After last month’s US Government shut down with another deadline soon approaching. We find that compromise is a not always possible with even the most accomplished negotiators and politicians. In some cases meeting in the middle is very easy, it comes in the form of haggling over vintage store threads, or deciding who among friends hosts a dinner, and who cooks. Classical economists may claim that human beings are capable of rationally deciding these matters with basic cost-benefit analysis of risk, loss, and gain. Upon closer inspection of these agreements, we find that not only are they not always simple, they are not always rational.
As a behavioral economist, I find it fascinating to look at the way people come to agreements, who “wins” and “loses” in negotiations, and how it affects our society. There are some basic rules that we find occurring in both classical economics and behavioral economics, but they may be described using different words. Namely, respect, it is a human word that speaks to a degree of reverence that a person or group has for another. It also has a degree of equality in it that bounds the reverence from becoming worship, but what it comes down to is value. When there is reciprocal value acknowledged, even when there are competition and disagreement, there can still be respect.
When it comes to conflict, it is this respect that gives us things like the Geneva Conventions for ethical conduct in war, and other treaties and policies about torture, and slavery. We have, over time, come to value human life in a greater way, one that economics can not necessarily predict. Respect elevates conflicts to diplomatic engagements instead of physical ones. It allows for conflicts to be resolved in negotiations, not altercations.
With this respect, or mutual acknowledgement of values there can be collaboration to build solutions that work for everyone or at least where compromises are agreed upon. We know all this, but yet it is still hard to practice. This month I will be looking into how compromises are formed and what conditions can be replicated when we have reached an impasse. I hope you will stick around here, at the gallery, and on social media to see what we come up with!
Founder, Citizens Of Culture