Let’s do a thought exercise.
Suppose you go to a store and discover everything is free, today only. Do you take only what you need or as much as you can fit into your vehicle?
Like me, you probably answered that you would fill your vehicle to capacity, drive a little faster than you should on your way home, empty your vehicle as quickly as possible, and return to the store in hopes of getting another load before the free stuff is gone.
For most of us, considering the type of store didn’t enter our minds. The stuff was free and that was good enough.
Why is the general tendency among people to take more than they need? Even when we have to pay for goods, we often want (and often buy) more than we need.
Disclaimer: I’m not an economist. I haven’t given much time to studying world economies. But, our thought exercise lends itself to a simple conclusion:
Economies exist because of one thing: greed.
Here’s a working definition of greed: Wanting more than you have.
In the United States of America, we just completed the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving has been tarnished by what’s referred to as Black Friday, a day when people will literally trample each other to get what they want. This avarice-driven event is a true irony since it now begins on Thanksgiving day — when we’re supposed to express gratitude for what we already have. The worst part of Black Friday is the sole focus on acquiring things we don’t actually need.
Instead of loving people and using money, people often love money and use people. -Wayne Gerard Trotman
According to bartglobe.com, the barter system was invented around 6000 B.C. in tribal Mesopotamia. Bartering likely began because individuals began ascribing value to things they had that other people wanted. Instead of having all things in common, they began trading.
You want how many fish for that pot? -Enik, the fisherman, of Mesopotamia, circa 5980 B.C.
Human ingenuity is remarkable. That there are women and men throughout our history who have looked at problems and created solutions to those problems is fascinating. What’s troubling, however, is that rather than share those remarkable discoveries openly (as a general rule) people look for ways to increase their own status. In recent centuries, this is almost singularly accomplished by monetizing these discoveries and inventions.
The Impossible Cure
Unfortunately, the only cure to this problem is for everyone — and I mean everyone — to abandon the desire to have more than their neighbor. If we had all things in common and took only what we actually needed, there would be no need for economies at all.
If we could manage to abandon greed completely everyone from food producers to pharmaceutical companies to tech giants could then work together in a unified way to create the very best solutions for humanity and no one would need any money. Everyone would do their part for the betterment of humanity and everyone would get what they need. Turns out, we’d all be a lot wealthier that way, but it would have nothing to do with money.
Here’s another thought exercise for you: what would societies across the globe look like if the interest of every person was improving life for everyone around them with zero focus on personal gain?
But, that’s impossible. So, if you’ll excuse me, I hear they have a sale going on at BestBuy on 88" 8K OLED TVs.