Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rational Interests

The social media "Share." The slacktivism flavor of the day.
Translation: Somewhere, someone is spending more money on what it important to them, than what is important to me.

Social media is good at these sorts of appeals. But it's poor at selling them. The United States spends a tremendous amount of money on its military - in some cases, money even the military would rather not be spent. The reasons for this are many, and some are complicated, but in the end, those expenditures are the result of rational economic decisions on the part everyone involved.
It's not that we're dupes of the advertisers; it's not that we're manipulated by special interests; it's not that we're those frail, irrational creatures that social critics often make us out to be. Rather it's that many of the decisions we confront are like those confronting participants in a military arms race. Countries don't by bombs because they're stupid; they buy them because it's bad not to have bombs when the other side has bombs.
Robert H. Frank "Falling Behind."
To change the way the world operates is difficult because it involves convincing people that their interests are served by whatever action it is that is being proposed. Assuming that we could divert some percentage of world military expenditure into increasing food security for everyone on Earth who does currently have it, the will to do so won't come from a plethora of random social media shares. Instead, it will come from making a compelling case (or, more likely a number of compelling cases) that it's a worthwhile expenditure.

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