Thursday, April 2, 2015

Money and limited social trust

Been pondering the subject of money for many reasons and realized recently that we tend to NOT use money for plenty of things where deep trust is important, like personal relationships, but find it most useful in areas where trust needs to be limited.

For example in many civilized countries you can meet a stranger, have them sign a written contract, give them some money, and expect that person to do very important things for you, without fear.

That trust in the situation is backed by the machinery of your society, which will work very hard to ensure that such transactions can take place, for the good of the society. You do need a business trust that the person will fulfill the contract--but it is a limited social trust.

In contrast if I meet a nice lady, and we fall in love, there is a deep trust. And there is no written contract in the world that can cover all the bases, so most people go with simple vows in a public wedding.

That trust is so deep that society expects a couple in love to care enough to die for each other if necessary, which is as deep a level of trust as you can get. It is then, unlimited trust. Pick the wrong person for unlimited trust and God help you. (Though it occurs to me should add, wealthy often rely on a prenuptial agreement as well.)

So money is most effective in areas where people need limited trust, and means you can do work for someone, say, in the state of Georgia, USA, and get a promise of value in return in the form of scraps of paper called money, which you can use just about anywhere in the world you might travel as long as US dollars can be exchanged for local currency or are accepted.

That is a HUGE thing which allows the world economy to function, as money allows people to trust each other, even complete strangers, in a way that is limited versus the potentially unlimited trust of members within your community.

So for instance firefighters are willing to give their lives in defense of their community as are soldiers, and we wouldn't even think of allowing that to depend on monetary reward! While the best people willing to do it, wouldn't either. So there is a deep social trust involved.

In contrast, we happily give money in limited social trust situation, where contracts of various kinds specify exactly where those limits might be! And in society there are written contracts and verbal ones, as well as socially understood ones, so for instance, if you go into a store, and make a purchase you don't have to sign a contract to have legal protections.

Why emphasize these basic points? Because the web has created seemingly muddled situations where people can do things of great importance to community, with very little or NO money in return.

And others get very wealthy, where it can seem very unfair.

However, consider that person who does things for others for the benefit of humanity, versus that guy who maybe becomes a billionaire looking out mostly for himself, whom would you rather be?

Different people may have different answers.

Better might be to be that billionaire who does things for others for the benefit of humanity, but really, how many do you think there are?

And how many billionaires can there be? But how many can do their best for the benefit of humanity?

Each of us can ask ourselves questions, and see how it shifts how we look at people in our world.

Like can you imagine if firefighters arrived at a burning house and started a bidding war for how much you'd be willing to pay before they put out the fire?

Or what if top US Army generals informed you that pay up, or defend yourself?

And what if--what if our military leaders were the wealthiest people in our society as they made you pay for what your life is worth before they would defend you?

Would you give control of nuclear weapons to such people?

I wouldn't. Bad enough anyone has such weapons, but think of how much worse things could be, if the people controlling them cared only about money, and God help you if you didn't pay them what your life was worth to you.

Seem like too much? Well those things are out there whether you like it or not, or think about it or not, and there are people who control them. It matters what kind of people they are.

Throughout human history I think MOST people have figured these kinds of things out on their own, after all, deep social trust has been around as long as humanity, while money is a recent invention. But lately I think there has been quite a bit of advertising pushing the notion that money is what truly matters. People with lots of money kind of have a lot of ability to push things on others you may have noticed.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. We need modern society.

Modern societies can push things that I say are about limited social trust as that is required for them to function, so they need you to plunk down your hard earned cash and buy something. That helps fuel the vastness of modern human enterprise which has done so much for so many. But there must be a balance. Most of us also treasure deep trust, and the unlimited nature that can make it terrifying, but without it...well go back to that part about firefighters.

We are so very lucky to have people who will put their lives on the line for us and yes they should be well paid, but money is not the reason.

Whether you accept it or not, I'm certain that deep social trust will define how well your life is lived, while limited social trust through the invention of money, helps your society to function, but will never guarantee you the best that life has to offer.

So yeah, sorry, but you can produce something of tremendous value to VAST numbers of human beings who will thank your commitment to community, and not pay you anything at all, as it's not about money then.

The most important things in life are about our humanity.


James Harris
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