A zero-sum game is a situation where only person or group can benefit from a relationship. In a zero-sum game, if I lose, you win, and vice versa.
Some situations, like a soccer game or a chess match, are naturally zero-sum games. If one team wins, the other team must lose. The success of one person group neccessitates the failure of the other.
But some situations are mutually beneficial to both parties. Trade is the prime example of a mutually beneficial agreement. Both parties give away something that they do not want to get something they do want, benefiting both parties. Marriage is (or at least should be) another example of two parties helping each other and accordingly benefiting one another.
However, many people tend to see all situations – and all human relationships – solely in terms of zero-sum games. In this view, one group’s success MUST come off the backs of other people. One man’s happiness MUST come at the expense of another.
Common examples of zero-sum games can be found in both the economic realm and the social realm.
Economic movements using zero-sum game thinking often involve forms of class warfare. The Occupy Movements are based upon the principle that the top earners in society are earning their wages off the backs of the common people. Marxist theory is the great historical example of zero-sum economic thinking – the bourgeoisie earned their money at the expense of the proletariat, and in order to improve their lot, they must destroy their tormenting class.
Social theories regarding zero sum games involve setting different groups of people against one another. Feminism is a zero-sum game – women’s gain is set at the expense of men. With this mentality, if women improve, men must decrease, if men increase, women decrease. Affirmative action, with its attempt to raise minorities up in order to atone for earlier racial injustices, attacks the status of certain races at creates a zero-sum game on that score.
But economic and social theories that see all transactions as zero-sum games reflect a foolish and unchristian mentality. For zero-sum games set men against one another. But rich and poor, men and women were not created by God to tear one another down. Instead, all people were created to help each other attain happiness, and should act accordingly.
The world is not composed of zero-sum games, and should not be ideologically twisted to make it seem like it is. People are social creatures, and are meant to help each other. Reducing the world to zero-sum games is a destructive philosophy, that in the end destroys the bonds that unite people and helps no one.