27 April 2013

Day 217: Who's Free Riding Who?

In economics you have the 'free-rider' phenomenon, a concept which if often brought forward in favour of capitalism.

The free rider concept refers to instances where someone enjoys the benefits of a product or service, without having paid for that particular good or service.

A classic example that is used in text books is where someone uses a form of public transportation such as a train, without having paid for a ticket, and is thus 'free riding'. The same goes when there is for example a project where there is collective action to reduce emissions as to increase air quality. Some may not want to participate/contribute and keep their emission levels the same while everyone else is lowering theirs, still resulting in better air quality for them, even though they did not contribute.

Now, within the context of economics, capitalism thinks to have the solution for the free rider problem, by trying to capitalize on as much as possible. If everything has a price, then everyone who uses whatever good or service, will pay.

Linked to this is also the whole 'but I worked so hard for this' and 'it's not fair that I have worked for this and that others besides me are benefiting from it, if they want it they should just work for it' mentality. This is the result from believing that our current society and economic system truly provide everyone with 'equal opportunity' -- while this is not the case.

When the Equal Money System is put forward, the 'free rider problem' gets hauled in to show how 'unfair' the system is, because everyone is provided for even though not everyone may be contributing (because they are unable to).

The problem with the free rider concept is that it is only ever brought up in the interest of holding on to one's money where "it's mine! And I worked for it!". Other forms of free riding are never brought up.

If everyone consumed as much as an average American, we would need 5 planet Earths. Put otherwise, it's a situation where 5% of the population consumes 20% of the Earth's resources. Isn't that free riding as well? You are then free riding because other people both now and in the future will bare the consequences of the unsustainable lifestyle someone else enjoys. Free riding doesn't only occur when someone is enjoying the benefits, but when someone is not taking part in resolving the consequences of the actions you are involved in.
People are being deprived of resources which are being directed towards unsustainable lifestyles – and so people are free riding on the lives of others and free riding on borrowed time from generations to come. Dumping waste into the ocean or poor countries with weak environmental regulations is free riding the Earth. The continuous postponement of coming to an actual agreement that is binding for everyone to reduce emissions and use of fossil fuels is free riding. Each time we wait with making crucial decisions which we KNOW will affect future generations is free riding. Just because ‘we won’t be here to face the music’, we don’t care = free riding.

We live in a polarized world of massive inequality – where some have more than they’ll ever need and other barely, and even don’t, get by on a day to day basis. Rich countries positions today are the result of free riding other countries in the past under forms such as colonisation and slavery. Without free riding, capitalism as it exists today would not have been possible.

Instead of moaning about people benefiting from your efforts, it would be better to spend one’s energy towards ensuring that we have a world that is Best for All to make sure that we can all live and live sustainably while ensuring the safety of life for future generations. This is the only form of free riding that is really a problem – as it has actual physical consequences on the life of others, while the free riding problems most people currently care about only hurts one’s self-interest and ego and does not really pose any real problems.

In an Equal Money System, we care about real free riding problems and will act according to the principle of Prevention is the Best Cure to minimize consequence as much as we are able to
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