Saturday, January 3, 2009
if every business was a nonprofit, what would our society look like?
Three examples I came across recently, for your enjoyment:
There was big public campaign to convince Mattel not to make a brand of dolls aimed at 3-6 year-olds called Pussycat Dolls based on scantily clad females (even worse than Bratz).
Board which meets to provide funding for proposed business venture to manufacture and distribute Pusscat Dolls:
Advocate for Pussycat Dolls: I made a few for the neighborhood girls, and they really liked them. The parents didn't of course.
Review board: Why create a product that psychologists suggest is harmful AND parents don't like? Next!
Decade-long campaign to pass legislation to remove phlates (a potent teratogen) from nail polish. Manufacturing organizations are under crushing constraints to increase profits or be out-competed. They are thus obligated to direct their energy into fighting health-oriented regulation, hence the reason it took more than a decade for health activists to win their fight to remove phlates from nail polish. But if the goal of manufacturing is to meet human needs, then governing bodies will weigh different contingencies: the needs of humans to have lower cost nail polish vs. the needs of the children of factory workers and nail polish users to be free of phlate-caused birth defects.
Last year, Consumer Reports discussed a tree sapling which is sold via mail with the boast that it grows faster than any other tree, and if you plant it, you'll have a lovely shade-providing tree in your front yard in 6 months. The boast is true. But what isn't said is that the tree is considered an invasive species that threatens native trees and it is even illegal to plant it in some, but not all states.
Imagine that to obtain financial backing to produce a product, you present your business plan to a board of experts who will debate how well your product will serve its intended community.
Note that this is the process I and other academics go through in order to get funding to conduct scientific research. U.S. publicly-financed scientific research has a track record that is unparraeled for innovation and quality, which shows that profit motive is not required for innovation and excellence.
Under a planned economy with review boards:
Board member: Hm, should we approve the business plan to market this lovely weed tree? No, its a dangerous weed. The desire of some home owners to have a quickly-grown tree is not as necessary as the need to protect against invasive species. Not approved. Next!
Note: In the U.S., currently no board of experts who evaluate the public good of a produce or service is required to approve a business plan. All that's required is that some capitalists believe they can make money off of it and avoid criminal prosecution for any violated laws or regulations.
Venture capitalists: Hm, the tree is actually illegal in some states, so be careful not to mention this in ads. It does grow faster than any other tree, and we should be able to make a good profit in those states that haven't passed laws against it. People may even buy it even in the places where it is illegal, but that's their fault, not ours, so there won't be any legal liability. Approved!
More info, see this video...
Leave a comment if you'd like to contribute to the blog, "if every business was a nonprofit." Thanks!