|The Prisoner’s Dilemma|
Anthony Migchels, Contributing Writer
New York’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, recently released a very important study about Wal-Mart’s effects on local communities. It represents a major step forward in the understanding of the effects of Big Business.
These effects are insufficiently understood, because scholars have degenerated into spin masters for Big Business, simply because it is Big Business that controls their budgets, allowing only studies explaining how wonderful they are. It’s the same process that led medical ‘science’ to the conclusion that Mustard Gas is beneficial to human health.
However, correctly directed science is indeed capable of coming to useful and even truthful conclusions, and the mentioned report is a case in point. I recommend studying it, the offered link leads to a compact 10-page executive summary with all the main conclusions. It is indispensable ammo for community leaders of good faith.
Although the report investigates Wal-Mart in the USA, it is clear its conclusions can be extrapolated to the European situation. Just fill in Aldi, Lidl, Ahold, Carrefour, Sainsbury or Tesco, depending on your local situation.
The Di Blasio Report
The main conclusions are shocking, to the point, and make clear what damage Wal-Mart actually managed to do to the American economy. The fundamental conclusions are these:
- Wal-Mart store openings kill three local jobs for every two they create. Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in the USA, with 1.4 million ‘associates’. The conclusion is that Wal-Mart alone has killed about 700,000 American jobs. Only Wall Street can boast greater destruction to the American labor market.
- Chain stores, like Wal-Mart, send most of their revenues out of the community, while local businesses keep more consumer dollars in the local economy: for every $100 spent in locally owned businesses, $68 stayed in the local economy, while chain stores only left $43 to re-circulate locally. This means Big Business has a deflationary effect on local economies. And this in turn explains why Big Business destroys both employment and business. These two conclusions are more than sufficient to make the study worth while, but I’ll give a few more just to further the point.
- Stores near a new Wal-Mart are at increased risk of going out of business. After a single Wal-Mart opened in Chicago in September 2006, 82 of the 306 small businesses in the surrounding neighborhood had gone out of business by March 2008.
- Wal-Mart’s average annual pay is $20,774, which is below the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four. In fact: a Wal-Mart ‘spokesperson’ publicly acknowledged in 2004 that ‘More than two thirds of our people . . . are not trying to support a family. That’s who our jobs are designed for.’ So, Wal-Mart is an effective accomplice in the social engineering campaign of our bosses, isolating people and consciously attacking the family unit. The above makes abundantly clear that Wal-Mart and Big Business in general have a profoundly negative impact on economies, both locally and nationally.
So why do people shop at major Retail Chains?
Of course it is useful to have the figures. But then again; we already knew this. We know Big Business is just destroying small- and medium-sized businesses and we also know that these smaller businesses are the backbone of our economy.
Sure, these stores offer a certain convenience, usually having a larger assortment of goods. Why go to four shops if you can get everything at one? We don’t have the time! But we don’t have the time because we need three jobs to maintain the illusion of a middle-class status. And we need these jobs because we are accomplices in the plundering of our communities and neighbors.
And of course Big Business is often cheaper. At least until they have destroyed the local competition, after which they start their monopoly pricing operation.
So we make decisions that damage our neighbors, favor ourselves in the short term, but eventually make us and our kids go begging for a $20,774 per year job.
Are we just stupid? Yes, we are; we know we are. But there is also the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’.
The prisoner’s dilemma is a fundamental problem in game theory that demonstrates why two people might not cooperate even if it is in both their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence payoffs and gave it the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ name (Poundstone, 1992).
A classic example of the prisoner’s dilemma (PD) is presented as follows:
Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated the prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies for the prosecution against the other (defects) and the other remains silent (cooperates), the defector goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?
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The problem is, that most people don’t trust their peers to do the right thing and therefore they just take the short-term gain themselves. This is a major trump in the hands of Big Business and basically explains why they are so successful in enslaving us. It is interesting that this behavior is defined as ‘rational’ in economic game theory.
So we are the victim of a classic ‘prisoner’s dilemma’. What can we do?
In the first place: individuals can transcend the prisoner’s dilemma by just deciding not to play along. Especially when we are not facing the kind of prison sentences as in the example. All we stand to lose is a little discount here and there. And why are we allowing ourselves theses discounts when we know we are dealing with the devil anyway? We are being mind-controlled into believing cheaper is better, but anybody giving it a little thought must realize that this is simply hogwash. Our decisions should be made on far more profound grounds than just price.
We needn’t worry about the idea that we would not be acting ‘rationally,’ as defined in game theory, because not all people are as stupid as most economists. Douglas Hofstadter decided to call players doing the right thing in the prisoner’s dilemma ‘superrational’. And right he is: people benefit from cooperating and taking the long term into account (so long as the short term isn’t immediately lethal) is clearly rational behavior.
We should also take into account that we lead by example. It is a common human trait to wait for others to do what is necessary. It is this trait that got us here anyway. The simple fact of the matter is that it is a thousand times more powerful to put our money where our mouth is, than it is to forward this article to everybody we know. We can only change ourselves; and however difficult this may be, the good news is that our actions can inspire others.
Once we realize what we are dealing with, we must be able to understand that we need to quit shopping at Big Business outlets, and start patronizing local businesses. For our own sakes and for that of our neighbors.
Not only do Regional Currencies (RC) make us less dependent on the nefarious banking system, they also profoundly strengthen us in the struggle with Big Business. Most Regional Currencies don’t allow Transnationals to participate (and usually Big Business is not interested to do so). This means RC’s can be spent only at local shops and businesses.
It is clear that this is a very useful aspect of these currencies: they increase the competitiveness of local business, because people owning some of the currency can only spend them at local enterprises.
Even if you patronize local business exclusively, it still makes sense to pay with an RC, because the shop owner can only spend the money at his or her colleagues’ businesses. So even after you have spent your money, you still positively influence the local economy. If you pay with a dollar, there is a higher chance your local supplier will spend the money outside your own region.
Big Business is destroying our economy and we are accomplices in this process by shopping at their outlets.
We should immediately quit doing so. A rational appraisal of the situation leaves us no other choice.
Regional Currencies, beside their other useful benefits, exclude Transnationals and enhance the local economy by strengthening the competitiveness of local businesses. Even if we do the right thing by shopping locally ourselves, it is still useful to pay with them, because we strongly encourage our local suppliers to shop in the neighborhood as well.
Anthony Migchels is an Interest-Free Currency activist and founder of the Gelre, the first Regional Currency in the Netherlands. You can read all of his articles on his blog Real Currencies.
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