Empty Days

Friday, February 06, 2004

More on money as the purpose of life

Extremely apropos reflections from Joi Ito's blog (turns out it's a hugely popular place - as usual I am poorly aware of my environment: "oh there's the Fuji mountain...") about money. And as this comes from a guy who makes tons of it, it's much more to the point than my own garbage-man musings:
At this point I tossed out some of the questions I've been asking all of the smart people I've been meeting these days. What is money? Is economics really the way we should be analyzing and managing the exchange of value in society? How are non-financial assets such as trust, beliefs and culture created and transmitted? Does more money beyond a certain point really make you happier and if not, what is happiness?
...
I believe that efficiency and greed play a big role in creating healthy economies. Having said that, I do not believe that just because we have free markets and democracies, that people will be happy or that we will have peace. My question is, at what point, if any, do you have too much money? At what point is greed pointless and destructive? Can countries and economies become addicted to economic growth or become financially obese?
Ok now. If I were Joi Ito, I wouldn't ask about happiness - I'd skip that question altogether and concentrate on what happens in the name of that strange notion. The notion is extremely fuzzy and when people equate it with money it's primary to reduce the fuzziness to something obvious. To ask "what is happiness" is like asking "what is the world" - there are a million answers to this one question. So it's probably the wrong question to begin with.

But, before my computer finally freezes on me, I would like to say a few words about greed and "becomig financially obese" as he put it. For indeed it is the big question. Especially since he's talking about economy in general and not just individual "financial obesity". I would put it this way: can a powerful country (or economy) actually renounce its power? My understanding is - it can't. There's just no way (and I can't remember any examples in history) of a powerful country putting breaks on its power-drive, of its own accord.

I am sure I am oversimplifying here, but I think that's the bottom-line: that a large societal structure can't turn itself around in a wise albeit limiting way, not when power is at stake. Unless it's forced to by a threat - in WWII people were content to forgo some of their peace-time comforts. Basically, what I am saying is that there's no way a country gonna fast if it has no reason to fast.

Btw, Ito's post has more interesting stuff in it - rather see for yourself.





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