(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

The History of the Future of Money (Part II)

Posted on: Aug. 16, 2011  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: General

The Story of I, We, and IT continued

The history of homo-economicus has always been about a battle between the I and the We.  For each side, the IT has always been about equality.  The I’s want equality of prospects for individuals to have the freedom to pursue the goals and motivations without government getting in the way.  The We’s want equality of circumstances and environments in the form of a level playing field and feel that government should watch over things to maintain fairness.  A long time ago, we gave up the religious idea that what happens to us was predestined such as that we could not overcome our original sin.  In the Nineteenth century, it was believed that a life of virtue and avoidance of sin could make a person wealthy and prosperous, meaning the I’s have it.  At the end of this century and beginning of the last, modernism decoupled that poverty was attached to sin and that society was responsible to help the poor, meaning the We’s have it.  Thus emerged what is known as the modern welfare state which still redistributes income through things like Medicaid and Social Security.  In recent years we have swung back to the I side with “personal responsibility” the mantra with attacks on such things as taxes, entitlements, the media, immigration, and abortion.

The current political battle in Washington emphasizes how deep the division between the I and We equality can be.  The I side believes that markets should be left alone and that a small government should not intrude on each other’s lives and only meddle in those lives when it becomes absolutely necessary. The other side believes the government should provide services where none are available, to protect against abuses of health, wealth, and privilege and to oversee that fairness is first and foremost.  These are not just differences about the role of government, or the IT, they sit at the core of being for each of these sides.  They can’t compromise because to do so changes their whole worldview about the story of money.

This website speaks to financial fairness.  If we look where we are and where we have been, there are many impressive improvements in our overall lot in life.  While hunger can still be an issue, with improvements in agriculture, food is more affordable now then for previous generations.  Many individuals classified as poor can not only afford to buy food but also enjoy real income gains, reasonable prices on food and arguably housing, and can afford other types of consumer goods that were once considered out of their reach.  Life expectancies for all individuals, especially in the industrialized world, have increased dramatically.  More and more of us have graduated from high school and have gone to or graduated from college.  Leisure time has also increased compared to the sixty hour work weeks that were once common years back.  However, there still are substantial signs that improvements can be way out of line in such things as glass ceilings, mental health depression especially among the elderly, dissatisfaction of young persons, and wealth concentrated in the hands of the few.  Also, in a recession, there are many that are still living on the edge which greatly affect children, those who now have to live on food stamps, and the impact of losing a job.

The crucial thing that drives fairness in the form of the I, We, and IT is technological change.  Generally, technology allows for changes in the ways we relate to each other which then has to be adapted to.  This was the case when transportation improvements allowed mass immigration to occur bringing immigrants over by sea.   Improvements in food production and sanitation allowed urban areas to blossom even as diseases spread more rapidly with the concentration into cities.  This type of technological change will create inequities in the sense of winners and losers.  We have all witnessed massive changes in communication and trade that has moved manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. while billionaires are made out of websites that get millions of hits, users, and commerce.

The way cultures respond to change not only has to do with how the changes affect populations and the choices individuals make but on how the culture sees itself.  If our story emphasizes the I in the form of success, materialism, and self-enhancement than changes will come about within this framework.  Our story can also emphasize our social connectedness.  Cultural narratives can also speak to openness to change against maintaining the traditions and conformity to the culture.

What the politicians forget in this battle of individual freedoms versus the collective good is fairness over a sense of meaning and purpose.  Money is embedded in the very fiber of our lives.   There is no way to break apart social and financial strivings.  Family values suffer in part with financial instability.  While there may be relative material gains, money is not just about the tangible aspects of our lives but about our striving for well-being and sense of meaning and purpose.  In this, the sense of fairness has gone awry.   Where things haven’t improved are in the sides of life that are not based on our senses but more on the intangible and spiritual sides of our being.

In Part I of this blog, the Story of I, We, and IT, the hare saw life more through a sense of what psychologists might call agency, or I, contrasted to the tortoise that saw life more through a sense of communion, the We.  The hare chose to worry about not being poor during retirement and worked hard to make sure that he had enough to live on.  The tortoise traded off some of the focus on the self for focus on such things as relationships, intimacy, and altruism.  Most importantly, in retirement, if our health is not good than no matter what way we chose to pursue our goals, it will be difficult to deal with having the time or money to enjoy our money or our friends.  After that though, having a life of well-being may depend as much on how you look at life.  For retirees that focus on long-term goals while working toward improving oneself and helping to improve others makes for a much more positive feeling of well-being.  However, for those tortoise types that are conditioned to looking beyond oneself, they are used to and will be in a much better position to be fulfilled with their lives.  Those that have put too much focus on the self, the hare types, tend to dwell in their aging on such things as their lost independence and health and physical limitations which can contribute to depression and loss of self.  I’s also tend to worry more about financial issues and other things that are not within their control.  They also are likely to want to kick back after working so hard for all those years and be apt to do less toward goals and self-development.  This might be because certain hares have been used to focusing on extrinsic goals such as attaining enough money.  These I types usually have used such distractions as TV watching along the way.  Other I’s though worked more on intrinsic goals such as personal growth or mastery of skills.  In either case, the We’s use their relatedness to others to help improve their well-being and are well-suited for volunteer work and charitable concerns.

While our cultural narrative does center on or emphasize the I, a culture can also speak to the value of self-transcendence in providing value for those who go beyond themselves with such things as feelings of benevolence and how others are treated as well as enjoying nature and a concern for such things as the environment.  While there are so many of us that have more time for leisure there are also many segments of our society that are in need.  If the cultural narrative and the way we connect with each other made volunteering more of a standard in retirement than not only the person receiving the time would be benefitted but so too would the person providing the time.  Since there are so many depressed elderly; youth who are disillusioned that they are not getting a fair shake; small business owners who have a hard time competing; broken families in need of a role model; and so on than there could be so many more mentors and volunteers that could be so useful to so many.  One of the reasons for income inequality is that those who have less education tend to have smaller incomes.  Many retirees could narrow that gap by offering tutoring to those in need while providing a role model in the form of encouraging the tutee to do the same down the road.  Right now there is a battle between generations over entitlements.  The young claim that this burden of redistribution of income is falling too hard on them.  What if there was a redistribution of non-material resources?  Would youth feel the same toward the older generations when they were out there trying to be of service to them in any way they could?  With so many of the United States’ manufacturing jobs having left the country, what we still have left is human capital and we could help everyone by putting that asset “to work.”

Our economy has to consider self-development just as much as providing goods and services.  Ethics for work, family, and community make these life disciplines not a duty but a joy.  For those in retirement, for those who do not want to stop working, and for those in their prime years:

  • mastering skills;
  • pushing one’s efforts;
  • personal growth
  • working in groups of like-minded individuals;
  • appreciating and engaging with a diverse group of others;
  • service to others;
  • learning new things;
  • hope and opportunity

are the spiritual goals that provide for equality and fairness for the I, the We, and the IT.

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