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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7881/exchange-within-society/

Exchange Within Society

March 7, 2008 by

  1. Autistic Exchange and Interpersonal Exchange
  2. Contractual Bonds and Hegemonic Bonds
  1. Calculative Action

Action always is essentially the exchange of one state of affairs for another state of affairs. If the action is performed by an individual without any reference to cooperation with other individuals, we may call it autistic exchange. An instance: the isolated hunter who kills an animal for his own consumption; he exchanges leisure and a cartridge for food.

Within society cooperation substitutes interpersonal or social exchange for autistic exchanges. Man gives to other men in order to receive from them. Mutuality emerges. Man serves in order to be served. FULL ARTICLE

{ 1 comment }

David C March 10, 2008 at 3:35 am

I have almost never had occasion to disagree with LvM. But in this case, I must on a single point.

Quote from the article:
‘It is the essential characteristic of the categories of human action that they are apodictic and absolute and do not admit of any gradation. There is action or nonaction, there is exchange or nonexchange; everything which applies to action and exchange as such is given or not given in every individual instance according to whether there is or there is not action and exchange. In the same way the boundaries between autistic exchange and interpersonal exchange are sharply distinct. Making one-sided presents without the aim of being rewarded by any conduct on the part of the receiver or of third persons is autistic exchange. The donor acquires the satisfaction which the better condition of the receiver gives to him. The receiver gets the present as a God-sent gift. But if presents are given in order to influence some people’s conduct, they are no longer one-sided, but a variety of interpersonal exchange between the donor and the man whose conduct they are designed to influence. Although the emergence of interpersonal exchange was the result of a long evolution, no gradual transition is conceivable between autistic and interpersonal exchange. There were no intermediary modes of exchange between them. The step which leads from autistic to interpersonal exchange was no less a jump into something entirely new and essentially different than was the step from automatic reaction of the cells and nerves to conscious and purposeful behavior, to action. ‘

I see no fundamental distinction between autistic and interpersonal exchange, and while some instances can be identified clearly, there is no sharp line delineating them, its a fuzzy grey area.

. Firstly, autistic exchange as defined in this article is merely an individual making choices in the course of his interaction with his environment. If other people are part of that environment, their presence as features of that environment make no substantive difference beyond changing the range and anture of the choices available to him.

Secondly, given that values are inherently subjective and not cardinally determinable, no economist can presume to have insight into the motives informing an individual’s choices – his summation of benefits and costs are known only to him ( and, as some of the results of neuroeconomic research are beginning to show, he may not even know himself what informs his decisions’.

Without perfect insight into the mind of any particular decisionmaker, it is impossible to distinguish a bona fide ‘autistic’ charitable act, and one taken in anticip[ation of reciprocity. There doesn’t have to be an explicit contract – a gift made freely and without obligation ojn the part of the recipient may well still have been made with the intent of predicating a positive frame of mind in the recip[ient towards the giver. Or it may be made within the context of a belief in karma – ‘If I’m generous, I will get rewarded somehow, not necessrily by those who recieved my generosity’ Motives at this level in any individual other oneself are opaque to me, you, or Mises, and hence the distinction is one of classification convenience rather than substance.

Much like that other convenient post-hoc classification criterion in the field of biology that has acquired a needless and misleading absolutism in some circles: ‘species’. Which required the development of a new field, cladistics, to resolve the paradoxes that inevitably resulted from mistaking arbitary categories for inherent features of nature.

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