The plight of using economics to guide actions

Regular readers know that I’m not a big fan of economics. But before now, I couldn’t really put my finger on why I disliked economics so much. It was a rather squishy feeling that was hard for me to pin down, but I had an epiphany the other day that I believe I’m ready to articulate now. Basically, it boils down to this: economics has shifted from a way of dividing resources to the science of maximizing profits, which has profound and troubling implications.

This all started because I’ve been reading a book called Plastic Ocean which–spoiler alert!–is about how mankind is filling the ocean with life-choking levels of trash. The author, Charles Moore, does a pretty good job chronicling the rise of plastic in our society, which is now ubiquitous and ever increasing. What got me thinking about all of this is this passage:

Trend lists and corporation websites never fail to invoke sustainability’s buzzword twin: innovation. […] We stake the health of our economy on “innovation,” assuming that it is always good. But when innovation leads to 26,893 new packaged foods and products–often in or of plastic–in one year, 2009, it’s time to slow down and consider the Pandora’s box of cultivating innovation for it’s own sake and start thinking morally and ecologically about the innovations we embrace. (150-151)

There are many other passages in the book about how the fishing industry is a big culprit in this game because they simply just toss all their netting into the ocean once they’re done with it. The reason? Because jettisoning the nets means they could hold more fish, and since plastic makes the netting and other equipment so cheap and replaceable, they earn more money by polluting and taking in the extra bit of haul.

But hey, according to economics, that’s just good business, right? Anything to drive up profit or to cut costs. That’s all anyone can ever talk about. The problem with that, though, is that financial capital is not the only resource out there. And if economics is at its core simply a system for figuring out how to use resources, then a paradigm shift toward focusing solely on money is moving away from a system that focuses on wisely using all resources.

And that gets back to what Moore was saying, and what I was alluding to at the beginning of this post: you cannot use that lens when making moral decisions, yet this is exactly what we do. 

It’s what the fishermen in Moore’s book do. Pollution was a bigger problem before the advent of government regular because throwing industrial waste into the river is always going to be cheaper than properly disposing of it. And yes, the environment is a moral or ethical issue because we all share the same environment, and the actions of one or a handful of companies directly impact the rest of us. Does the right of a corporation to make money supersede my right to enjoy clean air or water without toxins?

That’s a perfectly legitimate question, and it gets to the crux of the issue here: economics often attempts place a price tag on things that are intrinsically invaluable. 

I don’t think there’s a person alive right now who would agree that killing the ocean is okay. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that “destroying ocean = bad idea.” The ocean is what supports all life on the planet, so killing it or damaging it is kind of a big deal. And I don’t think that anyone would want to live in that world. In other words, preventing that or fixing that is a rational idea.

And yet, if you introduce that idea, the first thing you often hear from politicians, people in businesses, and economists is, “But how many jobs will that eliminate? How much tax revenue will be lost?” As if the health of the very ecosystem we depend on for everything could somehow be measured by job loss or the employment rate. The idea is quite striking: economics makes us reject perfectly rational ideas and courses of action. As if somehow losing 10,000 jobs in the coal sector outweighs everyone breathing cleaner air.

But we don’t need to focus on solely the environment to see how using economics to guide action can be morally disastrous. Indeed, we need only look at the insurance industry.

Did you know that your life has a dollar amount affixed to it? You may think of yourself or your loved ones, spouses and children, as invaluable, but the insurance company certainly has different ideas. To them, you and your family are metrics that can be quantified in dollars and cents. Prior to recent healthcare reform, people with serious illnesses could be denied coverage or dropped unceremoniously from their plans because it was deemed, somewhere in an accounting office, that it was “too expensive” to care for them. Put another way, there was some magic dollar amount the insurance company used as a barometer of sorts: if caring for you would cost less than X, great, you get to live! But if it costs more than X…well, too bad.

Now, these decisions were not made for want of resources. There are plenty of medical resources in America. No, this was simply about the bottom line of the insurance company. Think about that: decisions that affect the health of your children are often made based on how much money the insurance company will have to dole out. I don’t really feel comfortable trying to attach a price tag to human life, and I suspect that the majority of people out there don’t.

Too often, economics makes taking the morally or ethically correct action “cost prohibitive,” to use the business parlance. In reality, the stakes of many of these issues go beyond money, beyond resource use. If the ecosystem we live in dies, so do we. In such a case, there’s no such thing as “too expensive” or “too many jobs lost” because none of that will matter if the ocean dies. Profit margins and stock markets are going to mean less than nothing when rising sea levels kill millions of people and forever alter our lives.

And perhaps, if I could use this conclusion to make one last plea, please stop thinking about life–all life–in terms of economics. It’s irrational and counterproductive, it stagnates our advancement and our health, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

if-you-think-the-environment-economy

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20 thoughts on “The plight of using economics to guide actions

  1. In many ways, money has become a God in our society. Where people believe in it so much that they think is real. But money is a fiction. The pieces of paper are not pieces of paper but a representation of what they can buy. And they can buy all sorts of things from giant inflatable Santa’s to food for the needy. So of course not all things that we can buy with the money are of equal value either. But like many religions when they get old they get caught up in ritual and shift our focus away from the real world and the problems that exist. So while people try hard to obtain money, they obtain only that and little else.

    1. I think people really don’t know what they’re sacrificing when they pursue money in such a way, when they deify it. Thinking about all the creativity and imagination that’s abandoned in such hollow fiduciary pursuits, it just makes me sad.

  2. I think there is room for more discussion here. Economics, being a social science, is not-so-simple. Yes, of course it implies utilizing scarce resources that may have alternative uses but it usually revolves around people trading among themselves, in various ways. Economists spend a lot of time researching their preferred subject….hours of research includes who trades with who, what is it their trading, why would people buy it in the first place, why would they waste something (comes in handy for your topic) and also, policy, taxation, social ills, unions, corporations and small businesses alike. Its not just about profits, here. Profits means you did something well enough or created something good enough to where people are buying your product. Even then, your company could spend 4 million in costs and only gain 4 million back in profits….so their net profit margin is 0 dollars. Also, most businesses fail within the first 5 years (about 80% or more) You don’t need to dislike economics as it is. Its just a social science. The same laws and theories of economics applies to capitalistic or socialist-inclined countries as well. Tested and measured. Furthermore, its not just a profit system. Its a profit and loss based system. What you’re bringing up is waste and poor education on our behalf, as an entire species. And it’s not economists disagree with you, really. Who in the right mind wants destruction of our forests and land? If anything, economics and those that understand it, know it means to utilize scarce resources. Humans wasting water, utilizing too much oil, not finding better means is not the fault of “economics” but those that actually flee from it’s very nature. If anything, studying economics would help you improve a vast understanding about waste and how bad it really is. Instead of challenging me, challenge yourself. You blaming “Economics” on waste and destruction of rain forests would be like someone else blaming climatologists and their understanding of what’s causing climate change. These are experts in their field and don’t condone nasty corporations or back-stabbing deals. You’d be surprised that the worst atrocities that have caused waste and fraud were not from the private sector…. Also, keep in mind that demand has a lot to do with everything but people forget how its supplied and who/what can influence it. Thank you for letting me share something with you. If you want resources, I’d be glad to direct you towards some good ones. Thank you again.

    1. Well I think we agree that people who promote waste, pollution, and fraud as common business practices aren’t really using “economics” anymore, but rather a perverse or warped form of it.

      But that doesn’t change the fact that looking at something from only a strict cost/benefit point of view can make rational and perfectly moral choices “too expensive” to implement. Or so the argument goes from companies and politicians. Obviously everything comes at a cost–even in a system where money didn’t exist there would still be some kind of a cost. But people would do well to consider costs beyond simply the financial.

      Of course part of the problem goes beyond economics to philosophy, to the values of a given society. In our society we value convenience over quality and substance when it comes to material goods, and when you combine that with a profit-driven economic outlook it’s a recipe for disaster.

      So there really are only two fixes to this problem. We either a) change the way we practice business and use economics, or b) we change our values. I have a feeling that if we did b it would naturally lead to a. However, I don’t really know how likely that is. It seems that we humans are still stuck in being more reactive than proactive. I doubt anything will change until the situation gets very bad and completely after the point where we could have turned it around.

      And, as usual, I very much appreciate your input. I was actually hoping you would respond so that I could get your feedback 🙂

  3. Again, the point was not taken on your behalf: “only a strict cost/benefit point of view can make rational and perfectly moral choices ‘too expensive’ to implement.” <—Was not the idea, per se. Think about this: it's not simply cost vs benefit=efficiency. That is a problem in of itself. Material goods, and these topics should be included in debate, absolutely. Its paramount, actually. Instead, it's mostly about how people can utilize resources. That is another topic of debate as well. Hell, one could profit off of recycling, huh? Think about that. 😉
    The problem number 1 is that most Americans know little about economics, economic history, history in general and lack a basic concept of critical thinking.
    You and I already both agree about the critical thinking part.
    Now, the other problem, that includes the first problem, is the skewed nature in which people "believe" in economics. There is no "believing" anything in this field, even it's controversial and full of muddled crap. But it has rules, laws, theories and many, most in fact, have been tested and measured. This leads of course to another problem…. Which is, of course, the problem number 2, here. Very few people are taught this, very few politicians have a background in it and those that do either A)don't know crap about it but still vote for policies about it or B) be all "for" it (or a mix) but not realize its negative attributes or C) be all "against" it (or some mix thereof) and no clue about its positives either. Let's face it: the number poverty-killing and standard-of-living-increasing machine/system is having a relatively free market. There is no comparison to any other system thus far produced. Socialist policies or socialist-inclined policies do not even come close. Free trade, works very well. Sometimes, all too well. Now, it comes with negatives… it's not the science behind economics, but those that inherent differing ideas…an example is a huge corporation that produces a lot of profit (good), creates lots of jobs which reduces poverty (great), makes some people rich (meh, its ok) but also can waste material goods (not good) and even pollutes (****ing bad) but the worst part is that most large businesses and huge corporations survive because of our government causing them to happen in the first place (very ****ing bad!). Yet, people usually care less because….again, from Problem number 1, people don't know much about the topic. Capitalism and letting people trade freely, is not about letting corporations rules…instead, its for people. It's not for the wage-laborer but the consumer, the buyer….the person that has to deal with consequences of government action and policies. Also, the people that have to deal with inflation, pollution, bad investors, etc. Capitalism is for people, not massive and wasteful corporate or government entities. You can even argue how horribly wasteful government is….

    1. I’ve always found the utter lack of people with accounting backgrounds in congress to be curious and problematic. Although that’s another discussion altogether (my guess is that bean counters aren’t charismatic enough to get elected, which says a lot about our electorate and political system, but again, I digress).

      As to your point about belief in economics, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with you. It’s indeed easy to predict how certain scenarios play out using math when there is something that can be quantified. Materials, labor costs, taxation, GDP growth–those are all things that can be expressed mathematically, so naturally they follow certain laws or theories of economics.

      But there are many aspects of the economy that can’t be quantified and rely heavily on the way people feel. People won’t invest in hiring or other companies if they “feel nervous” about something. There’s no way to take that into account using math. There’s always some element in economics that remains nebulous, right back to the development of capitalism and “the invisible hand.” We also can’t quantify what people value or why, which was the point I was largely trying to make. So how does one reconcile math with value? Usually we just say something like, “Well, the value is expressed as what the individual is willing to pay for something.” But that logic breaks down when it comes to something that either cannot be priced or which shouldn’t be priced (like a human life, for example).

      Of course I realize that I’m making a subjective value statement about certain things that shouldn’t have a dollar value. But I’d be willing to bet that most people would agree that certain moral or ethical situations can’t be expressed or evaluated on an economic basis, or at least shouldn’t be.

      One final note: “Capitalism and letting people trade freely, is not about letting corporations rules…instead, its for people.”

      I would agree with this statement, but also argue that it’s useless without some sort of government intervention and regulation. People can and do argue about how much is too much, but you can’t rely on people to regulate themselves. Even if it’s only a tiny minority who are acting harmfully or irresponsibly. As we’ve seen throughout history, it doesn’t take a large group of people to really screw it up for everyone else.

      A lot of people think that the market (ie people) will regulate those businesses or individuals who act irresponsibly. That certainly can be the case, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Let’s continue with the theme of plastic for a moment. People might look at the destruction that plastic brings and say, “Well just don’t buy plastic, vote with your dollar!” But there is no alternative to plastic. It’s literally in everything. You can’t vote with your dollar in this case. Voting with one’s dollar is only a viable solution when there are other alternatives to vote for, and even in that case only when the alternatives are feasible. And in this case, the way the current system is set up is that it’s not possible to boycott plastic.

      And that’s where government intervention is important. Only governments are capable of penalizing companies that pollute. Only the government is capable of setting standards for business practices (hopefully using scientific data and experts) and plastic production or consumption. Might that stifle businesses? Perhaps, maybe even probably. But that just gets back to my original point: sometimes doing something regardless of the economic consequences is simply the right thing to do and will benefit many more people than it harms (and int he case of stopping pollution, the people who are harmed by job loss still benefit from having a cleaner, healthier environment).

      Clearly there is room for growth when it comes to alternative energy, recycling, etc. But the mantra that I always hear is, “Renewables and alternatives will take over or outpace the status quo when the prices are equal to or lower than the prices of the hydrocarbon industries (which includes plastics).” That’s all well and fine from an economic perspective, but not from a biological perspective. The ocean and nature don’t give two hoots where price curves or or what the economic timetable is–it’s entirely possible that we destroy the ocean before the prices of alternatives to hydrocarbons come down. So then what?

      And that’s what ultimately bugs me. The use of economics to delay actions under the guise of affordability. when in reality we can’t afford the consequences of doing nothing or waiting. < Emphasis on this last sentence.

      1. Now, back to this comment from you: “You can’t vote with your dollar in this case. Voting with one’s dollar is only a viable solution when there are other alternatives to vote for, and even in that case only when the alternatives are feasible. And in this case, the way the current system is set up is that it’s not possible to boycott plastic.
        And that’s where government intervention is important. Only governments are capable of penalizing companies that pollute.” does make a point, in many ways. However, will you rely on the government to come up with an alternative to the benefits of plastic, without the “cons?” That is my question then, to you.
        Also, you imply that we shouldn’t rely on economic models alone and that is obviously true. What is not true, in my opinion, is the belief that we should ignore them entirely. A government will NOT likely come up with an alternative to fossil fuels….or wasteful energy that pollutes. A person, in the private market setting will come up with something. There are issues with laws about this and other companies buying off patents, buts its rare. Especially to something that actually matters. Usually…most of the time, it’s the government that stifles change in a good direction. In fact, almost everytime.

      2. Well, my attempt is not to demonize the individual within society or their ability to innovate. Ultimately, though, government can be a stalwart ally of those kinds of people and operations. Take NASA, for example. It’s a government funded organization that contracts civilian scientists and researcher as well as companies in the private sector. It also successfully put men on the moon before any other government or private agency.

        On the whole, though, I can’t disagree that the government has the potential to bog things down. That’s certainly happened in the past. And it certainly is happening now with the current congress and administration.

  4. Haha. Beancounters. I love that. However, your recent quote of “People won’t invest in hiring or other companies if they “feel nervous” about something.”– is again something I disagree with. Right now, millions….billions of dollars are being invested by middle-class and rich alike into solar energy, 3d printing, hydrogen power and the works. Even oil companies invest in energy. That last part leaves a bad taste in my mouth but regardless, investing does happen. Now, back to your quote: companies and businesses (full of people, mind you) won’t hire people if they’re not good enough. Also, if they’re scare of something. Which, you’re right about. Certainly. Now, the better question posed is “why are they scared or nervous?” Usually, it’s due fluctuations in the market, monopolies taken hold of a niche in the marketplace. It can also be a democratic politician stating, “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everyone.” or “we going to tax businesses, large businesses, more money.” These will scare companies. I mean, a change from 31% to 40% of their total income is a lot of money, right? You’re talking about hiring new people and expanding, or cutting costs. More on that some other time.
    Now, you are right, and we agree, that government is essential to empower people. With that, so is an education. Our current, government-ran education system isn’t doing so well. So, there’s that.
    Government can protect consumers, help with infrastructure. It can also inhibit growth. It can also help expand, or allow the expansion of growth. Portland has like 8 bridges now. Just because people want to move either towards the West or North sides of Portland.
    Should government be in charge of laying out the law? Couldn’t their be alternatives, sir?
    There are!!!
    If a company is bad, polluting, treating their employees poorly, or inducing slave labor (like Apple computers) then people are aware of it. Changes are made. People stop buying the product, boycott it, etc.
    Now, about capitalism and clean energy: probably the best way to transition from oil-based energy to something better. Guess what: it’s already working. Government can subsidize all they want, according to my research, socialist-inclined policies create shortages and inefficiency. To the point where all money is lost, wasted, not spent on what they said they’d spend it on, etc. You’re left with nothing.
    Instead, having people, two mutual entities agree on a price in exchange for a good/service solves both problems. One, the people get what they wanted….and two, the other party gets to pay their bills.
    Its why we go to work, right?
    So, using free trade….we could get a lot done. Toyota Priuses are everywhere! That’s a good example. Solar power? That’s another. Although the German government can subsidize the energy, the private markets did everything anyways. Government should take minimal credit for that.
    Your last quote is merely a this-or-that fallacy, unfortunately. You, sir, cannot merely decide this. It is a not a matter of affordability vs taking action, etc before it’s too late. You know better than that.
    People are aware of what’s going and change is happening, there’s no doubt.

    1. I’m not entirely sure if the majority of people are entirely aware of what’s going on, unfortunately, nor am I sure on what you’re basing that assertion. Posing a question about whether or not the environmental impact of commerce can or should be measured in dollars is not a fallacy–that’s a legitimate question because that’s exactly what’s happening right now: the amount of chemicals and plastics entering the ocean right now is increasing, not decreasing, and the effects of that can be measured.

      And on this point, I would agree with you that the government is totally ineffective. Legislation and treaties both nationally and internationally have done squat to curb the amount of crap that gets dumped into the ocean on a daily basis.

      But you’ll forgive me if I take umbrage at the notion that asking whether or not any damage to the environment is worth the amount of money saved in consumer and corporate pockets is some sort of fallacy, because that’s exactly the choice that we’re faced with right now: continue to allow crap to be dumped into the ocean, or spend the money and the time to stop it and reverse it. But there is a point where money will not reverse damage that is already done–only time will do that. If a major part of the food chain is killed off, for example, you can’t spend your way out that. And that’s exactly my point, which again is not fallacious–there are certain consequences to actions that we cannot spend our way out of.

      1. No, it was a this-or-that fallacy, giving an ultimatum, so to speak. It cannot be a simple point of government inaction or economic/waste/efficiency. Because you left out the fact that economics is a science, yeah a science. There’s a reason why people exist in this field and measure human activity. If you want green energy, sir, I highly suggest you do a lot of research about the economics of green energy. Its piss poor as in terms of demand….and that is due to a lack of understanding about green(er) energy sources in the first place. Also, its due to a lack of education in the first place. Like I always say, free trade works much better when people are less dependent on things like other people or energy sources, can freely think and make up ideas, are not dependent on their governing bodies to decide their education topics. Economics, and many other facets about it, are the key….in fact, economics is paramount to saving this world. Paramount.

      2. Well, I can’t emphasize enough that this isn’t a fallacy, that there is no ultimatum.

        It’s a fact that the ocean is becoming more polluted. It’s also a fact that it’s cheaper to pollute than to act responsibly in many cases. Please enlighten us all as to where the fallacy in that lies.

        If there’s any fallacy here, it’s that you’re limiting this argument to green energy. Renewables are only one piece of this situation. Green energy also has nothing to do with the amount of physical debris or chemical pollution of the oceans, which was the major example in the original post. I detect hints of a straw man in your rebuttal, sir.

      3. Sorry for the late reply.

        I’ll rephrase the blog post: Sometimes doing the ethically, morally, or logically correct thing is more expensive than doing a harmful or illogical thing. Ergo using economics to make such decisions can often lead to paradoxical, nonsensical, and harmful outcomes.

  5. Ah, still here. And still trying to pry here. You’re assuming that people are utilizing tools under this subject tend to prefer efficiency and profit vs something else entirely. Economics is a subject of study of scarce resources with different uses. It does has a focus on efficiency. I mean, if it didn’t, you couldn’t accomplish your goals. Think about this Ryan. In your opinion, the more ethical, moral and logical thing is entirely subjective.
    I’ll explain: you want green energy like I do, right? Well, many parts of the private sector want what you want….what we want. Green energy is vital to the world. The best way to get this to really “happen” is not through a government, I hope. Taxation, waste and inefficiency? Government programs, although look good on paper and in a candidates race, ultimately fail. Instead, if you want green energy, don’t rely on a government entity…rely on markets. Every time the government attempts to tax and spend its way with green energy, there’s a backlash, corruption, it becomes very inefficient…rendering government program useless.
    So, we keep going back and forth about the same things.
    What I am trying to say is your “economics vs ‘the right thing'” fallacy (which is a this-or-that fallacy) is wrong. You’re assuming that there is some other way to stop polluting the earth, that we need something else. Yeah, we do. We need stop using oil. That’s obvious. But how? People….not governments, investing in green energy is promoting the change right now. I know it’s not fast enough for everyone (me and you) but it sure is a lot faster than relying on a government, that does not adhere to the ideals of economics. \
    When it comes to technology and when people are educated enough to invest their time and money into it, it can become great.
    Germany may spend money on solar panels but the private markets invented, invested in them and made them efficient but now that their government is helping with subsidies, innovation in the technology is declining.
    When you think of Gates and Google rich people of the world, they invest in innovation….
    Not too long ago, some young teenagers found ways to test the Ebola virus, ways to clean up the ocean spills and gyres, and ways to stop polluting…
    It’s a bigger and better step.
    Only with an understanding of making these inventions efficient, and having people invest their money in to it, can we know whether or not it works.
    You may mock profits but if it weren’t for this very important thing, the idea wouldn’t exist. I remember in nursing school and instructor discussed profits…..your company and idea wouldn’t exist if it didn’t make money. Profits are merely a response to YOUR good ideas. Losses, on the other hand, show that you didn’t do well enough and your idea did not work. If its green energy, and it works, people will invest….
    …And to think that your introductory paragraphs were mocking innovation….

    1. Two things, but first I want to say that I agree with a lot of your points. Yes, profit is a reflection of the value of a product or service to a population. And yes, innovation comes from the private sector. I haven’t been arguing against those things.

      You’re still stuck on the “this or that fallacy,” which I maintain is not the case in this discussion, and I’ll go back to an earlier example to illustrate this point: fishermen.

      Using fishermen as an example of “profit vs what is right” is salient because it’s a real example–it’s not a thought experiment.

      Commercial fishermen will eject their netting and gear into the ocean in order to hold more fish (Not all fishermen, mind you. There are some responsible ones out there). Now why do they do this?

      Because ditching the gear means that they can hold more fish, which they do because they make enough additional money to still profit, even after they replace their gear.

      Now, are fishermen somehow completely unaware of the damage that their ejected gear does? No, of course not. They see it first hand while they’re out on the ocean.

      They make a choice, and making a choice is not a “this or that fallacy” when it’s made in the real world on a daily basis. And they make the choice to eject their nets because additional profit > the environment to them.

      I say “to them” because clearly that isn’t the case to fishermen who are responsible. To those fishermen, environment > additional profits.

      Now, let’s talk about what “the right thing” is. Morality can perhaps be subjective at times, but what is “right” or “wrong” can be tied to harm. Harm is not subjective; we can measure harm in many circumstances. So then the question becomes whether or not ejecting netting really actually does harm. And the answer to that is yes. The netting kills larger animals on up the food chain, and disrupting the food chain isn’t usually a very good idea for a biome. It destroys coral reefs, which support entire ecosystems.

      This example is salient for two reasons. First, it shows that everyone is faced with making choices, and that making a choice is not an example of a “this or that fallacy.” Second, and more importantly, it shows that sometimes, profit causes people to do something that they know is harmful.

      That’s the crux of my argument. That some people do selfish, reckless, and dangerous things that others don’t do, and that economics was the tipping point in their decision making process.

      Now, does that mean that economics will ALWAYS lead to a harmful outcome? No, of course not. As you rightly pointed out, economics is the idea of dividing scare resources, which at its core has the intent of avoiding harm. And you provided examples of times economics has produced innovation. And innovation leads me to my next point.

      I did not mock innovation. What I mocked was innovation for the sake of innovating. Now we truly are venturing into the philosophical, but let me pose a question to you in earnest: does profit follow innovation, or does innovation follow profit?

      That seems to be what you and I are really getting at here. And that’s also where ethics and morality come into play. Which admittedly are gray areas. But why do people innovate? Do they have a natural drive to do so stemming from curiosity, reasoning, and preservation? Or do they innovate because they want to make money? Again, I realize that this is subjective, but I believe it plays into the decision making processes of people.

      Imagine if all forms of money disappeared from the planet tomorrow. Would people stop innovating? If they answer is “no” then I would argue that’s a case for profit following innovation and not vice versa. It seems that people have been innovating since long before money existed.

      The entire point of this is to say: when faced with a choice that produces both harm and profit, what are people obligated to do? But it’s a mistake to label that a fallacy, because these are real choices that people make everyday.

      We’ve seen rivers polluted to the point of literally being on fire from pollutants. We’ve been species of animal wiped out either as their environment is destroyed or for the products we make from them. 80% of the world’s fisheries are either actively collapsing or are on the verge of collapsing. Why are so many at that point? Because there’s still a market for fish, and a market that continues to grow at that.

      Yes, the cost to a business has to be such that profit is still made in order for that business to continue. But often, in many cases, doing the less harmful thing does not impact profits in such a way as to compromise the viability of the business; the decisions to take the more harmful route were made purely out of desire to increase profit.

      Let me get ahead of you and say that no, I’m not trying to say that profit is evil or bad. That’s not the case that I’m trying to make. The case that I’m trying to make is that sometimes profit is an incentive to do harm.

      And I’ll leave this response at that because I don’t want to run the risk of rambling and repeating myself lol .

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