Let’s play a game, shall we? Assume that you and I ended up in prison. We are being kept in different cells, completely isolated from each other. We are offered same deal separately: we have two options; we can either stay silent or confess. But if I confess and you stay silent I’ll go free and you will stay in prison for 10 years. If we both stay silent we will stay in prison for 6 months then we’ll go free. If we both confess we will stay in prison for 5 years. What would you do? Would you confess or stay silent?
As I took my first economics lecture two years ago (microeconomics) I struck by definition of “homo-economicus”. It basically assumes that people will choose the way that will maximize their utility. Assuming people to act in selfish way, homo-economicus ignore good tempers of humans such as altruism. Altruism is completely opposite of selfishness. It means self-sacrifice for others. But why would I sacrifice my utility for the benefit of others?
Recent euro-zone crisis let me deduce that global economy is so much more integrated than I thought. A crisis in one country threats seriously other country’s economies. Considering only your own utility and letting down others may in long term get you down as we see in Europe. But on the contrary, being altruist and working for gradual collective development may, in long term, create greater benefits for all. I mean yes, innovation and entrepreneurship can boost global economy but for sustainable development we need to alter the core mechanisms that drive the global economic system.
As for the answer of the question, there is no absolute right answer. But in order to get greater collective benefit for two of us I need to stay silent and assuming you would act altruistic and stay silent too in order to stay just 6 months in prison and get freedom. So hush!
Onur Turk is the founder and chairman of the International Relations & Economics Society and student at Istanbul Technical University. He is a Global Shaper from the Istanbul hub.