Rock, Scissors, Paper. and the Natural Economic order.

Many of us have played the game “Rock, Scissors, Paper” as youngsters either for the sheer pleasure, to inflict petty schoolyard punishments or even to facilitate decision-making. The object of the game, for those unfamiliar, is to win or, to decide a course of action by assigning the power to decide.

How the game works.

To begin the game the participants face each other (generally it is a game for two) with the arm bent at the elbow and the forearm parallel to the ground. The fist is clenched and the two fists are opposite one another. On the synchronized count of three, each player makes a representation with the hand of Rock, Scissors or Paper such that each player displays their hand simultaneously.

  • Rock = Closed Fist
  • Scissors = 2 Fingers extended
  • Paper = Open Hand

There is a sequence that decides who wins:

  • Rock prevails (Crushes) Scissors
  • Scissors prevail (Cuts) Paper
  • Paper prevails (Covers) Rock

I am sure you would agree that this formula is fair whilst also being a ‘Natural’ hierarchy. I must have spent countless hours being amused (and ‘hurt’) as well as being empowered playing this game in being handed the duty of making a decision.

What does it all mean?

Now, have you ever considered perhaps a deeper meaning to this game? That it may point to something that has been missed (or obfuscated). Hint: The order is IMPORTANT.

Perhaps consider this from the traditional economic perspective of Labor, Capital and Land:

  • Labor = People = Scissors
  • Capital = Investment = Paper
  • Land = Environment = Rock

A circular model of the economy becomes apparent. The fundamental building blocks of a natural economic system is circular and (predominantly) unidirectional.

The predominant thinking in economics, or more particularly, neo-classical economics, appears to be that Capital (Paper) seeks dominion over both Labor (People) and Land (Rock). Labor fights back but the crushing weight of Capital (the role of Land) may be too much to allow Labor to trim the capital (like a sail) directing it more suitably to improving the Land and Environment in order that Labor may perform the duty of ‘adding value’ or improving the quality of the Capital.

People (Scissors) also seek dominion over Land (Rock) by ‘owning it’ and impacting upon the Environment (Earth). Rock (Earth) will always have dominion over Scissors (People) — Death is inevitable! Both Scissors and Paper are derived from Rock. Scissors (People) requires Rock (Earth). Paper (Capital) requires Scissors (People) and Rock (Earth).

In quite general way, the economic problem appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of a natural order. A reversal of the direction of the natural hierarchy found in a children's game. It’s not surprising, as I remember the game being called Rock, Paper, Scissors when its truer name is Scissors, Paper, Rock!