Not zero sum

Fun with supply and demand.
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Lance Kennedy
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Not zero sum

Post by Lance Kennedy » Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:27 pm

A zero sum effect is where more than one person exploit a limited resource. If one person gets more, the other gets less. Also called win-lose. Because humans are often pretty damn stupid, people often assume that something is zero sum, when it is not. A win-win relationship is more common than win-lose.

A good example is immigration. Many studies have shown that immigrants, on average, contribute more to an economy than they take. So for a nation like the USA to accept a million immigrants will result in a small, but real, increase in the standard of living for everyone else over the long run. Yet politicians (and I do not name that moron Donald Trump) continually use immigration as some kind of bogey man, suggesting falsely that it destroys the amount of wealth each citizen receives.

Another example, also lied about by ignorant or unscrupulous politicians, is free trade. When two nations enter into a free trade agreement, then most of the time, both nations benefit. Only occasionally will it be zero sum, with one partner suffering. Since this is, most of the time, to the benefit of both, why do idiotic politicians fight it?

Employment is a third example. When the boss hires an employee, that person wins by receiving a wage. The employer wins by making more money due to greater productivity. Yet, both sides of this arrangement routinely complain that they are being exploited.

Of course, exploitation does happen from time to time. But people perceive it happening when they are actually much better off. Is this just another case of people being stupid?

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Re: Not zero sum

Post by ElectricMonk » Sun Dec 24, 2017 4:03 am

Win-win = symbiosis
Win-lose = parasitism

Thing is, even in a symbiosis there is a constant effort of all parties to get more from the others than they themselves give. And on the other end of the spectrum, parasites often go to great lengths to fight off other parasites, essentially providing protection in return for their freeriding.
Symbioses can become parasitisms and vice versa.

It is not irrational for people in win-win situation to fret that they are getting less than they should. We know from the Ultimatum-game that fairness is a value in itself, even if it brings with it a cost.

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Re: Not zero sum

Post by Phoenix76 » Sun Dec 24, 2017 9:39 am

Interesting topic. Having been very involved in industrial relations in my working life, the win win situation was always an objective of the negotiations. In my case, win, win, win, was the objective. Not easy to negotiate, but achievable.

And yes each party wants to get more than the other. Human nature.

But sadly exploitation mostly wins over a sane agreement between the parties. I know that the union of the day was not happy with the outcome, yet the employees were better off. The employees were the winners on the day. They told the union that this was the way they voted, and this was the way it would be.

We lie in hope.