Thus far, as a landscape architect, ‘economy aspects’ have been put far from my consideration of design. In most studio works, since a sort of making profits or increasing economic values is not regarded as an objective, the book, Animal Spirit (by Akerloff & Shiller), came to me as a fresh field of knowledge and made me open my eyes on the economics. For me, among the five chapters in the book, specially the second chapter ‘fairness’ reminded me of my experience of an ‘unfair trade.’ Thus, I’d like to articulate one case related to ‘unfairness’ in this post.
Before telling a case, I’m going to mention about ‘fairness.’ We know that ‘fairness’ can act as a catalyzer to people’s economic activities and this fairness, in terms of trade, enables both a seller and a buyer to be satisfied with their trade. For instance, in café, when we buy a coffee and get it, under a premise that the price is reasonable, both we and a barista do say “thank you.” When regarding an aspect that the money from our pocket become barista’s incomes, why do we express gratitude to him/her? Don’t we need to say “thank you” because the barista would not earn profits without our money? I found the answer from the book and it might be simple: since for us $2.45, the average price of a Starbucks americano, is considered ‘fair’ to pay for getting a coffee and to taste a product of the barista’s technique, it may make us naturally say “thank you.” With this ‘$2.45’ fairness, we can enjoy the dulcet sweetness and flavor of coffee or get caffeine to kick off sleepiness, and also the barista can make profits from us.
Let me talk about a case of ‘unfairness.’ In Korea, my hometown, there is a beach, named ‘Haewoondae’, which is the most popular beaches in Korea and many people love the place with bright sunshine and white sand. But there has been a critical ‘unfairness’ about umbrellas, sometimes called as parasols. As you can figure out from the below picture, umbrella is run under management. Surprising fact is its users are not allowed to use their own umbrella and even cannot sit on the beach without paying for it. For using an umbrella? You should pay $40! How it can be? How this unfair business has occurred for several decades at the most famous beach? Why doesn’t local government take any action? The reason is that gangs involve in running the beach, which is connected with political corruption. When we consider Animal Spirit’s ‘fairness,’ it would be natural thing that this unfair trade makes the beach’s economic activities be shrunk. But the beach still remains as one of the most popular places in Korea. The main reason, I think, is for the users there is no other options without paying $40 and also for some users the beach’s leisure is worth $40. Also, although some others may feel reluctant to pay it, the fact that the amount of demand for the umbrella is much more than that of reluctance allows the beach to remain popular. It could be an abnormal case, but it would imply that without ‘fairness,’ economic activities can occur and even be promoted if there is no option but high demand. Actually I’ve never been there because I don’t want to contribute to such a corruption. Yet the thing is there is a case that ‘unfairness’ has made people pay their money and it has been in high demand.