(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 Ship Made of Money Approaches the Hidden Iceberg

Posted on: Jun. 19, 2012  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: General

Is Money at a Tipping Point?

As the Obama administration announces a policy to conditionally not deport those under thirty who came to the U.S. as children and the U.S. Supreme Court will be reviewing the controversial Arizona law on immigration, we see emotional rhetoric on each side of the fence, so to speak.   Most of us can see something wrong with a student who works hard and achieves academic success but then goes through the anxiety of trying to find work where you cannot work legally and cannot even have a driver’s license.   No matter how prestigious the school you graduated from, an illegal lives in the shadows.  From the perspective that your hard-earned college degree is in a sense taken away, most of us can relate to a violation of a sense of fairness in this case.

How much of the contentious issue of immigration is an economic one?  Surely, there are economic aspects to it since the discussion revolves around jobs and government services and so forth.  If it was purely economics though, it wouldn’t be such an emotional hot button issue.

The study of Behavioral Economics (B.E.) reversed a long held belief that humans are rational unless emotion breaks that rationality.  What B.E.  shows us is that decisions can be made with all types of biases that run counter to any rationality.  Immigration as an issue then is partly economics, emotion, and bias.   It also runs deeply into one’s own perspective.  Obviously, a recently naturalized citizen, a citizen of many generations, and an ex-patriot would all have different experiences that shaped each of their opinions.

Bill Moyers recently had a show on PBS with author Luis Alberto Urrea.  Urrea has written extensively on his experience of the border world.  One of the topics touched on in the show was that the Tucson school district removed many of the books about immigration from its reading list because it was too divisive.  Urrea is trying to affect change by arousing compassion in the telling of the stories of his novels.  He is also deeply frustrated that things do not seem to be progressing when it comes to the treatment of immigrants.  If a school district wouldn’t even allow the stories to get out, he argues, then each individual is left to continue his or her own perspective without adding other views to the mix.

In the 1963 Elia Kazan movie Amerika, Amerika, the story is told of Greeks being persecuted by Turks.  The main character goes through hell and back just to try to emigrate to the United States.  He must give up everything for the dream of a better life.  After you watch this film, it is also, like Urrea’s works, a way of changing perspectives.  After we see a whole movie around what this individual has endured, it is hard to imagine the despair of those that sacrifice everything just to be turned away, evoking Moses and The Promised Land.  The ironic thing is that those immigrants coming from their former world work so hard to make it and be successful while there are so many natural born citizens that will spend their whole life taking the easy way out.  It is the drive of the new citizen that propels economic engines and not stalls them out.

What is common to each of these artistic ways of looking at immigration is that it is all about telling stories.  The only way an individual or a culture can change its way of looking at something is by way of little changes that eventually whittle away at changing the narrative of that issue.  Recently, there was a study done that it may be less costly to provide a homeless person with housing than just having them keep ending up in emergency rooms, shelters, and the like.  Similarly, if you explain to someone that economically an illegal immigrant takes services but also contributes to the economy, it doesn’t truly fit into any story.  No bias will be swayed by this type of rational approach.  Each person will continue to see the issue through each of their own filters and will use whatever facts they wish to maintain that view.

The story of money puts us in an uphill social battle because of what money intuits.   Behavioral economists have shown that the association of money is individualism.  When primed to money situations, this money-prime contributes to behavior that amounts to less willingness to help others, a preference for solitude, not wanting to work with others, or take orders from others.

Can our culture change the way we frame money.   The other day I asked if my wife wanted to go with me to walk the dog.  We used to have two dogs so each of us would walk one of the dogs.  Now it seemed silly for the two of us to be walking our one dog.  If I would have just asked my wife if she wanted to take a walk instead of a dog walk, I would have appreciated our little stroll together instead of looking at it as unnecessary.  Abraham Lincoln said that we can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.  Is it too late to make money more about the hard work that it inspires us to do and the social cohesion that it produces in the form of so much of our cooperation?  We are told if you put a smile on your face then you will be more appreciative, open, and accepting of things.  Is there some way of making money into a cultural smile?  In any event, money goes gone way beyond a “half-empty” verses “half-full” perception.

Think of any contentious issue and it seems astonishing that each side can have such opposing views.  One person can see global warming as a natural phenomenon where temperature variation goes in cycles that swing back and forth while what another person can see is that it has a man-made cause where we are at a tipping point for the repercussions of not being able to return the planet to its regular temperature variation.  In either case, each person tells themselves the story of what they think is going on.  We use our memories, our experiences, our upbringing, the opinions of others, our values, our biases, our intuition, reason, and so forth to come up with a way to frame how we will look at the issue.  What B.E. reveals to us is that we make easy snap judgments on facts, often not using reason, and overestimate what we think we know.

The problem with money is that we use a cultural metaphor to see how money fits into our world.  That cultural money story is broken.  That individual actor just trying to keep afloat keeps ignoring that our global monetary world doesn’t allow us to act with an understanding of the wider world.  These issues are very complex and difficult to see how decisions run through things but that is no excuse to ignoring them or not trying because it is difficult.  The narrative of money is at a tipping point that demands we all start trying.  The U.S. Supreme Court tells us that money is free speech.   The practical effect is that Boodle is the narrative of the day.  In politics, we have what amounts to a “bribe-ocracy.”  Narratives like this are more polarizing than ever.  It is no wonder that all these issues come down to the we-versus-they mentality.  With budget deficits and unemployment driving a wedge through public and private lives, can we afford to have money work in the same fashion as immigration and politics?  Is the cultural metaphor that money no longer needs to be bipartisan in nature?  Has our lack of reason and lack of understanding of how little we know taken us to a point of no return?  What suffers with this cultural narcissism are the things that can produce the growth and progress needed that each day put us farther away from being able to change things for the better.   Economic drivers stagnate.  Education gets gutted.  Work forces lag behind.  New technology is not developed and risks that need to be taken are stifled.  We end up with what amounts to an economic downward spiral but this type of situation may not be cyclical.  While there will always be winners and losers in an economic system, we have an economic global warming where there will be no need for a rich and poor divide but just a climate that will align us all in suffering.

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