When do markets make sense? That may very well be the trillion dollar question. Building on my previous posts (here, here and here) about markets as the new 'exit strategy' for philanthropic action I want to draw attention to this comment from Dennis Whittle:
"Thanks for this wise injection of sanity into the debate on this topic. ... Generating sustainable and equitable prosperity requires a multitude of approaches - large and small, public and private. The key is to ensure easy entry and exit for new mechanisms. ... An interesting question is how can we improve the functioning of this "meta-market" that allocates funds to all types of social and environmental initiatives, both public and private."
This is exactly the question, Dennis. When can markets solve problems? When do we need to tax ourselves to make sure certain services are available? And when do need to rely on the application of private resources for public action? We are moving in the direction Dennis calls for - a time when all kinds of mechanisms are being deployed for social good. The key question we face is how to know what to use when.
This is the mechanistic version (and also the action-oriented version) of the philosophical question that keeps me engaged in this work - what is public, what is private, and who decides?