Op-ed: Systems are human constructs

Op-ed: Systems are human constructs

Rachel Ghaw

Our society is made up of systems, ways of organizing people and ideas to fit the mold. Systems are neither perfect nor bullet-proof; when systems crumble, the resulting negative impacts will inflict burdens on society. These negative impacts can be translated into inequality, increased competition and hatred of one another.

Systems can be visible or invisible, and the principles governing them help shape our environment, actions and experiences. Consider the more obvious systems, like education or health care in comparison to ones that act on a social level, such as racial, gender and financial divides. Because these systems ultimately regulate our experiences, perceptions and ideologies, they have caused war and division in our so-called progressive world.

Of course, that is not to say that individuals are completely blameless. Systems are created by individuals. They are a collective effort.  

We are all inherently part of the system, making it almost impossible for individuals not to assimilate to the ideologies imposed on them, especially when we are not conscious of these systems’ existence in the first place.

We tend to blame powerful individuals, like CEOs and presidents, for having a greater influence on systems than the common man. It is irrational, however, to put individuals with larger shares of power entirely at fault. All individuals, regardless of their status, have some degree of influence.

Individuals and corporations exercise their power by participating in the sale and consumption of goods and services. Both have an influence on market equilibrium.

For instance, the equilibrium price of an Amazon Prime membership is determined by both the supply and demand sector. Amazon would be unable to set an insanely high price, or else there wouldn’t be any demand for it. On the other hand, if there is demand for a product, companies will always supply it.

Therefore, one cannot put the full blame onto the supply sector for one’s decisions. In economics, the demand sector has more or less the same amount of influence as the supply sector.

Take the extreme environmentalists, for example. In order to defame giant corporations that pollute, or institutions that finance these corporations, environmentalists themselves must not use any products produced by any of these corporations. However, unless these people entirely segregate themselves from civilization, growing their own crops and building their own houses, it is impossible for them not to contribute to the system which they oppose.

Because we live in an ever increasingly globalized and interconnected world, to truly pinpoint one person or group to be the main source of cause to an issue would be fallacious. In order for any system to succeed, both individuals and society at large must be at work. After all, without individuals, there would be no society, and without society, nothing would ever be created – including systems.

Rachel Ghaw is a fourth-year philosophy and economics combined major.