• Opportunism, the foundation of free market

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    Mike Wootton

    Mike Wootton

    So much opportunism abounds. Opportunism is the conscious policy and practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstances—with little regard for moral principles, or with what the consequences are for others. Opportunist actions are expedient actions guided primarily by self-interested motives.

    I actually managed to gently stroke the rubber fender of the car in front of me leaving the mall car park on Sunday. What a fuss was made of the incident by the driver of the [un]damaged car—“Guard! ” “Call the police,” “can’t move the cars, photographs and reports to be done” . . . so let’s just hold up everybody coming out of the busy mall car park. Of course the whole thing was a bit of opportunism. It was clear there was absolutely no damage but the opportunist, having quickly assessed the situation, clearly saw that here was a good chance of making a bit of money for nothing, a white driver in an Audi, kids in the car. Not somebody who is likely to want to hang around for an hour or two inconveniencing everybody else while wasting the time of security guards, the police, etc. doing totally fatuous reports, and indeed that is what happened. He got a bit of money and he went away. Cough up some cash and the problem vanishes. This is not the first time, there are many similar tales around of exactly this sort of events and this being the Philippines, who knows if the offended party may just pull out a gun from inside the car and put a bullet through you if you don’t cooperate.

    No surprise, really, that such opportunism is fairly rife. There are, after all, so few ways to earn a decent living honestly. It could be hoped that people should know better than to capitalize, at other people’s expense, on random events, but this, alas, is human nature and it takes a will to overcome it and become cooperative and even just a little bit altruistic.

    But aside from the glaring opportunism cited above in exiting the mall car park there is also business opportunism for which the underlying theory is that transactions are carried out simply to maximize returns for one party, with no regard for the interests of anybody else. This is a fundamental pillar of capitalism, a market opportunity is identified or is manufactured and this is then satisfied by some organization or group, profits are maximized in order to benefit the returns on the investment made to satisfy the opportunity. The smaller the investment and the bigger the returns, the better. There is, in truth, little altruism in this type of approach to business, and sad to say, the financial community encourages such ways.

    Opportunism will thrive in times of natural disasters; sometimes it will be beneficial, like the massive and fast advances in technology made during the Second World War, in which was made advanced aerial combat from biplanes to rockets in the space of less than 10 years, and spurred the development of nuclear power. Although there were lots of money made by those involved in this technological development, it was for a shared purpose and thus cooperative, to beat the enemy. At other times though, as in the scandals surrounding relief aid for typhoon victims, opportunism is at its worst with people profiting from other’s misery, charging exorbitant prices for basic necessities, much of which had in any event been donated by foreign aid organizations.

    Alas, selfishness and self-interest seem more prevalent in the Philippines than in the advanced economies. This may be because the advanced economies have effective controls on free markets, and as is now fairly common knowledge, the Philippines has no effective controls on its private sector, or perhaps it is because there is such a pressing need among Filipinos to make money in whatever way it can be done given the restrictions on job availability and enterprise, or could it be that there is an endemic selfishness and opportunistic approach to life which now, in fact, sets the example for the further degeneration of the world’s capitalist economies? The “something for nothing” or “get as much out as you can for as little as can be put in” mentality is a fast growing characteristic of business everywhere and it is not sustainable.

    Mike can be contacted at mawootton@gmail.com

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    1 Comment

    1. Yes I agree on the prevalence of opportunistic people in the country. This is closely related to the term “abusado”. This is the reason why buffets have servers, the reason why self-service to unlimited sodas is extremely rare in the country, and the reason for corruption. Generally, the root itself, the individual is opportunistic and corrupt. Still a long way to go for this to be corrected at the root.