Personal Economy: Funding your choices

Your personal economy describes your assets and methods for growing them.

Asset: (Noun); A useful or valuable thing, person, or quality.

Note that this is a fairly broad definition. It includes money, obviously, but it also includes tools like wrenches and computers, allies, and personal qualities such as persistence, and intuition.

Computing the value of an asset can be difficult. For one thing, valuation depends on your situation. Let’s say you have thousands of dollars in the bank, but none in your pocket. No ATM card, no credit card, no cash. If you want a slice of pizza right now, the money in the bank has a value, in this situation, of nothing. The true cost of the slice is going to be the time spent going home to get your card or cash, and the time to get back, and possibly the time to go to an ATM, if that’s what you need to do.

Despite these difficulties, one thing is very clear: If you have things which you want or need to do, you must gather assets to do them, and these assets must be available in the situation where they may be employed. Given that, it becomes clear that a skill you must acquire and build is a method for gathering assets.

The most obvious method is to trade work for money. This is a very efficient means of maintaining a personal economy, which is why it’s popular. A similar method is to trade items for money. In this case, you are collecting or creating assets, and selling them to others, or possibly trading them.

You do this to fund your choices. Your choices are dictated by your goals. These may be lofty, such as acquiring a degree from a first rate college, or simple, such as acquiring a chocolate bar. Here’s where things become interesting: the order in which you meet your goals affects your personal economy. For instance, if you get your pay, and immediately spend the excess on expensive food or drinks, you won’t have any savings. Worse, you won’t be able to apply those savings towards tools or classes, which can raise your level of income. Simply put, if you don’t have the skills or capability to move away from your current job into something which pays more, your economy flattens. Your might still be earning, but you aren’t growing it.

Consider these assets:

Money is the basic asset.

Credit is like money but is worth less per unit, due to lending costs. Of course, you can get a lot more credit than you have cash on hand sometimes, which means it might be worth it.

Tools allow you to make or fix things. Combined with skill in their use, they are a powerful asset, as you can work for others, and get money or other assets generally at a much higher rate than without. Tools not only include screwdrivers, drills, and welding rigs, they also include sewing machines, computers, vehicles, and so on. It’s any physical thing which extends or augments your capabilities.

Skills are like tools, but are knowledge based. They might include accounting, programming, project planning, cleaning, cooking, persuasion (the basic skill of a sales person), improvising songs, and thousands of others. The value of a skill is highly variable. A few skills which people don’t quite see as skills is making and maintaing social and business contacts. This is actually a highly useful skill, because knowing someone in a business can give you a much higher chance of either getting work from that business, or at least getting help from them. It’s easier to talk with someone you know.

Qualities are properties of a thing, but in this case, we are talking about your qualities. These can include strength, height, relative beauty, looks (highly important in movies), personality, persistence, initiative, intuition, friendliness, and others. The value of these things is even harder to quantify, but rest assured, they do effect your economy. For instance, a highly persistant person is likely to do more work for the company, and so produce more value, which might mean the company wants to avoid losing them, and so gives them raises in pay and status.

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Human Needs

To set the context for any writing, it’s helpful to have definitions. People often have a pretty good idea of what something means; however many times they’ll have different ideas from each other.

We’ll start with the basics:

  • Food and Water
  • Protection from the elements

Pretty straight forward. No food and water, starvation. No protection from the elements, death from exposure to them.

Everyone has these needs. In a minimal economy, you have to provide these for yourself. In a regular economy, where people form villages and larger social units, you have to do something which someone else values enough to trade you food for it. This could range from being cute (an example of the prime economic output for babies), to helping with the chores, to making tools (such as a blacksmith might do), or being very entertaining, such as a singer or actor. Whatever it is, it’s a substitute for finding your own food and making your own shelter.

Beyond those needs, we have the need for safety, for social contact, good health, and a large variety of others which can be hard to define at times, partly because they aren’t life or death needs like those stated above. In future articles we’ll touch on methods for meeting needs, starting very generally. We will try, at all times, to not only define needs, but explain why they are needs. We will also try very hard to stay away from the ambiguous and emotional language that often comes with exploring higher level needs such as creativity and morality.

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Welcome!

This Web Log has a particular purpose:

Figure out how to do life better, without lying to ourselves.

I don’t want to claim to have figured it out, I want to actually figure it out.

The process I will use is a reasonably simple model: I will propose a straw man on a subject, and then try and take it apart and rebuild it until I can’t make it better. Also, I will ask friends to help.

What sort of topics will we be covering?

  • Personal Economy
  • Skills one needs
  • Trust
  • Morals
  • Personal Goals
  • … whatever is needed

The title of the site comes from a series of conversations I have had with a friend who is studying parrhesia for her PhD. Parrhesia is the act of speaking freely without regard to personal safety, social costs, etc. Obfuscation is the act of making things hidden or unclear. This title is a reminder that we may be undermining our own goals at times, but that discourse might help that.

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