For decades there has been a narrative around large and highly profitable companies that they are somehow bad for the world. Everytime someone reaches success, there become jealous cry of hatred. We take insignificant issues and label them as evil motives. In most cases, the most hated companies and industries are those who provide us the most value and a relatively low cost.
Despite the delay on had flying home to your family on Christmas, American Airlines wasn’t trying to ruin your holiday. Commercial airlines have changed the world in a relatively short period of time. In less than 100 years, we’ve gone from riding horses across country and spending weeks on steamships to cross the ocean to a flying anywhere on the planet in less than 24 hours at only a moments notice. Prior to commercial air travel, moving around the world simply was not an option other than for a select few. Nobody had the means or time to travel. It took weeks or months to travel by ship or horseback distances that an airline can take you in an matter of hours.
Airlines didn’t invent planes, they don’t even make them. They’ve created the more important innovations in travel. They do the logistics. They have created a logistics network that can carry precious cargo all over the world in a relatively timely manner. It’s not perfect. Occasionally there are delays that might put a damper on your vacation or make you late for a meeting. There is virtually never a safety issue though. It’s only once every few years there is a plane that crashes, whether by accident or intentionally.
Despite all this, we somehow hate airlines. We constantly complain about in minor deficit in service or minor issue. We even complain about the price. Airlines have done everything possible to minimize costs for consumers, more than almost every other industry. The fact they move you across the country for a few hundred dollars and four hours of you time should be something we marvel at. Instead we complain it was 20 minutes late and we had to pay extra for drinks during the flight. You can’t buy something labeled “economy ticket” then be surprised you didn’t get a luxury service.
Pfizer is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. In 2018, they did over $53 billion of revenue. They sell all kinds of drugs and healthcare products all over the world. The majority of the revenue comes from developed countries, mostly in North America and Europe. The majority of their profit comes from the United States alone. With the US healthcare system the way it is, companies can profit from selling drugs. In the US, drugs are expensive because of this system, other developed countries subsidize these costs and cap prices.
It’s unfortunate for US citizens that they have to pay full price for pharmaceutical products that are substantially cheaper for the rest of the world. The reality though is that these drugs are needed and they wouldn’t exist if nobody was making money. To keep a system running, people have to have mutual benefit. Sick people need medicine, doctors and pharmacies sell it to them.
Without making a profit, nobody would make medicine. Universities and non-profits wouldn’t be able to fund new studies and research at anywhere near the volume of private companies. Sales in the US fund the research the provides medicine for the entire world. It’s expensive for Americans, but without it, a lot of us would be dead.
Agriculture companies like Monsanto often get blamed for the environmental issues, pollution and the use of pesticides in farming. There are many people that want to seek companies like Monsanto be regulated, even have particular products be eliminated due to environmental concerns.
As with any organization, there are going to be drawbacks and negative impacts. The benefits can far outweigh the costs though. Since Monsanto was founded in 1901 the agricultural industry has seen enormous growth and efficiency. In this time period, the US and other developed countries have seen a decrease in the agricultural workforce from as high as 70% of the population to what is now currently estimated to be only 11% in the United States. We’ve also gotten to a point where food is cheaper than ever and malnutrition is almost non-existent. When scenarios do arise where there is a food shortage or food is unaffordable, it’s likely an issue of distribution rather than the food itself. We have an abundance of food across the country, so much so that a substantial portion gets discarded in the processing and distribution.
Monsanto has played a huge role in this. Crop yields have doubled or tripled, allowing 2–3 times as many people to sustain themselves on the same amount of land and resources. Crops are more reliable, cheaper and efficient to grow, making the likelihood of a famine miniscule. Livestock can be raised to be larger in a faster amount of time, producing more meat for less cost. More importantly, the costs have been reduced to the point where a middle or lower class household can easily feed themselves with necessary nutrients. It’s still obviously true the certain foods are expensive and a healthier, well balanced diet cost far more than a simple diet of rice and beans. Whether you are eating steak and lobster or canned tuna, the efficiency of farming have benefited both your health and your financial security greatly.
As the population of the earth continues to grow and more people are demanding resource intensive foods, specifically meat and protein, farming efficiency will continue to be essential to the world’s health. Concerns over the potential pollution of land and water is valid and should be controlled, however this pales in comparison to the billions of people who would be malnourished with modern farming technologies.
JP Morgan Chase
Bankers have been the world’s bad boys for centuries. Ever since the concept of debt was invented it has been demonized. The basic model of bank has been to take deposits and issue loans, earning a market interest rate on loans dependent on the borrow and type of loan. Today, banks offer a wide range of financial services to individuals and businesses, including payment processing, money transfers, investment services; although deposits and loans still are still the core business of banks.
The modern banking system in the United States is arguably the greatest differentiator between the US and every other countries economy. It is definitely a key differentiator between developed countries and the third world.
Access to banking provides tremendous value to your life, even if you don’t notice, even if you aren’t a customer. The banking system has created an economy where businesses, investors and individuals can perform financial transactions in a safe, reliable and fair manor.
If you don’t believe me, consider the difference in business practices where banks are not used. Black market industries such as drug trade or prostitution are ripe with violence and fraud. Transactions are not regulated or recorded, participants are forced to use cash which cannot be traced are validated. If you could buy a hookers and blow with a credit card online with a credit card, the transaction would run much smoother. Drugs and prostitution are obviously examples of nefarious trades with many other negative factors. What about a something that is legal, like buying a used car from a private seller. Most people are afraid to buy second hand good like this out of fear they will be robbed, creating a huge inefficiency in the marketplace.
The banks core business of collecting deposits and issuing loans touches the entire world. At some point in your life, you will need a loan to buy something. You are going to rely on a bank to do so. Even if you live completely debt free, as I have for most of my life, the fact that a loan is available if you need it is immensely valuable. In many cases, I’ve been able to more aggressively invest my capital, knowing that I have access to credit available at a moments notice. Most of my adult life, I’ve held virtually no cash in savings, rather I fully invest my capital to keep it at work for me. I can do this because I have a six figure line of credit at my fingertips to cover my expenses if I have a set back.
Businesses and investors constantly rely on loan to fund new ventures which create new technologies, jobs, and financial stability. Businesses would shrink or cease to exist if they had to pay for everything in cash.
Imagine if you wanted to open a small retail store. Without a bank, you’d need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested to purchase the real estate, inventory and other startup costs. This would be out of reach for almost everyone. Instead, the banking system allows you to use only a small amount of your own money and issues loans to cover the startup costs. Once the business is up and running, you can pay off the bank, leaving you with a profitable business providing value to you, your customers, employees and vendors. Without that loan, all the stakeholders would suffer.
The “greedy” industries cost almost no money.
The reality is that each of these companies and their industries provide immense value to everyone and make almost no profit.
Airlines operate on razor thin margins and rely on enormous value to make a profit. Their ecosystem of travel has allowed for extremely low costs to the consumer by historical standards.
Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies keep the world healthy. If you are in need of medicine, you’d be willing to pay a lot of money to get it. The cost of a medical treatment, as expensive as it may be, is peanuts compared to the value it provides to people.
Monsanto have been the difference maker in preventing famine and malnutrition around the world. They’ve created an abundance of food which has made humans the only species to be over nourished. This allow individuals with limited means to still be able to choose virtually any diet they want.
JP Morgan Chase is the linchpin the in world’s economy. The free and secure flow and money around the world is essential to businesses. They provide this at almost no cost to the consumer. You can open a bank account, get a credit/debit card, and perform a wide variety of transactions at little or no cost.
Read more about big businesses in one of my favorite books, The Four by Scott Galloway.