“The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.” ― Michel Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature

“Our life is the creation of our minds, and we do much of that creating with metaphor.” … “With the wrong metaphor we are deluded; with no metaphor we are blind.” – Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis (2006, p. 201)

There are multiple factors that are preventing us from seeing (or even wanting to see) and fixing the Root Bug:

We are expecting solutions from academia, which is not (and is not meant to be) an innovator. Do we expect new digital services or breakthrough data mining algorithms from the IT departments of universities? Or new chemical processes and pharmaceuticals from the chemistry department? Of course not. These are the job of private companies. Yet we’ve granted an implicit monopoly on any economic theories, policies and combinations thereof to academic economics. Science and academic research are important “raw material” for new technologies. But developing and implementing solutions is not its task. Academia is meant to standardize and debate over the concepts, models and frameworks (the language) we use in different sectors and test their validity empirically. It is essentially a big change resistance machine – and it’s partly meant to be such. And, if we are to believe academia’s scientific view of itself (the sociology of science), it is a much more personalized, politicized, crony, hierarchical and fame-oriented world of constant power struggle than our romantic perception of science assumes. We need academic economics, but we also need economic entrepreneurship to take more concrete and practical leaps at new societal models.

Our languages mislead us: The assumptions embedded in the expressions we use (conceptual metaphors) cause people’s logic go make completely false conclusions of causal relationships – and of what is possible and what seems perverted. This is especially the case with money, which we treat as an “item” or a “substance”, when it is in essence a “relationship” (like distance), which obeys completely different natural laws than matter. Also, strong emotional associations with words (such as “inflation”, “debt”, “saving”, “profit” etc.) and our tendency to group individual phenomena into “good” and “bad” ones, don’t let us consider fresh perspectives.

Our economic ethics are outdated and self-contradictory: The Protestant work ethic, which attributes absolute virtue to work, frugality, saving and charity, is still governing our instinctive economic morality. These were good rules of thumb in a world where most people lived hand-to-mouth and capital was the bottleneck resource in increasing productivity. In today’s world, they are causing both individuals and nations to fight a constant “economy war” of trying to indebt each otherer by any means. When we add in our guilt-orientation – which drives people into focusing on avoiding associations with things they consider bad, instead of finding actual, sustainable solutions – it is understandable why our systems perpetuate problems.

– Interest-group-oriented compromise politics focus on transfer payments and preserving achieved privileges (often with the excuse of “job creation”): Democracy is inherently problematic for many reasons, but one of them is that it is essentially about people deciding over each others’ things. This becomes very inefficient, even in groups of over 100 people, not to even talk about 5 or 300 million. Moreover, as laws, taxation and entitlements can be used to transfer income (and even wealth) directly and indirectly (e.g. by granting monopolies and other privileges, affecting technology standards, allocating infrastructure investment decisions) from interest groups to others, every party has to focus on protecting the achieved benefits and interests of its own interest group, if it does not be the only one who is stolen from. Transfer payments where the loser does not see she is losing are the easiest to get passed, resulting in increasing complexity and bureaucracy. Hardly anyone is looking at the system from a holistic perspective and e.g. trying to make it as balanced, fair and worthwhile a “game” as possible.

Self-preserving institutions try to maintain their justification of existence: Many institutions (both organizations and broader ideologies) have been created or have emerged to treat certain symptoms largely caused or maintained by the Root Bug (e.g. economic insecurity, income differences, lack of incentives for entrepreneurship) and to strive for ends that the Root Bug hypothesis suggests are unsustainable or unnecessary (e.g. positive current accounts, job creation). Solving the Root Bug – or even increased awareness of the perspective – is only a threat to these institutions. Understanding how institutions often end up perpetuating the enemy they’ve been born to fight – and even creating new enemies for themselves – to maintain their power, status and growth requires stepping outside the perspective, where human beings are the agents – and perceiving people as a “medium” in which ideas compete against each other for survival.

These are discussed in more detail in volume 5 of Fixing the Root Bug. Its upcoming sister book, the Guilt Economy, goes deeper into human morality and the way our language misleads us, as well as the differences between empathy and a need to contribute and why a guilt-orientation can be self-defeating and harmful to others as well.