Cargo cults became global in the wake of mass media. Now its called consumerism. Many of the non-essential material goods are important mainly for their symbolism.

A frequent conversation in the commons movement is exchange value vs use value, with some parallels in debates about property ownership vs use rights. Its six of one and half a dozen of the other to me. Although accounting methods (manipulating symbola) are seldom neutral, I think the more fundamental issues are things like well-being, sustainability, subsidiarity, and externalities. Maybe those are pragmata. PR

Inquiry Into Inquiry

Re: Cathy O’NeilProfit as Proxy for Value

There is a deep and pervasive analogy between systems of commerce and systems of communication, turning on their near-universal use of symbola (images, media, proxies, signs, symbols, tokens, etc.) to stand for pragmata (objects, objectives, the things we really care about — or would really care about if we examined our values in practice thoroughly enough).

Both types of sign-using systems are prey to the same sort of dysfunction or functional disease — it sets in when their users confuse signs with objects so badly that signs become ends instead of means.

There is a vast literature on this topic, once you think to go looking for it.  And it’s a perennial theme in fable and fiction.

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