Compassion and Monopoly

In Archives, Uncategorized on January 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

The major problem with classical economics and political science is that they formalize noncompassion. Both disciplines describe a struggle of mutually indifferent “actors” to meet their own neeeds; but this kind of myopia and selfishness is only the nature of a system by the mutual consent of those involved.

The rules of a game are set by the players themselves. If you donate money or property to a bankrupt friend in a game of Monopoly, you make a mockery of the rules on the box. And yet there’s no particular reason not to: who’s to determine how much property is “enough,” or how callously we should treat other real estate moguls? Only the mutually competitive assumptions of the players make Monopoly the zero-sum struggle it often is.

In history, the least compassionate people have often also been the most powerful, and the accepted rules of the world political and economic system have developed accordingly. That may change in a world that is less and less a frontier and more and more interdependent and delicately balanced. If so, we will need to thoroughly rewrite the classical tenets of social science—which cannot happen soon enough.


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