Selling change

Discourse, futuretalk.co11 Comments

We are all sellouts.

It is a rare and virtuous person who in the moment of conflict between integrity and massive personal gain will resist the latter. The salvation of society cannot rest upon the idle hope that other people discover virtue.

Altruism is obsolete.

The road toward the good society must be paved with gold. We no longer need good people, we need incentives for goodness. Society is what it is precisely because our social structures reward greed and betrayal. The solution to this is not to convince people to be better than they are, but to create community structures informed by the way people are.

Structure trumps content.

The good society is achieved when an average person performs good deeds as a simple byproduct of responding intuitively to his or her environment.

We must sell the change we want to see in the world.

SorenSelling change

11 Comments on “Selling change”

  1. Justin

    So given your assessment, we should probably much more widely distribute power to prevent a few people from receiving the offer of massive personal gain in exchange for something that fucks everyone else. I can get behind that.

  2. Xavier Matos

    Nicely put, you must be a sociology guy :)

    To Justin’s point though, I’m not really all that into direct democracy, if that’s what he was getting at. Most people can’t be bothered to actually get all the facts and information to make decisions on some particular topic, – be that financial, medical, or psychological – whilst still worrying about providing for the family, and their careers. I think power should be somewhat concentrated in the people who’ve made a profession of knowing that particular field, that way the conversation can be less diluted by the opinions of those not qualified to have them.

  3. mestrick

    I really appreciate this post. “We must sell the change we want to see in the world” is a really great catch phrase that effectively summarizes this new trend toward social entrepreneurship. However, I don’t think the outlook is so bleak that “altruism is obsolete.” Rather, I think that altruism has simply found a more effective form! Many acts of altruism like, for example, buying a homeless man a sandwich, don’t actually effect long-term social change. Changing the way we do business, however, can. And changing the way we do business goes even deeper than perpetuating altruism. It could also, hopefully, actually diminish wide spread evil things like greed and corruption, which is something that individual altruism can rarely do.

  4. Isis

    I have to say I agree with Xavier, in that it is common for members of our society to be apathetic to informing themselve about current issues. This is a topic we discuss a lot in economics.

    Also I have become intrigued to find that sometimes what may seem as altruism is just an act in response to some type of incentive that may not be clear at that particular moment in the eyes of a bystander. Even an act such as buying a homless person a sandwich has an incentive: Make yourself feel better and buy a homless guy a sandwich. Im not saying that everyone looks at it that way but i have know people to. And it saddens me.

  5. Dani

    I’m not sure that I believe altruism is obsolete, but I do believe that despite our efforts to foster its growth in ourselves, our children, and each other, the machine that we built and worship, does grind it out of us. Simply, we have built a reward based society, and the way to earn these rewards is in fact through capitalist and self centered means. With that said, what reward do I get for doing the right thing for anyone other than myself? I am too conditioned to think of my own gains first. Sad, but in my opinion…true.

    1. futuretalk

      Exactly, so we need to figure out a way to offer those gains in exchange for actions that benefit your community.

  6. Dame

    Altruism has never been “in-style” to begin with, so I don’t think it can be obsolete. The lack of true goodness for “goodness sake” in this world, is the cause of every major (and minor) problem we have. I believe that incentives for goodness, ultimately backfires into making a good thing bad. Plus, incentives for doing the “right” or “good” thing typically don’t work. Take recycling for instance. In my neighborhood, the city provides recycling bins to each home for paper and plastic products, yet only about 5% of people actually use them. To me, providing a bin to make it more convenient to recycle is a decent incentive, but let’s say you actually paid people $5 each week they used the recycled….you’d get a jump in participation to about 7%…you would eventually have to pay people so much to do the right thing that it would end up being cheaper just to dump the stuff in a landfill and call it a day. We’d totally lose the benefits of recycling because we had to pay people $200 a week just to do it, plus that money is coming from SOMEWHERE…so something else is getting neglected…like an animal shelter or something. So now you got 70% of people using the recycling bin, but then the bins are full of dead stray cats and dogs that people ran over because there isn’t an animal shelter. Not to mention the smell. So then the city would have to provide a third bin (airtight) just for all the dead cats and dogs we’d run over…you guessed it…mo’ money. See how a good thing can turn bad when you add incentives? Great blog by the way.

  7. futuretalk

    No offense but your argument rests on numbers that you pulled from nowhere, so basically what you’ve said is, “I don’t think a cashback recycling incentive would work.”

    And that’s fine, I’m not proposing one.

    I’m much more interested in the question of why people don’t recycle more. Now let’s just assume for the sake of argument that recycling programs are run efficiently and recycling lowers waste and creates jobs. These are good things in that they bring benefit back to the community… and so indirectly then they benefit the individual. So you’d think that people would be motivated to recycle.

    However, the reality of those benefits is so far removed from the act of setting up separate bins, or holding onto that glass bottle till you see a bin, or whatever it is, that this abstract idea of reducing waste does not motivate people.

    And I’m saying it’s not a bad person who isn’t motivated by that abstraction. I’m saying it’s normal for human beings to be motivated by immediate consequences. So we need to consider how to create immediate consequences/rewards to encourage the kinds of behaviors we want to see.

    Hope that makes sense.

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