Saturday, June 6, 2015

Andorian sketch of commerce and inequality

We will begin with a brief examination of what physically occurs when a financial transaction takes place.  We will suppose this exchange occurs at a hardware store, before the widespread use of credit and debit cards.  The customer takes a ball of string from the shelf, carries it over to the cashier, who we will assume is also the owner of the store, and hands over $3.40 so he can take ownership of the string.  The "and" and "or" are operative on a number of levels.  Without dissecting each movement in painstaking detail, we can say that the "or" is being actualized when the dollar bills and coins are separated from the purchaser, and the "and" is working in tandem with the "or" when the seller takes possession of them.  Similarly, the "or" and "and" are working in tandem when the seller relinquishes possession of the string, and the purchaser assumes ownership of it.   The employment relationship is a similar set of and/or transactions.  The purchaser or employer takes temporary possession of the seller (employee) or that part of the seller that has a service to offer and relinquishes funds in return.

Commerce in general is a web of such or/and transactions. Overall, although it generates some degree of conflict, it brings people together and forces them to engage, however superficially.  In its own limited way, it decreases isolation, resulting in a more cohesive society.  Seller and buyer become acquainted, maybe even friends,  Thus, I would argue that the "and" and "or" work in tandem to increase the cohesiveness of society and strengthen the "and".

We can also see the destructive effect that extreme inequality can have upon this cohesiveness, this web or fabric that holds us together.   For when wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, there are fewer transactions.  There will be dramatically fewer strands holding this web together.  It is possible that some of these strands, those spun by the few in whose hands wealth is concentrated, may seem powerful, but there is a great deal of space between these strands.  Fewer flies, or less nourishment can be absorbed from the surrounding environment.  The connections that can be built by those who are indigent are weaker.  The web can withstand fewer shocks.  Social unrest bubbles on the surface and financial calamity is a heartbeat away.

 It goes without saying that societies with a large middle class and less concentrated wealth are both more cohesive and more resilient. More can participate in the financial transactions that strengthen social bonds. The web is thick, more like a fabric.  More can take their friends out to dinner. More can develop relations with the business owner, restauranteur or real estate broker.  Since more money is spent (as it is well established that the very rich are more likely to save), more nourishment is imbibed from the environment that surrounds us.  Since wealth is distributed throughout, when financial calamity is experienced by a few, it is less likely to bring down society with it.     

In sum, society is healthiest when the and/or is functioning vigorously, when the and/or is diversified, and when the cohesion (and) that it thus creates is sufficient to withstand any conflict that inevitably when financial transactions do not proceed in accordance with expectations.   

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Everyday experience of time

Time is experienced linearly, and the "and" and the "or" appear to be operative in equal measure in our everyday experience of time from past to present to future.    That the "or" is at work seems beyond question.   For if that were not the case, and the present did not separate itself from the past, the present would be the past, and , time would either be frozen in the past, or it would jump from the past to the future with no present in between.  If I were frozen in the past, I would not be here now, typing this sentence.  Thus, direct experience is evidence that the "or" is operative in separating the present from the past.  Similarly, the "or" is at work in separating the future from the present.  If it were not, the future would be the present, and there would be no future.  We would be frozen in the present.  And clearly, again, I would not be typing this sentence and you would not be reading it. Of course, the "and" also expresses itself through the present, which connects the past to the future.  A number of similar arguments, moving backward in time, can also prove the existence of the "or".  If the present did not separate itself from the future, it would be the future, and since the future does not exist, and the past no longer exists, nothing would exist, not even Cartesian consciousness.  Experience tells us this is not the case.  And if the past did not, though the or, separate itself from the present, then there would be no past, and we would have sprung up out of nowhere and nothing, like magic. 

But I say the "and" is operative in equal measure.  For if the "or" predominated, there would be no connections between different events and between different periods in time.  I would be five years old one second, and 20 years old the next.  And biology tells us it is impossible to make the leap from childhood to adulthood without experiencing puberty in between. 

Thus, as is the case in so many other fields, the "and" and the "or" operate in equal balance when acting on everyday time.