What Would the World Look Like If Everyone Acted Like You?

In the training rooms at a football club I read a motto that I had heard elsewhere in the sporting community: something like “If everyone trained like you, how well would the team perform?”

The motto highlights the importance of the individual and accountability. A player in the team that doesn’t go to trainings and who parties the night before a match is letting down the rest of the team. Alone, the player’s actions might not mean the difference between winning and losing a game, but any wins the team does make are of little thanks to the player that isn’t committed.

If your actions, and your mindset during the performance of those actions, were the same for everyone else in the world, would the world be winning?

AFL Team

Are you contributing to your team?

Are We Winning?

When it comes to the question of whether or not the world is winning, the answer is going to be subjective. I might consider your idea of winning as something horrible, and vice versa.

What is your idea of winning? Humans are inherently selfish creatures — there is no reason for me to expect you to care whether or not your actions will lead to my idea of winning. But there is every reason for me to expect you to care whether your actions will lead to your idea of winning.

Don’t Let Down Your Team

This concept might ring a bell for those of you who have studied economics. This thought process is essentially looking for externalities produced by yourself. If you are producing negative externalities then you’re hurting the team without paying for your damage. If you’re producing positive externalities then you’re benefiting the world and not being compensated for it.

An Economics Lesson

An agent (person, company, government, etc) acting in their own interests would continue to perform an action that produces negative externalities because they don’t have to pay for it — they perform that activity too much. An agent producing positive externalities is doing more good than they’re being compensated for, so they aren’t incentivised appropriately — they perform that activity too little.

Governments try to intervene in the ‘market’ when externalities are produced to compensate for the difference in incentives. A typical example is the tax on cigarettes: smokers produce negative externalities in the form of second-hand smoking and increased burden on hospitals, a cost that is not factored into the price of a cigarette. To compensate for this, the tax increases the price of cigarettes. In theory, the Government uses the tax to increase funding for hospitals and the smokers are paying for their own hospital burden: one problem solved. The second-hand smoking issue can’t be factored into the cost of cigarettes but laws restricting the places where you are allowed to smoke help to find a balance between allowing smokers to smoke and allowing non-smokers to continue being healthier and undisturbed.

The other side of the coin is the positive externalities: governments might subsidise the cost of certain products or services — think renewable energy, healthcare, or small business.

The Externalities of You

In a lot of cases, government isn’t the solution. You have to take responsibility for your own actions and fix your own incentives, because you are only going to be accountable to yourself for some actions you take.

You might do volunteer work. You won’t be compensated for it monetarily but you can focus on your desire to help the world in some way and get fulfilment out of that. If everyone focused some of their efforts into helping with particular causes, that’s a world you want to live in.

You might choose to not laugh at anyone’s failures or put them down, because you want to live in a world where everyone is encouraged to try and achieve their dreams, and you understand that you fail every task you don’t even attempt.

Have a look at each of your actions from time to time and ask yourself what the world might look like if everyone did the same. This is one method of finding externalities in your actions

  • Health
    • If you eat poorly, rarely exercise, smoke, and/or drink too much, and everyone in the world was like you, how healthy would the world be? Imagine 7 billion copies of you all around the world. What pressures would be placed on hospitals? The hospitals will have to be funded by tax payer money — your money.
      Instead of you costing the hospitals $1,000,000 and the 1,000,000 tax-paying citizens in Fakeville pay $1 each to cover you, it’s all 1 million citizens costing the hospitals $1m each: now each person, including you, are effectively paying $1m in tax just to cover health bills that you could have avoided.
    • Alternatively, if everyone ate well, exercised regularly, didn’t smoke or drink, there would be no extra burden on hospitals and your $1m in tax over your lifetime could go to solving an issue that you care about much more. Perhaps research into better health technology so that instead of your money just keeping you healthy-ish until 70, you get to 70 and your money (and the tax money of others) has been invested into medical research every year and there now exists technology that can vastly improve your health so that you live to 105+. In that case, your health-related actions are costing you 50% or more of your life!
  • Voting
    • If everyone had your attitude towards voting, what would government look like?
      Would fantastic policies be in place? Would the best leader possible be in charge?
    • Or do you not take the time to research political parties and leaders and just pick the person you see the most on TV? In that case, the person in charge would be the version of you that has the most money and ambition to rule, just because s/he paid to be in the media a lot.
  • Piracy
    Game of Thrones

    ‘Game of Thrones’ Most Pirated TV-Show of 2015

    • If everyone had your attitude towards piracy, would there be anything to pirate in the first place?
    • Before writing this post, I came to terms with an incompatibility between my actions and beliefs: I believe that everyone should act in such a way that if everyone in the world acted like them, they would be happy with the outcome. But I was pirating Game of Thrones like most people in Australia because of the ridiculous cost or effort required to watch it legally.If everyone pirated, the show wouldn’t be produced. And that’s not a world I would like to live in.

      To fix the incompatibility, I now pay for HBO NOW (an American streaming provider) and use a service that gets around geoblocking, Getflix, so that I can watch it in Australia. If everyone acted like me, content would still be produced, because it is being paid for, and it would be available worldwide without geoblocking because I wouldn’t permit the competition-restricting laws we have in Australian media.

  • Government Handouts, Crimes, War, Scientific Research… the list goes on
    • This thought exercise can be applied to any aspect of your life.

What Impact Do You Want to Have on the World?

If you have noticed that your actions wouldn’t create a fantastic world if everyone copied you, then perhaps your values aren’t matching up with your actions. Perhaps you’re letting down your own team.

I encourage you to think of the world you want to exist in the future, then take the actions that would produce that world if every person in the world copied you.

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