Don’t ask how my thoughts got here, but I was reflecting on the fact that the western economy is largely predicated on a free market (whether we truly achieve that is a different rant). Which, to work properly, needs consumers to be ‘optimizing’. That is, for the free market to drive improvements and fair prices, people have to vote effectively with their dollars.
Which isn’t the case. Herb Simon, the polymath who won a Nobel Prize in economics before becoming one of the world’s top cognitive scientists, coined the term ‘satisficing’ for consumer behavior. That is, folks will settle for what’s good enough. Worse, they’ll settle for how they’ve been manipulated (read: advertising).
My proof is simple (though it works better in Australia where there’s more comprehension of the example): if market pressures worked, every fish and chips shop in Australia would make perfectly light, crispy fish and chips. I mean, we know what it takes to do that. Instead, it’s real easy to find greasy, soggy fish and mealy fries. Someone is buying that fish! QED.
Which is why one of the serious games I’d really like to do is have the player try to succeed in an advertising agency. (Thought I’d written about this before but couldn’t find it. Apologies if I have.) Such a game would help folks understand just how advertising works and ideally help folks become more resistant to it.
But there’s more. I suggest (educated and interested amateur speaking) that our current system doesn’t truly allow for tracking individual contributions (or good teachers would be wealthy :). There are economic systems that do this tracking, but to my understanding, the overhead is unwieldy and ultimately impractical. So, rather than try to change the system, my simple answer is to educate folks (hence my passion for learning).
Where my thinking led me was to a ‘buy smart’ campaign. I wonder what we could do if we just managed to get profile to the message that folks should research the bigger picture of your purchase: looking at maintainability, repair, longevity, ideally also including environmental and social impact (can’t help it, I’m a wilderness person :). The more we look for the right choice, not just the easy or popular choice (extraneous of the immediate price pressures we’re currently seeing), the more we end up matching the assumptions of the economic system we are using. And that’s got to be better, right?
I guess it’s just that same wisdom schtick again, thinking longer term and with broader responsibilities. Yet, I can’t help thinking raising awareness could be a small step toward a better future. You think?