No 2309 Posted by fw, June 21, 2018
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“If we parse things that cannot be parsed into dollars, our culture has a serious problem. This is one of the richest countries in the world: we have 4½ % of the world’s population; we use 20% of the oil; 50% of the world’s medical prescriptions; 50% of the toys; we have the highest prison population; we have more guns per capita than any other country; wellbeing levels are way lower than other countries with incomes less than ours. We have a cultural story that needs to be addressed.” —Nate Hagens
In yesterdays’ post, Pt. 25, continuum 24, Dr. Hagens declared that despite what economics’ teachers teach, our world is not unlimited. It does have limits, and for good reasons. America is already hitting social limits, things are not working the way they were in the past, and people are upset.
In today’s post, Pt. 26, continuum 25, Hagens shifts his attention to today’s American culture, suggesting that money has replaced values that people once cared deeply about. As a result, America’s culture “has a serious problem” and has “lost some of its humanity.”
Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 26, continuum 25, runs from 37:08 to 38:10.
Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.
TRANSCRIPT (from 37:08 to 38:10)
[OUR CULTURE] –
37:08 — [Continuum 25: Dollars vs Humanity] – One of the problems is we’ve parsed [translated] all the things of value in our tribal past into one metric [measure]. All the things that we’ve cared about we’ve parsed into dollars. And in doing so, we’ve lost some of our humanity. From [CNBC] this week: Is curing patients a sustainable business model – Goldman Sachs report.
37:35 – If we parse things that cannot be parsed into dollars, our culture has a serious problem. This is one of the richest countries in the world: we have 4½ % of the world’s population; we use 20% of the oil; 50% of the world’s medical prescriptions; 50% of the toys; we have the highest prison population; we have more guns per capita than any other country; wellbeing levels are way lower than other countries with incomes less than ours.
We have a cultural story that needs to be addressed.
[Overwatch , slot machines and meat lovers pizza, perhaps the largest and most pernicious is ‘dollars’. We have managed to parse the entire inventory of what made us function in tribal conditions over tens of thousands of decades into one variable: digital/linen markers of status and success. We certainly need currency for transacting and storing wealth, but our culture has taken it to an extreme, gradually but almost completely financializing the human experience. One can hope that a vast pool of expressions of humanity lies dormant beneath the stacks of electronic digits.Supplement] — Dollars vs Humanity – Of all the supernormal stimuli in modern culture: social media, twitter,
About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.
Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.
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