A few years back a friend of mine was a vice-president in a company that went public. After a year with the company on the stock market, my friend commented that the stock market was going to be the death of the American economy because “pleasing the stockholders” required a great deal of short term scheming at the expense of long term wisdom.
I thought of his comment this morning when I read an online BBC report about Martin Shkreli, who earlier bought a drug company an raised the price of one medicine from $10.50 a pill to $750. No other company makes a medicine to treat the same conditions, so in effect he has a monopoly. Shkreli has now been arrested for securities fraud.
Here’s an excerpt from the BBC article:
Asked by an audience member at a healthcare summit hosted by Forbes what he’d do differently if he could go back in time to before his highly criticized decision to raise the price of a 62-year-old drug, the Turing CEO replied: “I probably would have raised prices higher, is probably what I should have done. I could have raised it higher and made more profits for our shareholders. Which is my primary duty.”
“More profits for our shareholders, which is my primary duty.” There in a nutshell is the dark side of capitalism. No honor, no moral concerns, no care for the patients, indifference to the implications (e.g., raising insurance costs for all of us) — just sheer greed in adoration of the powerful god called Profit.
As strong forces in American society try to push aside the church and its moral message, where will we find the basis for a morality that restrains greed? I am not asking the specific question, Do you approve of greed? Rather, I am asking for someone to articulate the foundation of moral thinking when the sense of accountability to a just God is dismissed.
What do you think?