Begging Markets

In a world in which there were no government, firms would be forced by competition to do things that are bad for the world, that even the firms themselves realize are bad and do not really want to do, and our only hope for salvation would be that firms choose not to do those things, to suffer the punishment of the markets, to martyr themselves for society.

But of course there is a government, and government can put an end to whatever it wants. We do not need to rely on the good graces of the business world.

If you forget this — forget that there is a government — because you have worshiped so long at the altar of the free market, then you find yourself insisting on absurd things. Such as that CEOs ought, out of the goodness of their hearts, and with all the incentives pulling to the contrary, to start making socially just decisions:

Automating work is a choice, of course, one made harder by the demands of shareholders, but it is still a choice. And even if some degree of unemployment caused by automation is inevitable, these executives can choose how the gains from automation and A.I. are distributed, and whether to give the excess profits they reap as a result to workers, or hoard it for themselves and their shareholders.

Live by the market, despair by the market.