Thursday, April 26, 2012

The long point is missing the point.

It's amazing how most discussion of business models mostly talk about the ruthless efficiency of the market, and how that must be good. Good for the customers because of cheaper prices.

Almost never talked about are issues of fairness, or of simple right and wrong.

I fall into this trap myself. I try to argue the long point -- telling people not to just look at A or B, but to continue to follow the chain of logic to C, D, and E. To look at the overall consequences, instead of the short term benefits. Of course, most people's eyes blur at the 3rd or 4th degree of complexity.

But the long point is missing the point.

When I'm really trying to say, "Hey, just use the Golden Rule. Be fair. Think about whether something is right or wrong, not just if it's efficient."

Right now, I can see some of you rolling your eyes. "Didn't your momma tell you 'Life isn't fair?'

Yeah, she did. But she didn't sound happy about it.

I can hear others of you saying, "Oh, there's your Calvinest streak again, Duncan."

But when did discussions of fairness become taboo? Is the point of life to accumulate the most goods for the cheapest prices? Or to acquire what you need in a fair and thoughtful way?

Of course, that probably makes me naive. Or a socialist commie pinko. Probably.

Because, you know, considering the moral ramifications of policy is somehow really dumb.


Duncan McGeary said...

I think people take "Life isn't fair" as a guiding principle, instead of the warning it's meant to be.

H. Bruce Miller said...

I don't expect capitalism to be fair, but the big mistake is in assuming, as classical economics does, that people acting "rationally" according to "enlightened self-interest" in "the free market" will "in the long run" magically produce the best possible outcome for all individuals and the society as a whole.

First, people often don't act rationally. Second, self-interest often isn't enlightened. Third, a true "free market" doesn't exist, never has existed and probably never could.

Finally, as Keynes famously said, in the long run we are all dead.

H. Bruce Miller said...

It's a truism that life isn't fair. But right-wingers seem to take that as a justification for making it as unfair as possible.