Adam Smith, such a genius and great man for the past few centuries, brought up a well known Hypothesis of Economic Man which states that rational man is selfish and driven by economic interests. His statement has been a very hot debating topic, ups and downs, but still widely recognized.
But remember, there are assumptions on his statement. People makes bullshit which apparently makes sense simply because he or she does not notice those assumptions. For example, google’s interest theory.
Why google’s theory on interest is not consistent with the rational economic man hypothesis? Let the economics theory answer this for us.
From Adam Smith to utilitarians, and then Keynes, people are considered to be selfish for their own interests, but none of them has denied that people are sometimes non-selfish for their choices from the other perspective. However, the exceptions under the hypothesis do not prevent us using the hypothesis explaining the social phenomenon driven by interest. This is because the the hypothesis of rational economic man is based on the overall national statistics. Someone quotes the example saying, then why Martin Luther King quitted his decent job as a lawyer and why Oskar Schindler saved those Jews on his own risk for almost nothing? Statistics tells you it just doesn’t matter since those people are outliers in the normal distribution.
In fact, it is understandably that most of the excellent individuals and organizations are among the statistical outliers.
Only swindler plays around the hypothesis in that way, strict economist does not.
There are people trying to make a convincing point that it’s for google’s benefit to pull out its service from China’s market.
“If Google has to lose its $600 million in revenues from China by pulling out of the country, then at the very least it’s won a lot in brand and integrity points by the public, English-language and scorched-earth way they did it.”
And you can’t believe there are also a bunch of Wall Street genius really bet on this with their money. They hold the same point of view that it’s good for google to do so. (Assuming the market efficiency, then why the price of google’s stock dropped when google made the decision if it was a good news?)
Let’s assume it’s a valid hypothesis, then the question is,”so what?”
Here is the logic: if A is true then B is true, but we can’t simply make a conclusion that if B is true then A is also true based on the first half statement.
So logically, we can’t draw the conclusion to prove that google is doing this for its benefits.
Analyzing with the most unfavorable data drawn from the market, google’s decision is for sure violating its commercial interests.
Last year, China’s search engine market was worth about ￥6.95 billion RMB ($1.02 billion US dollar). From the most pessimistic data, Google should have taken up one third of the market. If we are more optimistically about the data, Google occupied 43% market share in China, and with a 15% monthly increase over the past 5 months. The profit generated in China’s market is expected to count 2% out of google’s total profit.
You may or may not notice, Microsoft and Yahoo with less than 10% market share in China respectively, are fighting badly for the huge potential market in China. There is just not any commercial or interest reason for Google to leave this growing market where it has already established a dominant advantage.
Under the modern cooperate system, the company is representing the interests of its shareholders. However, Google has offered another option.
Dual Class Share:
Dual class shares might be the answer for the above question.
Goolge’s two founders, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, together with CEO Eric Schmidt hold 1/3 of the shares in the company. There is a share B, one counts for ten of the voting rights, comparing to share B issued in the market. In other words, Page, Brin and Schmidt have the 80% voting rights for the company’s decision. Google is highly centralized.
The system is supposed to prevent their intervention on the operation while they can still receive their dividends. The problem occurs when it comes to this case, Google has made such an important decision based on the opinions of the three persons. (WJS also had a report on this.)
(By the way, Baidu has the same system as Google in this point. The only person who holds more than 10% of the shares is Li Yanhong (CEO of Baidu, a Chinese). And the rest of shares in the company are almost venture capital. The largest shareholder is DFJ, the company also has invested in Hotmail before. Baidu is nothing different but like a typical US company as what you can observe from
the board structure. Similarly, Li Yanhong also holds the B stock and he make decisions for Baidu with his partners.
Don’t be Evil:
It’s not a simple matter to distinguish “do evil” or “do good”. And sometimes it is just meaningless to do such a distinguish. In psychology,it is believed that human’s behavior is often driven by mixed motives. Say a young man saves a drowning girl, he must be a good boy to do so. At the same time, god knows he might have a sexual fantasy on the girl. Additionaly, people who write the reviews are always being too extreme on the topic. Save the girl, you are a hero; but sleep with the girl afterward, you are just a beast with hero’s Burberry dustcoat.
It doesn’t make any sense to make up the boy’s story and the motives parts to explain.
However, we can take Google as a very good example for this. There may be few people remember the defense Google made in the U.S. Congress for its motivation to enter China’s market in 2006. Just google it and compared it with the recent statement Google post on its blog. You will realize that Google could do both “evil” and “good” at the same time and both time plausibly.
And the definition of “evil” does not make any sense either.
As what HanHan¹ says, Government always plays trick. It teaches you a word, but never explains to you the definition. Like, recently it tells you do not send dirty-joke messages, but it never explains to you what is dirty-joke message. Actually, it does explain to you indirectly that “the government defines the meaning of the word!”
Just like the British governor tells us in the movie “The Boat That Rocked“, if the government can’t find any law to ban the Pirate Radio, then just makes a new law! Simple.
This is exactly the same situation for Google’s “don’t be evil” where the staff of Google concludes,” Brin defines the word “EVIL”.
Last but not least:
Google’s decisions are made by a small minority. One of the guy’s (Brin) childhood was spent in a totalitarian Soviet period. The behavior of the minority group might also be driven by mixed motives.
So let’s think retrospectively on google’s decision, it is more likely to be a final deal with the government, for its own interest, for the hate of centralism, for the faith on internet freedom, and for the anger over the hacking issue.
People only care about money but with no moral, they are not worth of you trust.
However, the sincere people singing the song of “don’t be evil” are not always doing the right thing.
For me, I don’t really care about the dignity of Google, or if it is for its own benefits or not. No matter Google’s leaving China or not, I hope it continues with its faith of the internet freedom.
And I don’t care what Brin defines “Evil”, what I believe is it’s better to have an internet with less censorship.
1. China’s best-selling novelist, champion amateur race-car driver, wildly popular bloggerRead more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1931619,00.html
PS: 第一次尝试翻译，有些用词也不准确，有些地方只好打比喻，可是又找不到更为恰当的例子。比如男孩救人的地方，上 岸，就是舍身救人的雷锋。上床，就是乘人之危的禽兽。 我想找两个电影人物 一个英雄一个乘人之危的假英雄来直接取代里头的Hero名词都找不到。。。英语素材太匮乏。。。
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