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The race to the bottom

The race to the bottom – Seth Godin
Let’s not race to the bottom.

We know that industrialists seek to squeeze every penny out of every market. We know that competitors want to drive their costs to zero so that they will be the obvious commodity choice. And we know that many that seek to unearth natural resources want all of it, fast and cheap and now.

We can eliminate rules protecting clean water or consumer safety. We can extort workers to show up and work harder for less, in order to underbid a competitor. We can take advantage of less sophisticated consumers and trick them into consuming items for short-term satisfaction and long-term pain. These might be painful outcomes, but they’re an direct path to follow. We know how to do this.

In our connected world, commodity producers are under intense pressure. The price of anything that’s made to a spec, or that responds to an RFP, is instantly known by all buyers. That means that there’s an argument made by big corporations for each country to charge corporations the lowest possible tax rate, to loosen environmental regulations down to zero, and to eliminate employee protections. All so that a country’s commodity producers can be the cheapest ones.

I know we can do that. There’s always the opportunity to cut a corner, sacrifice lifestyle quality and suck it up as we race to grab a little more market share.

But the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.

You might make a few more bucks for now, but not for long and not with pride. Someone will always find a way to be cheaper or more brutal than you.

The race to the top makes more sense to me. The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. It’s also risky, filled with difficult technical and emotional hurdles, and requires patience and effort and insight. The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome.

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