The Subjective Nature of Scarcity

‘Mum, I want an iPad too!’, ‘Really?! You’ve got tickets for Glastonbury? Aah…I envy you so much right now!’, ‘You’ve gotten a bonus of 150.000 dollars?! Jesus…well, believe me: in a couple of years from now, I’ve got that too.’

More opportunities and more possibilities create more wants and more needs. Hence it is very plausible that we – the ‘rich people in the West’ – have more unsatisfied desires than the ‘poor in Africa’, numerous of which are starving each day due to a lack of food. After all, we want an iPad, MacBook and iPhone; they only want some bread and water. Hence we are the ones having more unsatisfied needs, thus we are less satisfied than the poor in Africa. Poor old us: it isn’t easy being rich…

Scarcity is defined as the ‘insufficiency of amount or supply’ of a good/service. Note the word insufficiency in this definition, since it is this word that points to the root of the problem. Unlike things as ‘supply’ or ‘amount’ – that are quantifiable and hence (at least partially) measurable or objective – ‘sufficiency‘ is an intrinsically subjective judgement. And the problem with something being subjective, is that it is relative; its ‘value’ is determined by means of comparison to what is going on in one’s surroundings. And if you’re living in a rich environment, an environment in which iPads and MacBooks are within reach for everyone, then this environment is likely to make you want different (read: less basic) goods than you would have wanted if you’d been living in, let’s say, the poorest regions of Africa.

Capitalism is a train, and profit is perishable. Yesterday’s profit is not today’s profit. And it is today’s profit that counts. Standing still is falling behind; you have to keep moving in order to keep your balance. That is the system we’re living in and that is the system we’re constantly trying to prevent from collapsing. Not because we want to keep it on its feet, but because we have to: after all, we are part of the system too, and we have got to make sure that we keep on our feet.

Sure: you could be stubborn and decide not to take part in the ever-continuing rat-race called ‘the economy’. But what then? Where do you – and where can you – turn to? Nowhere, right? You need your money in order to stay alive: in order to satisfy your iPad-needs, your longings, desires and deepest fetish-like obsessions, you have to keep on producing and buying. We’re locked up in a prison: a prison we’re painfully dependent upon.

We could of course turn to communism, an economic system without money. By doing away with money, we might do away with the vicious circle of making each other more horny and horny for bigger and bigger goods. A horniness without an organism to mark the end point of our satisfaction-seeking journey. No money means no satiable goals – or at least no goals that are within financial reach. And no satiable goals would prevent us from having feelings of insufficiency. But communism…hmm…that doesn’t sound very attractive, does it? No: we’d rather keep on hoping for that Lamborghini.

But what do you think?

Nature: The Biggest Discriminator in the Workplace

Man and woman: two different ‘types’ of human. The one being the hunter, the other being the caretaker. The one being the fighter, the other being the lover. And there are many more differences (or stereotypes) you could come up with. But one thing is for sure: both types are needed in the production of human life. And another thing is clear as well: the workload isn’t shared evenly between the two types of human. And I’m not talking about workload in the sense of keeping our economy going; in the sense of working and contributing ‘profits’ or other kinds of financial value to society. No, I am talking about the natural workload: the workload we humans have been endowed with by Mother Nature. And whether we like it or not, women are the ones carrying the burden. And the reason for this is as simple as it is unfair: men can’t get pregnant.

Surely: we should strive for a society with equal rights for men and women. Surely: we should try to make sure that men and women get equal opportunities in the workplace. And surely we should make sure that no-one would be denied any job solely because of the ‘type’ of human he or she is. However, the truth of the matter is that we cannot equalize nature. By that I mean that we cannot make men carry babies and we cannot make women not carry babies. The implication of this damn obvious fact is that there will always remain a (big) difference between men and women; a difference we cannot solve by non-discriminating policies in the work space.

So – given this observation – isn’t it (more) understandable why women occupy merely 14.3 percent of the executive officer positions in Fortune 500 companies? And given this observation, isn’t it (more) understandable why merely 16.6 percent of board seats are held by women? Maybe these low numbers don’t originate from a sense of discrimination by society; maybe they come up from a sense of discrimination by nature. And by that I am in no sense implying that women couldn’t be capable of reaching a representation of (at least) 50 percent in each of the aforementioned positions. I am only saying that it isn’t weird that women seem to have a harder time balancing their working- and private life. Especially when they’re pregnant, an ‘event’ preventing them (at least partially) from (temporarily) continuing their job-related obligations.

The consequence of this is that full equality, in the sense of equal representation of men and women in whatever kind of boards, might be an illusion. And again: not because men are better than women; because that is in no sense the case (just as women aren’t better than men). But simply because nature has put a burden on women; a burden that can’t be equally shared between them and their husbands.

But what do you think?

Swearing Bankers: Is That Going to Make any Difference?

Bankers want to make money. And that’s okay, right? Everyone wants to make money. But they should do so in an “ethical” way, right? They shouldn’t screw each and every customers just in order to gain some extra profit. No, they should be nice guys. They should respect the interests of their customers and not – for example – gamble with their savings and pensions. However, it is not always easy to respect the customers’ interests and make money at the same time. Sometimes it is just way easier to go straight for it; to take every (doubtful) opportunity to make money. And – as we have seen with the big crises that have occurred (or are still occurring) – “greed” can have negative effects on society. Governments need to step in with “their” tax money to save the day because, as they say, the banks are “too big too fail“. That is, it its much cheaper for the governments to pay “some” money to prevent the banks from collapsing, than to let the bank collapse.

It seems fair to say that banks keep us in an (economic) stranglehold; we can’t do anything but give into their wishes. They are like our big silly brother that holds the family fortune but likes to live the good life; buy drugs, drinks, smokes etc. So if you don’t watch him closely, the money will be gone (“Aaaaand it’s gone“, South Park, anyone?).

So what are we going to do? Just sit back and hope our silly brother won’t make any mistakes again? Or are we – somehow – trying to force him to act “wisely”, without violating the “rules of the free market”? Well, the first option seems kind of risky; so let’s try the second. What can we do? Well, as the Dutch government is trying, we can let the bankers swear to act nicely (link is in Dutch). Let the bankers put their hands on their hearts and say out loud: “we value our customers and we will do anything to prevent them from being hurt”. Well, isn’t that nice?

It it sure is. But will it work? Well, probably not. Because what will happen to the bankers if they don’t stick to “the oath”? Well, then the bank has to decide whether or not the banker is really capable of doing the “banking” job. Really….are we going to put the banks again in charge of what it means to do a good banking job? Then what has changed (again a Dutch link) compared to the situation before the bankers sworn to act nicely? Well, now the government has at least tried to make the bankers act nicely. Now, if they act evil again, it’s not the government fault anymore, right? They have done everything they could, right?

I think we all see that having bankers swear that they will act nicely will not make any difference. At least not without any legal consequences attached to not acting nicely. But the situation might be even worse than this. It might be that the situation after having the bankers sworn to act nicely is more “unethical” than the situation before. But why is that? Well, imagine a bank complying to the “bankers’ oath”. The bank is all acting “ethically” and respecting its customers. But then, suddenly, the bank goes bankrupt. Why is that? Well, the bank was the only bank really complying to the oath; the bigger and “smarter” banks did what they should do: make money no matter what it takes. So, by stimulating banks to act “ethically“, the government itself is acting unethical: they are promoting “unethical banks” (read: banks not complying to the oath) in continuing their greedy actions by weakening the competition of the “sweet” banks. That’s not really nice, is it?

So what’s the lesson we should learn from this state of affairs? Well, two things: first of all, governments that want to promote ethical behavior have to set firm rules – not just oaths without any legal repercussions – if they want to promote ethical banking behavior. And secondly, how can can we ever except companies – and especially banks – in a capitalistic society to act nicely if this acting nicely goes against their profit making interests? There aren’t charity organizations, are they?

But what do you think?

An Unequal Distribution of the World’s Wealth: Is It Fair?

50 percent of the world’s wealth is owned by 2 percent of the world’s (adult) population; the bottom half of the world’s population barely owns 1 percent of the global wealth; 10 percent of the population account for 82 percent of the world’s wealth; Africa owns 1 percent of the world’s wealth, while Europe and North America account for respectively 30 and 34 percent. These are figures, and figures don’t lie. So: what to infer from these figures, or more importantly: what should we infer from these figures? One thing is for sure: the world’s wealth is not fairly distributed, or at least not in an economical sense.

I am not going to make a plea for worldwide communism, in the sense that the world’s wealth should be distributed equally among all of its inhabitants. That would be unfair, right? To have people working to pay for other people’s laziness? No, that doesn’t seem to be the optimal option. It could work, of course, if everyone of us would be prepared to work his ass off in favor of a more prosperous world overall. But we don’t want a world that is more prosperous ‘overall’: we want our wallets to be filled with more prosperity; we want to make sure that we are fairly rewarded for our contribution to society (or the world for that matter). Because, as is the case with the worldwide pollution and exploitation of fossil fuels: you can play the nice guy but, in the end, the nice guy will get screwed by the more selfish – or more intelligent; depends on your perspective – people. The prisoner’s dilemma seems unsolvable in a world like ours that is crowded by insecure people; people that see each opportunity to cooperate as an opportunity to be screwed.

Nonetheless, I want to trigger your imagination with the following (unrealistic) idea: what if we could take the world’s total wealth as it currently is and divide it by the total number of people living on this earth, and give every individual this average amount of wealth to start their lives with. See it as a kickstarter: when you are thrown in this world of ours, you will be given some certainty; a buffer, so to say. You can decide for yourself what you want to do with your buffer; you can spend it on drugs, or you can use it to start your own business; you can decide to buy a car that you don’t actually need, or you can save your buffer money for buying a house later on. You can even bundle your wealth with the wealth of others in order to create bigger and collectively shared goods (like roads, schools etc.)! It’s totally up to you.

In our world this ‘starting amount’ of wealth would be 26.202 dollars. Note that this is wealth per capita and not income per capita. Income is nothing more than a temporary reflection of a country’s wealth; therefore a one time change in income will not make much of a difference; not without increasing the wealth (factories, technology etc.) that underlie it.

This ‘wealth sharing kick-start idea’ I’ve presented can be though of as a variation of John Rawls’ idea of the the veil of ignorance. This is a well-known philosophical thought-experiment, that goes (more or less) as follows: imagine that every person on this world wouldn’t have been born yet. All of us would be standing behind some kind of curtain separating us from the earth that we are about to enter. We don’t have any idea about what our own capabilities (where we’re good at) and the capabilities of others will turn out to be when we in fact enter the world. Also, we don’t know what our fate will be: we might become a plumber, but we might just as well become a CEO. All you know is that you have to make one decision now, and that decision is: when all of us will enter earth, what will be the ‘fair’ manner of distributing the income we will come to earn and the wealth we will accumulate? Are we prepared to pay for the medical care required for someone’s handicapped son (which, remember, could be you; you after all don’t have a clue about how you will turn out to be), or don’t we find that fair? And if we would find it fair, how much money would you be prepared to lay aside for these expenditures? Again the question is: what is fair?

Rawls’ message with this veil of ignorance is that, if everyone of us would imagine him or her standing their, behind the veil of ignorance, we might come to notice what a truly fair world might look like; irrespective of our own particular situation. Like any thought experiment, one can debate whether it would even be possible to think about ‘how the world should be’ without knowing anything about yourself or the world. Let’s however, for the sake of the argument, assume that we could. Now I ask you: what would you do? Would you commit to the wealth kickstarting plan, or would you gamble and hope you will become the next Bill Gates?

What do you think?

Financial Markets: Keeping Up the Illusion of Confidence

Financial markets are trading grounds on which not products but ‘packets of confidence‘ are exchanged. Do you dare to face the uncertainty, or do you rather pass the opportunity to some guy more manly than you? Who is the 21th century knight, galloping over the battlefield of fallen companies, always leaving just in time not to get hit by the sweeping sword of bankruptcy, but just long enough to receive the fortune and fame? Who has got the balls to take the risk? That’s the question.

A financial market is a special market. In contrast to ‘normal’ markets – markets at which tangible goods like tables or computers are traded, or services like car-washing and theater – this market is build on top of confidence, or at least the perception of it. Surely, through such things as valuation techniques, financial considerations play a more than average role in deciding whether or not to buy stocks, derivatives, obligations or other financial products. However, just as it is in science, there is always a leap of faith required to take the final step: no matter whether it is in jumping to the conclusion on the basis of data, or making the purchase of a stock based upon a ‘reasonable’ level of confidence. No absolute truths and absolute values exist.

Thus – given that confidence plays such an important role in financial markets – you might expect that regulators overseeing these markets will try to do anything in order to keep this fragile little entity up and running. Just like a friend might gloze over the truth in order to keep you – and therefore himself – happy, so a regulator might tell investors that everything is going according to plan; that there’s nothing to worry about. And although lying might be immoral – according to Kant’s Categorical Imperative at least – that’s exactly what he (the regulator) should do, right? If not, the whole house of cards will collapse; investors become (more) insecure and run away as fast as they can. So you need a Santa Claus kind of figure; someone who, above all, should be trustworthy; someone who, no matter how naughty you have been, will always be there to comfort you. Of course: it wouldn’t mind if he or she would have at least some understanding of financial markets, but that’s just only a bonus (you get it? That was a joke).

So, what would happen if, instead of Santa Claus, you would put a politician in charge of regulating the financial markets? A guy like, let’s say, Jeroen Dijsselbloem? A guy who says that, ‘If the banks can’t do it, then we’ll talk to their shareholders and bondholders, we’ll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and – if necessary – the uninsured deposit holders.’ Then shit is getting messy, right? The insecure investors, longing for a pat on the back, or at least a little sympathy, start running; like Forrest Gump, the investors get the sign to ‘Run, investors, run!’

Honesty is not appreciated in financial markets, so don’t even try it. Lie as hard as you can. Do everything to keep the rat-race going. Do all that is required to ‘restore the confidence in the financial markets‘; be the 21st century Machiavelli. Don’t listen to the crowd yelling that the banks must bleed for their sins. Just assure that they – the crowd – will get their money back. Illusion leads to confidence, and confidence is king. So lie as hard as you can mister regulators; Go for it!

But what do you think?

The Coercive Power of Money

The Webster’s New Collegiate dictionary defines ‘to coerce‘ as ‘to compel to an act or choice’, or ‘to restrain or dominate by nullifying individual will’. We all have some kind of idea of what it means to coerce someone: to force someone into doing something they don’t necessarily want. When I hold a shotgun to your head, and tell you that you should give me your iPhone, that could very well be interpreted as an act of coercion. But there are also more subtle acts of coercion. If you told me a secret, and we would get into a fight, I could force you into doing something by threatening to make pubic your secret. But there are even more subtle acts of coercion. Acts that all of us experience on a daily basis. And the leading actor in this play is omnipotent and all-known: it is Mister Money himself.

Where does voluntary engaging in a deal stop and coercion start? When you offer me 300 dollars for me to repair your car, I could voluntarily decide whether or not to accept your offer. I might feel forced to do so, since I am short on money, but I am still able to compare the pro’s and con’s of your offer and come to a rather autonomous decision. It becomes a different story when I am an employee of a car repairing firm where you turn to for getting your car fixed. In that case I have no vote in deciding whether to accept your offer. That’s the boss’ decision: I just have to do as he says. But you could still claim that I voluntarily decided to go work for the company, so in that sense my ‘forced decision’ to repair your car would still be voluntary. Note that you could doubt these two examples of ‘voluntary’ action by claiming that, although in theory I might have decided whether to take the job or not, in practice I was more or less obliged to do so. I might have needed the money in order to stay alive, which could have forced me into accepting the job. But Iet’s not focus on that.

Because I want to provide you with a different case, and that is the following: imagine that a big construction company decides to build an apartment block next to where you live. Now I ask you: how much of a choice do you have in accepting this deal? Not much, right? Even though you aren’t offered any money, or anything for that matter, you are still supposed to accept the company’s plans. You have no authority at all. Your ‘individual will is nullified’ by the domination of the construction company. Thus it seems that money can force you into accepting an offer. That is, when parties engage in a deal, even though this deal might be executed voluntarily by the offering and accepting party, the will of other parties is rendered irrelevant. It’s nullified. And although this might not be a big issue if the deal is relatively small (like your neighbor buying a new car), the consequences can be much more severe when the parties involved are big and powerful (like the construction company and the government).

So it seems that money truly is power: coercive power.

But what do you think?

The West versus The Poor: Who is in Charge?

We need oxygen. We need food. We need shelter. We need money. We need so many things, just in order to stay alive. And for as long as we are alive, we are involved in this exchanging relationship with nature. A conversation that we always try to pull in the direction that is best for us. And we have become pretty good in this. We can use nature’s trees to build our houses, we can use nature’s oil to fuel our cars and we can use nature’s drugs to pleasure ourselves. However, there is one natural resource we have difficulty mastering: the human resource.

The human resource is just another resource we need to say alive. However, in contrast to the passive part of nature, we have to be a little cleverer in our approach of the human resource. We can’t just reap the benefits, move on to the next one, and start all over again, right? No, because – in contrast to potatoes – human resources are autonomous; or – in contrast to potatoes – humans understand that they are autonomous. So we have to be smart; we have to use our intellectual super powers nature has endowed us with in order to trick them; in order to make them do what we want. And Bam! There it is: civilization is born.

But let’s – for a moment – shed of the norms and values society has poisoned our brains with; let’s for a moment imagine that we are starting from scratch, and let’s think to ourselves: what would be the best for us? That is: what would be the best for this collection of “Mes” (plural of “me”). What if we could just cultivate people like we cultivate grain? To just have acres full of them, use them when we need them, and move on to the next round? To only extract value without giving anything in return? To use their powerlessness and dependence on us as being their only need we have to fulfill? That would be great, right?

Okay, back to reality: because, aren’t we in fact already doing this? Using the powerlessness of our fellow human beings for our own benefit? The most striking example would be of those people working their asses off in some kind of sweatshop in Vietnam, or any other “less-developed country“. Aren’t we just using their dependency on us – on our money – as being the only reason they don’t leave us? The only reason that they don’t die? Just like grain depends on our water and our fertilizer in order just to stay alive? Aren’t they just as interchangeable as resources like grain and potatoes are? After all: does it matter what piece of grain we put in our bread? And does it matter what Vietnamese made our shoes? The only difference might between grain and Vietnamese is that the Vietnamese might have more potential than the average piece of grain.

But that’s how we want them; vulnerable and fully dependent upon our money just to stay alive. Because the more dependent they are, the less they need. The less they have, the more they can provide us with. And you know what is the best part of all of this? We think that we are fighting the good fight; that we are helping those poor people to stand on their feet. After all, if we wouldn’t be there, those people would have nothing, right? They would die, they wouldn’t be able to take care of their families etc etc.

But is that true? What about those hunters and gatherers we descended from? They seemed to do pretty good without sweatshops, right? They seemed to live a rather autonomous life; not dependent upon “the West” for them to feed their families. Isn’t it that we are in fact preventing those poor people from standing on their own feet? That we are providing them with the illusion of wealth; the illusion of their dependency on us? Aren’t we just rationalizing our immoral behaviors because – in our hearts – we feel that “we are just good people”? Aren’t we changing seats; aren’t we the ones that are dependent on them? And aren’t we the ones that should prevent them from discovering their autonomy? Aren’t they the ones in charge?

Or as Rousseau once said: “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. The only question is: who are the guards and who are the prisoners?

What do you think?

The Difference between Economic- and Real Demand

Both of my grandfathers were farmers and so are two of my uncles. The other family members are all in some way related to the agricultural business. That’s how I – in one of our annual family gatherings – winded up in a discussion with my farmer-uncle about the current state of the agricultural business in Europe. He told me that the farmers – including himself – had to pay wholesalers – which are the parties farmers should be selling their crops to – for them to come and pick up their crops. So: instead of getting paid for cultivating their crops – which seems to be a pretty fair deal – farmers actually have to pay money for them to get rid of their unions, potatoes etc. That’s how low the prices of many crops are these days. And do you know why these prices are so low? Because there is no demand. I repeat: there is no demand. So while there are – as we speak – people are starving in Africa, our farmers have to pay money to get rid of their crops because there would be no demand. This is how far we have gotten in this 21th century of our human civilization.

But let’s take a closer look at the situation: why is there what seems to be a structural oversupply of certain crops? When asking this question to my uncle, he explained to me that the farmers kept on producing this much unions – for example – because they were hoping for some disaster to occur in a country abroad – like a flood in Russia or a drought in Spain – which would make the supply of unions drop, the prices rise and the revenues of Dutch farmers increase. It seems that the act of speculating has crossed the boundaries of the banking sector into the agricultural industry.

However, knowing the farmers’ motives for continuing the supply of unions is not in itself sufficient for coming to understand why there is this oversupply in “the West” and this starvation in Africa. After all, one cannot blame the farmers for trying to make a living, right? So maybe we should put the blame on the Africans. They are after all the ones that are too poor to help our farmers out, right? That’s true, but that is also very twisted. But where to put the blame then? Why is this economic game being played so far away from what we – the human species as a whole – seem to need?

Maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with the economic paradigm. With the economy as being the domain of the profit-maximizing individual. The domain in which the market takes care of itself. The domain of the exchange of goods and services in order for the overall utility of society to increase. Maybe the economic paradigm has lost touch with reality and with why it was invented in the first place: to help us human beings live together peacefully. And since no money equals no goods, and since people are not willing to provide their goods for free, the poor are screwed, right?

But maybe there is a way for the market and ethics to converge. That is: maybe we should stop looking at money as being a universal instrument of valuation and start looking at the goods and services people worldwide have to offer. I can imagine that Africa – because of its climate – has the right conditions for growing agricultural products that are totally different from those being cultivated in the much colder regions of Europe. So why not focus ourselves upon producing and exchanging these goods? No money involved. Just trading the stuff each of the counties is capable of producing with stuff they are unable to produce. We should look for ways in which we – the countries of the world – might be able to complement each other. We have to – as a world – see which countries are – whether it is because of natural resources being present or because of beneficial geographical positioning – most capable of fulfilling a particular task and let each country focus upon performing that task. This is the only manner in which we can fully benefit from the differences that inevitably exist between countries, without ending up in an imbalanced economic situation like we are today. We have all got something to offer each other. That is what we have to realize.

Let’s make this more concrete. Let’s focus upon an example that shows the manner in which different countries could be able to use their regional advantages in creating value. Most of us do agree with the idea that fossil fuels are likely to be exhausted within a couple of decades, right? So that means that we have to switch to other energy sources. Sources like solar energy. And where is an extremely high amount of solar radiation waiting to be caught? A place in which unused space is abundant? Indeed: the African desert.

Think about it. Hereby we could make optimal use of the geographical differences between the world’s countries. In the West we could keep on having “old-school” food-producing farmers, while in Africa there would be an entire new group of “sun-farmers”. This development could turn the idea of what it means to be a farmer upside down. Both types of farmers are producing energy for us human beings. And each of them would focus its efforts on doing what it does best and exchanging these results with other countries.

Sounds good, right? The choice is yours: should we stick to the money-focused, profit-maximizing and individualistic approach currently being applied, or shall we start trying to obtain the most value from the differences that exist on the world and use these differences to create a fair and honest trading scheme.

What do you think?

The Trick of Affection

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Or – to put it less cryptically – affection is fundamentally subjective in nature. In other words: there’s no single true conception of what to (dis)like. Some people “just happen to like” red and other people “just happen to like” blue. And – in contrast to our “knowledge” of what does and what doesn’t exist in nature, and in contrast to our political conceptions – we have no conscious reasons for liking something. And note the word “conscious” in the previous sentence.

Because we might have reasons for liking a particular brand of whiskey more than other brands, or for liking to wear ragged jeans with stains all over them instead of regular and decent jeans. We might “believe” that our brand of whiskey “just tastes better” than the other whiskeys, and that the ragged jeans that we like “just looks better” than the other kind of jeans. And it is this “just” tasting better or “just” looking better that is reason enough for us to buy the product associated with this feeling instead of the other products. It’s after all not our fault that we just happen to like these products, right? It’s just the way it is; it’s our nature. And why wouldn’t we accept our true nature? That would be nothing but a kick in the face of our identity, wouldn’t it?

Can you imagine how easy it must be for a marketer to lure us into buying his product? He only has to make sure that we “just happen to like” his product. Because that alone would be sufficient for us to run to the shops and buy it. And do you know what the best part of all of this is? They can mold us any way they want to. They can keep on promoting their products all day long until that point of no return is reached at which the person “just happens to like the product”; until the person reaches the point that he no longer needs any excuses for buying the product. The point at which the person feels capable of legitimately buying the product he “likes” in order to feed his “affection”. And that’s it. Case closed.

We don’t know how our affections are being created; how they are molded and how they are manipulated. All we know are the end products flowing out of the realm of our unconsciousness and into the shining light of our consciousness. So even though our affections might be kneaded and sculpted, even though we might be indoctrinated and deceived, all of this takes place within our unconsciousness; all of this takes place off stage, a domain that we do not have access to. All we know is what comes out of our very own factory of unconscious longings. And at that point, the point at which the affection enters our conscious experience, we are lost. Because it is then that a little voice inside of our head tells us, “you must not resist who you are. Face it: you just happen to like this product. Go for it!”

And that’s how we came to like those ragged jeans of ours.

But what do you think?

The Link between Capitalism and Wanting to Kill your Neighbor

Let’s face it: we don’t know why we are here on this earth of ours. Biologists might say that we are here to procreate; economists might say that we are here to maximize profits; Christians might say that we are here to please God. However, on the level of humanity as a whole, no-one truly knows why we are here. And you know what? We will probably never figure it out, so we might just as well stop trying, right? Why don’t we focus all of our efforts on answering a question that we are actually capable of answering, such as the question: what should we do with our lives while we are here? Or more specifically: do we want to screw everyone around us, or do we want to look for another, more social option?

Let me tell you a short story. This morning I went to the grocery store, for which I had to cross the street. I saw a few cars driving up to the pedestrian crossing, so I decided to wait a second. When the cars had passed, I decided to give it a go. While I was half-way on the crossing, I saw – in the corner of my eye – a car approaching: quickly approaching. And even though the driver had plenty of time to slow down, he didn’t do so. Moreover, he accelerated and almost hit me while passing me by. While the driver passed me, I looked him in the eyes for a split second, and all I could see was a glance of utter indifference; a glance you would have when you accidentally drop your 5-year old phone on the ground. I shook my head and asked myself: ‘Is this the world we live in?’ So now I ask you: is this the world we live in? How come that we are  indifferent towards the life of others? Are we just hateful people?

We might very well be, but let’s try to find a different reason; an economic reason, for example. Let’s ask ourselves: what is the economic system we’re living in? There it is: capitalism! Capitalism is an economic system that fosters values such as individual value maximization, efficiency and competition. Those who are the most focused at maximizing their profits are the ones that are (regarded to be) the most successful. The capitalistic system has a tendency to create hatred towards the wealthy egocentric people living on the other side of town. Children are being urged to stand up for their property rights (‘That’s my ice-cream’) and not to trust strangers. And this indoctrination doesn’t stop with the dawn of adolescence. As a student being niggardly is a virtue; being free-handed is just stupid.

Socialism, on the other hand, is an economic system that is characterized by collective ownership of property. The value that your neighbor contributes to society benefits you just as much as his benefits him: his gain is your gain. This implies that it would be reasonable to help each other out. After all: why would you decide to cross the street if that would result in three other contributors to your wealth having to wait? Wouldn’t that – indirectly, via the ‘wallet of the state’ – harm yourself? It probably would, right? This observation makes values like camaraderie and cooperation being valued and fostered in a socialistic society. Growing up in a socialistic society will urge children not to stand up too firmly for their individual property rights, but rather to focus on the property rights of the collective. And, as you can imagine, this would create an entirely different (economical) world.

This article is not a plea for socialism per se. Nonetheless, if everyone could just be a little more social, the world wouldn’t stop turning, right?

But what do you think?