Fulfilling Self-Interest

on Jan 29, 2010

It’s a law of life (which is based on the laws of chemistry and in turn physics). All creatures, including humans, seek to fulfill self-interest. Though technically, it’s the genetic information of the individual that is “seeking” self interest (there’s no conscious thought here of course, but in the competitive world, where resources for survival are limited, the ones that don’t seek self interest don’t survive while only self-interested genetic information survives). Still, for the most part, this means that an individual is generally seeking his or own her interest.

But wait; aren’t humans are known to be an altruistic species!? It is true that humans help out other humans on an unprecedented scale, but it’s under the guise of self-interest. An essential component to the uniqueness of humans is that their best self-interested strategy is to cooperate with and help out others. This doesn’t mean that we consciously or intentionally behave selfishly. Most of this behavior is hidden beneath our mind as subconscious processes.

One exception to self-interested behavior is when evolved mechanisms malfunction because they’re operating in a different environment than intended for, as is sometimes the case in our modern human world. Other than that, the rule of fulfilling self-interest will always remain. It scales beyond genetics, to other levels such as cultural information and especially entities within industries. While we sometimes find the behavior morally offensive, we should understand that it is completely rational.

Absurdity in a Soda Tax

on Jan 21, 2010

There’s talk in NY to instate a tax on soda in order to combat obesity. I believe these efforts are commendable because they could realistically reduce soda consumption. But I think the idea is absolutely absurd. We already pay a tax on soda: one that lowers its cost in the first place. Our tax dollars subsidize the production of corn and this greatly deflates the cost of producing soda. The cost of soda is artificially low because of this.

Applying a tax ignores this root of the problem and is instead a superficial fix. We would be much better off if the true price of soda was realistically reflected on the market. This would likely produce a stronger impact than a soda tax. Approaching the root of the problem would be extremely difficult though primarily because industries have a stranglehold on our government and the industries would fight hard to protect their interests. Still, if one part of government has the guts to consider a soda tax, there is hope that it can stand up for its people and not for the industries.

What do you think of the idea of a soda tax?


on Jan 14, 2010

When you’re sick, a fever is actually good for you. This adaptive mechanism works by increasing the body temperature to a level that’s inhospitable to whatever pathogen is making you sick. Oddly enough, many over-the-counter medicines, as such Tylenol, are fever-reducers. ¬†While the medicine makes one feel better, it actually extends the length of illness. The existence of such medicine gives the false impression that a fever is a bad thing. Yes, the presence of a fever does mean that one may be ill, but it also indicates that the body is naturally responding to the illness in a positive way.

However, we still have these medicines on the market. They are potentially misleading because they offer relief from the symptoms of illness (which they do) but they do little, or may even work against, real recovery. Unfortunately, for the public, it isn’t in the interests of drug companies to advertise the true nature of their product. Perhaps the government, which is supposed to represent the interests of the population, should be involved in such matters.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these drugs should be banned or taken off the market. However, I do believe that anyone that considers these products be aware of their true consequences, negative and positive, to make a realistic decision. Some people may be willing to pay the cost of extended illness if they really want their illness symptoms out of the way for some important moment. That’s their decision to make and it should be an informed one rather that a misled one. Recent medical advice is consistent with the science as it states to “let the fever run its course.” ¬†Perhaps there is hope in attaining greater transparency on drugs.

What are your thoughts on these over-the-counter drugs and do you use them?

Democratic Government?

on Jan 13, 2010

(democratic in the sense of the principle, as opposed to the political party)

The purpose of a democratic government, such as that of the United States, is to represent the interests of the citizens – the population at large. Just as each individual specializes in some field be it engineering or plumbing, politicians [supposedly] specialize in standing for the interests of the people they are the proxy for. This government is also [supposedly] funded by the people through tax dollars.

Yet the government doesn’t always have its heart in our interests. They instead often hold up the interests of industries: like the corn industry or the pharmaceutical industry. This occurs because these industry aligns its interests with those of politicians. Industries provide funding to politicians. Also, lobbyists for industries fill political positions and vice versa, going back and forth. Clearly we have conflict of interest issues and the interests of the American people are disregarded.

This isn’t the fault of any single entity. Each actor must do what is best to survive. The ones that don’t get replaced by the ones that support this improper system. The system requires overhaul and it appears that some of the current political powers are making progress on this end.

I’ll post more regarding this topic in the future.

How else does the government not live up to the ideals of democracy?