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Minecraft Economics: How the Nether Update uses the Subjective Theory of Value

What is an emerald worth in Minecraft?

An emerald is the currency used in the popular game Minecraft for trading with NPCs called villagers and wandering traders. Emerald ore is an extremely rare resource in the sandbox world, yet every employed villager has quite a few to trade with the player. However, players have wondered how the emerald compares with real world currency. One YouTube Video by GameTheory tried to find this answer. First, they tried to convert it by comparing the USD cost of bread with the cost of bread in the game, but found that conversion does not translate to other goods. Next they used the labor theory of value to try to determine the USD to emerald conversion, but again came up with a nonsensical conversion. Finally, they tried to assume emeralds have an inherent value in real life and work backwards to determine the in-game USD cost. After using all of these methods, they come to the accurate conclusion that it's not really possible to convert emeralds i…

Fill a Pothole: An Examination of Personal Action vs. Political Action

This past June, companies across the western world decided to “celebrate” pride month with the LGBTQ+ community. Some see this as progress to a more tolerant society, others were quick to point out how the changing of logo colors does little to actually help marginalized groups or causes.

We can see the same phenomenon after tragic events; people post their sympathies or change profile pictures, but many point out how ineffective this really is when it is unmatched with actual donations to a charity or volunteering to help. Why is it that we are so quick to see through the virtue signaling of companies and Facebook users, but so often fail to point out the ineffective action of politics?

Much of American politics today is little more than asking the government to handle our most important issues. This transfers the responsibility of action away from the individuals and local communities and onto the government. We now undervalue personal action and replace it with lower-cost political action.

One of the most personal ways in which many have tried to give up their responsibility is in morality. It is much easier to claim to be a moral person if you can simply call for others to act on your moral behalf. Year after year people call for tighter anti-discrimination laws to protect marginalized groups, such as those in the LGBTQ+ community. I cannot fault their intention to establish a more tolerate and open society.

The issue comes when we allow ourselves to settle with ineffective political action instead of the hard-work of personal action. We call for a legal ban on discrimination instead of boycotting companies who practice policies we morally oppose.

The same goes with green products. It is much easier to march for vague climate control laws than to actually forgo the products we want because they are manufactured by environmentally harmful methods. We want the government to force our morality onto everyone, instead of peacefully affecting society’s beliefs. For example. it’s much easier to petition the government to force older generations or people of different backgrounds to practice our own morals than sitting down with them and having the tough conversations.

Political action, though, is widely ineffective. Political action can only punish actions in a physical or financial sense. It cannot carry the same moral authority that a neighbor, a priest, or a child attempting to make their fellow man more tolerate or conscious. This is not to say we should not rely on financial incentives to reward companies that have morally-acceptably policies, but it is immoral to use the coercive force of the government to do it for us. As consumers we can provide or take away the proverbial carrots, the government only has sticks at its disposal. Despite this, many people
choose the option of low-cost political action over the high-cost of personal action, even though the later yields greater marginal benefits.

Not only do have we given up personal moral responsibility, but also the responsibility of the community. Over the past few decades, education has become more and more centralized. It is now almost solely in the hands of the federal Department of Education. We have let the responsibility of teaching our prosperity become an issue of national public policy instead of the local community. Californians have a say in what kids in Alabama learn, and vice versa. Even though one-size-fits-all policies such as “No Child Left Behind” are wildly ineffective because of its centralized approach, citizens tend to only care about this problem every other November at the ballot box. We can see the same affect with infrastructure.

Every election cycle, politicians promise to fix roads and fund bridges, though little changes. We vote for them though and feel like we have contributed to helping our community, while the idea of going and fixing it ourselves through voluntary cooperation is laughed at. We want our community’s problems to be solved by federal funds, even though this rarely works. We can wait around for national policy to somehow begin to actually fix our community problems for decades—and we have—or we can take the problems into our own hands.

Instead of leaving our children’s upbringing to a government worker, we must take an active role in their education. Instead of waiting for the federal grant, go fill a pothole on your home street. We can wait for the federal grant to come in, or we can go fill in the pothole in our neighborhoods ourselves.

Some say that it is the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens. But should we put our trust for this goal in the hands of an institution that is by definition violent and coercive? It is hard for people to imagine large changes like abolishing the Department of Homeland Security or the CIA. They argue that if we simply increase funding to these institutions than we will be safer. But these programs are not designed to protect your family or you as an individual. They exist solely to protect national interest, not the concerns of a single person or group. These national programs face the same issue that the Department of Education faces: they have too many variables to effectively account for any individual’s safety.

Unlike private enterprises, these government programs can afford to not account for induvial demand because they are funded by force. It is much easier to call for funding increases to government programs than to face the personal responsibility of protecting your own family. Why buy a gun or a home security system when you can increase the funding of government programs using other people’s money and feel better about it anyways?

We often do not see the benefit of taking on the responsibility of our security until we personally see just how ineffective government security can be. We have also given up responsibility in security in our consumer choices. We call for more FDA regulation instead of doing research on products ourselves. We what the government to require us to seek a doctor’s approval for most drugs through mandatory prescriptions instead of judging the risk of not seeking professional approval four ourselves and our family. Instead of allowing the niche demands of each induvial with millions of different conditions, we vote forbroad-sweeping programs for fear we may choose wrong. These types of government policies leads to less choice and puts our physical and product safety in the hands of those who do not have to consider our needs instead of us as individuals or private forces that must take these needs into account.

Why is the demand for political action so high if the benefit is so low? Doesn't economics show us that since there is high demand for this type of action that it generates the most effective output? If we prescribed to this theory, then we would fail to consider that demand takes expectations into account. We expect political action to have high rewards.

In my estimation this is based on the expectation that more resources and authority towards a cause must always generate more desirable results. But this is true only if the greater number of resources have the same level of motivation and only if the authority is truly greater. For example say we had one person working for a friend, that person will work harder because they have a high degree of
motivation; but say two people are working for a stranger, it is very possible for the two strangers to output less quality than the one friend because they have less of a motivation to do a respectable job.

The simple fact is, no one at the CIA or the FDA knows you personally. Not only that, but they have a high degree of job security whether they protect people efficiently or not because they cannot be sued without their consent. Sure these agencies can contribute more people to the cause of safety, but they are not looking out for you. At best they are looking out for millions of people at a time. As for greater authority, what is more efficacious at convincing the bakery owner? The faceless government saying that he cannot discriminate, or his neighbor or son saying that he should not? People are more motivated when they have a personal risk—whether it be social in the form of localized action or financial in the form of private action. There is an assumption that political action is more affect, but in reality, localized or private responsibility almost always yields the best results.

We think of personal action as yielding uncertain benefits; but in truth it is political action that yields uncertain results. Political action has to factor in millions of peoples demands, but unlike normal markets, this action has no incentive to actually provide true benefit to any one individual.

Why? Because government force enables these inefficient policies to continue despite miserable results. For private or local entities, they must efficiently achieve the goal or they will lose to competition or be socially shamed. The government has no such threat from competition and is largely uninhibited by social shame, except come November every other year. Taking action into our own hands may be frightening, but it is the most cost-effective way to achieve our goals in morality, community, and security.

Practicing counter-economics—the concept of taking power away from the government through peaceful and voluntary means—does not require evading taxes or disregarding legal prohibitions, though these may also be effective. In reality, you practice counter-economics when you sit down and have a tough conversation instead of advocating for more law. When you research products on your own to make sure they are green or safe. When you take an active role in your child’s education.

When you buy a gun or even fill a pothole. 

by Benjamin D. Myles, @benjamindmyles1 is a student at the University of Louisville


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