18 January 2008

Good Goods and Better Goods

"When I saw the old bum pushing his grocery cart down the street, at first I felt sorry for him. But then when I saw what was in his cart I thought, Well, no wonder you're a bum, look at the dumb things you bought."
- Jack Handy, Deep Thoughts

Philosophers talk about three kinds of goods: goods to have, goods to do, and goods to be. Goods to have represent simpler desires and are easier to attain than goods to do or be.

In the last 200 years, the developed countries have become adept at stimulating and meeting demand for goods to have. The result? Our garages are stuffed with stuff and people who think about such things warn us that we're stripping the planet of natural resources at an unsustainable rate. The data suggest that more isn't doing it for us anymore - quantities of happiness have not kept pace with the quantities of goods in recent decades.

This suggests that our economy still isn't particularly mature. We're still stuck at an earlier stage of development.

It might have been difficult to explain to someone in the 16th century just how many amazing social inventions would be required to get to the place at which so many had more stuff than they could keep track of: factories, retail stores, credit, and all the myriad and extraordinary inventions that support those larger constructs.

I wonder what a person 200 years into the future would tell us about how we developed an economy that went more directly after goods to be - allowing us to attain states of being that improved quality of life without relying on an increase in our quantity of goods. How many social inventions and oddly foreign practices would it take to create a community where goods to be were as easy to attain as our goods to have are today?

If economics goods to be represent the highest stage of economic development, this meandering path of economic development might yet turn out to be a full circle.

“Progress was understood to be a shining and unswerving vector, but it turned out to be a complex twisted curve, which has once more brought us back to the very same eternal questions which had loomed in earlier times, except that then facing these questions was easier for a less distracted, less disconnected mankind.”
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Given its a Friday and a soul ought to have something more than philosophy, here's a Radiohead music video (thanks Toby) that is beautiful and somehow seems quite fitting with a post about being. Now, don't just have a good time - be the good time. Enjoy the weekend.

1 comment:

Tillie said...

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