Transactional Compromises

I had a striking conversation last winter with a hockey friend. We were discussing our grown children, and how they were all independent and capable, but how some kids struggle to take flight, living at home or taking time otherwise to find themselves.

It led to us both noting that we knew parents who said things like, “Well, I’m glad I have kids so they’ll support me in my old age” or, “I’ll give my kids support depending on the grades they get.”

This is transactional thinking — I’ll give you this when I get that — and it seems out of place for parenting, which should be about love and support and guidance and trust.

We are seeing transactional thinking becoming more blatant at multiple levels in our society, stemming largely from silly statements like “the government should be run more like a business” (reality check — would you want your business run more like a government? If no, then you recognize there is a difference). Now, we have a reputed (and fairly inept) businessman as President, and he’s currently embroiled in a number of transactional downward spirals, whether transacting for the silence of women, for arms deals with a journalist-murdering regime, or for judges with the complicity of a cowardly Congress. There are no principles, only transactions.

We also are moving toward a more transactional scholarly publishing world, at least we will be if things like Plan S move forward. “Pay to publish” would become the only acceptable model, and that’s a purely transactional way to get information out. There is no thought of the recipient, at least not financially or perhaps even economically. The transaction becomes a deal between the author and the publisher, and the value of the transaction would be capped under Plan S, which would mean success depends on more transactions completed quickly, both of which cut even harder against quality and standards.

The transactional mindset is one that tamps down values and goals time and again in order to realize some short-term benefit — namely, the transaction. The compromises that are made become routine, so much so that morals and ethics and standards become lost in a cloud of compromises. Simply look at the moral vacuity of the current US President to realize what a purely transactional life leaves you with — a cash register where a sense of right and wrong might normally exist.

Making transactions with authors and their funders the dominant publishing business model is a deleterious path. Any transactions should be moved to the readers, who vote for quality, relevance, and care, not volume, speed, and convenience of publication.

We need to think of the intangible aspects of what we do which we’d be selling if we were to make the Plan S deal with future.