The Place of Morality and Government in Low Value Product Development
A company is fundamentally in business to make money. There are many so called "low value products" that could prove extremely beneficial to a large number of people, but are not likely to be profitable from an economic point of view. This situation creates a complex problem that incorporates economics, morality, private industry, individuals and government. It is always interesting and difficult when big business, government and ethics are thrown together, and this problem is no exception.
First, it needs to be established whether the low value product the company is considering developing might not turn a ...view middle of the document...
This can be broken down even further: the governments of underdeveloped and developed countries providing for their own people, or the governments of developed countries providing for the common good of all countries. A government is set-up fundamentally to act for the common good of that nation's people. Thus, the government of a country, whether developed or third world, has a moral obligation to do everything in its power to provide for its people, including providing research funding for the development of these low value products. Third world governments also have an obligation to seek, support and facilitate the help of industry and government of developed nations.
The question becomes trickier when you consider whether developed nations have the moral obligation to provide for all nations collectively. The United States has a tax system that collects and reallocates, and in theory spreads the wealth and provides for all. This is also the case in Socialist countries. So, some of this money should be spent on developing these low value products, which will act for the common good of the country. However, a distinction has to be made between a low value product that benefits all people, such as the conversion of biomass to ethanol, and one that would be developed by a first world country, but only for use in the third world, such as the anti-malaria vaccine. If the latter is true, the government is going to run into complaints from its people such as, "Why are you doing this? You should be providing for our problems first, let their government take care of them." This creates a whole new moral dilemma.
Returning to the question of encouraging private companies to invest in low value products, a number of incentives can be created. First, it will be much easier to convince a huge company with billions of dollars in sales (like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Glaxo Wellcome, etc.) to invest their money in a low value product. They can afford to develop a product that is not extremely profitable, because they can make the money up in other areas. They also have pre-existing facilities and other capital, which would lower the inherent fixed costs of developing the product, increasing the chances for potential profit.
Certainly the best incentive for a...