43. The moral dilemma of coronavirus entrepreneurs

The current coronavirus lockdown will have negative consequences for the economic prospects of most people, catastrophic for some. However, every crisis brings opportunity, and some people will make a lot of money out of it. Some financial investors, and specially coronavirus entrepreneurs. As soon as PPE, tests and other critical goods became desperately scarce, entrepreneurs jumped into the fold, manufacturing them or, more often, providing access through intermediation. They are making money and governments and consumers are paying much higher prices for these goods, with the subsequent impact on public and personal finances. We are outraged by this. This outrage is incongruous. We have long accepted a system in which making money is prioritised over anything else and where many have enriched themselves by exploiting people’s need for energy, health and sustenance. These entrepreneurs are behaving rationally in economic terms, we need to change their context to change their behaviour 

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Comments

Melkisecebe said…
Why do we expect our behaviour or system to change during the pandemic? It is true that our system is designed for maximizing profit accompanied by a variable, normally scarce, redistribution of wealth. So we should have expected that the system will keep working during the Pandemic. But there are some reasons why some people Could have expected things to change, and feel frustrated by the fact that they did not: this is being experienced as an unprecedent crisis, and some people still expect solidarity and civism to rule over personal profit in this kind of situation. For the same reason that you would expect an old friend you have had a fight with to get in touch again when he knows you are sick, just because these kind of situations are an opportunity to change our behaviour and priorities and choose to do good. And when this kind of opportunities in life are missed (forgetting your own interest or old fights when others are in need), relations are almost impossible to recover.
Of course a different social and economic structure would prevent people from benefitting from other’s disgrace and fear (something we all have been profitting from, by the way, while “others” lived in Africa or Bangladesh or in the poorest area of our city), but we humans have always a choice, whatever the structure we live in.
SantiDominguezV said…
I agree with your comments, Clara, but we must not let bias cloud our vision. The fact that we see entrepreneurs benefitting from the crisis does not mean many are not making the right choice. Alas, we see the ones that do not. In this particular case, the right choice is invisible, whilst the wrong one (in your vision, which I share) is apparent.
This is very often the case, the strident obviousness of wrongdoers hides in plain sight the virtuousness of the many. We even legislate to control the very few in detriment of the very many (think, for example, the range of personal liberties and comforts given up after 9/11, and how we accept states invasion of privacy in the interest of what is, in the main, a chimera).
My guess is that many who could benefit from the crisis are currently choosing not to do so, many others are working hard to provide real solutions and a few are feeding in a speculative frenzy. Unfortunately, in the short term, those are the first ones we see, through the impact they have.

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