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Real-world homo-economicus

Humans are selfish by nature, as is homo-economicus. What is changed is the conception of the self. Society can define not only the social expression of the self but also the nature of competition for social status and associated allocation of fitness. If society defines money-making as an important goal of life, people will compete to make money. If society defines the goal of life to be serving a supernatural power, people will compete in their service for that supernatural power. Those expressions are not random because their “skeleton” is defined by the biological base of the mind. Nonetheless, culture with experience has freedom to modify its form just as flesh can modify body parts without seriously biasing their skeleton foundation. However this does not mean the self is meaningless and that what matters is the collective identity (homo-social). Social conditioning is not the creation of homogenous beings under controlled experiment. Human beings will have diversity in both inherited biological hardware and their expression based on cultural and personal experience. Those facts will make humans close to homo-economicus in most of their day-to-day life, in terms of selfishness. However because conforming to the morality and ethics defined by one’s culture and experience is likely to be in one’s self-interest, real-world homo-economicus is also likely to have a moral and ethical dimension. It is logical that in small isolated communities individuality will be weak and in large and diversified populations individuality will be highly manifested. This is because in a large population there will be a high diversity in the conditioning environment. Moreover if organizational efficiency is at a lower level, it can also allow for more individuality. If every family and person is independent, in its day-to-day fitness competition, higher individuality will be observed. A higher similarity of the conditioning environment will also create a more uniform mind-set among people living in such a community.

The hypotheses of extended identity proposed in this paper may be right or wrong, but there is no doubt that biological evolution by itself cannot explain much of human behaviour as it stands. We need to allow for cultural and institutional expression of biological adaption and their variation, if we are going to understand human behaviour and human nature and, most especially, in the economic context.

Taddese Mezgebo

  1. December 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Reblogged this on Somiatruites and commented:
    Somos producto de aquello que nos rodea, no somos un ente que pueda sobrevivir por si solo, vivimos en sociedad, compartimos experiencias y vivencias. Por lo que en el mundo real el Homo-Economicus no es más que una ficción.

  2. December 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Time for all economists to read Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and I highly recommend Prof. Lynn Stout’s Myth of Shareholder Value and Cultivating Conscience , as well as the forthcoming book Transforming Wall Street ( 2015 ) which I will review on http://www.seekingalpha.com Also, we are exiting 6,000 years of patriarchy where women have been trained to give and men trained to take. Time to try partnership societies as advocated by Riane Eisler in The Real Wealth of Nations and by Louis Bohtlingk in Dare To Care, to which I wrote the Foreword.

  3. Bruce E. Woych
    December 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Gemeinschaft, Markte to Gesellschaft / Machte (pl.); stahlhartes Gehäuse;
    The human condition is subject to a social identity that has emergent qualities. These relate to inter-subjective power relations that are created through extended connectivity or disconnectivity reflected in family, community, civil & political position and market participation that sustains subsistence, survival needs, wants, desires and the potential dreams & wishes of projected self. To state as a premise that humans are selfish by nature is so utterly simplistic, that the entire subsequent reasoning is suspect. Humans are social by nature and this is sustained ultimately by some form of economic and ecological reality that shapes individuals and social forms accordingly. Humans are cultural by nature and that establishes an emergent quality that can not be reduced to mere bio-social production and economically ordained reproduction.

  4. December 23, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    We have been inclined to believe that because “process” is an underlying element central to the realization of self (the reflection upon the past as a means to construe one’s potential present and future) that the human psyche is determinable by way of an analysis of its evolution. That’s clearly a farce, given the situation that we currently face in the world. It is true that the past is a fixed element open to scrutiny by process so long as process remains a given; but, there’s no longer any guarantee that process can survive itself, (see: http://www.edenorg.com/edp-001b.htm). In fact, it’s becoming more and more probable that it can’t; and thus, we won’t survive its current march into the sea of complexity. How is it that we now find ourselves at this crossroads?

    What continues to escape the majority who post on this sight — and I don’t know if this is the cost of dedicating one’s self to this abstraction called economics or not — is that we are defined (like it or not) by the “limitations” that constitute our physicality. These ‘limitations’ are characterized as: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, in case you haven’t noticed. Some manifest greater latitude in their function while others manifest less. Mechanical devices do allow us to increase the scope of these ‘limitations,’ but that’s all they do. We’re still talking ‘limitations’ here, like it or not. Words are the means by which we constitute difference within the field of ‘limitation.’ They are not some magic bullet that somehow allows us to escape ‘limitation.’ In effect, words are an expression of the time we spend fielding difference. But, regardless of how copious definition becomes, or how proficient at correlating difference we are, it all still amounts to ‘limitation’ by which we speculate about what constitutes that which lies beyond our ability to understand.

    Mentally, we are inclined to see the self as a singularity, since it initially arises out of a single reflection. That is why we place so much importance upon the idea of beginning. The self, perceived as a singularity by itself, is thus predisposed to consolidate all interruptions in its steady state (caused by the senses of physicality) into a unity of presentation — thus creating a one on one relationship — the foundation upon which all mathematical propositions rest. This function of reducing multiplicity to singularity is commonly referred to as reason or rationality. By sequentially driving multiplicity (past) into a unity of presentation compatible with the singularity of self, process assumes to primary importance for the self. In other words, all of what is going on is occurring because the self is engaged in a constant process of reaffirming its own existence to itself, because of its inability to locate itself with certainty within its own function.

    Simply put, consciousness cannot understand the state of itself before it becomes for itself. It also cannot understand its ongoing potential, since the self is always latent to itself by way of a process by which it maintains the awareness of its own difference. Likewise, the self cannot understand what might constitute its possibility after the host in which it finds itself is no longer able to sustain its function. This leaves the self (us) to float in a sea of unknowability. However, that FACT does not seem to have deterred man from positing himself as God and spewing forth claims about certainty that can’t possibly have any foundation. It’s time to get realistic here people. We are less that a gnat on the ass of an elephant. We are not the elephant!

    At this point in time, it’s more than evident that no one has a theory capable of encompassing the many variables by which “money” influences circumstance in the real world. And, no amount of theory extolled by anyone is about to change that. The reason is because human nature is not predictable. As a result, when wealth collects in the hands of the few, it winds up skewing any natural law that would otherwise buffer the well being of the whole. Currently, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans control 35.6 percent of the total wealth of the country — more than a third. Even more incredible is that the richest 10 percent of Americans control 75 percent of the wealth, leaving only 25 percent to the other 90 percent of Americans. This problem is not unique to the United States either, but basically exists in all countries of the world. The 85 Richest People in the World have as much Wealth as the 3.5 Billion Poorest. Given current policy rulings by the Supreme Court (US) regarding contributions to political campaigns, the influence of the rich there has been magnified many times over. In an environment such as this, the idea of democracy is a total FARCE. Instead, democracy inadvertently reverts to capitalism with all its bias.

    If anything is going to be done to try and turn this situation around we need to understand the underlying problem that haunts human behavior. The core concept of moral/ethical behavior and the responsibility it promotes is rightly contained in the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” However, having transitioned primal importance from the individual to society this fundamental admonition needs a slight alteration. It should now read: “don’t do unto others anything that you not give them permission to do unto you.” Although the wording is different, the essence of the two foundational premises still remains the same. Both promote the priority of equality, This theme ideologically pervades all cultures, being fundamental to self awareness. Unfortunately, its implication has somehow got corrupted. In many quarters, it has now come to mean “do unto others whatever you can, so you can better provide for those you love.” In the eyes of the ignorant the “self” has come to top the list of those who one loves. In doing so, it successfully defeats the initial premise and allows greed and avarice to run free. Since it is not education, but the ability to experience empathy that is essential to any turn around, a whole new approach to resolving existing problem needs to be implemented.

    Consistent with that, the next thing I hope will be given appropriate consideration is what can be done to try and turn our current situation around — not just more idle chatter over whose interpretation of what is more valid to the greater audience. At this point in time, only the combined influence of a majority can still impact upon the existing dynamics that the elite have perpetrated upon us.

    So, how do we go about engaging this majority, globally? And, it must be done globally, because the reach of the oligarchs has already become global in nature. The only thing which we have at our disposal, which is still basically uncensored, by which to consolidate the voice of a majority, is the Internet. However, before we ever begin anything in real space, we need to identify a specific way to reach and successfully encourage their participation. Beyond that, we also need to know (ahead of time) what we can realistically ask of them; how we can intelligently field their answers; and then, how we can employ their consolidated form into something that is capable of leveraging the needed change. There are obviously other issues that need to be addressed also, but all in due time.

    So, the question I now propose to ALL who frequent and/or participate on this blog is:

  5. Helge Nome
    December 23, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Smart homo- economicus dudes realize that cooperation ultimately bring the most benefit.

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