Market Participant's Welfare
That it is a concern, however, underscores the fact that all markets are considered part of the social contract, and that they exist to serve humans. They are not some perfect natural phenomenon following universal laws that fell to the earth from the heavens. They emerge or are intentionally created because humans wish to exchange something with other humans, and even in extreme laissez-faire contexts there's still a desire that such exchanges operate as fairly as possible. Again, because they serve humans, who hold grudges, which can be very bad for business, or society in general, depending on their severity.
And yet, despite this vague concern for the welfare of market participants...this aversion to a winner-take-all-through-any-means-necessary-because-that-would-disrupt-the-social-contract-which-could-be-bad-for-business-or-one's-own-health style of exchange...many people today, smart people, passionate people, seem to feel that "the market" is a force whose power cannot be tamed. Granted, many people have no interest in taming it, and that's understandable (it's certainly a valid choice here), but this complete surrender by others who would see certain markets tamed (or re-imagined a bit to, you know, better serve humans) is misguided, in my opinion.
I'm talking mostly here, of course, about the art market. And increasingly I'm hearing that because there's now so much money in it that the market's too powerful and nothing's going to stop it from continuing on its "market first" path. The best anyone who wishes to put "art first" can hope for, they'll say, is some sliver of attention or trickle down under the radar of the almighty market.
This is leading outsiders with precious little experience in the art market (and certainly little experience within the trenches of the art world) to begin condemning "inefficient" practices that have long been in place within the art market. Such practices would never exist in other, more transparent markets, they'll argue (note "transparency" here is often code for increased market efficiency, with an eye toward eliminating more "human" concerns that don't contribute enough to a desirable return on investment), and make broad proclamations that completely ignore why such practices emerged in the first place: as means to support artists' production outside the immediate declarations of "valuable" or "non-valuable" that an accelerated, market-first culture would demand.
In the cellphone market, for example, a smartphone maker might entirely crash and burn based on a significant investment in a model the public rejects. But the art market as it has evolved is only part "market." It is also, by design, part support network, because it's historically chosen to put market participants' welfare at the top of its priorities. It has done so not through naivety about how markets work, but rather through a thorough understanding of how the creative process works. Through an understanding that the greatest art of any generation often requires nurturing and patience. That at the center of the entire market, indeed its entire raison d'etre are not mere corporations and their consumer-tested products, but humans...often very sensitive, brave, extraordinary humans who can contribute more than mere gadgets or profits to society and the entire world. They create the talismans, the treasures, the ideas and objects that give all the rest of this increasingly market-oriented existence meaning.
Efficiency is a fine goal in any market, but when it takes on more importance than the support network or the actual reason the art market exists, it's time to show its advocates the door. It's not your run-of-the-mill market, by design. Stop trying to make it one.