Thinking - Theoretical economic Anthropology and the Gold (star) Standard

One of the problems I see in the western world is it's dependence on reward.

The internet seems a little better than the real world in this respect, but I suspect it's because we don't see the takers doing the taking. We just see the givers being generous. The nature of the stuff up for grabs means that if you take more than you give, there's still exactly the same amount left for everyone else. Open source software is a good example. 

I've taken much, much, more from the net than I can ever give, but all the stuff I've taken is still there. 

Which is nice.

But in the real world you take some stuff, and there's not as much left for the next in line. And sometimes there isn't even a line*.  I've been lucky enough to have spent my formative years living in Papua New Guinea. To say anything about Papua New Guinea is to be wrong about most of it, but I'll say some stuff about it anyway. 

When I was in Papua New Guinea, I was there at a time when the locals were making the transition from the cultures and lifestyles they had been enjoying for the last few dozen centuries, to one that looks and tastes a little more like you might expect in a western city. One of the problems with shifts like this is the clash between the old economic system and the new. From this point is should be noted that when I talk about some attribute of Papua New Guinea's culture, I refer to only the bit's I know. There are something like a third of the worlds languages (or something) don't quote me)). and many more cultural ... things... paradigms? Anyway. every few hundred people are different. They talk different, they look different, they believe different, and they think different. Not just different as compared to me, but different from all the other different groups. I knew a fishing net merchant who could easily pick a persons birthplace to within a hundred kilometres or so, just by meeting them over the counter. Often with much greater accuracy to the point where they could name the village. Anyway...   One of the most interesting things about the culture clash was the gradual decline in the worth of generosity. Or at least my perception of that decline. There seemed to be some kind of social credit that a person could gain by simply giving stuff away. You might get something back from acts of generosity, but it might not come from the person you gave things to. You still see this in the west in small groups, but once you get to a certain population level, one where everybody can no longer know everyone else, the system breaks down. There comes a point where giving stuff away is no longer useful. 

And here I come to my point...

When you're little, you gain respect and trust within your family and friends, you are rewarded with new responsibilities, freedoms, and smiles. 

You don't need gold stars gummed to your work. 

I think gold stars (or points for Hufflepuff) might be encouraging our kids to seek only monetary reward, or perhaps an Oscar. 

I think we should stop it. 

120 things in 20 years thinks the best part about not being an academic, is that I have no need to quote sources, and I get to say whatever I want. 

*A line has just one characteristic. It's endedness. Two** ends, but just one characteristic. A list of people who can make the most noise from lowest volume to highest could be seen as another line, and often making the most noise gets you first grab at whatever's going. (see baby birds in nests, and political lobbyist)

** a circle is a line with no end. I guess that means I mean a "queue".  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts