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MichaelMeckler.com: Blog: Zero-sum thinking

Zero-sum thinking

25 AUGUST 2016

While envy is as old as human nature — see, for example, the Tenth Commandment — it seems to have come to the fore in this political year.

Ads demonize prosperity in other nations as diminishing prosperity in our own. Nations are accused of "stealing" our jobs and our wealth. Many candidates talk about being "tough on trade."

Underlying these messages is the notion that the world's standard of living is somehow fixed and limited, and that if someone else is enjoying a better life, our lives must be worse. And while technology has improved our lives in so many ways over the past few decades, we quickly take those improvements for granted and define prosperity in ways that make achieving success nearly impossible.

So we have made ourselves ripe for accepting the message that if a family in China or Mexico is successful, that success has somehow been "stolen" from us. But prosperity isn't a zero-sum game. Advances in knowledge and productivity create better living standards for everyone, and our focus should be on improving the conditions that create wealth rather than seeking to tear down others who are working to improve their lives.

 

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