Monday, October 19, 2015

Again...What is Economic Choice?

Believe it or not, this question is more important than it may first appear. Until now, economic choice has been mostly understood in terms of product capacity which is not directly associated with time value. As a result, the skills oriented marketplace for services, tends to short knowledge use options and time preferences. A lack of freedom in service formation plays havoc with multiple economic settings.

Some individuals would benefit from a marketplace solely devoted to the quantitative nature of time value. Presently missing components are not immediately obvious, for services product capacity is also tangled in social customs and cultural identities. Just the same, the potential for economic freedom in services can be summed up in four words which are not just economic, but psychological as well:
It's all about boundaries.
When do today's existing services make service providers and consumers feel good about the interaction? When do they make us feel violated, instead? There are few aspects of economic freedom more important for identity, than one's ability to maintain healthy boundaries with others - whether family members, friends, strangers or people in the workplace. Yet little attention has been given to the fact that meaningful services have a reciprocal nature at minimum, and often an experiential nature when given the chance to do so.

Part of the lack of services reciprocity is due to the intensive development of personal skills sets. As people gradually developed coordination patterns which expanded beyond local groups (with help from transportation infrastructure), skills sets were increasingly compensated for long training periods. In turn, spontaneous group coordination was lost - along with flexibility in skills use patterns - as skills roles came to be coordinated in more formalized settings.

Validation in the latter, also meant static definitions regarding what "should" be imparted to recipients. Rigid expectations for knowledge use made it difficult to apply personal experience, circumstance and interpretation to time based skills activity. Time based service functions were often predetermined, in ways which placed the emphasis on gaining access (or not) instead of results. Indeed, results could be incidental, and personal boundaries were also "put on hold" if they were out of sync with prevailing "wisdom".

Also, think about the wide variety of services which individuals are routinely expected to provide without compensation. How does one determine whether services should have an economic element? When we focus on endeavor primarily for ourselves, economic representation is generally not necessary. When we do something for others which compromises our time and resources, when and how should this be defined as economic? When we provide services for others, are we doing so willingly, and is there any underlying cost (for lost time) which is not being taken into account?

Services we personally provide might need to exist on economic terms, if their provision is neither our first choice or a personal favor. For instance, given changes in cultural expectations, a better defined services marketplace would be more practical than previous legal protections which were assigned before family formation moved from (internal) producer roles toward external consumer roles. Even though more production roles are now needed for family members, time arbitrage would frame this as local (external) mutual group support.

Back to the question of whether one's time use should be considered economic: we freely choose a self serve restaurant because serving ourselves is a preference for this particular meal. Fortunately, this choice on our part aligns with the preferences of restaurant management. Or, we may cook a meal for family at home in the evening because we are (culturally in the U.S.) happy to do so. One willingly waits in line for experiential product, as a "first" service choice as well.

However, when service organizations make us wait on the phone or in an office for 45 minutes, that is no one's first choice. Since there is no possibility of economic compensation for this task, involuntary waiting time is ripe for production reform. Re food production choice: imagine a domestic situation where someone expects us to prepare meals for them instead of gaining income outside the home. In some respects - even if room and board are a part of this arrangement - the service provider could be in a compromised position which either needs to be changed or recreated on more suitable economic terms.

Some of the worst violations in economic choice occur for individuals who lose the capacity to perform - say, 5 out of 200 different tasks in a given environment. Yet instead of having a time based services marketplace where they are free to negotiate for those five things (and stay in one's home), are placed in expensive services environments where they are forced to allow other individuals to perform three quarters of those 200 things for them. Many a strong individual has deteriorated in such services settings and it isn't pretty. True, it's often easy to think of compromised economic circumstance in gender terms. But when a marketplace loses vitality and complexity in some capacity, the marginalized can become absolutely anyone. Thinking in terms of gender, race or personal ability detracts from the basic economic issues at stake.

To say certain things "should not be economic" is missing the point, especially given today's lack of personal freedom in terms of time use with others. By bringing a voluntary nature to services capacity, many individuals would have better means to improve their lives. The more choices everyone has, the better the chances of success and prosperity for all concerned.

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