Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Economics Of Sin

There has always been a major concern over sin in the world, especially from the religious point of view since the time when man (and woman) held his world in great mystery. What about the economics of sin?

Sin is not a term in economics because economic science sees itself to be "objective" and does not pass "value judgement" on the world (economists leave that to the priests). So long as sin is a product where there is a market, then the standard laws of supply and demand come in.

Sin may just be another term for addiction which causes a person to spin out of control and therefore a danger to society and himself, and that negative impact is sin.

Sin is therefore anything that may be self-destruct, for individual as well as society.

In the world of addiction, the economic laws says that the market will supply as much as there is demand - and the perennial demand that comes out of addiction is good for the market, as it will ensure that GDP growth will sustain. Will it?

Keynesian revelation stipulates that demand must be made effective with purchasing power, for that demand to be real. The addict knows that and he will go out and secure the power to purchase the addiction.

As he is likely to be out of the mainstream, in the case of petty addicts, then he is likely to engage in activities which his neighbours are likely to feel insecure about - so those activities are called crimes, and a professional gang called the police is hired to control him and, when nabbed, locked him away or teach him a lesson.

But if sin is in the mainstream of economic activities - as Rosa Luxemburg or Joan Robinson would say as in the case of the addiction for (unnatural) wealth - then the global economy could be gearing itself for a total disaster, such as the destruction of the natural environment in return for paper or electronic which is thought to be money. Would it?

The laws of economics say that when the natural environment is sufficiently sized down, the scarcity of supply will rise the market price for natural products so much that the demand for natural products will be drastically cut down. In time, artificial substitutes will be found, and the whole of mankind will then subsist on artificial materials - do we then get plastic people?

Interesting, because, then human beings will ease to be what we know human beings to be today - natural, pink and soft. Human beings, as Darwin will say, have evolved into what could be termed as post-homosapiens.

In the world of post-homosapiens, the world will be a barren concretised environment with its plastic leaves and fragrantless flowers. Post-humans exist, not wishing to die, aimlessly accumulating electronic digits for happiness. When they die, they will empty those digits into the pockets of the collectors called hospitals which pretend to cure, but in fact merely dispense.

The economics of sin is therefore quite dynamic, and could bring about a paradigm which post-human cannot imagine what humans do. Does it matter?

Probably not.


walla said...

"It is not our abilities which say what we are. It is our choices." (Dumbledor)

Maybe it should be the sin of economics.

The rate of accumulation is pushed beyond the rate of satisfaction until rational choices no longer are heeded and the process becomes just oiled avarice disguised as the benefit of progress.

But what is progress if eating more causes illness, accumulating more unsettles the mind, wanting more disquiets the heart and replaces the memory of what was enjoyed by the vision of what should be further desired for desire's sake?

Thus should all pay more heed to Schumacher's buddhist economics, or by counterpoint, Pryor's contention that there are two juxtaposed factors being interplayed, one, the short-term sacrifice of nirvanal aspirations of the masses by increasing productivity so that they can be freed from mundane demands to pursue the higher light, in tandem with atmospheric effects from achieving the self-less human condition which itself seems to have to be maintained by social expenditures from higher economic growth which can then support the basic needs of entire societies in which individuals exist which again has an inherent Weber-like economic growth-retarding factor?

On the other hand, if consumers don't crave progress, the business case is removed from producers to improve their products. Fuel-efficient vehicles come to mind. So too more effective medicine, even more effort-saving machines. Like washing machines.

The question then is balance. How much of economics should go into rational choices?

Which thus falls back on individual well-being. Which implies that activities which would conventionally fall within the ambit of what is universally considered as sins should not take courage to proceed further justified by economic arguments.

But that should be easy since it is generally observable that those activities will invariably result in negative effects terminating the consumer's well-being.

Which however asks how come they are repeated.

Whose answer may perhaps lie in an inherent destabilizing factor in the malthusian model for population growth. But some will say it is rather the inaccurate weighing of risks against rewards.

Take Japan. It accumulated a thing called knowledge. It used it to upgrade itself. Then it invested heavily to be a technology leader which created techno-fascination in its people until they could exact premium for their products. Based on the perpetual progress inclination of the world's consumers who become more educated with time, what had before been accepted on grounds of just being fanciful has been replaced by acceptability based on quality combined with function combined with aesthetics. From this procession of the value-chain, higher prices are commanded. Perhaps from that, more profits. Which thus fuels a higher life-set. Which increases affordability...to insist that they will only buy washed coal. So, if the coal miner has to wash the coal in his own country before loading onto the ship enroute Yokohama, where is the residual dirt to be deposited? In the home country. Causing more pollution.

Prosperity is thus necessary to maintain rational choices.

However all fall under the common law. Which says to pleasure is exacted a price which prosperity cannot ultimately pay.

Maybe it has to do with the feng-hsui of this planet. On Mars, one understands the economics of rational choices align to the economics of sin.

Which also explains why it remains barren.


walla said...

so take less acidic things: