Can profit really motivate people to do more good than the desire to do good for it’s own sake
It’s long been argued by some, that profit is the ultimate motivation for society to do good. I would argue that although profit can be a great motivator it simply motivates to earn more profit, benefiting others is often at best a secondary outcome. The greatest motivation by any society to do good, must therefore be the purest motivation of all, which ultimately and quite simply is the desire to do good itself.
The fact is if the source of anyone’s motivation to do a job is to maximize profit, as is the case with many of the largest corporations, it will often become counterproductive to give any more than what is required to complete the task to the required standard. The truth is that to maximize profit in many businesses the goal can best be achieved by devoting no more energies or resources to do this than is deemed necessary. Going above and beyond simply means compromising the primary goal.
Profit before Public good.
So how do we ensure that there is an appropriate balance in the area of caring for vulnerable children, where essentially the balance should be unashamedly skewed in favour of doing what’s best for them. It would be foolish to rely purely on trust and ethics to ensure this. So the question becomes; Is it ever possible to ensure businesses place the needs of the children far above everything else, including financial gain? With profit as the primary motivation, accountability and oversight become the critical factors in ensuring that the required standard is held to a level that is always in the best interests of the children and consequently the public good. Unfortunately wherever accountability and oversight can be corrupted or minimized by the influence of private interests, there can be no guarantee that a minimum standard of care can ever be consistently upheld. By allowing profit to influence the prioritizing of the care of the children that this system should be delivering, we allow Government to choose to put them at the risk of exploitation and harm instead.
So why now are Private companies more motivated than ever to get involved with the care and education of vulnerable children and is this motivation sustainable.
At a time when Austerity in many countries means there are fewer and fewer areas to exploit and acquiring public funding and finance in order to make profit becomes more and more challenging, vulnerable children become an easy target, after all no matter how deep any recession and no matter how much budgets are cut, companies know that society will always strive to ensure that funding for the most vulnerable children will always be made available with very few questions asked. Guaranteed profits for now, immune to the negative influence of the current economic climate, results in all the motivation any investor prioritizing profit would ever need.
Which leaves us to ask an obvious question. What will happen to the profit making organizations, when there are no longer any profits to be made? Subsequently what happens to the children and organizations that are becoming ever increasingly dependant on them? Like any good Market philosophy, its quite simple, when profit making ceases, these organizations will simply exit from the unprofitable market and turn their focus and investment elsewhere.
Presently, Governments pay vast sums of money for every child cared for by Private investors, much of that going directly to the investors as profit. These costs are incredibly high as well as being extremely disproportionate compared to the costs for almost all Public and charitable provisions. These extreme payments are realistically unsustainable over time, resulting in a system that itself cannot be sustained in line with such impractical demands. While the best case scenario in the short term, is simply that the system takes resources away from the many and into the care of a few, long term, the scenario is that there is absolutely no commitment to vulnerable children and no provision for the future, when such extravagant spending inevitably has to come to an end.
In business a company can be the lifeline to a community one week and close down the next if no longer profitable. That’s the essence of the market, only the strong are meant to survive. In contrast the essence of caring for the vulnerable is investing in and enabling the survival, health and well being of all. The care of our vulnerable children cannot be run as a business and lives cannot be left subject to the highs and lows of market forces. This new direction in allowing wholesale privatization in this area is an unprecedented worldwide experiment and critically history can offer no indication of the consequences that a failed experiment of this magnitude might bring if we were to allow this practice to continue.
So how do we ensure that the right motives are influencing and driving any organization or individual in the future.
There are exceptions but generally, if you really want to know what someone is passionate about and where they are likely to take you in the future, then simply find out where they’ve been. If for example someone has chosen a lifelong career in the Private Sector, especially in industries focused primarily on making money, where success is often down to wholeheartedly embracing a survival of the fittest attitude. It would seem criminal to charge those who have lived by such a mantra to be then charged with being those best placed to be responsible for protecting the most vulnerable and weakest. Yes they may have the greatest leadership and management qualities but it would seem to be a recipe for disaster to be directed by policy and an ideology that says the hungriest lions should be in charge of caring for the weakest lambs.
It’s not inconceivable though, that there are those organizations and individuals transitioning from the Private sector who cannot be as genuine and as passionate as those for whom it has been a life choice to care for the vulnerable, there are always exceptions and what we would be reticent to do would be to dismiss the possibility completely. If the passion is genuine, then I would invite those same people to fight for the opportunity to demonstrate that, by choosing to take on roles within the sector as either non profit organizations, or Government employees and indeed true public servants. If those in the private sector truly believe they have greater skills and knowledge to make the system better for all, I invite them to choose to do so from positions where they can truly exercise their passion, while allowing for maximum financial investment to go to the children and their care.
As individuals and organizations with the same goals, we should agree to take any potential to make profits for investors out of the equation and only then will we truly get the best out of everyone’s efforts for our children and their futures. End a system of profiting from the care of the vulnerable children and I promise we’ll see a more pure motivation to make things better.