Monday, February 27, 2006

An old unedited rambling

I found this file I wrote last May. Since I've got nothing else to offer my nonexistent blogging fans, I decided to post this:

I find myself discouraged and saddened most of my idle time. I'm ok when I'm engaged in activity that requires my concentration, activity that can hold my concentration, but when my mind has time to free float, it is a form of despair that occupies it. It's not the particular issue that I'm thinking of at the time that is the source of despair. My obsession in the moment with that problem is caused by the underlying despair. I suppose the root cause is the ugliness inherent in the human condition, but it’s difficult to accept it as inevitable and natural.

I keep believing that people could behave differently and lessen the injustice, reduce the suffering. The disparity of wealth seems such an obvious source of social woe. If the wealthiest world citizens would devote a share of their resources to addressing social problems, not just expenditures in direct intervention, but investment into long-term solutions. Not giving fish, and not just teaching how to fish, but also providing access to maintained fishing grounds; providing trained caretakers of those grounds, which means there must be funded training programs; providing continuing research.

Microsoft has numerous employees spending a large number of hours producing software improvements. If 10% of their workforce were diverted to developing a healthcare system for a target population, a pilot program would result that could dramatically improve health and reduce costs. The methods developed could then be adapted to other populations.

But why would a large corporation divert their resources to solving social problems? It would cut into profit margins, impact their competitiveness, and not serve their primary mission: making money. A business engages in activity to produce income. Microsoft creates software to make money, not to promote social good. Social good only comes into the activities of business as a selling point. Benefiting people is a side effect of the business goal; a company only benefits people because that’s how they can get money, not because their motivation is to improve society. What does motivate people?

Human desire is composed of a varying set of interests that interact to create and drive the personality. And there is will, the part of the individual that can make choice. The internal factors are subjected to external influences, and the interaction of all these influences play out over time and create the individual. A balanced individual uses willpower to surf in the winds of internal and external drives and achieve goals. Insufficient willpower and inaccuracies of perception results in imbalance, and limits the ability to set and reach goals. The nature of goals dictates a large part of the human condition. People mostly, if not always, act in their own self interest, or what they perceive. They set goals and take action to fulfill desires. A corporation consists of a group of people with a defined set of behaviors focused on achieving goals to fulfill desires. The primary desire is to accumulate wealth. Wealth is a component of the social power structure.

The social power structure is created by social contract amongst the willing and invested players, and by coercion of the reluctant and unwilling. Wealth is a means of divvying up resources, both materials and service. The more accumulated wealth an individual or group has, the more resources they can acquire and control, the more service they can engage, and this in turn creates influence. A corporation with vast wealth has vast influence. Much of that influence is used to maintain existing wealth and acquire more.

Symbolic wealth—paper money, electronic numbers, stocks, etc., have no actual value without a functioning market in which to trade. Money’s value is an illusion, and the illusion must be maintained, or the wealth has no value. So it is in the interest of the individuals accumulating wealth to play by rules to maintain order, so they can place orders for goods and services their wealth. When the goods and services that businesses create fulfill an actual need, they benefit society, and the business profits, and the relationship is healthy. Food, medicine, and health related products improve the quality of life. Communication and transportation increase the sophistication of the community. Construction provides a quality of shelter.


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