59. The Mean World Syndrome

It’s that time of the year when the Hay Festival is on. This festival represents a unique opportunity to partake in inspiring and thought provoking debates in an atmosphere of tolerance and open mindedness. I strongly recommend it. Yesterday, one of the sessions was a talk with Rutger Bregman, the brilliant Dutch historian, one of the most exciting social thinkers of our time. Bregman changes the frame of reference by starting from the premise that humans are, in the most part, good and intrinsically motivated. And this is not just a hopeful opinion. In his work, he provides plenty of evidence for this. Modern economy and policy making are based on the central idea that humans are selfish. This premise is crippling. National social policy, trade agreements and employment conditions are designed to control for abuse and cheating and fundamentally limited in their scope. It is high time we change the World and, to do so, we must shake off the Mean World syndrome and believe in us, humans

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Comments

Jaime said…
I would like you to tell us something else about the reasons he gave.
I recently read a post about prisoner's dilemma ( M. Flood y Melvin Dresher) which could explain why are we selfish ( not individually but in group).
SantiDominguezV said…
The very interesting thing about Bregman is that he takes a scientific approach to being an economist. Most new economists do. So he does not give reasons, but rather, evidence. He starts with a premise that needs to be tested, for example: 'If children shipwrecked in an island by themselves, selfish and violent behaviours would eventually rise as we are fundamentally selfish' (this idea, incidentally, is at the heart of both 'lord of the Flies' and 'The shipwreck of the Jonathan', 2 very good and interesting novels). He then looks for evidence of whether this is true. In this case, he found a case of a group of Tongan children who survived a shipwrecked and lived by themselves in a desert island for 50 months, developing a very highly collaborative and democratic social structure. He for example tests the premise: 'An universal income would result on most people doing nothing, as we are fundamentally lazy'. He then reviews Universal Income experiments already carried out, and finds that the evidence indictes the contrary. He is about facts, not opinions, which is what science, including economic science, should be about.

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