I'm looking for a word or phrase to describe the natural forces or factors that would normally either encourage or discourage a particular course of action if that factor is either present or not present. It is similar to "supply and demand" but should imply multiple factors (such as money, time, knowledge, etc.). It is also similar to population expansion models where the lack of predators or the overabundance of food might lead to unrestricted growth.

The terms that I'm looking for are most closely aligned with examples of the way that government subsidization or insurance company involvement has (arguably) led to runaway abuses of medical resources by individuals. If the individual had to pay the full cost of the service they're consuming, they would be less likely to consume that more expensive service. They'd choose to consume a less expensive service or change their behavior so they didn't need those services.

I can come up with metaphors and comparisons, but I'm looking for a succinct but meaningful/powerful/vivid way of expressing it. The target audience has limited time to evaluate lengthy examples, yet their choices can make or break the proposed projects. Think of having only 15 seconds or less to convey the concept before the window of attention span is lost if it isn't captured.

Examples of potential usage:

  • "Company B is being indirectly penalized because Company A has an advantage by (not having the same limiting factor)."
  • "Country A has an unfair advantage over Country B because Country C is subsidizing the war efforts of Country A. Since Country A isn't seeing its own resources diminishing, they don't have the same warning signs that would prompt them to consider negotiation or truce instead of waging war until Country B is conquered."
    • "Country B is in a state of ___."
    • "Country A has a/an ____ advantage."
    • "Country A lacks motivation to work for peace because ____."
    • "Country A and B's conflict is unbalanced because ____."
  • 1
    Please add to your question an example of how you might use such a term in a sentence.
    – Lawrence
    May 24, 2016 at 23:44

1 Answer 1


(I was working on this as you were editing and your edit and examples probably render the following even less helpful than before)

Your including “arguably” (albeit parenthetically) encourages me to conclude that you might be open to view, as I do, “the [need for] government subsidization and insurance company involvement,” perhaps not as the cause of “runaway abuses of medical resources by individuals,” but rather as attempts to solve/mitigate the problems (runaway corporate-induced abuses/inflation) caused by entrusting the ethical delivery of one of the citizens’ most basic rights to profit-driven entities, “non-profit” or otherwise, within the framework of a “free-market” or “capitalistic vacuum.”

Within a free-market/capitalistic vacuum, such “abuses by individuals” would indeed disappear and the “natural forces or factors” that you mention (and seek a generic term for) would be limited to and could be called capitalism’s “internal/inherent [balancing] forces” (one of which you mention being “supply and demand”).

Although the presence of only such “inherent/internal forces” would give the results you mention (less use/misuse of the health system by individuals), regarding their absence, I would talk instead in terms of the presence (or absence) of “external [counterbalancing/offsetting/neutralizing] forces/controls” (subsidies & insurance company involvement, in your scenario), at least until the external forces have totally overwhelmed and replaced the internal ones.

Regardless of whether you choose to make use of the distinction/nuance that I see between “internal/inherent” and “external” forces, I think the notion of forces that are “[counter]balancing/offsetting/neutralizing” could capture such forces generically.

(all links to books via ‘Google Books’)

  • The inclusion of "(arguably)" in parenthesis was intended to indicate that it was only an example of the type of situation I was referencing and was not an invitation to debate whether the statement itself was correct or incorrect. I don't want to debate that particular issue. I want to find a term to describe the general configuration of the debate. The links to the book were helpful though. It gives additional terms that might get me to a solution. May 31, 2016 at 14:38
  • @BryanLanning With your edit in mind, perhaps the notions of “moral hazard” ... (see this one, too) &/or “adverse selection’ could apply to Country/Company A and “bounded rationality”;... “artificial scarcity”; &/or “Inequality of bargaining power“ to Country/Company B.
    – Papa Poule
    Jun 1, 2016 at 14:54
  • "moral hazard" and "inequality of bargaining power" were exactly what I was looking for, thanks! I'll mark this as the answer. Do these terms need to be included in the answer instead of in the comments? Jun 3, 2016 at 14:54
  • @BryanLanning I’m glad that “my” comment helped, but thanks should really go to my Daughter (who works for one of those big “pharmaceuticals” [to my shame, but it does keep her out of our empty nest!]). I ran your question by her & she immediately suggested the 2 that you liked best (I added the other ‘also rans’ based on their connection to her/your 2). I’ll let her know that you liked her suggestions enough to kindly accept them. Re adding them to “my” answer, you’re probably right ‘cause comments can be fleeting. I’ll edit (this w/e) when I get a chance to add some quotes& citations.Thanks!
    – Papa Poule
    Jun 3, 2016 at 22:32

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