published 2023 December

Companies don't make evil decisions. Companies don't make decisions. Companies cannot make decisions because companies are lifeless automata which react to stimuli.

An Example

In any population of companies, some companies will make parts offshore and some will not.

Maybe each company's reasons are rational, or maybe not, it doesn't matter. Maybe someone's cousin knew someone who knew someone. Maybe someone had a spreadsheet. Maybe someone went to an inspiring talk. It doesn't matter.

Zoom out.

Some companies will make parts offshore and some won't. Those companies compete with each other. One sells a product for $5, the other $9.

The company who sells for $9 can't get any sales. They go out of business. Now, the only companies left are the ones that already decided to make their products offshore.

Or maybe the $9 one is such better quality that consumers spend the extra money, and the $5 one goes out of business.

A citizen cannot complain that these companies are greedy or unpatriotic or don't care about quality and should be punished, because companies are lifeless automata. Punishment doesn't exist for lifeless automata. You can't punish a virus, or a bacterium. Well you can, but it won't help.

But you can edit the system so the virii, or bacteria, or companies you want to survive survive. You can tax things, or subsidize things, or require disclosure of things. You can say, "if you want to import a thing, the thing must have been made humanely, even if offshore". Or, "if you want to import a thing, you must pay X% tax which will be used to improve lives", or some such.

You can say, "if you want to take carbon or methane or nitrous oxide or hydrofluorocarbons out of the ground and put them into the sky, you have to pay 200% of the downstream cost to remove it".

Or, "if you want to take carbon or methane or nitrous oxide or hydrofluorocarbons out of the ground and put them into the sky, you need to buy the rights for the quantity you want to emit, and the rights are sold on the free market in a limited supply".

We don't need to name any companies. We don't need to call for the firing of any CEOs. We don't need to complain that they are not humane. The companies are automata. We need to fix the system to align the improvement of lives with companies' survival of market forces.

The Internet

This applies to the internet too. Why do YouTube thumbnails have clickbait titles? Because the channels that made clickbait titles, outcompeted the ones that didn't.

Why do recipe sites have 40 pages of nonsense before getting to the recipe? Because the sites that do that, had better SEO the ones that didn't, and so the ones that didn't couldn't afford to pay people to keep publishing new recipes.

Why do some news websites have more area on the page dedicated to ads than not? Because the ones that did that made more money than the ones that didn't, and invested that money into growing bigger, making more stories, and doing better SEO.

These are automata reacting to stimuli. It is useless to imagine an evil genius at the helm of these companies rubbing their hands together on a pile of money. It doesn't matter if that is what they are doing, it matters that our market, as we have built it, apply a sort of evolution that only leaves these companies behind.

And don't let anyone tell you that the market just exists as a natural system, with its own natural rules. We made the rules and we can change them with policy.

If you have the power to press a button and dismantle every evil company in an instant, and you pressed it, there would be some turmoil and then the market would drift back towards this unhealthy equilibrium.

We need to change the equilibrium.