The world has been coming together for a very long time. Trade between civilizations has given each of them a peek into new worlds which dazzled and challenged them in turns. From the Silk Road of 2,000 years ago to the shipping lanes of today, trade has often defined how the world comes together.
As important as this has been, it has never been even or reliable. Trade is defined by people and their desires. Economic value is always what the buyer is willing to pay for something, and far too often the definition of things like money and credit has had a large role in how it works out. Contact between people brings more than physical goods, too – it brings envy, greed, curiosity and concern among many other emotions.
A world defined by people and their needs is a connected world. But those connections have to be at a human level more than at a money level if they are going to be sustainable. Connection in and of itself is one of the Five Points of the definition of People’s Economics for this reason.
The best example of the world connecting has to be the European Union. It is a great example not because of its success, either. The pitfalls of bringing people together so that they reliably trust each other are laid bare by the process we have seen unfold so far.
The most common criticism of the EU, or any global system, is that it has been too heavily reliant on bureaucrats and experts to be trustworthy. It seems like it is nothing but overhead, a cost that is not affordable and far out weighs the benefits. Cultural exchange has always been a key part of the EU experience, but in daily practice even this seems top-down and forced.
A world defined by people has to have connection at a personal level. That can only take time to develop, as there is no reason for people to trust someone different than themselves right away. It is critically important to be both realistic and steadfast in this approach, pushing it forward with the understanding that small victories from one day to the next are what anyone can expect.
I like to say that “People are people, but cultures are cultures.” What I mean by this is that any given person anywhere in the world will probably react in a way very similar to anyone else given the same pressures caused by any given situation. However, we are all given expectations by our cultures as to how we are expected to behave. These include what we value, who is depending on us, and what we consider to be moral.
Understanding those differences in a way which allows us to connect at a personal level is the goal. We do not get beyond cultural differences, we understand them – often at a gut level, not an intellectual one.
Truly open markets are defined by their openness, which has to include connection. Personal development necessarily means learning about other people and their values. Investment necessarily includes opportunities coming in from all over the world. Stability is enhanced by diversity. Every one of the other critical points of People’s Economics comes down to making the process of connection work for everyone at a human level.
It is not easy. It cannot be mandated by law. It has to be a central value for everyone. Many people will have to have the process of connection explained, and have to understand why other people’s values are not necessarily a threat to their own. Genuine pluralism, or living your life according to your own values regardless of your situation, is difficult.
As Mister Rogets taught us, “Love is not a state of being, it is an active verb like struggle.” Connection is also an active verb, and it also requires a fair amount of love.
In this sense, People’s Economics becomes a moral commitment of a kind. It has been tempting to call the Five Points the Five Virtues, along the lines of the work of Confucius. In the case of connection, the desire to connect is indeed a virtue that requires constant evaluation of both self and society in order to work.
Trade in goods is one thing, and it has always enriched the life of people. Left entirely to its own devices, it brings a host of emotions to it that material things do not satisfy. Some of them encourage connection, and some reject it. In all cases, they need constant attention and evaluation along with a commitment to make it work for the good of everyone.
Connection is the last and most troublesome part of People’s Economics. But it is essential.
I feel like this should be first. And I like the five virtues as a way of looking at it.
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