We live in quite crazy times, times which allow us to live like we wanna. Yet some developments are really disturbing and morally wrong.
I found five such trends in Michael Sandel’ book “What Money Can’t Buy. The moral limits of markets”. Sandel is currently one of the most discussed philosophers. I urge you to read this book since it confronts us with wrongs which most consider right.
People who hire others so they stay in line for them
I come from Poland where you get lynched when you dare to press forward in a supermarket. Poles really hate this behavior. Actually, I think everyone hates this behavior.
Yet, some people figured a way to solve the problem of line standing. They simply jump the queue and hire people to stand in line.
I name you two examples of this kind.
1. The City of New York is offering every summer a public theater in memory of Shakespeare. The performance is taking place in Central Park and is for free. Yet, you still need to stand in line for a ticket. These public plays are very popular and everyone is eager to get a ticket. So the waiting line is incredibly long and many don’t get a ticket. But some people are ready to pay for a ticket. So some stand in line and then sell the tickets. These tickets can cost you up to $125. Quite a price for a free of charge event, isn’t it?!
2. It got really bad in China where you can buy a doctor appointment. You see, China don’t has as many good doctors as Germany, especially not in rural areas. So people travel to big cities to get an appointment in a hospital. Since China got many people the waiting line for seeing a doctor can get very long - I mean days or weeks long. Some made a business out of this misery. They stand in line, get appointments and then sell the appointments to the highest bidder. Depending on the doctor an appointment can cost you up to $100.
You could say it’s a win-win situation. One party gets money for waiting and the other can get to the Central Park event or see a doctor. From a market perspective the solution works just great.
Yet, there is something really disturbing in this kind of market. Can you name it? Or do you thing this is a legitimate bargain? Let me know.
Markets which sell rights to kill endangered Rhinos
Rhinos are an endangered species on our planet and are also incredibly difficult to kill which makes them very interesting for trophy hunting. So countries like South Africa and Kenia search for ways to save this species.
South Afrika is clearly more successful in saving Rhinos then Kenia. Why? Because they found a market solution. One idea for saving Rhinos is to sell rights to kill Rhinos.
What? Yes, it actually works.
The country sells rights to hunt a Rhino down and this right is costly. People pay up to $150.000 for this experience. This money is partly used to bread and care for new Rhinos. Ranchers have now an incentive to save Rhinos otherwise they lose a good opportunity to earn money.
Still, something is really offending in this whole business. You may see it once you look at the marketing of this enterprise. It goes something like that:
“You can shoot a Rhino, experience a great hunt and help to conserve an endangered species.”
What do you think about that? And don’t just look at it from an economic perspective. Ask the question whether you consider this morally right or wrong.
Gift cards and vouchers instead of real presents
It seems like the biggest growing business in the last years; gift cards and vouchers. You already find them on every checkout in supermarkets. Gift someone a 50 € card for Saturn, iTunes, Play Store, Amazon etc. Almost every company is offering this kind of vouchers and they actually look quite good.
But something must have changed in the last years. Vouchers are nothing new. They were always there, yet most people didn’t even consider to give a friend a voucher. They searched for a proper present.
Today it’s really a legitimate gift and most of us even wish to get this kind of gifts. We know best what we like and what we want. So finding the right present is better left in our hands.
But what do you think about this growing industry, where you basically gift money? Giving money is most of the time still a taboo, since it’s somehow tasteless to give friends money. You could mistake it as a lack of interest. Friends should know what we like and try to find the right present, right?
So why are we gifting vouchers and don’t see it as tasteless and even morally wrong?
Buying life insurance policies of people who’ll die soon
Here comes my favorite disturbing trend. It started in the 1980ies when HIV / AIDS entered the world stage. To be diagnosed with HIV at that time meant to die soon. And the insurance industry made a big profit out of this death sentence.
Let’s assume you got the diagnose from your doctor including the prognosis that you die in lets say six months. You’re a good citizen and have a life insurance which is worth $100.000. But it won’t pay off since you die soon. What do you do? Sell it.
This is what happened in the United Staates in the late 1980iest. Insurance companies bought the life insurances of HIV diagnosed patients, paid the annual premiums and collected the cash of $100.000 after the patient died.
From a market perspective it’s a win-win situation. The patient got around $50.000 for selling his policy and the investor got $100.000 for collecting it. Sounds great, right?!
The problem with this kind of business became obvious once people didn’t die as scheduled. Medication saved their life and the win-win situation started to deteriorate into a win-lose for some investors. At that point it got somehow disgusting since it became clear that investors expected the patients to die. They’ll had an interest in the death of these people - better sooner than later.
Today you’ll find very similar markets which make money by betting on death of sick people. Of course the people get something for selling their policies. Yet, isn’t it morally wrong to bet on the death of people? Does it not change our relationship with other human beings when we try to make money out of every misery life brings?
What do you think?
Organizations who pay drug addicted woman for sterilization
You can’t choose your parents, right?! And some parents are really horrible. Especially parents who use drugs. They’re usually very irresponsible and their children are likely to become addicts as well. The misery in which this children live is obvious and heartbreaking.
So Barbara Harris, the founder of the charity program Project Prevention, search for a way to reduce the pain of these women and especially for their children. And she seemed to have found a good solution. She started to offer drug addicted women payments when they consent to sterilization. And many women actually did take this offer.
Again, it sounded great. This way drug addicts didn’t get pregnant and the unborn children didn’t have to live in a horrible environment. As an extra, addicts received money for what they value most: drugs.
Many consider this solution just wrong. What do you say?