Changing the world begins with changing ourselves. Think about a world with no people.
Then add one. That one person only has self-interest. There is nobody else to care about. The person’s actions are private.
Now add one person. For the first time two people can work together. They can form a community. They can act in the interest of the entire community. That is called public action.
When we add another person, we have three. Two people can now out vote one. We have political action.
A fourth person could be added outside the group or community. The fourth person would be foreign to the group and that interaction is labeled foreign action.
What about future people? If we consider how our actions today will affect people tomorrow, including ourselves, we are involved in future action.
No matter how many people are added, there are only five types of action. With 8 billion people around the world, individuals still act privately for their own interests. They can join for the good of the community, public action. They can form political groups and act in the best interests of the group, political action. People can interact with those outside their political groups, as foreign action. All of those actions must also consider sustainability, future action.
Now apply those ideas to politics. How can we maximize good for all five types of human action? No matter how much we do for people there is always more that could be done. Every type of action has limited resources. Individuals can only do so much. Even the wealthiest people cannot end global poverty.
What can we do? We can attempt to minimize harm.
I’ll start with the simplest case. If there were only one person in the world, that one person would do well to think about the future. Should I build a shelter? Should I make clothes? Should I plant a garden?
Now think about modern times with 8 billion people. The questions are different, but the basic question is the same. What should I do today to prepare myself for the future? We are doing a poor job of getting that idea across to each other.
Think about education. A great way to prepare yourself for the future is through education/experience. What will you be able to do after your education that you cannot do today? What value will you add to your life and the lives of others because of your education?
Many have been led to believe that a college degree will lead to higher income. Although there is some evidence to support that belief, many are now questioning whether the reward is worth the cost. The outrageous amount of student debt is bringing the idea to the forefront.
That is only one way to look at it. What about taking a job offer that will give you the training to apply for a better job? Think about your ability to market yourself in terms of your ability to add value to the lives of others.
A great example of NOT doing that is a woman looking for a waitressing job at the age of 62. There are many who have stalled out at minimum wage jobs because they haven’t thought ahead. They haven’t taken better opportunities. They have never grown.
The five types of human action point out our individual responsibility. We look at other types later.
For right now, what about your future? What are you doing today to prepare for a better tomorrow?
(This article was based on the genesis experiment of Rick Raddatz in Pentanomics.)
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