finite desires

The first thing we learn in any introductory economics class is the definition of economics, which is widely accepted to be how we, as rational humans, with infinite desires, should act in a world with finitely scarce resources.

There are two important notes here:

  1. Humans are rational
  2. We have infinite desires

Both of these concepts, when looked at carefully, actually seem very contradicting if you’ve lived past your teenage years.

Because, well, 1) humans are the exact opposite of rational, and 2) if we had infinite desires, why do people give away their goods to other people?

Economists rarely address the legitimacy of the rational choice model, unless you study the field of behavioral economics which blends psychology with microeconomics.

Most people understand though that we really aren’t rational.

The second note is humans having infinite desires, which also seems a bit off.

If I had infinite desires, why would I ever choose to share what I have with other people?

Rather, in life, my decisions aren’t actually to obtain as many goods as possible. Don’t get me wrong: material goods are great. But there is a limit.

The richest people often end up starting philanthropic work because there is indefinitely a point in our lives when we realize that earning income, although is necessary for modern day survival, does, in fact, feel rewarding, what is more fulfilling is actually giving.

To flip the terms:

Humans are irrational and we have finite desires.

With this framework, we shall see how humanity should better reflect choices.

This will be a future topic I will address once I’ve learned more about this framework. If you are interested in this framework, I learned it in my humanities professor’s amazing book that brings economics into conversation with Thomas Aquinas.

You can find it here: Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy


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