Thesis Proposal

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Thesis Proposal
Monetary Economics
Resource Economics
The Caring Economy

Society has to decide how best to structure itself and how best to use the resources at its disposal. Money is not a particularly good tool to use in isolation to manage an economy. This paper sets out a proposal to develop a conceptual framework to give individuals and government a new perspective on consequences of their actions, for better governance and quality of life.

1. Proposal

The proposed thesis seeks to:

a) Research and extend work being carried out on emotional wealth, to establish a useful, objective measure

b) Research and focus work in Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology, Psychology and Economics to define a framework of behavioural systems that is capable of extension and measurement

c) Research and identify relationships between various behaviours and behavioural patterns and the consequence on emotional wealth, both directly and indirectly through its impact on the wealth generation functions of society (being both the monetary economy and society's output through which the monetary system flows either fleetingly or not at all).

d) Focus the research to provide individuals and governing bodies alike with a better awareness of the impact of society's structures and personal behavioural patterns on society's aggregate emotional wealth, and to provide tools to help manage those behavioural structures and patterns for maximum impact.

e) Integrate concepts identified in the thesis with monetary economic theories, with particular focus on the practical but distorting use of money as the means to control resources.

2. Background

Money is the primary and completely dominant method of measurement of economic achievement. It has too many flaws to be used in isolation, with the consequence that the economy and society is likely to be fundamentally misdirected. In particular, monetary wealth is a means to achieving emotional wealth, and more emphasis needs to be placed on the aspects of society and the economy that money fails to address.

Society is the means by which people collaborate to achieve more together than they can achieve independently. Society is founded on pillars of behaviours to facilitate effective collaboration. Trust, Truth and Justice are examples. The pillars interact with each other to form a solid basis on which social and economic activity is based. The effectiveness of a society is highly influential in determining its economic success. This proposal seeks to construct a model of society that can be used to measure its effectiveness. Such a model should help us gauge some of the wider impacts of proposed policies on Society.

The purpose of society is to achieve improved quality of life. Society is structured to incentivise people to collaborate effectively. The incentives impact on the quality of life of the person being incentivised. The more effectively incentives achieve their objectives, the greater the impact will be on the quality of life of the wider society. In judging how well society achieved its quality of life goal, the gains to society need to be measured against any costs to the individual of the incentives.

3. Scope of Thesis

The way society is structured is core to establishing its effectiveness. The heart of the thesis is the hypothesis that there is a link between society together with its productive economy and the quality of life it delivers, when the way society is structured is viewed from the perspective of human nature.

The objective of the thesis is to bring together a hugely diverse body of academic work currently being carried in many different areas, to understand the link and to identify a series of tools with which to measure the link.

The outcome of the thesis should be the establishment of a new theoretical model of society and its economy, together with a series of improved tools that measure their effectiveness, from both governmental and individual perspectives, in terms of both material and emotional wealth.

4. Bases behind the Thesis

Society requires supremacy of rationality over emotion. Humans are an inseparable mix of both. Desired behaviour is encouraged through a gamut of incentives, from reward right through to coercion. The effect is the frustration of certain types of reward for greater reward overall. Understanding this social and economic link may help improve the architecture of reward and persuasion.

Below are a number of principles that underlie the proposal.

4.1 The objective of society is to maximise the aggregate benefits to its members.

Material gains are benefits to members of society in their consumption, not in their acquisition. The value of any given benefit of society depends exclusively on its value to the consumer. The value to a billionaire of a £10 lobster hors d'oevres is very different to the value of ten three course nutritional meals costing £1 each to a homeless teenager who has not eaten for three days. Changing the spread of wealth can have a profound, direct impact on the aggregate benefits to the members of society of collaboration.

4.2 Benefits need to be measured in terms of quality of life

Humans are complex animals, replete with irrational emotions. How happy something makes us varies enormously depending on factors such as current emotional state, hormones, relationships, rational and irrational fears, stage of life and personal taste. There is no pretence that measuring quality of life is not problematic. But our overall wellbeing is affected by a great many factors beyond material wealth, such as security, status, self-respect and expectations. Using measurements of wellbeing to gauge the effectiveness of society might identify improved ways to achieve Societal gains. Material gains achieved from new work practices may be outweighed by the emotional costs of additional levels of stress; the benefits of unfettered advertising might be challenged with the emotional costs arising from inflating personal expectations beyond attainment.

Much work is being carried out on measuring quality of life, using terms like Happiness, Wellbeing or Emotional Wealth. The lack of recognised vocabulary is testament to how much more work needs to be carried out in this field.

4.3 Benefits will accrue when society's rules are better aligned to the consequential quality of life

Members of society have varying degrees of constraints and rights, governed by laws, custom (including tradition, culture and other socially accepted patterns) and personal persuasion. For good reason, despite forests of legislation, most of the effective day-to-day influences are evolved and imprecise. Most members of society belong to several distinct groupings (communities), each with their own particular rules, some of which are mutually incompatible. A good deal of rules are set out with little concern for consequences beyond the internal community, and often with little correlation between consequence of breach and severity of penalty. Culture in particular has a tendency to produce consequences that are poorly understood by members of its community.

4.4 Measuring effectiveness of society requires a framework against which its components can be measured

Society's effectiveness is the degree to which it encourages effective collaboration to maximise the quality of life of its members. There are two spheres of influence. Pillars of Society are the core behavioural requirements needed to achieved cohesion in society as a whole. Example are truth, trust and justice. As the quality of Truth drops, the level of Trust drops, which impacts on the extent to which people are willing to accept risk. Behaviour Patterns are the individual behaviours and practices that affect the propensity of people to respond cohesively. Individual acts of altruism encourage positive attitudes in beneficiaries and observers. Racism fosters fear and a sense of injustice, undermining the ever-further specialism and technical advance on which economic growth is so firmly based.

Any assertion about what constitutes the Pillars or Patterns is necessarily arbitrary. But assertions are important as a benchmark against which to start to measure links between differing Pillars/Patterns and the propensity to collaborate effectively.

4.5 Measuring the quality of society is needed to judge the effectiveness of society and its governance

The quality of society is synonymous with the quality of life it achieves for its members. Arbitrary measures are being devised to measure quality of life (happiness, wellbeing etc). It is likely that different measures will be appropriate in different circumstances. The measures must be capable of objective measurement (and free from political manipulation, in particular), capable of reperformance and easy understanding. It is inevitable they will be simplistic approximations. But it is important to recognise that monetary measures are themselves full of arbitrary measures and simplistic approximations.

4.6 All humans have equal intrinsic worth

We will never have the capacity to measure the contribution of any individual to the whole. Everyone is influenced by others, in ways we will never have the ability to measure. Everyone has some level of emotional or physical response to encounters with others, in ways we will never know and for reasons we will usually never fully understand. When a new born baby lies crying on the table, it is impossible to know what future contributions it will make to society. Even an elderly relative in a coma awaiting certain death still influences people, with consequences that are entirely unpredictable. It is this very human influence that is the substance of intrinsic worth. It is equal in the sense that water is equal whether it is being used to soothe a graze or it is part of a tsunami about to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Humans are born with free will. We make our decisions based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Coercion and reward are not limitations on free will; they are the establishment of new circumstances to be factored in to the decision.

4.7 Justice is a secondary objective of society

Justice is a subjective evaluation of what is fair. The evaluation is based on expectations, beliefs and personal circumstance. Even at a very early age, demand for justice is highly emotive. Whereas justice is a Pillar of Society, its roots seem so embedded in our psyche that the distinction seems very blurred between its role as a Pillar and its role as an objective of society in its own right. The proposal treats Justice as a secondary objective in its own right.

5 Practical applications

It is hoped that the thesis will spawn academic review in a great array of areas. Below are a few practical ideas that arise from applying these concepts.

5.1 Rights are a means of influencing behaviour

To someone precluded from the gains of living in a collaborative society, there is no motivation to collaborate with others. Even where this is not the case, people will compete with one another for scarce resources where they have real doubt about their survival, and fight where necessary. Any society that tolerates exclusion of its members, to the point where a large enough proportion of its members fear for their survival, becomes tattered.

The fundamental point of basic human rights is to provide a safety net that precludes exclusion from society. They are framed to eliminate both the reality and fear of the inability to survive. For practical reasons, human rights are not a guarantee; they are an aspiration. The less rights are respected, the less effective they become, and the more corrosive is their absence on the personal security dimension of quality of life, even to those who merely stand witness to the consequences. Gains may be made to the cohesion of society by: securing the ring-fence of human rights from other rights; evaluation of social rights in the context of social cohesion; elevation of respect by individuals of the rights of others.

Conversely, responsibility might not be simply a matter of obligation. Rather, it might be considered to be an assessment of how well (or stupidly) we apply our free will to make decisions. Someone who is irresponsible is someone who uses very poor judgement in selection of behavioural patterns towards others, when viewed from a perspective outside their personal confines. Viewed from this perspective, more effective methods might be found to encourage cohesive behaviours.

5.2 Return on power and return on contribution to society

Given the range and extent of gains from super-specialisation effected by collaboration, is should be clear that there is no longer a link between individual contribution to society and the consequential flow of rewards. A celebrated architect can never realise his/her glorious cathedral without the means of extraction, transportation and assembly of materials to the right place at the right time. In today's thinking, the architect's rare skills can earn as much as 10,000 times as much as his/her employees and contractors. Yet none of those monetary gains can be achieved without both the systems and the support.

There is a strong argument that reward for skills or scarce resources is hugely skewed at present, with the share of gains has very much more to do with power and very much less to do with effort, risk or stress. Power allocation is an essential bi-product of governing an economy, but it is not a fair allocation. Part of the means of exercising and retaining power undermines the security and quality of life of those with less power. The non-monetary costs of this unjust allocation and exercise of power are not measured.

Controversial as it may be, interesting questions arise about whether the current structure of monetary reward really does achieve the greatest success for the economy as a whole.

5.3 Self awareness and self regulation

A major fall out of the super-specialisation of advanced economies, along with its detailed regulation necessary to facilitate specialisation, is the loss of immediate feedback to people by which to understand the link between their actions and the consequences of those actions.

If people can reconnect their actions with their consequences, even if just in part, it is likely to resonate on their awareness of their personal worth, and of their personal influence on and by others. It should help them to assess more reliably their personal gains from participation in society; and it should help encourage both personal acceptance of society's accepted ways and more mature and constructive challenging of the effectiveness of certain of the accepted ways.

5.4 An alternate economy

More than half the population of any advanced economy is not employed in the monetary economy. A non-monetary economy already exists, in ways that are not supported or encouraged by government. Indeed, for tax and power reasons, some are actively discouraged.

Failure to provide employment opportunities to those who want them is a vast waste of resource. In the recession of 2011, the unemployment rate of Spanish youth out of work was nudging 50%.

The Caring Economy is an experiment in establishing the means to create collaborative economic activity for those for whom the monetary economy is unable to provide opportunities. Its basis is that economic gains can be created and enjoyed even without monetary flows, through provision of services to others, in an environment that encourages collaboration for both direct and indirect, mutual gain. Practical ideas are expanded in the Caring Economy section.

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