A look at the elusive search for homo-oeconomicus and the genuine gift of Shiba Inu by Buterin.
Mainstream economics considers us all rational human beings, i.e. homo oeconomicus, driven by the maximization of utility. Transnational capitalism is based on the dogma of capital accumulation: entrepreneurs must increase profits to invest more and keep growing. Since the beginning of the XXth century, anthropologists have criticized the concept of homo oeconomicus, demonstrating that it is a historically contingent and culturally produced phenomenon and not a "natural" human attitude as classical economics claims. In many cultures, people act not for the mere seeking of self-interest or profit, but they are driven by other emotions that are socially constructed.
In Western societies too, sociologists have been claiming that homo-oeconomicus is a pure product of our culture: Max Weber, for example, perceived the protestant ethics as the spirit of capitalism. More recently two Nobel Prizes in Economics have been awarded to scientists who proved that humans are anything but rational (Daniel Kahnemman, 2002; Richard Thaler, 2017). Homo-oeconomicus seems to be as elusive a species as the sasquatch.
We recently witnessed something that recalls a potlatch in the world of cryptocurrencies. In May 2021, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin set fire to 6.7 billion U.S. Dollars, in the form of Shiba Inu meme coins that were sent to his wallet without his consent. Within a few minutes, this massive wealth ended up in an address of many zeros and disappeared. It was not used to invest in a new business or kept for future use. It was simply burned. Wasted. Dépensé. In a world where more than 800,000 people live in extreme poverty, social inequalities are rising, and people do not have access to medical care, it seems an act of extreme arrogance.
Camilla Carabini - Economic anthropologist interested in money, finance, and cooperatives. She works as an independent researcher and she is a board member of Fondazione Finanza Etica in Italy. She is an expert on international cooperative development: before choosing the freelance career she was director of an Ngo engaged in the promotion of social and cooperative enterprises in Africa and Latin America. She has lived, studied and worked in Argentina, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ghana, Mozambique, Spain, Togo, and the UK. She is @camunz on Twitter.
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