iWant therefore iAm
Remember all the things you learned at school: the periodic table and calculus and Egyptian pharaohs and dangling participles and the causes of the First World War.
Now think about what you learned at school that is actually useful in your everyday life today. Excluding obvious basics such as reading, writing and arithmetic, I’d nominate two things, neither of which I imagined would turn out to be so handy. The first is touch typing. The second is what the teacher announced in the opening class of Grade 11 economics: wants are unlimited but resources are limited.
It’s something I think about all the time. For example, I like to imagine that if I had an iPad with The New Yorker application on it, I’d be Perfectly Happy for the Rest of My Life. Sadly though, I predict that soon after, there’d be a strong hankering for a stylish red leather pouch for said iPad.
It equally applies to ambitions, relationships, work, food, everything.
When I recently tweeted the wants/resources maxim, I was surprised at how many people identified with it. It prompted others to write of economic concepts that had made lasting impressions because they offered life lessons not just economic ones: opportunity cost, the law of diminishing returns and marginal utility among them.
The idea that “wants are unlimited but resources are limited” leads to the thought “What is enough?” It’s a question that seems to be coming up a lot in public debate, particularly around issues of sustainability. Last week, the environmentalist David Suzuki appeared on Lateline.
“We’re not asking the important question: how much is enough? Because with all of this profusion of stuff, there’s certainly no correlation with the improvement in whether we’re happy; whether it’s helped the poorest people in our society,” Suzuki argues.
Suzuki believes we focus too much on economic growth as the key mark of progress in society. Of course, the counter argument is that economic growth has improved living standards all around the world and that human inventiveness could be the solution to issues such as over-population and resource shortages.
Wherever you stand on that question, it seems clear – particularly watching the current debate about the Murray Darling basin - that the relationship between wants and resources remains as intractable as ever.
Nonetheless, an ipad with The New Yorker app would be nice.
Here is this fortnight’s list of ten interesting things to read, watch or listen to:
1. This young man re-enacts in his house, word for word, famous scenes from films. He’s surprisingly good! Here he is doing all the parts in the famous courtroom scene from “A Few Good Men”
2. A year ago, Sydney woman Louise Hawson set herself a mission to photograph 52 suburbs of Sydney. She wanted to learn about the ‘non-tourist’ side of the city. This week, she posted her final suburb. The result is a truly stunning blog.
3. What’s it like to grow up as the son a woman who’s a famous agony aunt dishing out advice on sex? Jay Rayner writes about the death of his mother, Claire
4. A guide to Romance cliches from The Guardian (via @colvinius on twitter)
5. A thoughtful piece by Laurie Oakes on the media ‘cyclone’ as he calls the 24 hour news cycle.
6. The New York Times magazine recently profiled the Fox News bloviator, Glenn Beck. It notes that he’s only been on air since January 2009, a stunning fact given the scale of his influence less than two years later.
7. Roadside attractions had their golden age in the 1950s and 60s. Who doesn’t remember The Big Pineapple or The Big Banana growing up? It seems their days are numbered, according to The Wall Street Journal.
8. This BBC story looks at the transformational power of a neighbourhood creative writing program in New York, run by a volunteer.
9. The comedian Stephen Colbert has a quiet Catholic faith, according but she wasn’t all she appeared.
Leigh Sales anchors Lateline on ABC1 and is on twitter @leighsales
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Up to the minute Twitter chatter
Hey @Boyadee. Serious question. What are the other two terrible things in your top three? Thx for sharing your thoughts BTW. Peace
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