Sometimes I rattle the cage and beat my head uselessly against its bars, but sometimes, I can shake one loose and use it as a dildo.
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William Carlos Williams
"To Elsie" or "The pure products of America / go crazy"
from Spring and all (1923)
I complain about my job all the time, and my girlfriend says I should find a job I love - and I dismiss that as naivety.
I gotta side with her, here.
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
I think we can all agree that when our gubmint decides to take up management and regulation of something (Usually something lobbied for), it tends to be wasteful, inefficient, and over-bearing. Endless Red Tape that makes things hard for the right companies, as well as the wrong companies. Not only that, but when regulations and laws are defined, they tend to stick around, long after they are necessary. They could write a law requiring cooling of gorblefuts to certain temperatures during production. But after a few months of R&D, they are able to eliminate the cooling process with the advent of toodlesnoots. But the way the law works, if those gorblefuts aren't at the regulatory low temperature during production, then you get fined, or worse. Regulations become outdated and arbitrary when the market and innovation moves on.
Green business is more profitable, fundamentally, regardless of what lazy older companies would tell you. All I'm saying is that gubmint regulation isn't the only answer. I'd much prefer Corporate Espeeuhnoj™, or market strong-arming, or even partial monopolization over endless Red Tape.
I want to show people that Profit With Compassion™ is possible. I wanna change modern business standards by example, not by force. Instead of arguing about economic theory, why don't we throw some bar stools?
Gefter: People often use Darwinian evolution as an argument that our perceptions accurately reflect reality. They say, “Obviously we must be latching onto reality in some way because otherwise we would have been wiped out a long time ago. If I think I’m seeing a palm tree but it’s really a tiger, I’m in trouble.”
Hoffman: Right. The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions—mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.
Could it be possible for a free agent to reason that their capacity to act independently is inextricably interrelated to the free agency of others? Can my rational self-interest be extensive enough to include the effect it has on others?
Coordination problems are cases in which everyone agrees that a certain action would be best, but the free market cannot coordinate them into taking that action.
As a thought experiment, let's consider aquaculture (fish farming) in a lake. Imagine a lake with a thousand identical fish farms owned by a thousand competing companies. Each fish farm earns a profit of $1000/month. For a while, all is well.
But each fish farm produces waste, which fouls the water in the lake. Let's say each fish farm produces enough pollution to lower productivity in the lake by $1/month.
A thousand fish farms produce enough waste to lower productivity by $1000/month, meaning none of the fish farms are making any money. Capitalism to the rescue: someone invents a complex filtering system that removes waste products. It costs $300/month to operate. All fish farms voluntarily install it, the pollution ends, and the fish farms are now making a profit of $700/month - still a respectable sum.
But one farmer (let's call him Steve) gets tired of spending the money to operate his filter. Now one fish farm worth of waste is polluting the lake, lowering productivity by $1. Steve earns $999 profit, and everyone else earns $699 profit.
Everyone else sees Steve is much more profitable than they are, because he's not spending the maintenance costs on his filter. They disconnect their filters too.
Once four hundred people disconnect their filters, Steve is earning $600/month - less than he would be if he and everyone else had kept their filters on! And the poor virtuous filter users are only making $300. Steve goes around to everyone, saying "Wait! We all need to make a voluntary pact to use filters! Otherwise, everyone's productivity goes down."
Everyone agrees with him, and they all sign the Filter Pact, except one person who is sort of a jerk. Let's call him Mike. Now everyone is back using filters again, except Mike. Mike earns $999/month, and everyone else earns $699/month. Slowly, people start thinking they too should be getting big bucks like Mike, and disconnect their filter for $300 extra profit...
A self-interested person never has any incentive to use a filter. A self-interested person has some incentive to sign a pact to make everyone use a filter, but in many cases has a stronger incentive to wait for everyone else to sign such a pact but opt out himself. This can lead to an undesirable equilibrium in which no one will sign such a pact.
The most profitable solution to this problem is for Steve to declare himself King of the Lake and threaten to initiate force against anyone who doesn't use a filter. This regulatory solution leads to greater total productivity for the thousand fish farms than a free market could.
The classic libertarian solution to this problem is to try to find a way to privatize the shared resource (in this case, the lake). I intentionally chose aquaculture for this example because privatization doesn't work. Even after the entire lake has been divided into parcels and sold to private landowners (waterowners?) the problem remains, since waste will spread from one parcel to another regardless of property boundaries.