Here is another quote in the series drawing on the book Economics of Good and Evil. How do we bridge the gap between demand and supply? By either increasing supply or reducing demand. This opens up a whole can of worms, alluding to everything from the cult of GDP and alternative measures of human progress to ecological economics and the limits to growth, from the psychology of wants and needs to debates between philosophical, spiritual and religious approaches to dealing with the very essence of what it is to be human. Readers will have to forgive me for not running further with any of these ideas in this particular post.
“There seem to be two ways to minimize the discrepancy between demand and supply. One is to increase the supply of goods (in personal lives as well as in permanent GDP increase) until it satisfies our demand – to have, so to speak, all that we want to have. This is the Hedonist program: find out what you want and then strive toward it. This is a never-ending story, as is the case of a carrot on a stick. However, this is the program that we have chosen from the Greek era until today. That is one reason why our GDP has grown as it has – because we wanted it very, very much.
The other reply to the problem of demand versus supply is an opposite one, and it can be found in the ideas of the Stoics: if there is a mismatch, a gap between demand and supply, then decrease demand to meet your existing supply. While it looks easy on paper, this is a tough psychological exercise that the Stoics had to train a lifetime for. A common reply to this was: “It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” This is true, but it is even better to be a Socrates satisfied (at least in terms of consumption). For it was Socrates himself, by the way, who said “in that case stones and corpses [who have no wants or desires] would be happiest.” Ultimately, Plato does not ascribe positive values to the desires and needs of the human body – for they are deceptive…
In this view, a truly “rich” man is someone who wants nothing (more), while the needs of a poor man are many. Thus, technically speaking, an unsatisfied millionaire can be much poorer a man than a man with low income.”
Tomas Sedlacek (2013), Economics of Good and Evil, Oxford University Press, p.221-2.