“Pressure” — the lifeblood of society

Ourselves, our lives, companies, governments, infrastructures, and our entire society and world, are complex systems which involve a continuous cycle of both creating and relieving “pressure”, or stress, for the purpose of the continued existence of the system.

In a very well known and classical model we often refer to this as “supply” and “demand”. However in the course of this article I wish to explain why supply is a kind of demand, and demand is a kind of supply. Actually I will just refer to them as “pressure” which is “alleviated” — since both supply and demand form the two sides of an intricate symbiotic relationship — and in many contexts they depend on each other for survival.

Introduction: supply and demand in context

“In microeconomics, supply and demand is an economic model of price determination in a market” (From Wikipedia) The basic concept of supply and demand is well known to the general public. But perhaps it could be understood at a more macro level — because when one looks at them at a higher level, one sees the symbiotic relationship between supply and demand and how, when in balance, they blend into each other as one and the same thing.

One could picture the genesis of this argument as being “demand” — demand is a simple word that means “A condition requiring relief” or “An urgent or peremptory (Not allowing contradiction or refusal) request”. In simple words, “demand” is a requirement from the system on the system. A good example of a demand is the demand for food. Each of us requires food to survive. Some other common examples of demand on the system of society include the demand for transportation, education, government, etc. All of these demands must be met by a supply of a particular product or service in order for society to continue.

Of course, supply is the process of making available goods and services in order to meet demand. Classically we think of supply as something that is sold for a price to meet the demand.

But… They could be thought of as one

This is a story I use to illustrate the relationship and great similarity between demand and supply:

Think of a train that comes at a particular frequency to your nearby train station that goes to the city.  Because this supply is provided as a service by the rail company, people rely on the train coming on time to take them to work, or wherever they need to go. So the train must turn up in good time to receive the passengers and provide transportation to them — this initial description illustrates how we classically think of supply and demand. The commuters who use the train create demand, and the train comes and picks them up, thus the train is a supply. We may think that “people need the train”, because the train service is meeting the needs of people who want transport.

—  However, when you look at it backwards, something equally logical works too: “the train needs the people”– because the train itself costs money to operate. Hence it is only by the constant flow of passengers using that train that it is able to justify its own running costs and provide profit to the company. So, for the rail company, they may see things completely differently. They see the people as the “supply” that meets the “demand” of the internal running costs of the train, railroad staff, etc. Thus turning this viewpoint around we see that your demand is the supply of someone else, and your supply is the demand of someone else.

Hence demand is supply, supply is demand. — It only depends on which side of the story you approach from.

Another simple example is a hospital. Classically we think that the hospital meets the demand of sick and injured people, providing them relief. Of course — that is true. However, conversely, the sick and injured people provide a constant supply of work for the staff of the hospital, thus supplying them with jobs.

In fact pretty much every unit of society, whether it be a family, a company, a government, all provide both demand and supply on the big “system”. I work as a digital marketing specialist and meet a demand by supplying my skills to the society. However, my living costs include, for example, electricity; which creates a demand on the system. Hence my existence and living both create and relieve “pressure”, I.E demand and supply. We both add and receive value in our environment.

A story about symbiosis, and how you treat people

Back when I worked in IT support I’d occasionally hear someone say “The most annoying people are users” — yet without them we wouldn’t have a job! We need them. However, conversely, without our service they would also struggle (their computers and infrastructure would degrade) — hence they need us.

Based on this it seems appropriate to talk about how we treat each other. You see, perhaps a government official or other authoritative figure views himself as above the ranks of people “below” him, and might treat them as though they are expendable or patronise them. But he would do well to realise that without them he would not be in that position either. In fact the upper class, by definition, requires the existence of the middle and lower classes, otherwise they would not be the “upper class”, so patronising in a sense merely shows ignorance of this concept.

This is just another reason why we should treat all people well and fairly, because although we cannot perceive it directly in our day to day situations (which seem more “supply and demand” oriented, I.E “Microeconomics”, the small picture) — The truth is that we all rely on each other for our continued existence in ways we perhaps cannot fully realise. So it’s best for us to think twice before treating someone as though they are expendable, because we need them as they need us.

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