In Praise Of The Savvy Of The Middleman

It is easy to razz on companies for their lack of skill in being able to offer customers what they want, but sometimes business do a good job in ensuring exactly what is necessary, and in those circumstances I feel it necessary to give praise in such matters where praise is due. After I dealt with some of the technical problems this morning from a Zoom meeting of sorts with ZoomCare relating to an upcoming Covid test required for my travel this year to the Feast of Tabernacles, I had a conversation with the doctor on hand about their setup and lab certifications and I was informed that as ZoomCare has sought to profit from providing Covid that they have the tests and certifications that are necessary in order to provide such services. And they were able to do it in a timely fashion as well. I had scheduled the meeting early so as to be able to provide enough time to schedule a test, but it so happens that I could have gotten tested today if it had fallen within the testing window for my trip. As it was I was able to schedule an appointment at a nearby office right after my LabCorps appointment for a blood draw, so I figured I would get two appointments out at once, figuring that to be a pretty wise strategy. It was nice to see that a company was able to figure out a good niche in an area where time and trust are at a premium.

Why should we praise this savvy? If I am in general rather skeptical about the efficacy of the rules and regulations that are so highly treasured by contemporary public and private bureaucracies, such rules and regulations provide niches for others to operate in. In most years, would I need to be scheduling a medical exam shortly before traveling internationally? No, not at all. But if those are the rules in 2020 and one wants to travel, then it is a good thing when there are services capable of allowing for those rules to be met. To be sure, there are costs and inefficiencies involved. Is my time wasted by getting a test that will likely tell me that I don’t have the dreaded roni? Probably. Is it a worthwhile price to pay in the current climate of fear and panic related to a supposed plague? Absolutely. A company I am familiar who shall remain nameless adopted a similar strategy when the laws for Obamacare were passed, deciding that it would be a worthwhile and profitable strategy to appeal to a demograhpic of people who would be seeking insurance as they were legally mandated to do so, in the hopes of being able to profit off of providing them with a suite of insurance options that would cover the deductible as well as provide ancillary services. And by and large it was a savvy and profitable decision as well, even with the recent uncertainty as to how long the regulations will endure.

The savvy here praised is the savvy of the middleman. The world is full of inefficiencies and full of gaps between that which is needed and that which people can do on their own. Could I create a covid-19 test for myself that would meet the standards of the nation of Jamaica for travelers in this time of pandemic fears? No way. Do I strongly desire such a test to be done to allow me to travel, even if it is a bit riskier this year than it would otherwise be? Without a doubt. This sort of situation provides space for people to provide services that meet needs and wants and that also satisfy the regulatory demands of others. This sort of situation is extremely common. Indeed, the existence of brokerages is general is due to the inefficiencies that exist between highly technical and highly regulated markets like investment banking and insurance and the needs and wants of customers who do not and should not be expected to know the very complex environment of such areas. What they do need is people who can earn a decent livelihood and a high degree of self-respect in helping others to navigate such areas by responding to their needs and wants for a reasonable fee to be paid for by someone, be it the customer themselves or be it some sort of company who profits off of the middleman service out of the proceeds that come from the customer.

If it seems strange to praise the savvy of the middleman, that is only because are not used to thinking of their savvy as a good thing. But let us consider the alternatives. It is certainly better to construct and design well-functioning systems without inefficiencies, but this is in practice very difficult to do (if not impossible) because of the complexity of such situations and because of the political limitations of those who are engaged in designing and operating systems where the public interest is involved. The love of politicians and bureaucrats to regulate is a veritable factory for creating market inefficiencies that provide the space for middlemen to proliferate. And if we cannot restrain the Leviathan from creating useless and wasteful bureaucracy, the next best thing is to praise those who find profitable niches in being able to operate in such inefficiencies and provide the necessary knowledge and connections to serve as go-betweens to provide goods and services where they are needed and wanted in a way that meets the demands of the legal and regulatory environment that exists. Their existence is not itself a problem, but rather a sensible and reasonable response to the evils of our present world. Yet all too often those middlemen serve as scapegoats for troubled environments rather than people whose often heroic efforts at overcoming flawed social and economic systems is to be praised. It is just that those who provide goods and services be paid fairly for it, and if we do not feel such goods and services ought to be necessary, the fault is not with them, but with those who write bad laws and bad regulations, and who often have no shortage of justifications for why they act as they do, whom it is more impolitic to condemn.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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