberry
effect, Labor's seeming irrationality in decisions to strike,
Veblen effects, would appear to provide a new conception of
economic behavior and method of analysis which is capable of
providing a more comprehensive analysis of marketplace behavior
than the one supplied by orthodoxy. The initial cases to which
control theory has been applied have been the intractable
paradoxes which have plagued orthodox analysis ever since its
initial statement. In contrast to the orthodox analysis which
treats all economic choices as being essentially or formally
identical, a control theory analysis, because its description
of human judgement and behavior has the capacity to account
more adequately for the complexities of human experience can
not be completed solely as a speculative exercise in "armchair"
theorizing. Thus extending the initial applications requires
a combination of knowledge involving historical/empirical
insights into actual conditions with the control theory analysis
rather than the construction of "existence proofs" and similar
analytic exercises.

The problem of constructing an alternative explanation of
economic phenomena is, however, continuous with a more inclusive
difficulty which confronts all contemporary efforts to develop
a meaningful body of social theory.

The problem, as I see it, is that adopting control theory requires
that we adopt a completely new conception of how what we call
"culture" works. It makes some sense to think that there is a
something or a process to which we assign the caption "culture."
But, because nearly all of the people who have been hired to spend
their lives thinking about the question of culture have either
implicitly or explicitly taken their assumptions from behaviorism
the whole notion of "culture" has been mis-specified. The result
has been a notion which has sometimes been called "cultural
behaviorism." But, even those who have explicitly rejected
behaviorism have often thought of culture as some external force
that "shapes," "molds," and "conditions" behavior. The heterodox
economists have adopted this thinking from sociology, anthropology,
and social psychology. The most prominent exponent in social
theory of this position is the French sociologiest Emile Durkheim.
Durkheim formulated as a methodological principle the _rule_ that
social phenomena ought not to be explain using psychological, that
is "individualistic", constructs.

   "In a word, there is between psychology and sociology the
    same break in continuity as between biology and the
    physicochemical sciences. Consequently, every time that
    a social phenomenon is directly explained by a psychological
    phenomenon, we may be sure that the explanation is false."
    p. 104.

    "When the individual has been eliminated, society alone
     remains. We must, then, seek the explanation of social
     life in the nature of society itself. It is quite evident
     that, since it infinitely surpasses the individual in
     time as well as in space, it is in a position to impose
     upon him ways of acting and thinking which it has
     consecratred with its prestige. This pressure, which is
     the distinctive property of social facts, is the pressure
     which the totality exerts on the individual."

    "But, it will be said that, since the only elements
     making up society are individuals, the first origins of
     sociological phenomena cannot but be psychological. In
     reasoning thus, it can be established just as easily that
     organic phenomena may be explained by inorganic phenomena.'
       p. 102

Very few social theorists are going to admit that they have even
in part been mistaken about the basic nature of social reality,
choice and the causal structure of society. The idea that
the orthodox economists conceptions have been in some respects
closer to the truth can not be admitted. But, even though the
orthodox economists have been closer to the truth in some respects,
I don't necessarily recommend adopting their caption
"individual" for use in applying control theory in a reconstruction
of social and economic theory. I would rather start with fresh terms.

The more experience I have, and it is certainly not much at this
point, the more I am impressed with the difficulty involved for
a person who has made an investment of time and effort in thinking
about social theory to discard preconceptions and adopt
a control theory analysis. In comparison to the conceptual
difficulties, I don't think the choice of a nomenclature makes
that much difference. We still say "sun rise," rather than
going to the trouble of constructing a more accurate description.
Contemporary physiologists still use the term "reflex" but at
least the better ones don't mean at all the same thing as the
term did in 1900. But, choosing and insisting upon a distinctive
nomenclature "people" and "person" is a way for me to assert
before an audience of economists a viewpoint about questions
economists ought to be asking about the assumptions they make
concerning human behavior. This is not an easy point to make
when there is a strongly held, if illogical, prevailing conclusion
in left leaning social theory and heterodox economics that it has
been shown that psychological analysis can not provide any help
for the difficulties experienced in attempting to construct
an alternative to economic orthodoxy. Perhaps, it will help to
indicate the extent to which contemporary heterodox economists
have come to a despairing conclusion if it is pointed out that
there have been a number of recent assertions that logical analysis
the process of deduction itself must be abandoned.

When I describe the applications of control theory in
economics, many heterodox or radical economists see similarities
in some respects between the way I treat choice and the treatment
of choice in orthodox economics. They say, "Oh, but you're making
"individualistic" assumptions about economic agents!" My reply
has been to deny it altogether, and assert that what I'm doing
is treating an economic agent as a "person." And, I define
person in a way that emphasizes differences between a "person" as
I define the term and the orthodoxy's "individual." As far as
I know "person" has not been used by any tradition in social or
psychological theory so I'm free to define the term as I please.
There's no one to object. In contrast the term "individual"
already has a clearly understood meaning as orthodoxy has defined
it in terms of their "economic man" with an agreed upon
set of traits which constitutes a "rational individual." So,
its more politic for me to avoid using the term "individual"
which has a technical meaning in econmics and social theory and
instead talk about how a "person" or "people" actually behave in
terms of control theory.

No one here in the University of Missouri Kansas City _ever_
uses the term "individual" except in discussions concerned
with the structure or implications of orthodox economic theory.
But they do frequently talk about "stimuli" and "response" and
when they do I make the same, or at least similar objections
to the ones I from time to time make about the use in other
context of the term "individual." After one of my questions
"What do mean by "response?" I explained that "response"
suggested the possibility that the person was assuming the
adequacy of behaviorism. In an annoyed reply the person
asked, or perhaps asserted "What's wrong with behaviorism
anyway?" They didn't genuinely want know, and it wasn't the
time or place for even a brief explanation.

In my own case I gave up on orthodox economic theory by the
time I was a sophomore, and I lost interest in critical studies
not long after that-- the defects in the orthodox analysis
were so readily apparent once they are recognzied that
constructing exhaustive critical arguments seemed to me futile.
So while I think I understand what the problem is about, I'm
not by any means all that well equipped to expound on all the
fine points regarding the defects contained in the conception
of "economic man" as a "rational individual." The discussion
here probably leaves out a lot that someone working in the
area would feel compelled to include. In compensation the
references below provide something of guide to the literature.
But, I'm not in any doubt that there is a fair sized community
that when they hear the term "individual" used immediately dredge
up all sorts of connections with economic orthodoxy that
are extraneous to the points which you wish to make about
human behavior and control theory. For them "individual" is a
technical term in the same way that "stimulus" and "reponse"
are technical terms for psychologists.

In the above where I use "connections" I originally used the
term "associations" but then I thought am I myself bringing in
an improper psychological construct? Maybe not, no one is likely
to confuse me with a 19th century "associationalist." Anyway,
what ever "associations" you yourself make in connection with the
term "individual" for many people the use of the term "pushes a
button." And, it pushes it rather hard for the community of
which, in someway, I'm a part. In the same way, I might advise
an economist talking to a control theory crowd, to avoid the
casual use of "stimulus" and "response" and other psychological
jargon because they'll think that you're either not aware of the
meanings of the terms or alternatively that you know what the
terms mean ( for them ) and use them anyway.

I am confident that I know what you mean when you use the term
"individual." And, I don't think your use of the term _as_you_define_
it_ involves any error. So, I don't regard it as a question
involving "correctness" but rather one of communication and expediency--
for me the use of "person" avoids the possibility, or the inevitability
of confusions and misunderstandings which would accompany the use
of the term "individual."

Archer, Margaret S. 1988 _Culture and Agency: The Place of Culture
  in Social Theory_ Cambridge University Press Cambridge

Ayres, Clarence E., 1965 "Nature and Man: The Emergence of
   the Social Sciences." In the University of Denver Centennial
   Symposium, _The Responsible Individual and Free Society
   in an Expanding Universe. Published for the University of
   Denver by Big Mountain Press, Denver

Dewey, John. 1930 _Individualism Old and New_

Durkheim, Emile. 1938 _The Rules of Sociological Method_.
  University of Chicago Press Chicago, Illinois

    "In a word, there is between psychology and sociology the
    same break in continuity as between biology and the
    physiochemical sciences. Consequently, every time that
    a social phenomenon is directly explained by a psychological
    phenomenon, we may be sure that the explanation is false."
    p. 104.

Foster, J. Fagg. 1981. "The Relation of Value and Economic
    Analysis." Journal of Economic Issues. Vol. 15. # 4. in
      Special Issue of the Journal "Collected Papers J. Fagg Foster"

"individualism" Macpherson, C. B. in _The New Palgrave: A Dictionary
  of Economics_ 1987 Ed John Eatwell, Murry Milgate, Peter Newman.
  London: McMillian pp. 790-2.

Hayek, F. A. 1946 _Individualism: True and False_ The twelfth
  Finlay Lecture... 1945. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co: Oxford

Henry, John F. 1999 "Property Rights, Markets and Economic Theory:
  Keynes versus Neoclassicism-- again." Review of Political
  Economy, Volume 11, Number 2 pp. 151-169.

Hollis and Nell, Edward. 1975. _Rational _Economic _Man_.
    Cambridge University Press.

"individual" Palgrave, R.H.I. (ed.) 1894-9. Dictionary of
  Political Economy. London: Macmillian & Co.

Keynes, John Maynard. 1936, 1964 _The General Theory of Employment,
  Interest and Money_ New York: Harcourt Brace

Lester, Richard A. 1938 "Political Economy Versus Individualistic
  Economics." American Economic Review Vol. 28. # 1. March pp. 55-64.

Liebhafsky, H. H. 1968 _The Nature of Price Theory_ The Dorsey
   Press, Homewood Illinois.

Lukes, S 1973 _Individualism_ Oxford: Blackwell

MacPherson, C. B. 1962 _The Political Theory of Possessive
   Individualism_ Oxford: Oxford University Press

Mirowski, Philip. 19?? _More Heat than Light: Economics as Social
  Physics as Nature's Economics_ Cambridge: Cambridge University

Veblen, Thorstein. 1896 _The Theory of the Leisure Class_