When profits align with positive outcome, free or open markets make sense.
When profits align with negative outcome they don’t. In these cases a social system is better for society. And in the end, bettering society should ALWAYS be the goal.
Pencils are good for society. If your company makes a higher quality pencil and more people buy your pencil, your profits go up AND society gets a better pencil. If you make a same quality pencil but for less cost (more efficiently), your profits go up AND society gets a good quality but cheaper pencil. Profits and outcome are aligned. You make money and society benefits.
If your company makes antibiotics what do you want to happen for you to increase profits? Naturally you want more people to get sick so you can sell more drugs. I’d say that was a negative impact on society. If you make a super effective, but more costly antibiotic who will buy it? The wealthy-sick? I would venture that would be a bad business model. If you decreased your production costs and lowered the price, you can sell more drugs to more people, but again, once you’ve (theoretically) cured everybody — where’s your profit going to come from? What company would ever enter into such a business model? Yeah, exactly! (And it’s a real growing problem.)
If tomorrow a cure for diabetes was discovered, would Novo Nordisk, Sanofi or Eli Lilly cheer? Hardly. If tomorrow everyone in the world became diabetic who would benefit?
It turns out there’s a simple rule of thumb to determine when open markets make sense, namely, when profits align with a positive societal outcome.
- Cars can be good for society. The company that makes the best, lowest cost car will profit.
- Airlines are good for society. The airline that transports the most people and cargo, for the lowest cost, safely and comfortably will profit.
- Smartphones are good for society.
- Computers, beds, clothes, shoes, food, drink, furniture, hotels, restaurants, and so on and so forth.
If society benefits from the service or product, the company that provides those services or products at the lowest price and the highest quality — will profit. In each of these cases true capitalism and the associated free/open markets make sense.
Profit + positive outcome = free markets. (Win/Win)
So, when do free/open markets NOT make sense? Well, as noted above, if there’s a negative in the equation, anywhere in the equation, then free/open markets do NOT make sense.
For instance, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and health insurance corporations only profit when you are sick and are forced to pay for a cure or protection. The sicker you are, or society is, the more money healthcorps make. A negative for society equals a positive for corporations. A bad equation.
In correlation, if society became illness free, if somehow a company created a drug that cured every disease, this would be great for you and me and everyone but would destroy that company’s as well as all other healthcorp’s profits; a rather big negative.
There are other inverted benefit sectors (negative = profit):
Fire. A corporation that benefited from putting out fires would naturally want more fires burning. More fires = more profit.
Police and correctional facilities. A corporation that benefited from providing police services or incarceration would naturally want more unrest, more violence, more mayhem in society. More chaos = more profit.
Hospitals. A corporation that benefited from fixing people’s injuries and illnesses would naturally want lots and lots of sick and injured people. More illness = more profits.
There are many other negative = profit (or positive = loss) : Win/lose or lose/win.
- Disasters are bad for society (and their response and recovery aspects).
- Crime and corruption are bad for society.
- Poverty is bad. Air pollution. Water pollution. Loss of open-space.
If a thing is bad for you, me and society, then making a profit from it is NOT a good use of free and open markets. In fact, I would say that making money off of society’s misery, of any kind, is down right evil.
When there’s a negative in the equation the only solution is to build and manage a social system around it.
Socialism is not all bad. Open markets are not all bad.
Socialism is not all good and neither are open market systems.
We need a mix. The rule of thumb above can help us figure out which to apply when. Right now, healthcare is a for profit system making money on a negative affect on society. This is exactly why we must socialize healthcare.