commercial symmetry in an asymmetrical consumerism world

“Money decides how it wants to live.”

Ryan Gravel, City Designer


In a productivity, growth-obsessed system, while many people are enjoying outcomes, fewer are enjoying wealth. And those who are wealthy invest a lot of energy saving the ‘winners money’ from everyone else <they safeguard the system that created them>, in other words, money protects money <or money decides how it wants to live>.

So, what should we seek? Commercial symmetry. I want to be careful here. No neat graphs, no distribution curves, no models, this is simple symmetry through de-clustering. Rather than accept the lousy extremes, and lousy money clusters, with a wretched in-between of zero-sum precarious mindsets, money should seek some symmetry.

I will begin in an unexpected place; not redistribution of wealth, but rather the transaction world. Commercial symmetry demands a sustainable model of transactions – products and connections (“value given – value received” equaling a fair monetary transaction). Yeah. I am actually suggesting the market, itself, can deliver a more symmetrical distribution of money and wealth. Currently many transactions are, well, simply transactions of less-than-fair asymmetrical value exchanges. For example, an Uber transfer of money is simply a transaction of lesser value than what is fair, in other words, the transaction labor is essential, but ‘under value’ in the transaction. I purposefully used Uber as an example because it is reflective of the entire “Gig economy” and its negative economic asymmetry. Regardless. I would argue the social contract is broken in this situation even though a financial contract is completed. And maybe that is the trick to commercial symmetry. When a social contract works you recognize what is good for them, what is good for you, and what’s good for others, is generally speaking what is ultimately good for you. Which makes me circle back to the ‘transaction world’ idea I opened with. Economically, this social contract is made up of millions of mini-money transactions which, currently, is an asymmetrical cash transaction world. The more symmetrical version of the system conceptually creates a higher understanding of value, and exchange of value, creating structural economic lift transaction by transaction. It imbues, and embeds, a sense of social morality which, I would argue, permits a society to value itself, and its citizens, just a bit more transaction-by-transaction.

That last point is a bit important to ponder because, currently, the social contract appears subservient to the financial contract and that contract is absurdly attached to the idea of an ‘efficient functioning’ of the system thru the free-market laissez-faire attitude, i.e., the market will dictate what is a fair value exchange. That’s nuts. The idea of morality has been so distorted that is used as a euphemism for the efficient functioning of systems. The result is that we are unable to use our common sense to actually see the poverty and lack of acceptable value exchanges .. created by default. I am suggesting to attain commercial symmetry the financial contract should either be subservient to the social contract or, at least, equal to. But I am certainly suggesting the economy must be grounded in a social contract, or as a product of a social contract, not a value-less transactional one.


“We continuously make promises and create agreements with ourselves and others. Some of these agreements are mutually beneficial. However, when you realize that things you agreed to in the past are no longer helpful, possible, or relevant, renegotiate. Be invested enough in your situations or relationships for renegotiation to take place.”
Susan C. Young


To be clear, this social contract can, and does, exist without an economic exchange and it exists outside of business. That said. Today’s piece is about the economic social contract with society. But in a weird unhealthy twist, the economic world (business) sees social actions as useful actions, not meaningful actions. In other words, the social contract is grounded in some results-based, productivity, mindset. That’s fucked up. And it is so fucked up it only exacerbates an already asymmetrical economic world.

Which leads to say commercial symmetry is going to be difficult.

Many people are bearing the fruits of the asymmetry and will be reluctant in letting that power go. But, more importantly, we need to address the system itself. The underlying purpose of the existing consumerism-based capitalism is not to provide public good, but rather, to control and sell resources and provide a profit for those who control of the resources. In addition, money is actually being used to buy one’s place in society by, well, buying the ticket in – churches, donations, philanthropy, etc. It’s like a Faustian bargain with society funded by money. I could argue our sense of community, over time, has even been corrupted by money. In the past capitalism and community spirit accepted a grudging partnership, but in today’s world capitalism is just another money maker, or funder, for community. In other words, similar to my point on economic transactions, the community has become subservient to the financial contract. Yeah. Community spirit has eroded and now it is just another monetary transaction. What this actually does is isolate people from community and, simultaneously, divides the community into ‘those who fund (have money)’ and ‘those who use’ (the money). In addition, it has freed business from any civic obligation <unless they see it as an ROI investment of their money>. Circling back to the beginning, again, the economic transactions are bereft of true social value and the inevitable arc is economic asymmetry. This gets a bit worse. This simplistic monetary transaction attitude has trickled into education, home ownership, renting, childcare, well, everywhere. All transactions tainted by that ‘monopoly money’ lack of accountability in which the social contract gets dumbed down to the transaction itself. That isn’t to say people don’t recognize ‘money given’ as real, my point is that even things of substance <education, investment in meaningful materialistic things, childcare, etc.> have been stripped of the substance and are simply transactions. That said. Achieving commercial symmetry is going to be difficult.

And I end with that thought despite the reality that, basically, people pay more, receive less, and are told that is the way the world is supposed to work. In other words, we are actually told that money chooses how it lives. Ponder.

Written by Bruce