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This chapter is from the book

Can You Be Green About Your Econosphere?

There is a great deal of cultural emphasis today in being "green," the belief that you are better off taking care to eat wholesome and nutritious food, minimize your negative impact on the physical environment you share with everyone, and generally become a better steward of those resources you use to sustain yourself. For instance, you might choose to eat organic foods because you believe that the chemical applications found in the production of conventional agriculture contributes to unwanted chemical runoff into our aquifers or perhaps even the buildup of such chemicals within your own body.

In choosing to be green, you use the information that you have in hand to make what you believe is the best decision for our physical environment and for yourself. That is not to say that you are correct, but each of us tries to employ the best information that we have and that we can gather to make the right decisions. In the instance of avoiding pesticides, you have gathered enough information to come to the conclusion that you can achieve the most happiness by buying and consuming organic food.

If you can see your choices regarding the physical environment that are intended to bring you happiness, you can then expand this understanding to the less well-understood realm of your social environment—the Econosphere. Of course, your decisions regarding your physical environment are in the realm of the Econosphere, as well. However, how you choose to work and consume as part of our economy can be a bit harder to see and appreciate. How you choose to use finite resources, whether clean water or your own life span, are economic decisions.

You automatically become more productive if you can receive and react to the incentives and disincentives provided within the Econosphere. If there is too much of one thing, the price goes down, and thus supply reacts by cutting production. If we have too little of a thing (gasoline), the price rises, some of us step in with more supply, or even create alternatives to that good or service.

You are optimally productive if you can react to market pricing, dedicate yourself to a task, and trade the goods and services you produce freely, seeking the best value for your effort. The more productive you are, the greater your collective wealth and well-being. Also, the more productive you are at work, the more opportunity you have to be at leisure, another key ingredient to maximizing happiness.

To these ends, you must receive signals from the economy as to the value of goods and services that you can produce to trade for others' goods and services. It is essential for your own good that you develop an appreciation of how the Econosphere works so that you see the information necessary for you to provide for yourself and your family and optimize the value that you bring by employing all the abilities and possibilities that come in the course of your life. It is really about understanding and appreciating the natural flow of this holistic system of interaction, so you can make good decisions in work and play to receive the full value implicit in your very existence, and second, not do anything to harm or impede the Econosphere's natural functioning. You are the steward of your environments, both physical and social.

Which brings us to...

Because the Econosphere is the result of our work and our choices, the basic building block of the Econosphere is the human life span. Human energy is our basic raw material, not oil, gold, soil, or water. Sure, we do need a physical space to inhabit, but there is, nonetheless, no value creation or intrinsic worth without us. Thus, all economic worth radiates from the time we are afforded and those talents that we cultivate within each of us.

As an example, let's see why the economy is about us and not some commodity like oil. Oil in the ground is absolutely worthless. Oil without the combustion engine is worthless. Oil without people wanting transportation across long distances or to heat their homes or to generate power is worthless. It is only worth something if it is pumped to the surface, transported, refined, and eventually consumed. That entire process is done with the consumption of human time and talent. Moreover, the extent to which that process is possible and optimally performed depends on whether inhabitants of the Econosphere are fully able to collaborate and trade with one another.

What the Econosphere does is create the signals, that is, market prices that prompt some people to see the need for oil and motivate them to find ways to extract, refine, and trade that oil for money with which to purchase goods and services to maximize happiness. The Econosphere provides the basic flow of information, incentives, and disincentives to guide each of our daily lives. Now, I use oil only as an example. The same analysis can be used in the production of bread, financial advice, music, or robots. None of the raw materials that go into the production of such goods and services is worth anything without the essential ingredient: the human life span.

Let's look at the natural process of our lives. First, most people are born with the essential capacities to provide their sustenance—though we should acknowledge that for those who are oppressed within command economies or in societies where bigotry bars some groups from education or certain vocations, such people might never live up to their potential. Yet, even acknowledging that some in this world are held back by the hand of another, it is never a question of slicing up a pie made up of all the wealth and resources on earth into ever smaller pieces to support increasingly more people. Rather, the pie actually gets bigger with the addition of each person. Every individual human being actually bakes his or her own piece of that incredible pie! Even better, whereas people are born with a body and intellect that sustains them, that ability is not fixed. It can be enhanced, refined, and specialized to cause you to become ever-more differentiated and productive. We have what we are born with, and we also have everything that we invest in ourselves or others invest in us throughout our lives. We get better over time; the result of which is that we eventually produce more than we need. That excess allows us to prepare for the possibility of being less productive later in life and yet still maintain our standard of living. Is this a great system, or what? Well, it doesn't feel like that all the time.

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