A PCT view of money

4. Trading as conflict

It is a reasonable assumption that better control is always desirable (that we have a reference to perceive ourselves as being in perfect control, but never can achieve it). If, in controlling any perceptual variable, we reduce our perceived ability to control other variables, we have a conflict. Conflict is therefore intrinsically involved in any trade, and the making of the trade is the resolution of the conflict.

One can feel the conflict involved in trade every time one ponders whether a desirable item is worth the price asked. It doesn’t matter whether the item took 300 hours to make, if its value to you is less than $10. Nor does it matter that the cost of making the item may have been a few cents if it is a rare postage stamp for which the owner is asking $10,000. The conflict is within you, as to whether the control you gain by the trade is worth the control you lose (or may lose) by it. You may accept or reject the trade immediately if the difference is large one way or the other, or you may dither over it for a long time if you perceive your loss of future control from using the money is nearly the same as the gain from acquiring the item or service.

Conflict can be resolved in two ways. One way is that one of the two conflicting control systems overwhelms the other. The perceptual error in one of the conflicting control systems goes down to near zero, while the perceptual error in the other one is maintained or even increased. This is the only way conflict can be reduced if both conflicting systems act through the same medium (such as money). If I spend all my money on steak, I cannot spend it on travel.

But there is another way conflict can be resolved, which is to recognize that the two conflicting control systems are acting in support of some higher level goal or goals, and those higher goals may not be in conflict; they may be satisfiable in other ways. It has been said that “Money can’t buy happiness” but it helps. Money is one way to effect control, at least control involving the actions of other poeple, but there are other ways. People do things for love, as well as for money.

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