Monday, February 27, 2012

Two Sides to Every Story

Chapter 4 of Robert Frank’s Darwin Economy, deals with the matter of human consumption in relation to waste. In this rather thought provoking chapter, Frank addresses the idea of government and public interaction in relation to waste. 
Honestly, I have rather mixed feelings about this chapter as Frank presents basic concepts which are commonly accepted yet fail to substantially prop-up his claims. Some of his points I agreed with, yet others were difficult for me to buy into because of the inevitable fact that his reasoning still seems a bit diluted.

As covered this chapter, Frank explains that the drastic effects of entropy are simply inevitable. According to the second law of thermo dynamics, the quality of matter/energy gradually deteriorates over time and to illustrate this concept, Frank uses the analogy of highway erosion. He explains how when asphalt roads are not suffciently maintained, they begin to erode into dangerous highways which cost homeowners a substantial amount of money because of the dangerous shards of gravel which often crack windshields. Yet, I couldn't help but glean other implications from Frank's entropy analogy.

Throughout the course of the book, Frank has consistently maintained that groups must suffer with negative outcomes at the fault of individuals who act in their own self-interest. But what about the committee who voted for those tax cuts? Generally, not one person would decide the fate of the majority when deciding whether to divert to gravel roads. Yet, the issue remains that individuals must suffer the price of battered windshields all because of a group consensus, which they may have had no part in to begin with. Therefore, it is by the group that the individual suffers. This leads me to conclude that, as much as Frank has constantly reiterated that individuals who act in self-interest will force the group to an undesirable outcome; the reverse is also just as true.
Sometimes, collective interests diverge with group incentives, as in the case when individuals must pay for preventable vehicle damage at their own expense. Ultimately, both entities are not perfect and therefore, groups may equally, though perhaps unintentionally, fail to consider the unintended consequences of their interactions which may needlessly strain innocent-bystanders.

So if the collective can indeed negatively affects the individual…which in many cases it does… then is it really so surprising that certain individuals are against governmental branches plunging their tentacles into their personal affairs? People value their individuality, and when they feel threatened by the collective, it is understandable that many simply become defensive.
The opposite is equally true. Certain governmental involvement is, of course, beneficial. Humans thrive when there is some sort of framework to function within, but again, too much framework may easily evolve into a brick wall, shutting out those fundamental personal intersts which have the purpose of protection to begin with. I think people do, more than ever, care about political issues mostly because they see the “fruits” of what they deem as governmental involvement. A 15 trillion deficient is astronomical and for that reason, not easily ignored. Personally, I don’t think people are quite as ignorant as Frank seems to believe, and while many may not understand the instigators behind the number, 15 trillion is a pretty obnoxious and intimidating value if you ask me.

My basic feeling is that Frank makes many assertions about human behavior which are inconclusive. Happiness, specialness, and even wastefulness are not exactly, measureable concepts. They simply reside as traces of individual perspective: relative and oftentimes quite vague.
Consequently, I don’t blame people for reacting under the influence of these different concepts, because everyone has their own reasons, both as an individual and as a member of a larger system. To assert that people are unreasonable because of certain hesitations neglects the idea that there are always two sides to every story. Rather than assume people are uneducated, irrational, and wasteful it makes much more sense to examine the roots of those uncertainties, using them as beneficial indicators to prevent unnecessary waste in the future.

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