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Immortality and Mortality in the Economic Sciences

Uploaded by palma on Oct 12, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites


Roberto Calvo Macias, a young author and thinker from Spain, once wrote to me that it is impossible to design a coherent philosophy of Economy without accounting for the (sad?) fact that we are mortals. This insight is intriguing. It is not that we refrain from Death in dealing with matters economic. What are estate laws, annuities, life insurance policies - but ways to cope with the Great Harvester? But this, admittedly, only scratch the non-profound surface of the question.

The industrial revolution taught us that humans were dispensable. The process of production was reduced to minute functional units that people could learn in minutes. Only the most basic skills were required to successfully endure this learning curve. Thus, for as long as humans bred, the supply was inexhaustible. Humans became entirely replaceable, interchangeable (and alienated, in the process). Motion pictures of the period (“Metropolis”, “Modern Times”) portray the industrial worker as a nut in a machine, driven to the verge of insanity by the repetitiveness of his work.

Yet, this view of human resources is fast becoming extinct in the rich Western countries. Training periods have lengthened, expert knowledge has taken over, the main value added is information. Humans represent a sizeable investment in education. They are no longer an inexpensive resource .With this realization, there came about a revolution in economic relations. Absurdly, inhuman totalitarian regimes (especially Fascism and Communism) were the first to emphasize the importance of the human factor in the total set of means of production. The concept of scarcity was extended (by virtually all the economic systems today) to apply to human resources.

All resources are scarce. Economy is the science of trading off : giving up one resource in order to get more of another. The concept of “opportunity cost” is the first that students of economy encounter. The classic approach included natural endowments in the group of scarce resources. The human element was barely perceived as yet another natural resource. Now it is. The size of the population, its life expectancy, its quality of life, health, education, income – are all important.

Economy is the branch of psychology which deals with behaviour patterns and with mental processes which relate to material wealth, with the opportunities to obtain it (=access to it) and with the processes and mechanisms underlying its attainment. Because material...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   10/12/2000

Category:   Social Issues

Length:   5 pages (1,181 words)

Views:   1679

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