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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ok, we have been in a global crisis for awhile now and I think it is safe to say the initial panic is over. We have come to terms with the hard times and understand that the world is not going to end.

So - Why have we not started to prosecute those who were responsible?

Let's put the crime into perspective.

Every human life has a monetary value. The actual value is dependent on your particular life. How much you make, your age, etc... Let's assign a global average - say 2 million dollars. In other words, it would be ok for me to accidentally kill someone as long as I were willing to pay thier family $2 million. This number is probably a bit high - but whatever.

Now, how much money has been lost by the global economy? Again, difficult to estimate, but I think 10 trillion is in the right ballpark. US Market capitalization was US$57.5 trillion in May 2008 and US$40 trillion in September 2008. By these numbers 10 trillion seems like a low estimate - but whatever.

So how may lives can you buy with 10 trillion dollars assuming 2 million per life?

5 million.

Here, I am going to make a strong comparison just to make the point hit home. The Germans killed about 6 million jews durring WWII. ...the comparison is a bit of a stretch because 2 million dollars covers the cost of an accidental killing. Intentional killing (like those in WWII) are another matter. ...but can we at least agree that a crime been committed?

Maybe we need some kind of financial nuremberg trials? In particular, maybe we should hold people accountable for unethical behavior even if there was no particular law against that behavior?


Interesting (and somehow macabre :D) post.

However, don't forget that money is not absolute, units are always changing, and what was 2 milion a few years ago may mean nothing later if some kind of disaster occur (check Zimbabwe's inflation) or so.

In my opinion you couldn't set any monetary value to human life, either. It's just too fricky to think that a life means actually this number.

I think we should just invert the *perspective*: would creating a life increase the value of the global economy i.e. the others' life standards? The answer to this is also hard to give, because at least until now, it depends on many factors, including one that (in my opinion) shouldn't be depending on: geography.

I mean, it's hard to understand that in the modern part of the world adding a life may actually increase the value of others, in some poor countries (overpopulated ones) this will actually decrease it. But this is so just because others is by default meaning just the neighbors: family, relatives, friends, co-workers, at most citizens of the same region.

But when globalization comes to mind, these more poor people would still in fact increase the value of the richer, too! It's not fair, but, in my opinion, it's true. It will take some time (like forever) until people really get equality for the answer to that question (whether the neighbors' life would increase by adding a life around); I'm not sure it's possible in fact, as humans are, at their lower level, uhm... animals.

I don't like the conclusion :) but now I can reverse the question again, and killing look understandable too, from the animalic point of view :-)

[It's Saturday morning, please accept an abberation comment :-)]

Wow Sorin. That is a fantastic comment! You covered a lot of interesting points in those few paragraphs - maybe you should post this on your blog?

>In my opinion you couldn't set any monetary value to human life

I agree. I am just trying to point out that a serious crime has been committed and it doesn't seem that the perpetrators will be facing justice anytime soon. The "cost of life" approach was just a means to an end.

Global in-equality is a serious problem. I think the one if the biggest advantages of the internet is that it levels the playing field for "geographically poor" people.

...but you are hinting at a pretty heavy topic which deserves it's own blog post. :-)

I think my blog post was just an abberation, as I already said, but hey, that's exactly when new ideas are coming easier :-)

Thanks for the suggestion of adding this on my own blog, but I think it's enough to just placed a reference link to this discussion in a new post.

We can then continue discussing here, even if the topic is just related to your original discussion, if you don't mind. Search engines won't mind, they will continue to harvest even these comments so people could later find the discussion the same way. :-)

Thanks for that Sorin. I can always use the link love. :-)

...but really. I would like to hear you elaborate more on your comment.

The idea of "another life" making humanity richer is really interesting. Is this your idea or did you read it somewhere? (I would like to read more.)

This is true to a degree, but there must be a point of diminishing returns (overpopulation). If so, what is that point in terms of people per square kilometer? Are we already at that point? When will we be there? 2020? 2050? What is the "optimal economic population"?

And, of course, people are not interchangeable. What should society do with people who consume more then they contribute?

...then you have the rich / poor divide. How is the new life's output divided amongst the have and have nots? Do they simply make the rich richer?

I think of people individually and I am not sure I am comfortable thinking of life as having an inherent economic value. Economic value is created by certain individuals who choose to focus their lives. That is why I agree with adjusting the "accidental death payout" based on a persons income and expected future earnings.

...if you kill someone on welfare, should the government send you a check? :-)

Of course, if two people are born of the same ability - one in the States, one in rural India. One will have more economic potential then the other. This is unfair - no question. Warren buffet calls this the Ovarian Lottery.

...see why I said it is a seperate blog post! :-)

Well, first of all, I didn't read about this idea anywhere else, although many times when we got new ideas it is a good chance that somebody else thought about it first.

However, it's not my 100% merit either: this idea came to me reflecting on your original blog entry.

And I don't know why I actually through of it - it is just a good thing about generating ideas when collaborating in dediated teams :-).

In essence, maybe because you used the word "kill" which is inherently negative I though thinking the other way around, i.e. positively, reversing the construct and see what it generates :-), this is a thing that comes from Maths, where reversing a true statement doesn't always generate a false statement (depends on what parts you reverse from the original statement).

Anyway I see all your questions, and I understand why you think a separate blog entry would be better. I admit I never thought deep about this topic yet and I don't know exact answers to your questions. But I'll try to do some thinking today and generate a new post on my blog. :-)

I've just added a new post on my blog, related to this discussion but adding more topics: http://bit.ly/Technocracy

Thanks Sorin - I replied on your blog.

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