Thank you Tim O'Reilly for this essay, too many people present the game as science and even worse as some kind of built in biological thing we cannot change. Yet,
The game is invented not natural
You can see here that there is a five-player game in which gains (or losses) can be allocated in different proportion to consumers, the company itself, financial markets, workers, or taxpayers. The current rules of our economy have encouraged the allocation of gains to consumers and financial shareholders (now including top company management), and the losses to workers and taxpayers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. (Tim O’Reilly)
In my opinion, anyone reading Tim’s article should have this above as the main take away: we are all in this game but somehow we only let some of us play. And I believe that this is the case because most people are an “all in one player”.
A game of Jokers
Taxpayers are the consumers of civilization. What you gain as a consumer you loose as a taxpayer and that is why we have such a problem collecting taxes. People should, if they really were rational actors, willingly pay their taxes as a way to support the world we devise. But taxpayers don’t stop at nothing from not paying them, we seek to maximize our profit as consumers and hide it from taxes just as big corp players do with their profits as capital owners.
It is a hat game. You wake up and put on the worker hat. You walk into a store and put the consumer hat on. You get to November and put the taxpayer hat on. If you still have time and money, some days of the month you also put the shareholder hat on.
But we are mere humans and we put these hats on top of one another. We are ridiculous. What would you make of someone walking with four hats stacked on top of their head? What if it were all a trick to hide their baldness? What if we forgot we have beautiful flowing hair under all these hats?
The economic game is broken by design, because it was founded by people who required certain things to happen certain way so that their head start in life would remain untouched, for them and their heirs. As long as we call ourselves consumers, taxpayers, workers, managers or shareholders, we are prolonging a dissociative identity disorder working against our best interest.
Most humans are other people’s wildcards
As Mr. O’Reilly eloquently wrote:
Right now, the economic game is enormously fun for far too few players, and an increasingly miserable experience for many others!
It has always been the same. And as far as lucky players who get the jackpot, any industrial or technological breakthrough has been a constant growth for the same group of people who own capital and land (which today includes real estate), followed by a handful of success stories, all on top of a huge base of people who lost more and more and brought up generation after generation into a game designed to be stacked against the ones at the bottom.
When I say “designed” and “against” I don’t mean it in the reactionary extremist way. I mean that, as it stands, judging how it turned out for the people during hundreds of years of playing it, the pyramid of economic win has gotten less and less smooth at the edges. Our current economy is not a consensus game, it is an idea originating from leading elites, who happened to be educated and doing good money wise, and it has all that sewed in, the rules are made by a few, the few that keep on winning.
We are taught as young as possible that we are all amazing wildcards who can be anything and which can achieve everything. The wildcard human is a lie. That is simply the prepping for a life of being a puppeteer’s toy where you are played like a wildcard, you don’t actually get to play.
Whenever you want to shout for your consumer rights, the puppeteer pulls your taxpayer leg up and you can’t have your regulations in place.
Whenever you want your taxpayer rights respected, you’re pulled by the strings of policy maker lobby into worker position.
When you’re concerned about the way you work, and what you work for, then the dance of shareholder, consumer, citizen starts making you all dizzy and forgetting about what exactly is going on.
And after so many years most people quit the game. They become props.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Politics is the management of life which empowers our survival. Economy is the management of survival which empowers our society. Civilization is the management of society which empowers our progress.
Politics(Life) = Survival
Economy(Survival) = Society
Civilization(Society) = Progress
Everything is about humans. Not taxpayers or consumers, nor about capital. This way in which we make tangible and painful experiences abstract is hurting us on the long run. Life is visceral, death is real, humans experience pain, loss, angst and failure. Everything else in the game feels nothing. Capital doesn’t loose nights because its value is down. Land doesn’t think about the inevitability of death and labor doesn’t worry about loved ones.
Economy is a side effect of our social human behavior and it manages our survival to turn it into the drive, action, motivation and ability to create a society. The thing is, as we go on about our EXISTING then definitely an economy shall rise.
Existing = Survival + Awareness
In my opinion, good economics start at political level. We cannot continue to make believe this charade of discussing economy as a standalone system and politics as a standalone system that “influence” each other. No. They precede each other. This is the reason why the change this article of Tim O’Reilly talks about so good is a political shift, not necessarily a new economical paradigm. Once the right human worthy politics start happening, the economists will be able to provide and test new human worthy economies.
You know, there is something even more basic than Adam Smith about economy, the word.
From Greek οίκος — “household” and νέμoμαι — “manage”
This. Think of our free market capitalist world like a household. Let’s see … what is happening here? What? Do you sleep on the floor? Oh, the head of the household is this old grumpy man? Oh the girls are still in the kitchen? Hmm.