A colleague and I were talking about the value of "what we do" as an organization in terms of adding to society. In my opinion, it isn't overly directly valuable, but it does facilitate improvements in processes of organizations that do add value, like in hospitals for instance. But, it is also not useful to look at any job's value without thinking about the environmental conditions as a whole.
When everything is going "well" in society, we tend to look to extend our leisure time, spending more on feeling value, rather than practical survival value. We spend more energy on wants. When things are going badly however, we look to consolidate our activities down to the needs, wasting less. The same happens for jobs and roles and when times are tight, we will pare down where effort is put. In general though, to get to the point that we cut away all the wants, it has to get pretty bad indeed.
Let's face it though, most of what any of us do, isn't vital to the survival of the species and if anything, is more likely to put the survival of the species at risk. The most highly rewarded industries, tend not o be the ones that make us better. And as we act on incentive, we go to where the rewards are, which is why the finance industry has such good mathematicians who code financial products, because they can make more there than working on something "silly" like clean energy production.
The way we have built an economic system is pretty clever, as it allows us to trade dissimilar goods with each other globally, without having to know each other or blur interpret the value too much. It allows the market to decide to a high degree what is valuable, with wealth going to those who supply what the market demands.
However, where I believe we royally screwed up, is in the activities we demand, and therefore reward. Profit is made on good times demand, not on what brings us actual wellbeing. When the apocalypse arrives, no one is going to be taking a selfie each day to put on their social media feed in the hope of attracting add revenue. And the "apocalypse" gets more likely because of the economic practice of profit at any cost, rather than profit for wellbeing.
Economics is obviously about trade, swapping one thing for another. However, what we are swapping matters, as does what we get in return. Money just represents some arbitrary value, but what we get for it could be the difference between life and death. Give a cold, hungry person 2000 dollars, and the first thing they buy, isn't going to be an iPhone 15. Need drives demand, which makes a mockery of what we feel we actually need in this life, because the most valuable companies and roles in the world, aren't necessarily the ones providing us a significantly better quality of life.
In terms of the economy, we tend to equate wealth to health, where if a country is wealthy, the people are relatively well off, but this is not the case. This is especially true once we break down the distribution of wealth across a population, and a distribution of health across the same population. While there are $100M homes in Beverly Hills, there are drug-addled suburbs and parts of city spread across the entire US. Over 106,699 overdose deaths in 2021 - which doesn't paint a pretty picture for the health of the nation.
The US is not a global exception, it is a global leader.
It is a capitalist leader, but capitalism itself isn't the problem, if there are checks and balances in place that keep it working for us, not against us. However, the way we have set up the system is that we look to create wealth through extraction from health, rather than addition to it. Again, this isn't normally a direct line, but through the supply chain, we can see how optimization for profit will impact on human wellbeing.
In some industries, we can see a direct line, like in the Pharmaceutical industry, which is more interested in treatment than cure. If it is more profitable to keep people on the hook than solving the problem, they will. Tobacco industry is similar again, where there is pretty much undeniable evidence that it is far more harmful than the value it delivers, but money talks. Which is why the plan in New Zealand to end smoking by stopping people born after 2008 from buying cigarettes, was recently scrapped - because *in the words of the finance minister, the government needs the tax money.
Good job tobacco lobbyists.
But, this is a "free market" in the sense that people are free to manipulate it however they are able, and those with the power to do so, do. Piece by piece, influencing factors are aligned to increase profits through extractive measures, offering increasingly less in return. It is a shrinkflation of value, where we are paying more, getting less, and wondering what is wrong with the economy.
But, the economy is not a thing really, it is just a representation of our behaviors, where we can see where we put value, where we don't, and where there is a misalignment between our needs and wants, as well as our own belief systems about what is important to us. We want health, but create wealth for those who don't offer us health in their business models. If we rewarded wellbeing generation, instead of convenience generation, we would all be better off, but also maybe, a little more manual in our daily behavior.
For me, this is an interesting discussion to consider, because while at a micro level we might understand it, we have to also extrapolate it out to the macro level too, because that affects us as individuals. We can't rely on governments or corporations to make legislative changes to improve our wellbeing, because they are only interested in one side of the trade - the monetary side - which sees money as an indicator of wealth. But, they are only looking at the amount of money, not where it is spent and what value it actually brings to us as a society.
It is a free market system.
We are free to build, or destroy ourselves.
Profit isn't the problem - how we capture it likely is.
[ Gen1: Hive ]