2/27/2006

Disturbing The Settled Mind: Compassion and Competition

Can competition co-exist with compassion? Can we relate the world of business to the world of human need? Does competition work in our favor? Does regulation work in our favor?
Over time, our minds begin to extract the ideas of culture and reasoning, and pair these ideas to our conclusions to form a layer of ideology to which our opinions often adhere. These opinions gather there, and it becomes increasingly difficult to sort the mindset from the mind.
Many of our discussions in the blogosphere can be distilled into some basic questions, but we REACT from the layers that are often shaky, at best. Sometimes we have to shake things up and watch the heaviest of our formative beliefs settle first while the baggage spins, paradoxically- this yields clarity. It is intellectually healthy to be disturbed. Shaken. For our beliefs to redistribute once in a while. We must do this to discuss the relationships between business and government, and how the interplay of their actions form both problems and solutions for present society. It speaks to our view on rights, and rights are not easy to talk about.(continued)

What are our rights? What is the scope of governmental intervention? How far should law and social policy go toward addressing social problems through either business or behavioral remedies? Should law be a vehicle toward rights protection...should government be the enforcer of legal remedy...or should government seek to be the mechanism of remedy administration? Many of our arguments come down to the competition of rights. One person's right to live free of pollutants, and another's right to say they do not care. One person's right to burn trash, another person's right to say they don't want to breathe toxic smoke. One person's belief that healthcare is a right, and another's belief that they do not have to provide it if they are an autonomous employer. One person's right to reproductive liberty and choice, another's belief in the rights of the unborn to life. Some of you have a mixed bag where these are concerned, factoring in social costs and efficiency, circumstances and moral relativism. It seems to settle in us regardless...over time... into a layer of ideological sediment, that forms our perspective and our foundation.

We can look at this easily with the healthcare question, which illustrates the matter quite well. Is health care a right or a privilege? If it is a right, then is it your belief that government has an obligation to provide it? Force the private sector to provide it? Or create regulations designed to either make healthcare more accessible, affordable, or equitable? What if that becomes a business disaster? It seems that these positions can tell us alot about where we see business and government with respect to a problem.

Is it the role of government to consider the problem of the millions of uninsured Americans, and act accordingly? Or accept that society is possibly cruel and unjust, and that there are haves and have nots? Should government aspire to bridge these chasms? Can it do that successfully? Can competition co-exist with compassion? Can we ever hope to eradicate what is seemingly unjust or unfair in a world that seems to be driven by competition?

Now a conservative might suggest that a liberal wishes to even the playing field unnaturally, unnecessarily- asserting an unrealistic view of contrived justice that forces a massive tangle of complex restrictions, impediments, and bureaucracy. A social Darwinist might say that any attempt to intercede is suspect. An objectivist might say that government should intercede on matters of primitive rights protection, such as in cases of violence, but that the market must be free to work, unimpeded. A liberal might say that empathy compels us to seek solutions for problems using whatever remedies are at our disposal collaboratively. And a pragmatist might say that the relationship of business to government should be minimal, but that both business and government should fundamentally 'do no harm'.

Returning to the health care question, should we seek to control the prices of drugs or would this suppress the motivation for innovation? Would researchers continue to work on drugs with reduced profits? Do profits cause them to focus on some treatments more than others, or discourage the cure if the treatment is more profitable? What is the role of government if that is the case? If cancer drugs were more profitable under a capitalist system than cancer cures, it might follow that society could suffer at the hands of capitalism- depending on where profit takes innovation. Would it then be appropriate for government to intervene, and dictate how the sector operates? Or subsidize them to entice them to cure cancer versus producing treatment drugs? Would you favor paying the difference so society benefits from this intervention? I think the asnwer to that might help us consider some of the positions we take, and what they are based upon.

16 comments:

Omnipotent Poobah said...

Of course corporations can be compassionate. The trouble is many of the people who run them won't let them. The same thing holds true for government. I don't view this so much as a moral question as I do an economic one, and people are NEVER rational about money. Good post.

Troll Watcher said...

All employee benefits were offered by companies as an incentive to lure the best and brightest to come work for them after WWII. When the unions came along, they were added to the benefit package as a reward to entice employees into staying there a number of years. I'm not sure when health benefits became mandatory.
Nowadays, corporations aren't really looking for the best and brightest. They are seeking employees to fill quotas that allow them to take a tax break. Women, minorities, and the challenged are positions that must be filled first, before the hiring of the best and brightest (which by all means could include women, minorities, and even the challenged, however, from what I've seen, this is not always the case)
the company I work for now contracts from large corporations. In order to get the contract, our company had to partner with a minority owned business, so the company we're contracting for could get a tax cut for hiring minorities. Now I've never seen anyone from our corporate partner. I'm not even sure if they exist, except on a piece of paper. They are a front that allows the big corporation to be in compliance and get a tax break. Most other positions are filled by nepotism.
Health care costs are rising, in part, because of the AMA. They only allow so many doctors through medical school a year.Too many doctors would not only lower the cost of medical treatment, but possibly the quality as well. Another cost factor is that the bar association doesn't restrict the number of lawyers in law school a year, which has increased the number of malpractice suits, thereby raising the cost of malpractice insurance.Which in turn raises the cost of medical treatment. Liability concerns are also what drives up the cost of prescription drugs in this country.
Opening up the medical schools would do a lot to creating competition in the medical field, which would naturally drive down costs, while still allowing the better doctors to still charge more.

tp said...

When did the AMA and bar association have an arrangement to restrict student enrollment? Do you have actual proof of your conspiracy? That doesn't sound right. Lawyers are a dime a dozen because of the way the profession is marketed, people want to become lawyers and do not understand that there are too many. It is not uncommon for a lawyer to spend a hundred grand on law school, but make less than a waiter. Supply and demand. law schools make their money on them, and thats why they continue to churn them out. Tort reform supposedly spoke to your point about frivolous law suits, do you think that there should be NO recourse for somebody harmed? There has to be a balance between good care, partly the result of fear of lawsuits, and restrictions on wasteful suits where damages are not substantiated. You must respect the right to compensation, but also the right to practice without burdensome fees. Malpractice does not have to be as high as it is. But don't solve the problem entirely on the backs of the injured and harmed. When pharmaceutical companies get the FDA to approve drugs they know are harmful and people get hurt, you would blame the victim? Why don't you look at the corrupt bureaucracies that DON'T protect people, like the FDA? to blame the admissions office at a law school is absurd. They accept thousands because thousands want to go to law school. Too many tv dramas. They need a tv drama about the loser lawyer that does bankruptcies all day, trying to pay his loans, driving a Saturn. Reality check law. Lawsuits are some of the only ways a consumer gets recourse- but you blame the victim and not the criminal. A scalpel got left in your intestines because your skirt was too short...you were ASKING for it baby.

Troll Watcher said...

I never said the bar association limited the number of lawyers churned out by law schools, however, the AMA limits the number of doctors that may attend med school in any given year.

Anyone remember Allen Bakke?

Neil Shakespeare said...

Well sure competition can exist alongside compassion. I find if you refuse to compete with them, people feel very sorry for you.

abi said...

Like I once heard a Boston cabdriver describe road courtesy, compassion is a sign of weakness. The competitive will take advantage of it.

The only time a corporation shows "compassion" is when it's in their financial interest, such as tax breaks or cheap advertising. A few (like GM) are even starting to realize that some form of national health insurance is in their financial interests.

Very provocative post, Lily.

dusty said...

The lack of affordable healthcare for the vast majority of working americans is disgusting. It actually hinders productivity and raises the level of individuals that become part of the welfare system via disability payments. The amount of Permanently disabiled individuals might be actually lessened if people had the ability to receive treatment for the original disorder or injury. We have so many poor people on permanent disability that its ridiculous, not to mention expensive as a tax-paying american. People on disability do not pay taxes. They do not contribute anything to society, in general terms, meaning they do not work, pay taxes or buy homes and goods(other than those they need to survive).

California offers state health insurance..for children. I am glad they do that, but what about the adults that raise those children? Most of them are in low-paying jobs that do not offer affordable insurance, if at all.

On the question of drug prices. They are outrageous as my diabetic husband with high blood pressure can attest to. It costs a bloody fortune to develop new drugs. The companies are only given a short period of exclusivity on those drugs before the generics come out and cut the price down to a reasonable amount. Perhaps there can be a trade-off..give the drug companies a longer period of exclusivity in exchange for cheaper affordable drugs.

As it currently stands,the Fed's pander to the drug companies by outlawing the purchase of cheaper drugs from canada and mexico.Its all about profits,the bottom line..gotta make those shareholders happy.

fosco said...

Or better yet, make them more affordable by testing them on enlisted soldiers, Africans and orphans. Oh, they already do that.

LILY BRANFORD said...

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Wrong Sides, Fuckwads He's hilarious and adorable.

Rory Shock said...

altruism is natural ... the corporate structure is unnatural ... a benevolent government would be more natural than a so-called social-darwinian government ... the whole social-darwinist tag is usually just a verbal goofy-dust toss to allow for a fatalistic non-doing approach to social good ... or somethin' like that ...

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