Financial Ethics

There are a bazillion different ways to talk about ethics, and a pile more when it’s only about finance.  It’s insanely rare for two people to share the same opinion on this, as their personal experience has a dramatic impact.

I come from an upbringing of modest means.  My parents worked really hard to provide and I worked various odd jobs from 12 on until now.  I started full time hours to pay for school at about 17, and it’s been that way for nearly 20 years.  Bought a house when I was in my 20s.  Been running a budget since my teens, and my job has me responsible for a lot of people, and a lot of money.  I tend to avoid daily expenses (I brown-bag and make my own coffee), and instead make larger purchases that are planned.  Both my wife and I work really hard, make a decent amount, and can provide more for our kids than our parents were able.  We’re both also quite aware of that fact – and try as hard as we can to avoid the sense of entitlement.

That preamble aside, it should give an idea where my financial mindset lays.  Now to the interesting bits.  Thrtee main scenarios, and they relate a lot to the current state of affairs.

Scenario 1

A government agency is running a service that serves its citizens.  It’s time to replace a key part of their technology, and there are 2 main options.  They are functionally similar, and meet the same security requirements.  One product is offered domestically, and costs $10m, and employs 20 people.  The other product is offered overseas and costs $5m.  Not buying the domestic product means that the business is going to have to cut its staff.

  • Should the domestic product win, even though it’s twice the price?  These are tax dollars paying for it.
  • Should the domestic product win, even if it isn’t as fully featured as the international version?
  • Should price always win out?
  • Should the impact to domestic staff be factored?

 

Scenario 2

A large multi-national business, headquartered in your country, is accused of fraud in another country.  This crime is only punishable in your country, as that other one allows it.  All evidence points that this was orchestrated by the CxO group.  The laws in your country state that massive financial penalties should be applied, which effectively means that the business would have to declare bankruptcy.  Thousands of people would lose their jobs.

  • Do you apply the letter of the law and close down the company?
  • If so, who should take care of the thousands of people who lost their job through no fault of their own?
  • Do you only charge the CxO group? If so, who now runs the company?
  • Does the company come under government agency control for a period of time (e.g. probation) until they right themselves?

 

Scenario 3

Your town has a busy main drag, with plenty of local shops offering all sort of items.  A large box store opens up just outside of town, offering all the selection of those shops, but at a larger discount.  The prices are lower due to both larger scale of inventory, and by underpaying their staff.  If the box store is the only one in town, and pay is low, the box store will eventually close.

  • Do you continue to support local business even though it costs more?
  • Do you find a balance between local and box store?
  • Do you go full box store, knowing that the local businesses will have to close?

Summary

The answers to these differ a lot depending on where you live.  Not even country, even neighborhoods have differing opinions.  Where I live, the downtown is much more financially liberal, while the outlying areas tend to be fiscally conservative.

The important thing here is that there are no easy answers.  With an interconnected society, all the pieces connect to others.  One person’s actions can impact thousands of others, and the ripple effects can last for years.  I’m not saying that there are bad choices, just that sometimes there are choices made in ignorance.  If we understand the factors, and we make a choice from that, then there’s a reason for it.  Even the scenarios above are hyper simplified.  Wal-Mart’s dependency on China’s products has a created a massive trade imbalance, and hundreds of thousands of people in China depend on it.

Gaming

Now what the heck does this have to do with a blog that’s mostly about gaming?  Well, there are 3 large companies in NA that compete for our dollars.  There are half dozen in China that are competing as well (though often through shells/links and focused on mobile).  Gaming was niche 20 years ago, not even close to being true today.  There is more money to be made (revenue) in games than in movies & music combined – it simply dominates.

Some may remember it being acceptable to not buy a band’s music, or go and see a particular movie for X reasons.  There were dozens of media items that were pushing a message, and people buying it expected it.  There have been film boycotts for ages.

But gaming, we make a loud fuss on r/gaming then still spend the money.  We want attention without consequences.

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Iconic

When we decide to reward behavior we don’t like, we promote that behavior.  Large companies are only ever interested in the bottom line.  They will do whatever they need to do in order to get that last penny from the pockets.  Then we feign surprise when they do it again.

If the model work for you, then perfect.  Everyone has different drivers, and levels of acceptability.  For example, Anthem (today’s state) is a good deal at $20, but not for $60.  But if you do make a choice, be ready to follow through on it.  Otherwise, any change you’re trying to push through will never happen.

12 thoughts on “Financial Ethics

  1. Interesting scenarios. My job for example. We are a small company, 5 employees, we have to bid work against companies in Canada that bid 70% lower. They employ more people for lower pay. So should the company seeking bids go with us, or the cheaper price.

    Fortunately for us most of the really bad junk comes our way because while we may only have 5 people, three of us have over 30 years experience each.

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  2. The interesting part of using gaming as an analogy is the one you used (Anthem) and Monster Hunter World. I got $100 steam bucks at Christmas and always wanted to try MHW. I bought it at a good edition after reading blogs, researching, watching videos etc – paid $79.99.

    I got through the first tutorial and maybe one other mission and stopped playing. Wasn’t fun at all for me. This is a fully feature complete, bug free game that is well past it’s honeymoon phase. Anthem has bugs, bad design choices, and other issues. But I am having way more fun with it. So while it feels like it is less feature complete than MHW (and clearly more bugs – even though I have been largely free from them) in what case was my money better spent?

    Everyone has their own lines.

    Further clouding your financial argument is tariffs, health care, etc. Canada has a Dairy Board that forces ALL Canadians to pay double for their cheese products. Double for the exact same product we could get from the USA. (literally exact same product make up, back, marketing, everything.) How much does that cost society? Without it, though, the dairy board claims we wouldn’t be able to make our own cheese because they couldn’t afford to stay in business. Why innovate your techniques if you have a forced, government inflated price to keep you in business? Is it scarier to think if we stopped growing and creating our own food overall and became dependent on other nations….

    Definitely a topic that could be discussed for hours, there are so many fascinating angles to take and discuss through.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “But gaming, we make a loud fuss on r/gaming then still spend the money. We want attention without consequences.”

    So true. And I will admit culpability on more than one occasion here. It’s so easy to get caught up in both sides of it. The initial outrage and also the subsequent ‘well- my friends are buying it; everyone else is buying it, what’s one more?’ type mindset.

    The approach of 3rd party exclusives on PC via the Epic Store is one I’m drawing the line on, personally. I was super psyched for Satisfactory and Metro: Exodus. Hades I would’ve bought without a second thought. Even Division 2 I’m still struggling through. I won’t be buying it on the Epic store, but I had to think long and hard whether I was still sending the right message if I give them the money anyway via uPlay?

    I decided it was, after settling on what the core message precisely was that I wanted to convey, that being — ‘I will not support 3rd party exclusive titles on PC’. However I am still quite aware that Ubi wins out either way, and that part does make me a little uneasy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have Origin, Uplay, Battle.net, Steam, Arc….

      On one hand I don’t want anymore platforms. On the other, what’s the difference for real?

      If there is a benefit to me (price, features), then maybe I will look at others.

      Otherwise, not doing it for the good of the company (any). They will be sure to be taking care of themselves….

      Liked by 1 person

      • The first party storefronts are a tad annoying in their proliferation but are relatively innocuous otherwise. And if Steam had been a little smarter, perhaps they would have seen the writing on the wall at this point that perhaps their corporate customers were less than happy. Taking a 30% cut AND the player bases’ loyalty? Oof. Corporates are generally very interested in ‘customer ownership’. 😉

        I’m all for a healthy competitive landscape to keep Steam improving for both the corporates and the consumers, but I’m not at all a fan of how Epic has chosen to do it through buying exclusivity as opposed to competing on the basis of offering a quality service. They’ve gone very heavily in favour of the corporate with the current setup, not only in the pots of gold for signing, but through making reviews (when they come along) an optional toggle, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is because they are exclusive without being the active publisher, right?

        Aside from Uplay, all the ones are exclusive (e.g. can’t get fallout 76 on Steam)

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      • Yeah. And possibly this is an arbitrary distinction with no real significance or meaning like Isey alludes to.

        But something about the 3rd party exclusive aspect really rubs me the wrong way. Paying other developers out to remove consumer choice.. shakes fist

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I still have not bought or played anything past the first Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2. I don’t think I’ve missed a thing not supporting Origin. I don’t think Uplay is installed either. I am a little confused on that as I do play a few Assassin’s Creed and Hitman stuff via Steam, so I have no idea whether I signed up for a throwaway Uplay account at some point, but certainly nothing paid monetary-wise.

    If I do see a game I want, I might eventually sign up for one of these platforms, but as of now, nothing has compelled me to move from a point of inertia to do so and handle yet another launcher.

    On the other hand, I do have Battle.net installed and the Epic Games launcher, and the former has had some money spent on it during discounted sales. An offer of free games is pretty good at overcoming inertia, less so at conversion into spending.

    I’m with Isey, let the markets and companies sort themselves out as the people choose what they will. I’m just one of a small fry and I’ll look out for my own interests as my contribution to that. I think it helps that I know I can spend the rest of my life playing free/cheap/privately marketed-and-sold indie and retro games and not run out of things to do. Any additional spending on microtransactions or triple A stuff is just that, additional wallet vote based on whatever company choices/ethics I can live with and how badly I want to play the games they’re offering.

    Liked by 1 person

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