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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.