by John Quiggin on July 27, 2014
“One of the striking features of (propertarian) libertarianism, especially in the US, is its reliance on a priori arguments based on supposedly self-evident truths.”
“The discovery of non-Euclidean geometry led to the rise of formalism as the dominant philosophical approach in mathematics. The key point of formalism is that axioms like Euclid’s parallel postulate are neither true nor false. They are merely sentences in a formal language that can be combined and manipulated to form new sentences (theorems). A set of axioms may be useful if the theorems it yields turn out to provide a good model for some real world phenomenon, but this is not a mathematical question (though it helps keep mathematicians in work).
Mathematical formalism reached its high point with the Hilbert program in the early 20th Century. Despite the negative results of Godel, who showed that the more ambitious aims of the program could not be fulfilled, it was still dominant when I was taught mathematics in the 1970s.
I believe mathematical formalism has lost some ground since then, but if so, the effects have yet to filter through to economics.”