I hear customers are angry at Netflix over its recent changes. It’s worth taking a moment to ask: Why would anyone be angry.
The evaluation of an offered deal is one thing: Naturally, most people don’t like it when the price of something they routinely buy goes up. And as a Netflix customer, I’ve appreciated the convenience of having DVDs and streaming videos as part of one service—if only because it means I can search for a movie once, stream it if it’s available for streaming, and put it in my DVD queue if it isn’t. So I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to get that service from Netflix anymore. Next time I reevaluate how I get video, Netflix will have a less competitive offer. And if I and others decline to take that offer, Netflix may be disappointed too.
But there’s a difference between disappointment and anger. Anger, unlike disappointment, presupposes that the other person did some wrong or harm to you or someone else. A man may be disappointed, even painfully so, if the woman he wants to date prefers someone else—but anger is almost never an appropriate response, because she has the right to, and indeed ought to, pursue the opportunity she thinks is best for her.
Exactly the same thing is true of Netflix, or any business. People in business, like their customers, exist for their own sake. They act, or ought to act, for their own sake—and that means pursuing the opportunities they think are best for them. So if what Netflix chooses to do doesn’t benefit me as much as some other course it could have pursued, it’s OK for me to be disappointed. But unless it violated some commitment it made to me, I have no business being angry. Netflix never promised to make only decisions I like.
So why would people be angry?
Should the people who gave you the service you loved have to curtail their pursuit of happiness because they contributed to yours?
Here’s a suggestion: When people find something of value, we want to keep it. And that’s good. Indeed, the right to property is the right to produce values and keep them—or use them to purchase other values. But it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that some of the values we obtain are actually the services of other people, such as the people behind Netflix.
If you come to think you’re entitled to those services, you might well be angry when you no longer have them, or no longer have them on the same terms. But consider what being entitled to those services on those terms, when Netflix no longer thinks it in its interests to offer them and Netflix has not promised to keep offering them, would mean.
It would mean that once someone provides you a service you value on terms you like, you are entitled to continue receiving that service whether he wants to provide it or not. Then he can no longer be entitled to pursue his own interests according to his own judgment, because he is bound in perpetuity to keep doing what he has been doing.
And this loss of liberty would befall him not because he has done you harm, but because he has done you good: It is the fact that you value his service that binds him to provide it. If Netflix (or someone else) had not provided us the combined DVD/streaming video service, we would not now be losing it; if we had not found it valuable, we would not be displeased at losing it.
So if you have been angry at Netflix for changing its services, ask yourself this: Should the people who gave you the service you loved have to curtail their pursuit of happiness because they contributed to yours? If not, then by all means choose the video service that suits you best, whether or not it’s from Netflix. But recognize that the people at Netflix have the same right you do to pursue their happiness according to their judgment. There’s no reason to be angry at them because of the good they did you, or because they won’t do you all the good you might wish.