WHAT IS THE TRUE GOAL OF A MODERN SOCIETY?

One of the primary topics of debate that has arisen in recent months is the general goal of modern macroeconomics and society as a whole.  The so-called “holy grail” of modern macro is full employment and price stability.  This is convenient because the figures are relatively easy to quantify and they allow economists to build models that are not excessively complex – kind of like plug and play.  And in this case, we’re plugging in numbers and often concluding “abracadabra, we have full employment and price stability if we do X, Y and Z!”   Of course, the world is not so simple and this dismal science often turns out to be awful science or not even anything closely resembling science.

I wonder if, at times, in focusing solely on these admirable goals we are in fact losing sight of the real goal.  The reason why any society forms in the first place is because we have a collective understanding that we can achieve a better overall living standard if we leverage one another’s strengths and abilities.  I have argued that human beings are the ultimate pack animals even though we like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists.  This basic innate understanding is what drives us to need one another and understand that we are better off in groups than we are alone.

Our monetary system is simply an evolution of this understanding from spoken bonds (and even unspoken bonds) to written bonds.  But the goal of a society has not changed despite the fact that the tools we use have changed.  The end game has always been the same.  It is the desire to generate improving living standards through the efficient use of resources resulting in the optimization of time.   The element of time, in my opinion, is the key piece of this puzzle.  The true holy grail of modern macro is not price stability or full employment.  It is time.  Time is the ultimate form of wealth in a modern society.  It is through time that we are able to live fuller and more meaningful lives.  What you do with your time is up to you.  But the key is that having more time means being able to do more of what you want to do. In theory, we can consume and produce an infinite amount given the time.  But time, as we all know, is not infinite for finite creatures.

I have been kicking around what I have been privately been referring to as the “MMR Law”:

“We generate improving living standards through the efficient use of resources resulting in the optimization of time

This is a powerful concept and one that can change the way modern societies approach economics, public policy and every day life.  When one understands that time is the ultimate form of wealth their perspective is dramatically altered and the playing field is changed.   And while full employment and price stability are admirable goals, they become secondary to this understanding which sits above them in the hierarchy of societal goals.

 

Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterLinkedIn

Comments

  1. The optimization of time can lead to more production and provide individuals with more leisure time, but time of itself is not the goal of any individual or society.
    Most individuals value family, health and a feeling of being useful to them selves and the people important to them.
    People today have more free time — largely as a result of technological innovations and because they can produce more in a shorter period — but the family structures are breaking down, especially among the poor, and they spend their time on television.
    Mr. Wolf’s suggestion is pure communism. It’s not the government’s job to provide work and give money to people (where does this money come from? Oh, wait, I forgot, you print it).
    It’s the government’s job to preserve the conditions that we agree allow people to pursue their own goals.
    It is counter intutitive, I know, but only by being free to pursue our own salvation can we build a cohesive society. It has to be a bottom-up approach and not a top-down approach.
    And what Thatcher meant is that government is *not* society. Government exists to serve society, not to dictate what we do.

  2. Love the discussion. Things to think about Cullen.

    1. Mentioned earlier, Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs (really relevant here)

    2. Read the book the “Progress Paradox” by Gregg Easterbrook.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=1btauGdERekC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+progress+paradox&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ffZQT7S2EYiJtwfwgMHPDQ&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=the%20progress%20paradox&f=false

    3. So is the “robot economy” really what we should be after? It’s an imaginary state where robots do everything and make everything for people, so that we can spend 24 hours a day doing anything we want. Reading, praying, playing, etc, you name it. In my experience, most people just cause trouble when they have too much time on their hands.

    4. People run on incentives. End of story. Either there is a carrot or a stick pushing or pulling us through the moments of our lives, we are not after more control of our time, if we were, most of us would have quit our jobs long ago.

    5. What are we after then….? Nothing really, we are just programmed to be competitive with one another, gene pool stuff probably.

    Great discussion though.