Monday, February 14, 2011


There's a lot of it out there.  There's a lot of it in our thinking process too--we are capable of rational thinking, of understanding true costs and benefits and making informed decisions, but we also overvalue what is present, become distorted when we are hungry or in need of basic physical sustenance, or are trying to impress someone, for instance, though this is trickier than I'll allow here.  Still, the question plagues us: how to get more done with our lives?  But I'm not talking about just being productive, I'm talking about eliminating needless work, about effort that will have no payoff--about atomistic labor.  And here I don't mean it won't have a payoff in terms of cash, but instead, a payoff in terms of increasing opportunity in the future.   So there's a lot of inefficiency out there, and some of it happens for good reason too--labor unions exist because there were abuses, because, fundamentally, there's a lot of people willing to work for not a lot of pay.  So there are laws that protect us from labor abuses, and for the sake of safety (no truck driving for more than 7 hours at a time).  By their nature, those laws strip out some short term efficiency for the sake of providing longer term sustainability--and they only work if everyone follows.  If not, we've got a black market of sorts. Exchanges occur that are more efficient for two parties, but they are not regulated.  We all want regulation when it saves us from working, and we all want to do away with regulation when it bites into our bottom line.

Anyway, I am disorganized here, I know.  Part of the point of this post was to detail some of our basic drives and desires--why we do what we do given some set choices.  And what I wanted at was some of the story line we tell ourselves, not just in terms of long or far thinking but in terms of universal values.  We act out of our universal values (let's say they are the values we think makes society fair, the internal moral code that keeps everyone competing without dying off first, because, for instance, they have been driving three days in a row--faced with a gargantuan task like this, many people will see their personal risk as worth it, simultaneously devaluing that risk to themselves, and while rationally understanding that others should not take the same risk--accidents happen unintentionally)--anyway, what's interesting is that we mostly think of ourselves as ______, ______, and _____ [insert adjectives] type of people, and mostly, those are idealized acts.  What's funny is that those values can actually harm us.  They can create inefficiency that keeps us from attaining a higher objective standard of living both individually and collectively.  At the same time, we're not going to be able to change people's values so easily--i mean, think about having a personal conversation with a friend about something you both have hard opinions about (even about which baseball team is best, or which car is best etc). 

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