Presentation on theme: "GEOG 352: Day 12 Chapter 13 of Daly and Farley. Housekeeping Items Any announcements? If anyone’s interested, the executive director of Oxfam will be."— Presentation transcript:
Housekeeping Items Any announcements? If anyone’s interested, the executive director of Oxfam will be speaking in Imogene Lim’s class on Wednesday at 4:00 ( Building 356, Room 334) on solving the global food challenge. Next Tuesday we will do a review for the mid-term. I hope you’ve all read Hardin and Ridley & Low by now. If you have questions or comments, please share them. Today, we’re going to cover Chapter 13 of the text and Jordyn will discuss “sustainable yield.” I will also hand out a sheet on the different forms of capital. I saw a film last year called “Milking the Rhinoceros” that shed some interesting light on the selfishness debate. It suggested that people’s views on issues are shaped by their existential position.
Housekeeping Items The Masai, one of the oldest herding cultures in the world, shares its pasturelands with wildlife, which also occasionally predates on its herds. With the advent of colonialism, they were not allowed to hunt at all, were excluded from ‘national parks,’ and began to see wildlife as nothing more than a nuisance. Now, in Kenya and other African countries, experiments are being undertaken to give local people a stake in wildlife conservation through tourist operations and limited hunting, thus transforming the relation between people and wildlife into more of a ‘win-win’ situation.
Chapter 13 While something of a caricature, mainstream economists tend to view humans as taking the form of homo economicus, characterized by a)insatiability b)perfect rationality, and c)perfect self-interest. The economy as a whole is seen as arising out of the aggregation of the decisions of all of these utility- maximizers. In the process, all this selfish behaviour produces the greatest good, or what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand.” [Some are more cynical.]
Chapter 13 This perspective is expressed in such famous lines as “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self- love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.” “…every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…. and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention (emphasis added).”
Chapter 13 But the same Adam Smith who wrote The Wealth of Nations also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he emphasizes the capacity people have for sympathy, their need to be seen favourably by others, and the fact competition works best in a context of overall community and cooperation. There is no doubt that competition – where it exists, as there are many barriers to it – has its benefits: for instance, in the realm of electronics. However, as the authors point out, it may not yield the public good in such fields as health care, and its value in agricultural technology is questionable.
Chapter 13 Mainstream economics draws a number of its analogies from a certain interpretation of Darwinism (“survival of the fittest” and “nature red in tooth and claw”). However, Darwin also believed that cooperation played an important role in evolution, as have a number of other theorists such as Peter Kropotkin. Certainly, human groups would never have survived without extensive and tight co-operation. While, initially, Smith must have felt that those who were well off had earned their wealth through their superior ability, after a visit to France he began to see the ‘gluttony’ of the rich as unproductive and parasitic. There is also much debate about the role of the economic and financial elite. The Marxist view is that the capitalist class add no value to the production process, merely creaming off the value created by the workers.
Chapter 13 Others have sought acknowledgement for the organizing talents and administrative and creative genius of the Bill Gates and Steven Jobs of the world. Some, like Ayn Rand, even reversed the Marxist paradigm and argued that, if the elite went “on strike,” society would grind to a halt. (On this score, has anyone seen “The Take” by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis?). Others would acknowledge the importance of their role, while suggesting that their remuneration is totally excessive. The authors introduce the Easterlin paradox, that beyond a certain threshold of income, people do not appear to become happier, and that, globally, there is not always a strong correlation between gross national income adjusted for purchase power parity (PPP) – see graph on p. 237.
Chapter 13 What does make people happy? What makes you the most happy? The authors cite more recent thinking that, in addition to utility from stuff, there is procedural utility – such as the pleasure we get from good work, good friendships and relationships, a positive community life, maybe sense of place, freedom, opportunities for creativity, and knowing we stand for certain values. A clear sense of individual and cultural identity is also important. However, in consumer society, identity has been commodified. We create an identity from a prefabricated kit of parts – from having the right set of clothes, music, vehicle, make-up, cell phone, etc. and – in the process – we basically become identical to a million other “individualists.”
Or Lulemon perhaps? The superficial differences between products challenges the notion of complete rationality, as does ‘brand loyalty,’ which is often based on packaging more than substance. And we have also discussed the limits of viewing people as completely self- interested, or even of seeing self-interest and altruism as polar opposites.
Chapter 13 The fact that people are so easily manipulated by advertising challenges the notion of perfect rationality since their purchases often have very little to do with value for the money. What are some examples?
Chapter 13 In terms of insatiability, that seems to be a cultural characteristic of our culture – no sooner do we get or attain one thing then we begin to crave something else. In addition, it’s onot nly what we have or have achieved, it’s what we have or have achieved relative to our neighbours or peers. Towards the end of the chapter, the authors suggest that humans as a species are not homogenous – about 20-30% of people are “purely selfish,” about 50% are “conditionally cooperative” and about 20- 30% are “very prosocial” – i.e. altruistic. While some of this may be genetic, as we discussed human behaviour varies dramatically from culture to culture.
Chapter 13 Trust and nurturance also seem to be associated with oxytocin in the blood system. The authors cite lessons from biology such as “selfishness beats altruism within single groups,” while “[a]ltruistic groups beat selfish groups.” Amongst rhesus monkeys, individuals who discover fruit and don’t share are beaten by the rest. Amongst Tamarin monkeys, ‘defecting’ monkeys are shunned until they once again prove themselves to be trustworthy. p. 256- The authors’ propose to make alternative energy technology a “club good” which minimizes the ‘free rider’ effect. Are there other analogous solutions that would help nations and firms to collaborate in tackling climate change?