The Economics of 2 vs. The Economics of 3
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The Economics of 2 vs. The Economics of 3 • Posted: Nov 28, 2020 14:05:51Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The human mind, overwhelmed emotionally by external complexity, desperately craves simplicity, simplicity that restores and preserves effective individual agency, individual agency like: I’m hungry. I want food now.

However, basic undisciplined human thinking betrays a marked tendency toward reductionism, a kind of mental modeling of the world that attempts simplicity, but far too often leaves out or ignores details that can, in the long run, undermine the actual effectiveness of individual agency. For instance: I’m hungry, I want food now, solves an emotionally distressing problem in the short run, but totally ignores the problem of what to do with the poop that comes out the other end. A less reductionist model of the world could include a solution for the poop problem and therefore extend emotionally satisfying individual agency well into the future. That contrast between two factor modeling and three factor modeling is significant. Call it the economics of 2 vs. the economics of 3.

It’s interesting that the everyday phenomenal world concurs. A three legged stool stands and is stable, whereas a two legged stool does not. Even a four legged stool is less stable than a three legged stool on uneven ground. Further, a two by two square packs efficiently with other squares, but triangles pack even more efficiently. A two by two by two cube is strong, but a tetrahedron made up of four triangular sides is even stronger. The marriage of triangles and squares allows for the formation of arches and trusses, without which most buildings would not have roofs and most bridges would not support the weight that they do. Two by two by two is the basis for a very limited geometry of limited practicality. Add in a three every now and then, and you have the basis for calculus and all kinds of curves, providing for a geometry of nearly infinity practicality.

Many have lamented the limitations of current political thinking. The reason? Much of it is based on the economics of 2: If my taxes subsidize your state’s financial crisis, my state will lose. If my taxes subsidize unemployed workers with unemployment benefits, those same taxes won’t be available for the education of my children. If we let more migrants in, I could lose my job. Etc. etc. It’s all two factor thinking, what’s called zero-sum game thinking. If I win, you lose. If you win, I lose. It’s either/or. Nothing in between. The end results of two factor thinking are political deadlocks, partisan animosities, hatred, and war. We all need to move beyond two factor thinking. We need to consider the economics of 3.

Consider the images above. At the top of the hill is an unpretentious house with a well cared for garden. At the bottom of that same hill is a burned out structure with no occupants. Across the road from the house is a shrine, a shrine to the dead. Two factor analysis might conclude, without evidence, the occupants of the burned out structure got what they deserved because they were probably cooking drugs. On the other hand, a three factor analysis might conclude that same structure could have burned for any number of reasons, a faulty space heater, for instance, or a child playing with matches. Two factor analysis preserves the illusion of one person winning and another losing. Three factor analysis surmises that risks are real and that any of us could fall victim if we don’t pay attention.

Similarly, two factor analysis might conclude that a personal shrine to the dead is evidence of primitive superstition and not worth paying attention to, as it is the obvious path of a loser. Three factor analysis, on the other hand, might conclude that acknowledgement and respect for the dead allows us to learn from and not forget lessons the dead have taught us through their life successes and failures.

Two factor analysis may very well conclude that even though the house at the top of the hill has a cared for garden, the occupants are obviously not rich and therefore losers with nothing to offer us. By contrast, a three factor analysis might very well conclude that anyone who maintains such a garden obviously has considerable knowledge of local flora, which might certainly interest anyone with knowledge of flora from a different climate and soil structure.

Two factor analysis looks for evidence of difference that maintains division and inhibits growth, while three factor analysis recognizes difference as something we all can learn from and grow by. Clearly, the economics of 2 limits and inhibits those who rely upon its self-serving simplicity. At the same time, the economics of 3, despite being slightly less simple, almost always opens up new pathways for personal growth and enlightenment.

A neighbor of mine recently caught up to me out in my front yard. I hadn’t seen him for quite some time. He said to me, “Well, what do you think of those Democrats coming in? If you ask me, gas prices will be up to $4 in no time.”

“Oh my,” I thought to myself. “Two factor analysis right here in front of me.”

“Well, I’ll be thankful for a return to order,” I replied. “We certainly face a host of problems. But, I doubt there are any we can’t solve if we all work together.”

Surprisingly, my neighbor said, “You know. I think you might be right.”

“Wow” I thought, “My neighbor suddenly switching to 3 factor thinking? Amazing.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice?” I thought.

May the economics of 3 empower more and more of us toward personal growth and enlightened personal agency.

Monday, December 4th, 2017