I invite you to join this discussion. This is not an open blog, but a shared symposium to build a new way of looking at economics. Here's a beginning outline of what I have in mind.
A Preliminary Construction of a System of TEA Analysis
Monday, March 10, 2008
Converting economics to its fundamental roots and following the flow of real value in human society.
TEA stands for Time, Effort and Attention. These elements make up the total stock-in-trade of all human beings. We have nothing else.
These elements vary in quality, for instance:
Time is inelastic and fully quantifiable, cannot be augmented, slowed or stored.
Effort is elastic but limited by physical structure and capabilities, and is somewhat quantifiable. It can be augmented or altered through health care, nourishment, training etc.
Attention is extremely elastic and not easily quantifiable.
Why study TEA analysis?
Normally economics deals in objects and other foci of human value. By definition, these things are one or more stages removed from the fundamental driver of economies, human value itself..
Questions about income equality, poverty, accumulation of wealth, true value of investments etc, remain difficult to address. Foci of value can appear, disappear and mutate over time, as can distilled TEA – money, investments and good will.
It is hoped that TEA analysis can show precisely how the structures operate which we put in place to direct, extract, expand, defend or suppress TEA resources.
Buffers and fish traps, rind and caches, attention-bait and cuckoo eggs, counterfeit affiliation, free-range hostages and affection parasites, bullfighters and Macy balloons, bomb surfing and a thousand other strategies are used to maneuver into a position where we may collect the tau, the efforts and attentions and time of others, or shed their attempted claims upon us. Conversely, cooperation in dozens of forms can allow groups collectively to prosper in ways that individuals could never dream of.
We think the human world mostly runs on money. Mostly, it does not, and fundamentally it doesn’t run on money at all. True wealth is measured in TEA units T = tau1)
In addition to human TEA resources (output), people have basic needs (inputs): these are
Individual needs include air, water, food, shelter, sleep, physiological stimuli (exercise, novelty, social contact)
Generational needs include reproduction, childrearing, and a social context within which these activities may be carried out
Systemic or cultural needs include all the supports of culture – language, stories and cultural narrative, traditions and common understandings, technology, science, literature, art and music.
If any of these inputs/needs is compromised, tau will be compromised, either in the short or long term.
Measuring needs and TEA outputs
I will assign arbitrary values first, so as to have something to work with, fully cognizant that they will have to be adjusted later.
Time is easy, we already have time measurements.
Effort is a physical variable ranging from a minimum (resting metabolism) to a maximum (berserker). It is a product of physical capability x energy expenditure. I assign a normal human value of E=100.
Attention is a psychological variable, the product of emotional arousal and intellectual awareness. I assign a normal human value of A=100.
The activity level of a normal healthy human being has a daily TEA value of (24) x 100E x 100A = 2400 tau.
Begin with Robinson Crusoe, with his 2400 T. What is he capable of, all alone on his island?
Let’s pretend his ship was lost altogether, rather than foundering on the rocks. No tools, tobacco, books. He can’t do much. Building a hut, catching and preserving food, all his daily efforts are minimal.
Yet even without the ship, he brings with himself to the island great wealth laid down before he ever even went to sea, before he was even born. Ideas of what’s edible, methods of preserving food, tool making and logic and patterns of thought – he is a little treasure house all to himself.
Still, he is at risk every day. Illness, poisoning, injury, even a small injury, and his adventure is over for good. And in a genetic sense, as soon as he lands on the island he is already dead, unless he can find a mate.
Then he finds a footprint in the sand.
Oops, it’s Friday, another male. So as far as generational needs Friday can’t help him there, but as for the rest of the risk, Friday increases Crusoe’s T value not to 4800T, but some much larger value. Adding individuals to the colony increasing the synergy, and can allow very large levels of tau to accumulate. As with all accumulated assets, organisms will arise who live upon that accumulated capital, that tau.
Synergy Versus Rind
Each person has a tau level of 2400, and can increase this value through social synergy. However, members of the apex strata live largely upon tau harvested from people lower down the pyramid. They benefit from the activity of these people, but there are limits to the tau available to be harvested. Consider two factors, synergy and rind.
A single person generates 2400 tau unassisted, of which 1200 is required to sustain life. But social synergy allows effective per capita tau to rise considerably, yielding excess tau, which may be safely redirected upwards.
However, a side effect of social synergy is that basal and median strataists will invest some of this freed-up tau to the creation of rind – strategies and structures that prevent some or all of their excess tau from being redirected.
All levels of society benefit from the synergy, but lose when rind becomes increasingly effective. Because their contributions are such a small fraction of their tau income, apex strataists are affected most of all, in both directions. However, at least in the USA, they tend to focus on thinning and compromising the rind of basal and median strataists rather than fostering their synergies.
Note carefully that despite their appearance of independent power and wealth, apex strataists are almost completely dependent upon the basal and median strata for their prosperity. To prove this, note that if the base and middle of the pyramid were removed, the apex would not retain its wealth and ease, but would merely collapse to a much smaller, and at first flatter, pyramid. The removal of the poor results, not in increased tau for the apex, but in very much reduced tau.
Several solutions to the shape of the social pyramid
As you slide up and down the Lorenz curve, different tau management solutions are apparent, ranging from the egalitarian wealth of the Scandinavian nations, to the desperate poverty of Bolivia and Botswana. I contend that the wealthier nations focus more on synergies, the poorer on the establishment or breakdown of rind. The citizens of wealthier nations will see tau expenditures (taxes paid, volunteer labor, charity, community care) as an investment. Those of poorer nations will rightly see such payments as predation.
At the lowest level of the Lorenz curve, there will be a very large number of people operating at less than 2400 tau. They will rightly feel that all demands upon their tau are a threat to their well-being. They will place a high value on assembling rind, and breaching the rind of those around them.
If this theory is correct, what can we expect to see at the opposite ends of the Lorenz range?
At the lowest end, just above survival2, we will expect to see persons in the basal strata exhibit these strategies:
Adhesion upward, especially toward apex strataists
Strong social and familial bonds, and
Strong aggression to competing outsiders at the same level
A very large gray and black market
Deep investment in intricacies, little or no investment in large possessions
Little investment in a money economy
Rind is assembled from available materials. For the poor, these materials are limited. A cheap, classic strategy is using social cohesiveness (~ = kardie3) to increase the chances of aid when the individual falls on hard times. It is one that is affordable to most people. Courtesy, hospitality, interest and respect are coins welcome in any society. This explains the habitual statement of surprise from Western visitors that the poor people of other countries were extraordinarily cordial and welcoming. It is not that the poor necessarily calculate the outcome of being likeable – but the unlikable ones perish more easily.
In very poor societies, always on the razor edge of death, this cordial behaviour can extend to any visitor. Every additional member of the group is a potential tau contributor. But in slightly less vulnerable societies, a separation out (as butter from cream) begins, which yields tribes4. The tribal structure provides care and cordiality internally, and predation externally.
[as of Tuesday, March 18, 2008]
Tau Manipulation, Distillation, Harvest And Theft
Those who profit from it very clearly, if not consciously, understand the dynamics of tau manipulation. And it is true that such manipulation is necessary in order to understand and foster social synergy. But it is also used to deprive people of their rind, redirect their efforts, and harvest the tau of these people.
Tau redirection is the source of most of the wealth of the very wealthy.
This must be the case. The top 1% of the population cannot possibly do all the work necessary to create the economic and social context to sustain themselves in a wealthy lifestyle. If the top 1% all went for a week to the south of France, the streets and offices would look much the same while they were gone. If the bottom 99% did so, you could film an apocryphal movie.
The Turnstile or “Other Pocket” effect
To protect against free rider parasites and predators, rind is put in place. But rind can also be used to protect against legitimate applicants to resources. Pure rind is unusual, but rind with some apertures very common, and in those apertures you find turnstiles.