Sunday, July 17, 2016

Starts With Two

We like the idea of fairness. People shouldn't take advantage of others. Experiments have shown people are actually willing to pay to punish people, even if that leaves them worse off. One of the bits of the Sharing Economy and Gift Economy that I like is they remove the idea of accounting. They reduce concern about fairness. It ceases to be transactional. It isn't quite blind one-sided giving. There is faith that the community you belong to will be something you can participate in, but you aren't giving in order to receive. You are giving with as close to zero expectation as is humanly possible.

Hayek writes about creating a society that focuses on enhancing spontaneous order. When we try plan things, we have no idea what the unintended consequences will be. We can't predict the future. Things seldom work out as planned. Yet we can focus on how people coordinate in intricate and mutually considerate ways. In other words, we can focus on individual relationships. 

He uses the example of the price of Rice. The question of what the right price of Rice is, is impossible to answer. There is no correct answer. Things that may seem unrelated may affect the price of Rice. The cost of drilling. New substitutes. Political unrest. Weather. Distribution. Exchange Rates. The Labour costs are only one little part. All this information gets summarised in two people deciding to swap rice for money. If both people feel okay with the trade, if both people feel like they have gained, no more information is needed. Everyone is better off. There is no such thing as the right price, there is such a thing as a good trade.


I often feel overwhelmed with all the big problems facing the world. I have growing conviction that we don't need a plan to solve these issues. We don't need to be able to visualise the world we want to live and, and figure out a plan to get there. Those dreams are fun, but we don't have the understanding or the ability to bend the world to our individual wills. Our individual wills and dreams aren't even the same. What we can focus on is the individual relationships.

Take any two people in the world at random. What are the obstacles to those two people being able to understand each other's worlds? What are the obstacles to those two people communicating? What are the obstacles to those to people engaging in activities where both walking away better off for it? Fairness becomes a much easier thing to understand when it involves two people with names. Two people with stories. Two people with people, places and things that matter to them.

The solution starts with two.
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