A Conflict of Interest arises when a party working toward a certain goal has an ancillary goal to satisfy as well and where satisfying both goals is impossible since achieving one goal could preclude the achievement of the other. Life is filled with such conflicts and the choices we make often weigh our priorities so we then deconflict ourselves. Sometimes these conflicts are framed as a dilemma or conundrum. This human foible is legendary and is employed regularly in storytelling which frankly would be pretty boring without it. Where it stops being amusing is when it becomes real and affects lives in profound ways. Because it is Human Nature to not consider all the consequences of our actions, even less so our collective actions, it mostly proceeds unimpeded.
The most pervasive and impactful example of this can be found in our Healthcare System but there are other pervasive examples I will try to touch upon. Healthcare is a perfect place to start because the most stark contrast comes into focus when it becomes your money or your life. The Healthcare business has been optimized as a financial extraction tool which leverages the most essential concern a person can have—their own health or that of a loved one. It’s truly a marvel of business engineering because it brings many players together from the altruistic A+ doctor to the boardrooms of Big Pharma and Insurance and large Hospital Systems. Within each system can be found many decent, concerned people in each role. However the organism as a whole tends to operate against the interest of the individual, even while often helping them which is how they get away with it. We allow this because we say life is priceless and we will spare no expense to save it. But it’s not only about money.
For example, if one’s goal is to find a cure for a particular malady AND to maximize one’s profit in doing so it can quickly lead to a situation where it is less profitable to cure the malady. Take Diabetes. Selling a lifetime supply of needles, blood measuring devices, insulin and other drugs as well as all the attendant products and services of associated maladies like obesity, amputations, etc. produces far more revenue than a one time cure would produce so the business is de-incentivized to produce the cure, certainly not too soon.