MD economics of want and greed 2

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Sat Aug 23 2003 - 16:02:51 BST

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    How can we know what people want if they hardly know it
    The answer is either very depressing or very simple.

    The depressing answer is that we can't know it, so we can't organize that
    people get what they want for them and we have to leave it largely to
    themselves to do so. There are a few things we can do collectively.
    Governments that look after the interests of their citizens rather than
    after those of the ruling elite usually already do them:
    a) Protecting people from malevolent others (among themselves or external to
    the collective).
    b) Enhancing everyone's options when there seems to be enough
    agreement on the general direction in which options should be
    enhanced (e.g. mobility, telecommunication, education, health
    care etc.).
    For the rest we will have to leave it to people themselves to
    determine what they want and to get it if they can.

    As people usually don't act rationally and just behave in line
    with the crowd, we should be quite pessimistic about the quality
    they will experience in what they get when left to themselves.
    Moving with the crowd gets them stuck in repetitive and constrictive
    patterns that lack meaning.
    Avoiding what they don't want usually gets them into situations that
    are less fearsome but little more attractive.
    Trying to enhance their options in the most obvious way often blocks options
    that on hindsight were more attractive. E.g. love, peace, nature etc. can't
    be bought with money and are often adversely affected by trying to make as
    much money as possible.
    Having got what others got before them, people often discover that it has
    become far less worth wanting now that everyone has it. Moreover they
    discover that some others have gone on and have got something new which is
    much more worth wanting because of its newness.

    The simple answer is to just make them want what you want them to want.
    How to do that? Create or pass on stories that attach meaning to
    what you want them to want.
    'Special' things, that can't be easily got, can often more easily be sold as
    worth wanting than ordinary things. Apparent ability to organize
    satisfaction of wants often makes people more effective in making others
    want something.

    People who want other people to want something and who organize satisfaction
    of that want, let's call them 'political economists', can do so for
    different reasons. They can do so to get something for themselves in return
    or they can do so to contribute to a better world. These possibilities do
    not exclude each other, however. Reasons given may be retrospective
    rationalizations of actions that were motivated differently prospectively or
    even of (involuntary) behavior.
    Even economists who pretend to be apolitical, who only want to
    explain how people get what they want and/or to instruct those
    that know what they want how to get it, may turn out to be
    political economists in disguise. By creating stories explaining
    how people get things like 'wealth', 'a higher GNP', 'more
    profit' etc. and neglecting to create stories explaining how to
    get things like love, peace, nature etc., economists make people
    think that the first are more worth wanting than the last.

    [to be continued]

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