Strength in Service and related thoughts

Question of the Day April 16, 2011 ~ Strengths in Service

How can you use your strengths in greatest service to yourself, family, community and the world?

Sorry Ian – but I must disagree.
We all have both strengths and weaknesses.
It seems to me that it is powerful to know both, and to play to one’s strengths.
I will never be an athlete.

The question is one I have been asking myself for half a century.

It seems that my greatest strengths are an ability to find relationships between diverse things, and an empathy for most people.
I am strongly intuitive, and also highly logical. Which leads to interesting situations where I intuit logical answers, or more often, intuit that a particular solution will or will not work, when I hear it from someone else.

Right now, I think that the best value I could give is to work on long term development of systems to support all humanity living in abundance.
As yet I have little agreement about that.

Currently I maintain several websites:
This blog site
My company site –
Solnx – plan for prosperity and security for all humanity
A facebook page –
As Treasurer for Te Korowai O Te Tai O Marokura (Kaikoura Coastal Guardians) –
As President of the Kaikoura Boating Club –

I am deeply concerned that unbridled economic greed is causing major issues for all life on this planet.

I am deeply concerned for my own survival in the short term and that of everyone else in the longer term.

I am concerned that our societal focus on economics as a constraint on political and societal action is a serious limitation on possibility. Money is a very poor measure of value. It only gives a reasonable measure of value if everything is equally scarce; and tends to drive everything to an equal level of scarcity. We are sold the image of money delivering abundance, but it does that only for the lucky few.

If I can get that message out, that the promise of money delivering abundance is an illusion; then I will have made a substantial contribution.

I have deep ethical issues about making a lot of money, even to use it for the long term betterment of all.

My biggest weakness is plain old fashion laziness.

I don’t do 7 days a week 16 hours a day any longer.

I would love to make it to the top level of politics, or to be involved in a major “think tank”, with access to political leaders.

[followed by]

Now I’m confused Ian.

If we take some mythical average human being, then compared to that average, every one of us will have areas of strengths and weaknesses.

There is another sense, in which it is precisely these deviations from “normality” that make each of us different and interesting. So in that sense, our weaknesses are not necessarily a negative aspect – simply an aspect to be accepted, and worked upon if we decide such work is worth the effort.

No human being can excel at everything, and some excel at more that others.

So if you were saying we should work to eliminate all weaknesses, then I say that is a waste of time and talent, and not at all possible. I will, for the foreseeable future, remain a very weak opera singer.

If, in contrast, you were suggesting that we can choose to develop a few areas of weakness related to some passion for which we have many areas of strength, then I can only agree.

Alternatively, if you were suggesting that we can do away with the entire concept of weakness, and simply bring acceptance to what is so, and choose to do with that as we will (bringing it to contribution, or not, to development, or not); then I can only agree with you.

You used too few words for me to be at all sure of which, if any, of the senses above you mean.


[followed by]


The promise of money is a complex issue.

There is a general belief, that if you are an efficient manufacturer of some good or service, then the monetary system will reward you, and increasing abundance and prosperity will result. It is this “meta level” sense in which money (as a means of exchange) promises to deliver.

Certainly, it is not money, but the ability of people and systems to deliver goods and services, that are the ultimate source of the abundance.

It is at the meta level, of the incentives within the systems of money, that the problem lies.

The systems of money are incentivised to maximise the flow of money, and not to deliver abundance to all.
There are many instances of perfectly working production systems being closed down because there were no more people with enough money to buy their products. In many cases, there was certainly demand for those products, but the people with the desire did not have the money.

Many people now have so little to offer, that their value to the monetary system is less than what it costs to feed them. But that is another issue.

Pressures to cut costs to increase “profits” reduce wages and lead to a decaying spiral. We are seeing a lot of it here in NZ right now.

[followed by in private email.]


Ailsa told me you two had connected – which was great.

You said “Then in the overall market picture, those systems were out of tune with ACTUAL demand, weren’t they? And couldn’t they have given their products to those with not enough money to buy, if that were their purpose, if that were part of their bottom line? With enough financing from somewhere to pay for continued production?

Its the last bit that is the killer – “With enough financing from somewhere to pay for continued production?“.

There are many people, like myself (and yourself I suspect) that give most of our time and knowledge to others without charge, in an effort to deliver a more just and possibility filled society that all have access to. I am not attached to “equality for all”, and I am committed to systems that deliver “a certain base level of abundance to all” that is sufficient for everyone to live, to experience security (such as it is), and to have access to education.

What I see happening, is the major systems of this planet being controlled by small groups that extract huge profits from the majority, and condemn that majority to an existence which, from their perspective, is devoid of possibility.

In my own case, I am still privileged by the standards of most in this community, yet my income (inflation adjusted) is now lower than it was in my 20s. I can no longer afford to simply go where I chose, but have to carefully budget fuel for a few well chosen trips. In the last 3 years we have gone from being debt free, to having a $50K overdraft. We have lost 5 clients to bankruptcy, and several more to amalgamation. It is tight out there.

As to Ayn Rand – yes, I certainly recognise her awesome contribution.

Her development of objectivism is an outstanding achievement (for all that it has a few errors in it).
Where we part company more seriously is in two areas:
1/ The value of money.
2/ The level of independence of the individual, and individual creativity.

I don’t believe that Rand had the distinction between monetary value and “real” value.
Monetary value is only the exchange value of something in a particular context of sets of relative abundance.
Real value is derived if you imagined that a particular thing was no long present. How much would you be willing to give to have it back.

When you start doing that exercise, start with simple things, like oxygen and water, and various foods.
Then move on to more complex things, like family, friends, communities, ecologies, technologies, ways of thinking.

When you do that exercise, you will find that many things that have little or no monetary value have huge “real” value.

The market deals only with the current and expected levels of scarcity. Longer term possibilities have very high “discount rates”. Thus money based thinking is very unlikely to see long term and large scale problems soon enough to be able to do anything effective to prevent them. Even worse, the extreme short term nature of monetary thinking often creates problems.

The other area of difference between myself and Rand is the “ownership” of creativity. Certainly, someone has to be first with any idea, and someone has to be the first to bring any idea into reality; and with most ideas, the probability of someone else independently inventing the same idea increases quite quickly over time.
The pattern is usually exponential, with someone being first by a year of two, but within decades dozens of people are independently creating the same thing.
This is what one expects to see, with an ever expanding exploration of “possibility space”.

So while in one sense I agree with Rand on the worth of the individual, in another sense I also acknowledge the role of everyone who came before and currently coexists with, each individual, in providing a context that is a significant factor in the creativity that each of us has. We feed off each other, and very little of that has a monetary aspect.

Thus, I am not as inclined as Rand to give a designer sole rights over a design, and I would certainly support systems that allowed all designers to design to their heart’s content.

The key to it, is the ability to automate.
We are capable of automating any producing system, but there is no economic incentive to do so to the point that it supplies all people, because the resulting abundance would drive the economic value of the product to the same economic value that oxygen has (zero).

This is the fundamental flaw in the myth of money.

[followed by]

Hi Ian

It seems that we have very divergent understandings of the meanings of some words.

Your bird on the branch analogy is very similar to my flounder in the hand analogy Question of the Day April 15, 2011 ~ Ready for truth?
And the flounder example above does show how much effort one must sometimes be prepared to put in to ensure that another actually gets to “see the fish”.

Right now – I’m still not “seeing your fish” in anything other than what seems a trivial sense.

I would like to see it, if it’s there.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s