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  • Benjamin Miller

Pricing Actions Out of the Market

The historian Quentin Skinner observes that speakers don't have to believe in their words for those words to be meaningfully restrict their actions. After all, why do individuals and institutions choose to use words they don't believe in? Skinner explains it may in part be to avoid resistance to what the speaker is doing.


Words are kind of like a cloak you can throw over an action to either protect it or attract people to it.


One implication of the above is that if your nonprofit is trying to stop something, you should look at what kind of cloak the actors throw over it. If you can't deny them the cloak outright then you can at least make it as expensive as possible. The more expensive you make the cloak, the more people you will price out of the market of doing that thing.


For example, some environmental certification organizations have tried to counteract "greenwashing" by establishing more rigorous standards before a company can lay claim to the legitimating force of calling their product "environmentally-friendly". By making the term more expensive this may literally force some suppliers (as well as some consumers) out of the market.


To determine if this strategy is right for you, you need to understand the "profit margins" (both literal and figurative) of those actors or institutions you may be seeking to stop or change. What do they get out of the action you are seeking to stop and at what point will it stop being worth it for them?




Photo by Javier Peñas on Unsplash

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