Joseph Lee's Perspectives
My view of the world
June 20, 2008- Is the World a Zero Sum Game?

For the last week or so, the Midwest has seen, and is continuing to fight a flood of epic proportions.   Some have said this is the 100-year flood or even the 500-year flood.   Nature has a way of equalizing things.


On CNN and other news channels, the reports from weathermen are mixed with interviews from engineers who state the obvious, but in a nice way—we should never have built farmland, cities, and homes in the flood zones.  Worse yet, building levees increased the chances of a catastrophe (like what we are seeing now), instead of protecting what they were supposed to protect.   Simply put, building levees in an area where you know a given amount of water has to come through guarantees higher water levels, and once the break point is exceeded, which happens once or twice every life time… catastrophic floods.


So often, advances in civilization which make our lives seemingly better, actually cost us in the future.   Just like the levees ended up being a disaster in the making, the invention of a stronger and lighter material gave us plastics, which may turn our world into a giant trash bag depository.   The most important invention in transportation, the automobile, is polluting the earth like no other object could.   Some wise corn-guy in Iowa decided bio-fuels is the way to go, and is now deciding that it’s more important for Americans to drive around than to feed the people of the world.


Has there been anything that mankind has done, that does not have an equal and opposite reaction, given time?  Perhaps we will never know.


I was had a discussion/argument with a professor at a reputable business school.   I told her that I can’t prove it, but that the world is in reality a zero-sum game and that every productivity gain is offset by what it costs us to restore the world to a neutral state.  We just have no idea of how to measure this total cost.  I told her that I should win the Nobel Prize in Economics for proposing such a theory, and she laughed and said, “You’re just a consultant who can say things without proof, but just with anecdotes.”


Perhaps she’s right.  But I’d like to find someone who could prove me wrong.  

2008-06-21 05:32:26 GMT
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