train of thoughts that followed a course of economics

It seems a very, very difficult task to organize my arguments

since too many ideas are revolving in my mind with the speed of thought.


I was never really interested in economics, I even think I've always felt repulsion towards this science because it revolved around the notion of profit. Somehow that greedy way of seeing the world contradicted most of my moral values. But last semester I had to go to a course of introduction into economics, in order to get accustomed to the specialized language I might need in the future as a translator. The things I learned definitely made me think and I decided to write down some of my thoughts, just to clear things up in my head. Please note that I'm not blaming or judging anybody, but maybe trying to persuade myself to change, by expressing and recognizing my own ideas.

I was very surprised to realize that I was actually enjoying learning economics! This was mostly due to the fact that I absolutely love it when I can understand new things. I found out that it's not such a harmful science, economists only want the best for people - in their own material way of dealing with things. They constantly analyze the behavior of human society and they try to propose solutions in order to allocate scarce resources in the best way – sounds like their work is very important.

Yet, no matter how well-intended economists might be, their theories are always based on all the wrong suppositions or notions, which make their proposals inadequate. These assumptions are not good to be accepted as a universal truth, because people will take them as such and they won't even dare to think about changing them.

We're not greedy – we are lost.

For example, it is said that the needs of humans are infinite, because as soon as a need is satisfied, a new one appears. That sounds pretty logical, life would be boring if we didn't have any purpose ahead of us. So one might conclude: greed is human nature. But how can you say such a thing?You don't have to need everything. You can choose to count all the things you already have that you can be thankful for in your life. Just think about it. You can choose not to be greedy any time, it's not human nature.

Let me also tell you about the huge difference between Real needs of humans and Artificial needs, that are created through advertising. Companies want to make a profit – by any means, so they produce something, virtually anything that they can sell. And they'll make you believe that you absolutely need their product – because it's good for something, it looks nice and everyone else has one, you just can't live without it.

We're not lazy – we want to discover other things to do with our time.

I know almost everything seems worth buying, most products usually simplify things for us - like a washing machine. This time one might say that one of the fundamental characteristics of humans is laziness – we invent things that work instead of us. But let's not be so judgmental and see things from a more positive point of view: inventing efficient objects also allows us to spend time doing other things, discover what we might want to do with our lives.

So it is true that good, practical, essential things were invented through the ages. But most products are being produced just to bring profit, to give the false feeling of wealth or luxury. Imagine you never ever heard of... say... shower gel? Would you wake up some day and start longing for it, searching for it at the supermarket? No, you would be well off with good ol' soap. The truth is that you could live a perfectly happy life without half of the things you own (and those you want to buy in the future).

We want to connect with people – there are endless possibilities

One of the reasons why we always want to buy more and more things can be related to"our deepest impulses as social creatures who want to build connection in community"(Re:Imagining Change). This means that people feel that in order to have the opportunity to build relationships they need to own a house, a car, wear the right clothes and be able to hold a conversation on certain subjects (like in school, if you don't know what everyone's watching on TV, you'll probably be silent for most of the time). But why are our communities based on what we own/wear/see? Shouldn't we build relationships on shared values, ideas or by working together on something? People should pay attention to each other, not to their clothes and other objects. So we need to find possibilities to connect to others based on other common points – free time activities or volunteering.

A very frustrating aspect of consuming is that nobody cares whether you actually consume what you buy or not, as long as you buy it. Sometimes you don't even finish your bottle of perfume, you don't even wear half of the T-shirts you own, you haven't discovered all the tricks your cell phone can do – you already want to buy a new one. It just makes you feel good to spend money and keep up with the others. What I thought about is this: what if I can discover other ways to enjoy life and feel good about myself, too? Buying things seems to be like an addiction, an obsession that makes you happy for a while until you need to buy something again. What if I just replaced this obsession with something else? What if I focused my energy on an other activity that made me happy?

I like giving gifts to my friends, I feel good if I can help them when they need me and I also love to feel like I belong somewhere or to somebody. About 4 years ago I went to a volunteering camp and it was pure happiness. There was a huge group of people building and decorating a traditional bath close to a village. They came from several countries and along with the locals they created an amazing place to calm down, have a bath, take a moment to heal and see the beauty in the world. All of us were connecting by working together, learning new skills, living through new experiences and we felt like we belonged together. Everyone had a task to do, their own part in the project – peeling some tree trunks, painting some signs, clearing an area to build a pathway, only as much as you would be able and willing to do. But it was such a great feeling, being part of it, that all you wanted is to do more, make everything even better, because you always felt immediate joy as you saw things coming together. This is one example of obsessing about something more constructive (literally), that makes you feel better. Later I practiced my favorite obsessions, playing the flute and dancing. Now I think it's writing huge texts trying to figure out what I'm about, speaking and listening to people and discovering the world. That's why I'm not going to “get rich or die tryin'”, you see buying things doesn't make me feel good, but living life and connecting to people does.

An other wrong thing about how economists see the world is that they only take into account “scarce resources that can be traded on a market at a certain price”. Which means that in their minds everything can be bought and what you might just “give” to somebody has no value whatsoever (unless you buy it from somewhere). So what is the value of offering to help somebody, volunteering, spending time with old people, raising and educating children, or just cooking for yourself? How does that count into the GDP? Shouldn't you give yourself a salary and pay taxes for cleaning your room? Your country would become much richer. (I wonder if they ever thought of that possibility in some country?!) And who gets to sell the air, the water, fire and land? Where can you buy tickets to look at the sky, to walk down a street in warm rain, to climb a mountain or to swim in the ocean? When do we pay for making friends, building communities, receiving advice from our families or friends? Can you buy the joy of offering help, comforting someone in trouble? The most valuable things can't be bought, they can be experienced.


I admit that every single paragraph is open to dispute. So you are welcome to react if you feel like it!

4 comments:

  1. A very interesting article, thanks!

    What a great idea giving myself a salary to clean my room in order to raise the GDP!

    It is very interesting what you say about our consumerism being driven by the desire to build connections within a community. It would seem that perfectly natural things are twisted slightly to become somewhat harmful or at least unhelpful. Actually I have heard it mentioned that purchasing cars causes communities to fall appart because people then don't shop or work locally, and don't get to see their neighbours while walking about - so one of the very things thought to bring people together separates them. Maybe this is also true of things like mobile phones and the internet - less time with real people?

    Maybe courses in relearning how to live in ways that satisfy basic needs without having to purchase stuff would be a good idea, we could even charge money for it and get rich! :P

    So we need memes that help people to see how great the world beyond consumerism really is?

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  2. Thanks!
    As you said about cars, one of these days I was walking home and there was an elementary school on the way. It was about the time when the children were supposed to finish classes I think, because there were a bunch of cars parked besides the pavement, with one parent sitting in each one. They were all so isolated!!! If they didn't have their shiny metallic boxes, they might have started to talk for example!

    My mobile phone is out of service this year (I only use it as an alarm clock), but the internet does make me spend less time with real people. I had to make an effort today to stay with our guests at the party and try not to log on to the messenger.

    I don't imagine courses, I don't know - plus how weird would that be, to charge people for teaching them how to live without spending money! That would be like telling your kid not to smoke when you are a smoker yourself.

    Yes, I agree with the last part, exactly as you said. We should tell stories about people who don't want to buy things just for the sake of it, and people who discover better ways of being happy and connecting with others!

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  3. I can't believe you gave the example of shower gel!! First of all, I need to mention that I have never in my life used it (I seemed to go along very well just with the plain old soap), but this week, as I went to buy shampoo, I also got a shower gel just because it smelled nice. Why the hell did I buy it? I have never used it, it's clear that I don't need it.

    This just made me think that if we really want to change things, we need to teach our children that what you really need is not that much. Of course there will always be people who don't agree and think that if you want something, you should have it. But I'm just saying we should filter our needs and separate them from our desires. The less you want the better.

    I had a talk about this with a friend recently. And he said that the purpose of democracy is to allow people to want whatever they want, but make sure that everybody can afford everything. I say that's impossible, and it's certainly more simple and more logical to want only what you really need.

    Anyhow, I'm not the best person to give advice on the subject, since my desires have most of the time been fulfilled. But I'm working on it. I will start by me and pass it on to my children and not care about those who don't agree :)

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  4. Haha! Well I thought a lot before I found a good example, of something that was invented, even though it wasn't necessary :P Plus I did the same thing, I bought a shower gel few months ago, it was ok, but now I'm back to soap again.

    Yes, what I wanted to point out is that most of the things we want - we don't Really want them, the idea was put into our head. So normally we wouldn't want so many things in the first place (without advertisements messing with our minds).

    "make sure everybody can afford everything" - We don't have to own everything :) We just need to figure out what really makes us happy and pursue that goal (and I hope it's not buying luxury goods)

    Let me just say it's a great attitude, to acknowledge that many of your wishes were fulfilled. Everybody needs to remember that, to be thankful for the good things. And that's exactly the best thing you can do, start with yourself and it will be passed on :)

    Thanks for the comment!

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