Where do we believe it comes from? Where does it really come from?
Draft: December 2012
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How can it happen?
To determine how likely zero-sum gain can be we can break the discussion into two parts. First, we will look at how profit can be pulled from others to one's self. Second, well look at methods by which costs can be passed from one's self on to others.
First, we list various methods by which profit can be pulled from one individual or group to another.
Incomplete & misleading information
Second, we look at how a person or company might pass costs and risks
to others. As with taking , passing costs to others tends to result primarily
from two factors, coercion and incomplete information. Passing costs to
others occurs in three primary forms, financial costs, quality of life
costs, and environmental costs (destruction of resources.) Let's again,
look at major examples.
Costs passed primarily through coercion
Costs passed primarily through incomplete or misleading information
Does it happen in America?
The first thing we should notice about the lists above is that we have seen all of them in the news and in popular discussions. All of these zero-sum elements are regular features in the modern American economy. We see recurring news reports about wealthy Americans and large corporations that owe much of their wealth to these zero-sum methods. Thus, zero-sum methods actually make up a significant part of our economy.
What Can Prevent it?
Humanity has never created a sure-fire means of preventing zero-sum manipulation. No single method exits that is complete in itself. But we can look at the various methods that do exist and discuss their strengths and short-comings.
Each of these methods is incomplete on its own. Morality is only as successful
as society's ability to make all of its citizens moral. Regulations can
be too specific and costly to implement. The values of externalities can
be hard to estimate. Lawsuits are slow and costly and only occur after
the damage has already been done. Legal systems tend to favor the powerful
and privileged. Free markets tend to reinforce short-term gain and ignore
long term costs.
We tend to see zero-sum gains as immoral as we recognize the impact on
the environment and other humans. We use charged language to describe
zero-sum gain: theft, socialism, gambling, and tragedy of the commons.
Yet, it is easy to show that large portions of our economic system are
derived from zero-sum gain. We can also see that no known system can completely
remove zero-sum profiteering from our economic system. In the long-term
large zero-sum elements within an economy are unsustainable - particularly
large environmental impacts and large deficits.