Elephant Economics

While thinking about Cloudy Economics, I remembered the story of the seven blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. They were each led to a different part of the elephant and allowed to touch the elephant.


“Elephants are like big tubes that wiggle around, with a wet end that air goes in and out of,” proclaimed the first, holding the trunk.

“No, elephants are like smooth, hard tubes, and kind of pointy on the end” stated the second, holding onto a tusk.

“No, elephants are more like flexible fly whisks,” said the third, holding onto the scraggly hairs of the tail.

And so on. They were each right about the part of the elephant they were touching and wrong about the elephant as a whole. And this goes a long way towards capturing the idea of Cloudy Economics, and doing so in a more colorful and accessible way.

What elephant economics doesn’t capture, however, is the interdependent and dynamic nature of Cloudy Economics. If the blind man holding the tail were to pull that tail, it wouldn’t affect the size or behavior of other parts of the elephant (although if he pulled hard enough, it might change the location of some elephant parts, such as where the head and tusks were located as it swung around to see what was happening at his tail end).

In clouds, depending on the situation, could have one portion that starts to rain, and the act of raining affects the environment of the surrounding portions causing them to also start raining when they wouldn’t have otherwise rained. This is the dynamic interdependent nature of clouds that makes it a more appropriate model for economics than the blind men and the elephant.

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