Friday, November 25, 2011

The Microcosm, The Macrocosm And Renewables

Our behavior can affect others, or society at large.

I've been contemplating. Some of our behaviors can be very good for an individual (in the microcosm), but at the same time, be bad for society (the macrocosm). Or vice versa. Or, they can be good for both. Or, even bad for both.

I quickly started to make a long list.

Microcosm (down)









Quadrant 2)

Things that are good in the microcosm, but not the macrocosm

Things that benefit one person or party. But are bad if every individual/entity in the whole society does them.

It comes as no surprise, that so many crimes fit into this category. The crimes need to be outlawed, for the good of society as a whole.

Personal Relations:

Lack of ethics


Traffic violations
Violence, murder
Drug trafficking
Organized Crime

Business (a number of these are also crimes):

Corporate control of the media
False Advertising
Sweat shops
Outsourcing jobs overseas
Predatory bank lending
Outrageous bank fees
Large corporations buying or crushing competition, instead of competing better.
Insurance company's practice of breeching their own contracts, denying legitimate insurance claims, in order to maximize profits.
Abuse of the courts: High legal fees to fight corporations and have the right thing done in court.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) on phone systems
Stock Market Options: one person loses, one wins


This concept can even apply to things, such as products. Sometimes, you wonder, what is the use to society as a whole of this product? Ie. enhancement pills for certain body parts.

Addictions, such as alcohol, cigarettes, drugs. Not good for the individual, but very good for the seller to have the steady stream of income.

Industries, as a whole:

Cigarette/Tobacco industry
GMO - Genetically Modified Organisms
Bottled water
Credit Default Swaps (CDS) and other derivatives

Again, it's great for the tobacco industry to make lots of money from the sale of their cigarettes, but cigarette smoking causes a lot of health problems for society as a whole.

Public Policy / Politics:

No city planning
No industrial policy
Abortion as a very expensive form of birth control
Cars that are designed to only run on gasoline
Huge subsidizations of the gasoline industry
Ecological issues such as massive and unsustainable deforestation for a short period of jobs and profits.

In economics terms, we would call many of these, externalities. This is the concept that the full price to society, is not reflected in the cost of the good. For instance, the costs to society for pollution, such as increased health care, is not reflected in the price you actually pay for coal, or gasoline.

A related concept is game theory, and the prisoner's dilemna. What will one do, based on what others are doing around you?

Quadrant 3)

Bad for the individual, but good for the society as a whole.

It was tough to think of subjects for this category. The only real thing I could think of was various kinds of sacrifice:

Military Heroism
Religious martyrdom

Very brave people standing up to unjust laws in society, like Sophie Scholl and the White Rose members who stood up against the laws of Nazi Germany.

Activitists, working hard for a worthy cause

Union members who, at great risk to themselves, campaigned for better wages and working conditions for themselves, and helped improve conditions for the rest of society as well.

Quadrant 4)

Things bad for both the individual and society.

This is a tough one. Other than things that are the opposite of what is in quadrant 1), it's hard to think of things in this quadrant. Many bad things occur because someone benefits at some level (quadrant 2). But what actions or entities are done that are bad for both the individual doing them, and society as a whole?

War (except financiers and arms dealers make money selling arms and financing war, so perhaps it really belongs in quadrant 2)

Natural disasters such as hurricanes could fit in here. Although I was thinking of things that a group or individual can do of their own volition.

Addictions can also fit into here. There are actually three parties in addictions: (1) the individual addictee, (2) the company or party that sells the drug, the addictor, and (3) society as a whole.

Quadrant 1)

A healthy population
Education and literacy
A strong set of values in both the individual and society so that a police state is neither needed or wanted to control everyone
Media that informs the general public on serious issues.
Renewables: Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Electric cars,

When I think of renewable energy, it is one industry that benefits both the individual or corporation that invests in it at the micro level, and society as a whole, at the macro level. Once the infrastructure is paid for, all the energy is now free. Money is not spent on consumable gas or oil. Instead, it is spent on other things. The money stays local, and stays in the local economy, given the multiplier effect. It's such a win/win situation for both the individual, and society as a whole.

So, what else can we put into these quadrants?  

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