Complexity and Complementarity: A Horizonal Economics of Conscience
Frederic B. Jennings, Jr.
Center for Ecological Economic and Ethical Education
Last modified: February 26, 2008
Substitution assumptions have relieved economists from embracing complexity in economics. Substitution negative feedbacks support equilibrium, partial analyses, short-term models, etc., undermining attention to open, dynamic complex systems. Smiths invisible hand indeed, the efficiency case for competition depends on tradeoffs, scarcity and opposition of interests in society. Yet these scarcity arguments speak to one face of a two-sided coin: not only conflicts but also concerts of value are relevant here.
An economics of complementarity is contrasted to substitution in economic relations. First, increasing returns show rising costs are not defensible, leading to a static case for complementarity in economics. This conclusion is then extended through horizonal theory into a dynamic claim for reciprocality and positive feedback. Complementarity yields a horizonal economics of interdependence, systems theory and cooperation as our route to efficiency, equity and ecological health through an extension of planning horizons.
In dynamic complex systems, substitution and complementarity are inextricably intertwined, denying competition any exclusive claim to optimality. An extension through horizon effects suggests instead that competition is keeping us stupid and immature, and that our myopic culture results in scarcities of intangible goods such as information, ethics, love, learning, culture and knowledge. If so, then competition seen by many as an efficiency standard is a poison mistaken as cure: a new horizonal economics shows that cooperation encourages social and personal growth through learning and thereby economic efficiency. The paper ends with an appeal for multiple models in economics, suggesting competitive frames subvert diversity in academics by enforcing conventional views.