Thursday, May 09, 2013

Dynamic Whatever

Readers of this blog are most likely the sort of folks who already know about "Dynamic Scoring," described by Wiki as forecasting "the impact of fiscal policy changes by forecasting the effects of economic agents' reactions to incentives created by policy."  It's a great idea in principle--e.g., if you raise taxes high enough, you may tamp down some taxpayers'  willingness to work.   Wiki also says that it " difficult to apply in practice due to the complexity of modeling economic agents' behavior.," which I think translates into "economists have a model tailor-made to any set of assumptions about human behavior that you can imagine."  Or more simply: we spin these threads out of our own gizzard.  Kissin' to postmodern renditions of EBITDA, recast as "net income plus anything else we want to count as earnings."  Cf., generally, "working the ref."

I just stumbled on a companion piece lately in an unlikely source: reading about the development of the English Bible, aka English versions of the Greek/Hebrew Bible.  The catchphrase here is :"dynamic equivalence."  Once again, Wiki to the rescue: the " original definition of dynamic equivalence was rhetorical: the idea was that the translator should translate so that the effect of the translation on the target reader is roughly the same as the effect of the source text once was on the source reader."

If this begins to sound like  "means what we want it to mean,;' then you are catching the flavor of the whole operation: the affray continues between the "literalists" (or perhaps better "formalists") and those who think we need new tools for a new age.   I probably have already let my biases show here but I don't want to get carried away: I recognize that translation is a fiendishly tricky business, just as vulnerable to judgment and discretion as, well as accounting: in either field you're going to come up with some difficult tradeoffs for which there is no satisfactory resolution.  But in either case, as it seems to me inescapable, the more "dynamic" you get, the less willing you are to let the source data speak for itself, the more willing to embrace the view that you know better than the original   It's an ineluctable temptation: evidently that was exactly how Cicero felt when he undertook to translate (render?) Demosthenes into Latin.    Me, I am just more and more distracted by the version that transfixed me when I was young (and I am stunned to find he is still around--must be as old as Cicero).  For a fuller account, once again it's back to Wiki.

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