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12. The Anatomy of Contradictory Ideas, from Alternative Economics 101 -Tax Your Imagination

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The organizational hypocrisy has a clear distributive paradox. For a religion to promise salvation, it must also establish the damned. Morality needs immorality to define itself. Similarly, for a government to guarantee liberty it must impose restrictions using force. For a business to provide wealth it must consume resources of land and labor. Organizational dissonance can be an internal opposite, or formed by its indifference to whichever realm it fails to overlap. Similarly, personal hypocrisy occurs when we make a wrong or false judgment about other individuals or groups. All comparative analysis is a double-edged sword, which is why self-doubt must play as large a role as doubting others. A world divided into villains and heroes is like an acid. As it pours out of the container, it burns everything it touches.

Money and the zero-sum game

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Organizational hypocrisy is at the heart of the transactional nature of the monetary system. Everyone's gain can be someone else's expense, whether it is salvation, freedom or prosperity. It is not a zero-sum game in the traditional sense, but one of inner group and outer non-group. The same as numbers, the only limit of either virtue or prejudice is the imagination of the optimist and pessimist. We can build more schools or more prisons, have more hunger or more equality, create more waste or more wealth.

All organizations use money for their own benefit, even if the organization nominally exists for the benefit of all. No organization can exist without revenue. In this way, revenue has become everyone's top priority, rather than virtue upon which they were founded. That is the deeper meaning of you cannot serve two masters. Money is the object that we think we understand. In fact, money is make-believe, whereas virtues are real. The ends and the means are in conflict.

Being miserly about money is to be like Ebenezer Scrooge. His Quality of Life was lost for an inanimate object. He was materially rich, but spiritually bankrupt, having destroyed all his social connections. Many organizations and individuals suffer the same self-inflicted wounds. They follow an endless quest for more revenue, as the richness in life fades away. 

The trap that Scrooge fell into was partly a result of the structure of society. The future becomes something to be feared. In the absence of commonwealth, it is every man and organization for himself or itself. Once conditioned to take to survive, there is no conditioning to ever stop taking. Employees, vendors, citizens and customers are all something to be relentlessly squeezed and exploited. Whether it is political power or material wealth, there is no state of contentment. With inflation constantly nipping at our heels, one seeks to be rich as a means of maintaining order. Hoarding wealth and perpetual growth becomes the goal to avoid future financial stress.  

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Individuals slow down because of age and eventually pass away. Organizations, in contrast, do not age. Nor do not grow wise. Oftentimes, an individual with a conscience within an organization is forced out in favor of the more ruthless. Revenue rules. Organizations have the ability to improve or destroy the quality of life, both for themselves and those around them. The more consistently virtuous we are in all our roles, the happier everyone will be.

Hypocrisy and Internal Division

Dissonance can be understood as an intellectual-emotional condition. The root causes of dissonance are reflected in the exclusionary nature of the model and the internal conflicts within each separate realm. The same as the model, dissonance can be abstract, social or physical. In religion, dissonance is fueled by fear. In politics, dissonance is fueled by pride. In economics, dissonance is fueled by greed. Fear, pride and greed are all emotional states! Therefore, we can conclude that dissonance is caused by an emotional state that clouds our reasoning. 

This is consistent with many studies that claim our sense of knowing something is a feeling. Dissonance can be understood as a bigotry that "feels right' emotionally but is rationally incorrect. In other words, it is not just two incompatible ideas (accepting 2+2=4 and 2+2=5), but when ideas and emotions are in conflict, too. Virtue is when the head, heart and hands are equally informed. A virtuous society is when everyone recognizes and shares that balance. Peer pressure can encourage both healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Obviously, it would be best if individuals and organizations promoted consistently healthy virtues.

Feeding the wolves inside of us

There is a story of a Native American grandfather talking to his grandson. After purchasing a new knife and walking out of the trading post, some others boys surround the grandson, and trip him backwards. When he opens his hand to break his fall, he drops the knife. They tell him he does not deserve such a good knife; they steal it and run away. The grandson is full of rage and sorrow when he recounts the story to his grandfather. 

His grandfather tells them that inside of all men live two wolves, one black and one white. The black wolf is full of hate, jealousy, revenge, greed and anger. The black wolf makes many bad choices. The white wolf is the opposite. It takes a longer view of things. He does not want to bring harm to those who harmed him, because in doing so, he will become small and petty just like them. The child is startled to think that he could become just like his enemy. He cautiously asks his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?' To which the grandfather replies, "The one that you feed.'

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Dissonant thoughts are triggered by our emotions and are easily recognizable. The black wolf is our dark emotions. The white wolf is our clear reasoning. We know which wolf we are feeding. Whenever we are angry, hypocrisy, or some element of misunderstanding, is nearby. The question is only whether the trigger is fear, pride or greed. When the knife was stolen, all of those issues were present. He was afraid because they ganged up on him. His pride was wounded because they tricked him, and he was also proud of his possession. His greed wanted the knife back. 

He had worked for and saved for the knife, but he did not get his reward. However, the knife was not the issue. He had spent his whole life not owning a knife, and more days in the same state of non-possession have no impact. Rather, his expectations frame the issue. His disappointment, hurt, and desire for revenge were inversely proportional to his desire and expectations. As a baseline, everyone expects the reward of their labor and mutual respect. We do not expect hate or anger to be directed at ourselves, unless we have been conditioned by its frequent occurrence. We define our own ambition, which is our expectation. Our potential for disappointment is a reflection of our pride.

The discovery for the child was two-fold. First, not all people are perfect. Second, neither was he. We do not expect the rage that pours out of ourselves. We discover that we are like children, and do not have complete control of our emotions. 

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Steve grew up in a family business, was a history major in college, and has owned a small business for 25 years. Practical experience (mistakes) have led him to recognize that political rhetoric and educated analysis often falls short of reality. (more...)

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