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Joined: March 20th, 2002, 2:53 pm

The Entire Purpose of Economic Activity

April 2nd, 2002, 1:18 pm

In many arguments, and in many essays, I oversimplify. I generally refer to economic activity as overcoming geographic friction, to discover and dissipate entropy between varying regions of the universe, and to harness and redirect this dissipation towards the survival and expansion of the human species. The simplest example is on a desert island, Mountain Man, who knows the location of water, meets Beach Man, who knows the location of fish. By arbitraging between these two different circumstances, they can swap water for food, and both realize a positive sum on the transaction.

What this fails to recognize is that most economic activity is actually designed simply to trick the human mind, and in doing so to satisfy its innate longing for sensory experiences which were historically correlated to survival. The reason being that man required one set of habits and feedback mechanisms to survive as a member of a primitive tribe, or troop, and needs another set of behaviors and experiences to survive in infintely greater numbers working in a cubicle and sleeping in a condomimium. Meaning, most activity is not geared towards keeping people alive, and capable of breeding, by delivering food, water and medicine, but is rather geared towards tricking people into believing that all is good in the world, and the conditions are right for breeding.

One of the simplest examples is the human's mind's inability to discern between clutter and filth. Whereas your typical clutter poses no biological hazard whatsoever - whereas it may have been a tipoff to one in past eras - it is nowadays possible to eliminate clutter to the satisfaction of the brain, without reducing the risk of the spread of germs, and to thereby create the illusion of cleanliness. The prime example, of course, is entertainment, sports, television, and movies. While it may be true that useful social functions, like transmitting parables and morals, have hitched a ride on these phenomena, the reason they originally exist is to provide the human brain with a life experience satisfying his instinctive assessments of the desirability of his conditions.

The modern way of life allows billions of people to live on the same planet at the same time, while their instincts demand of them something entirely different, something which would kill them all very quickly if it weren't diverted. And so in order to keep people working so hard to provide one another with food and shelter and medicine, 99% of the output must be plowed back into making the modern productive lifestyle bearable. It is okay to get the entire spectrum of vitamins in a single grey pill, so long as restaurants provide a plate of styrofoam in multiple colors. It is as if the instincts must be at all times distracted by a movie, while the body attacks a different set of problems from those is was endowed to take on.

In other words, 99% of economic activity is spent making shiny red cars shiny and red. And only when people's cars are shiny and red, do they feel not uneasy doing the work that actually enables 5 billion people to live at once. So if you feel like crap at night, try getting in your shiny red convertible, driving down to the gym, and working out. Or play "chase" with your girlfriend, after which you'll easily sleep like a corpse for 10 hours. When all this fails, of course, you end up with a bunch of destructive punks like in the movie Fight Club. But the point is, 99% of entropy is dissipated towards the end of walking dogs, dogs who will only piss in 5 different spots, when they should, eventually, evolve to use the toilet.

Anybody agree, disagree?

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The Entire Purpose of Economic Activity

April 2nd, 2002, 1:39 pm

Does this theory apply to everyone but you? Or to you as well?
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Joined: July 23rd, 2001, 6:25 pm

The Entire Purpose of Economic Activity

April 2nd, 2002, 1:59 pm

This sounds like a question about the reason for economic activity.
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Joined: February 27th, 2002, 12:45 pm

The Entire Purpose of Economic Activity

April 2nd, 2002, 3:53 pm

This sounds like manufactured scarcity. Our biology drives us to compete for scarce resources which are necessary for survival, mostly food. But almost nobody in the developed world faces a scarcity of food anymore (obesity has surpassed starvation as a worldwide health problem.) However, one of the basic tenets of economics is that the consumer has unlimited desire to consume. So we have created a demand for things that nobody concievably needs.

Does this mean that we are more or less advanced than a culture which lives a subsistence lifestyle? Is it better to take only what you need to live, and enjoy the process and struggle which results, or to have a surfeit which allows you to devote productive energies elsewhere?

It depends on your view of the purpose of life, the importanceof technology, etc. . .