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Rational Economic Man – Oh Really?

“Rational economic man” is an economic theory that serves as the cornerstone of modern economics and the whole of commerce. This theory, known as “rational economic man” (notice the absence of women), describes men who make economic choices based purely on rational self-interest.

“Rational” is understood to mean that, given the circumstances, men (no women again) will make choices that optimize their chances to obtain precisely what he desires in the way of wealth.

Given this definition, rational economic man is a calculator of money and goods – and his calculations all serve to fulfill his desire to amass more and more. So we end up with a mathematical model that’s supposed to serve as the basis for human-to-human transactions.

How entirely conceptual, abstract, and without heart and feeling. No wonder commerce has such a bad rap – even when it is doing good and providing for what we all need to survive and thrive. Just the idea of injecting emotion into the marketplace disorients if not dismantles, at least in part, the rationality that’s supposed hold together the whole enterprise.

To be sure emotion is depended upon but only as a hook to assure capturing the customer’s attention and making the sale. But that is not a genuine connection and not genuine emotion. It is conceptual emotion that leads to over-the-top promotion and hype as the only means a non-emotional promoter has to try to persuade the potential customer

There’s no real connection. A whole human being, male or female, can be rational, and exquisitely so. But not without a sensitive dependence on feelings as the non-verbal, body-based, non-rational means of assessing what is beneficial and what must be avoided. Even the most successful businessmen and women are known to “trust their gut,” or use their “sixth sense.” That is hardly rational.

A new metaphor is needed to describe the “whole economic human” who is grounded in his or her body, alive on this planet, not escaping into the simple and even simplistic region of being that exists from our eyebrows to the top of our collective head.

Being alive as a “whole economic human” is about mindspace, heartspace, bodyspace, soulspace, and co-creativespace, that space in which we are all interconnected and manifest our individual and collective life experience together.

When this new metaphore “whole economic human” is integrated into our overarching belief systems, we have a mutli-dimensional economic person who strives to fulfill his or her self-interest only as it is situated within community – without which no self-interest could ever survive let alone thrive.

Rational economic man? Not really! Rational, feeling-filled, intuitive, spiritual economic human – not as simple, but certainly more evolved. In short, where we all have to go.

And to deepen your soul-based assurance that maximum profits can be consistent with your spiritual integrity, be sure to get your copy of our new book The Heart of Marketing: Love Your Customers and They Will Love You Back (Morgan James Publishing, May 2009

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