The Story of Us - Part Two

Part Two - Human Action

Righto, foundation laid, let's start putting this into practice.

This section may sound/read somewhat confusing but please bear with me as it will all become much clearer as you proceed through the Austrian Economics section.

Upon waking from sleep, we arise and begin interacting with our world and the other life in/on it. We immediately begin the processes that define our existence: choice, production, consumption and exchange. In relation to our world/planet, there is not much humans do that is not part of choice/produce/consume/exchange, sleeping included. Breathing involves inhaling air, running it through some chemical reaction magic, retaining required components, expelling whatever remains. Drinking consumes water, we produce urine. Eating consumes food, we produce . . . and you get the point I'm sure :-). This is only the automatic functionality of our bodies which we'll leave on the sidelines for the time being.

Enter brain . . .

The human being now has the ability make choices about our interaction(s) with the world around us. This choice process is a complex one but between logic and observation, it can be accurately boiled down to two points:

  1. Humans act and act purposefully, it's done with a will.
  2. Aside from those with mental health challenges, a human's purposeful action is focused on exchanging their status quo for one that the individual perceives is better.

Human action is about 'means and ends': we use various means to try and achieve a desired end, our new status quo as it were.

Further, when we make a choice to meet an end, we are effectively forgoing all other options, choices and ends. This can be considered the 'cost': the next ranking item in our individual value scale which is forgone in order to meet the higher ranked chosen end. For humans, ends are not arbitrarly set but are instead evaluated on their respective importance to maintaining life. More on this in the other sections.

Via interaction with, and observation of, other humans, added our own selves and self experience, it's a logical conclusion that humans value leisure over labour and would choose the former as much as possible. Even when a labour provides a high enough psychic profit to be argued that's really leisure (craftspersons and artisans may say this for example), but this classification is dependant on having the choice to perform the labour or not. Without this choice, the labour will always remain a labour.

Human action is also about uneasiness. This should not be taken to only mean the feeling of uneasiness when standing at a cliff's edge or having to tell a friend you backed into shopping cart with their now scratched car for example.

Thorsten Polleit said

There is no such thing as equilibrium. Human action is about removing felt uneasiness. Having reached equilibrium (a “state of rest”) would imply that there is no more human action –which, however,is impossible to think. An equilibrium can never be reached.

Thorsten Polleit ~ The Austrian School of Economics - An Introduction
We can also conclude from observation that much of what we need to survive does not exist naturally in nature, that is, further processing of the raw material is required. This includes much of the food material present in nature: the banana needs peeling, the potato needs unearthing and cooking, the fish needs catching and cleaning, etc. Humans then either process/produce items for
consumer goods consumer goods: :
consumer good or final good is any commodity that is produced or consumed by the consumer to satisfy current wants or needs. Consumer goods are ultimately consumed, rather than used in the production of another good. For example, a microwave oven or a bicycle that is sold to a consumer is a final good or consumer good, but the components that are sold to be used in those goods are intermediate goods. For example, textiles or transistors can be used to make some further goods. (Wikipedia)

or process/produce items used to assist in the manufacture of
capital goods capital goods: :
A capital good (also called complex products and systems or (CoPS)) is a durable good that is used in the production of goods or services. Capital goods are one of the three types of producer goods, the other two being land and labour. The three are also known collectively as "primary factors of production" (Wikipedia)

. Our movements and choices throughout each day can generally be traced back to one of these three basics all done with pursuit of basic survival and/or satisfying a want both boil down to exchanging our individual current status for one that is better.

We exist on a ball of rock containing the raw materials required to meet these prerequisites of existence, so it is logical to conclude that humans have a requirement and/or choice to utilize these resources to exist; it doesn't make sense for a species to exist among the only known source of the materials that are required for it to continue to exist and not utilize them for that purpose. The species would perish shortly after its creation.

Next we move to the acquisition, modification and consumption of these resources. It should be obvious that each individual doing, on their own, all that is required to survive, would result in an existence only at the barest of levels. Currently air is for the most part abundant and does not at this point fit into the picture, however, water, food and shelter, not necessarily. Each of these items in certain areas of our planet are plentiful (but not infinite) and easily accessible, but for the vast majority of humanity, one or more of these survival items are neither.

Stealing a page from
Crusoe Economics Robinson Crusoe economy, or Robinson Crusoe economics:
is an imaginary construction of an isolated individual and of a planned economy without market exchange. (

: imagine you have landed on a deserted island, you are standing on the beach. You must find water since current stores would be limited to what you have at hand which may be nothing. You must also find food, again which may not be at hand.
  • Which do you find first?
  • When you find it, now what?
  • How do you carry it, store it?
  • If you choose to stay close by to the water source for example, what food will you eat if there is nothing immediately at hand?
  • You also must find time to build your shelter, but with what?
  • Assuming they are close by, but definitely may not be, how do you process the trees?
  • How do you make an axe, where will you find the materials for the steel?
  • How will you create the steel, build a blast furnace, smelt the, oh wait, where and how are you going to get the raw materials to make the steel in the first place?
  • Perhaps we drop this idea and use sharp edged stones instead for example. How long will it take to cut and shape a tree with a piece of rock as you tool?

And all of this is just for starters. Further, for each task you choose, you are, for the duration of the current tasks, giving up the other tasks as a reality of humanity is that effective human multitasking is a myth; machines can, we can't. This is important since humans have a very finite life span without food and water therefore certain tasks cannot be put off indefinitely. Survival tasks are also repetitive in nature: it's going to be hard to get ahead in anything at all if one's time is entirely consumed by the continous task of acquiring food and water.

It's an easy conclusion that this is not a practical or workable solution. We can also safely conclude that the best option to address all of these challenges is to trade goods and services with other human beings (trading with the animal entities sharing our planet is not possible at this point ;) ). You could focus on the acquisition of water for example, getting efficient enough at it that you have sufficient amounts for yourself and some surplus to trade, for an axe perhaps. Food could be exchanged for milled lumber and so on. The logical conclusion here: mutual exchange of goods and services is the only viable way forward for human survival. This principle forms the basis of barter, the starting point of human exchange.

Next in line is the actual acquisition and processing of the raw materials for trade. It's also not really a viable option that each human produces everything they need to produce their goods for trade: a dress maker who is required to obtain the raw materials to make cloth and to weave the cloth itself will not be making very many dresses per year. The solution is a concept called 'the division of labour'. In a true free market there would be more than enough options available for an individual to be labouring or creating in a field that is a pleasure to them and speaks to an interest and skillset. More on this in the Austrian section: Division of Labour.

If a true unhampered free market is to exist and thrive, as a species we need to be keeping a constant eye on the prize. An efficient manner in which to accomplish this is via a collective set of ideas, an
ideology. ideology:
A: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture

B: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program:

C: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
An ideology should provide a roadmap for navigation and principals for dealing with choice, challenge and conflict.

In the case of humanity and our reality, an ideology based on unhampered liberty for all then is the only way to proceed.