What do you value most?

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What do you value most? Family? Friends? Independence? Intellect? Wealth? Achievement? Power? Beauty? Charity? Purpose? Justice?

The sooner we realize we don’t all have same answers to the previous question, the sooner we can all start to make sense of the current political environment we live in, and perhaps, start tackling the real underlying issues that govern our ability to pursue whatever it is we value most – and that usually starts with economics.

An economy without a shared morality is destined to fail, in relative terms. Failure is relative to one’s definition of success. And one’s definition of success tends to be relative to one’s values. Likewise, one’s morals tend to be derived from one’s values, and those values are often a by-product of one’s upbringing & life experiences – and can include diverse influences along the lines of religion, culture, community, and circumstance. So, you start to see (hopefully) how a crazy mixed-up concoction of deep-rooted tensions emerges (and all the misunderstandings that come with it) leading to the political chaos we have today. For starters, perhaps considering everyone’s deep-rooted perspectives above your own, for just a sec, might help you make sense of it all? And that applies to all sides of the political, cultural, and socioeconomic spectrum.

For this particular writer, a sense of personal responsibility and the opportunity to control one’s own destiny in pursuit of one’s own version of happiness by leveraging god-given (or natural-born) talents & circumstances to the best of one’s abilities, taking calculated sacrifices and risks along the way, are important values & virtues. I also tend to believe that applying these values at large ultimately give a greater percentage of the population a chance to pursue whatever is important to them, more so than any other system of governing and distributing wealth & opportunity.

To accomplish this vision of individual sovereignty with equal opportunity (allowing for potentially unequal results) requires an economic system where we all play by the same rules, and respect the game, as well as the rights & aspirations of others. It’s when some individuals – whether for purposes of self-gain, or ill-advised attempts to solve others’ problems for them, or simply due to unrealistic expectations – start to bend the rules that “equal opportunity” turns into a fool’s game, fraught with moral hazard. It becomes a game not worth playing – and in a game not worth playing, nobody wins.

To some, eliminating the game altogether – a world where there are no winners or losers – is something of a utopian vision to aspire to. To me, nothing could sound more dystopian. In the game of life, there are always winners and losers, and the point where it suddenly starts to feel like there’s no longer a difference, is the point where you lost the game, without realizing you were playing.

It all comes back to values. Are you in the game? Or perhaps there’s a different game you’d rather be playing altogether?

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