I see a tension between efficiency and effectiveness directly related to economic control. Centrally controlled resources are (potentially) efficiently distributed through economies of scale and coordination of planning. Locally controlled resources are (potentially) effectively distributed through relevant targeting and proximity. In the United States, our public and private systems tend to combine both centralized and decentralized economic control; however, I am not sure it is done in a way that maximizes both efficiency and effectiveness. Driven by both selective political agendas and individualism, our system of resource allocation simultaneously leads to waste and accumulation as well as human and environmental degradation. How can we better provoke and manage the flow of resources so that there is efficiency, effectiveness, and justice?
While I strongly prefer to eat in season and support local farmers, more often that I care to admit I purchase off season from the supermarket to indulge in what de Tocqueville might have referred to as the American need for bodily comfort. At the end of last summer, I purchased some cherries at my local grocery store a few weeks after the local season had passed.
I almost placed a cherry into my mouth when I noticed that there was a long, black hair wrapped around its stem. After a short moment of disgust, I felt a strong sense of connection to the people who work so hard to plant and harvest the food we (middle class Americans) eat. Too often, we take for granted the accessibility of a variety of relatively inexpensive food without considering where it comes from. America is still dependent on slavery and miserable working conditions, even though much (but certainly not all) of it takes place outside of our borders. The economic system, and its commercial branch with which we interact on a daily basis, is designed to pit those who have a genuine need to minimize expenses against those who are truly destitute by limiting our options and manipulating the truth.
And why? It should be unnecessary in a world where global cooperation is possible. Cooperation that leads to sharing, rather than commoditizing, hoarding, and overconsumption. Cooperation that leads to harmony, rather than discord. Cooperation that leads to environmental reverence, rather than degradation. Cooperation that leads to love and peace, rather than hatred and war.