Economists are the self declared high priests of social sciences. They are known for their obsession with graphs and esoteric equations. That has alienated them from vast majority of citizens who find their language complex and unintelligible.
They have been accused of talking about money without their own money. They have been accused of being mean with smiles, only outcompeted by their distant cousins, accountants. It is said in whispers that accountants are the hardest professionals to impress even out on a date.
Anyone who has ever dallied with economics, a common course for lots of professions, remembers two things about the subject, scarcity and the four factors of production. As Uber and Airbnb have shown, scarcity is a myth. The coexistence of obesity with malnutrition further shows scarcity is only in our minds. Closer home, failure to absorb development funds in the counties shows scarcity is our own creation.
The four factors of production are land, capital, labour and entrepreneurship. With the rise of behavioural economics, we can add another factor, love. It’s known by everyone despite its mystery and mystic. Though many claim to have fallen in love, it is hard to explain what that means. And no two people fall in love the same way. How was your falling in love?
Economists might love to hear that love can be a factor of production because it’s related to money. The two, love and money drive our emotions. They incentivise us to work hard. And for love we can do anything including committing murder. The two, money and love have driven lots of men and women to mental instability. But let’s look at the positive side of love, and its sister passion.
Through love, cross pollinated with some passion, procreation takes place and the next generation of economic players, children are born. Without love, and no children, economic growth is in peril. That is why countries like Japan, Russia or European countries are worried about declining population. Some could say in whispers immigrants are filling that void.
Let's get down to earth, love makes us work hard and take care of the next generation and by extension grow the economy. How many industries are built around children? Why does education take the biggest chunk of our budget? For love of their children, parents work hard day and night and drive economic growth. For the love of our country we do the same, for self love we do the same. How much has love driven you to work harder, often to impress someone? And for lack of love of self, other citizens and country, corruption has thrived.
When we show love to fellow workers, our siblings and even those under our care like students, we motivate them leading to higher productivity. But is that what we find in the work place?
We find it more like war zone, love is often missing. Few employers treat their employees with love. They miss higher productivity. Lots of workers live in fear, that a small mistake will cost them their jobs. If there was more love in this country from our homes to schools and work place, we could have achieved Vision 2030 by now. It’s easier to meet your targets through love than threat. Don’t doubt, have you tried?
The paradox is why love is missing yet it’s such an abundant resource, inexhaustible. Religions are at it and so are movies. Some suggest pornography is driven by an illusion of love. Yet like a rainbow, love is hard to get. We seem to have an idea what it is, but not how to get it. From adolescence and throughout life, we seek love even holding expensive weddings and going on honeymoons.
The fact that love defies definition keeps off economists. You can’t use an equation or graph to explain love though it obeys some laws of economics like diminishing marginal utility, the reason marriages end in divorce or couples separate. Think of the investment and consumption in the name of love. From houses we build to items we buy for one another love is always invoked. We even extend it to after life, attending funerals in large numbers to show our love or pretend to have loved the departed.
Whatever you perceive love to be, it can catalyse economic growth at both national and micro level. Only President Moi tried to ride on love at the national level. You recall Nyayo philosophy espoused by peace love and unity? What are the philosophies of his successors?
The most important commandment is about love. Love thy neighbour as you love yourself. Without preaching, there is overwhelming evidence that love leads to higher productivity and economic growth. Is patriotism not love for thy country?
Love goes beyond a passionate kiss; it’s about genuine concern for each other and for the next generation. Do you recall the missionaries who opened up the “dark continent"? How many of us go beyond the call of duty? Is climatic change not brought by our failure to love the next generation?
Surprisingly, capitalism does not contradict love, as you love profits, you share that love with others through job creation and philanthropy. Have you tried love (not passion) in your work place instead of threats? It’s time we declared love the fifth factor of production. May be we should even make it part of big 4 to make big 5.
We can’t forget that capitalists have commercialised love. Remember Valentine day? The fact that love is emotional makes it easy to commercialise with movies and adverts riding on it to influence our consumption. Needless to say, lack of love has its own industry with legal disputes extending for years and costing lots of money. If there was more love, lots of lawyers could be at home or less moneyed.
Finally, why does everyone nowadays want to be greeted through an embrace beyond a handshake, including men? Have we become more loving or are we are covering our inadequacies in loving each other?
-The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi Business School.
Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Standard Digital Telegram channel HERE.