Utility Maximization – Where We Go Wrong
Perhaps our real problem as a species, from an economic perspective, is a poor definition and a poor cognizance of our actual utilities, given our biological, sociological, and environmental needs. Would anyone say that the French or Russian or Chinese or Iranian aristocrats truly maximized their utility when they took so much from their societies that the societies themselves rose up and eliminated them? I’m not inclined to say so. I think we’re headed on a similar collision course with history of our corporate and political leaders continue on their same near-sighted, artificial, and narrow definitions of success and utility maximization.
Utility is going to be different for each person and position within a given society. It is also something that is partially constructed socially and partially experienced endogenously within ourselves. Just because something amasses you more material or financial wealth doesn’t mean that it is you’re actually “winning” at anything. Just because several people or society itself may have told you what you wanted doesn’t mean that it’s really good for you as an individual.
A business person’s motivation to maximize financial profits and material wealth is contradictory and, sometimes, mutually exclusive to maximizing their actual organic, sociological, and environmental needs as living beings. Yet through a combination of genetic, socialization, and psychological factors they choose financial wealth over their own physical, social, and environmental health. They seem to clearly mistake and misunderstand their own self interests relative to the larger social, economic, and environmental picture of the universe that is around them.
A governing member of society’s motivation can be found in maintaining, preserving, and extending their relative power and influence within the given society. However, we see here again that these governing members frequently mistake temporary relative power over people to long term longevity and a lasting positive influence on peoples’ lives. Without this positive influence on peoples’ well-being and quality of life, they then preside over relative hovels of societies or else, get removed from office all together in more proactive societies. Again, the key to achieving utility maximization is misunderstood, even in the public realm where traditional notions of utility maximization aren’t present.
In short, maximizing relative power and influence, along with pure financial profit are not keys to maximizing human utility on any planet. They should not be used in determining those things which we need to crave for our health, well-being, and quality of life in this universe within the context of our larger society, economy, and environment. Those who don’t see it like that are probably suffering from some sort of socially induced hallucination that could be an enabling factor in allowing them to fight, kill, and even die for the sake of things that we don’t really need and shouldn’t really want as human beings. How does the maximization of utility in these traditional senses lead to true utility maximization if they ruin lives, well-being, and whole economies and societies?
Just a thought. Hope it helps.