Follow along as I carefully demonstrate how human awareness cannot ignore relevant facts when making market decisions.

If a person prefers A to B, and B to C, does a person automatically prefer A to C?

If A > B, and B > C,
is A > C?

In a world where outside variables and factors could be ignored (such as the presence of C when comparing A and B, or the presence of B when comparing A to C) it is logical to say that if a person prefers A to B, and B to C, then they would prefer A to C; (mathematically it would be written as A>B>C). However, in reality, the human mind cannot ignore what it becomes aware of. For instance, I may prefer Fiddling (A) to Archery (B) when unaware of any other choice. And I may prefer Archery (B) to Tracking (C) when unaware of any other choice. But let us say I am choosing between Fiddling (A) and Archery (B) and I am aware that Tracking (C) is available. In my mind, Archery (B) and Tracking (C) are skills which complement each other, and they are worth more to me together than trying to pair Fiddling (A) with either Archery (B) or Tracking (C). Mathematically, Fiddling (A) would actually decrease the value of Tracking or Archery, while Archery and Tracking would increase each others values. After carefully deciding that Fiddling has a negative value (when I take into account all three opportunities), I would actually end up preferring Archery (B) to Fiddling (A).

It could be written as:

A>B at first, but when C is available, B>A
A>C at first, but when B is available, C>A

This example demonstrates how human beings cannot ignore relevant information. We are not as transitive and consistent as some theorists like to assume. Instead, we are complex and capricious in our preferences, changing the order and value of things as we are made aware of different variables overtime.

What this implies is that people make drastically different value decisions based on what factors they are made aware of overtime. This would account for changes in cultural attitudes and market activity the more the public becomes aware of different issues, ideas, facts, and possibilities. It also demonstrates that human beings are not only mechanical profiteers and opportunists, but that we are in fact capable of using big-picture logic, or long-term reasoning, and that we have more autonomy over our own self-control than some capitalist theorists suggest.

The implications this has for policy are simple: the better educated or aware the public is, the more people will tend to, and be able to, make sound market decisions which contribute to the community as a whole. Compare that with the idea that government (without educating the people who are assumed to run amok with greed) are in charge of compelling the market to behave ethically. What I have demonstrated here would suggest the opposite- that the primary role of government is not to compel the market to behave ethically, but rather to make education & information accessible to all the people (and protect their right to pursue knowledge); and by the same token, the primary role of people is not to run amok with capitalistic ventures, but rather they hold the responsibility to make ethical decisions based on the information they are made aware of.

“Maasai Market” by Martin Bulinya. Tingatinga art


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