I think you and I basically agree. Having academics charge per article or finding a way to sell their work directly seems a little ridiculous.
But I also want to push back against this idea that because we’re doing something “for the public good”, we should be expected to do it for free. It’s an argument that has been used to rob hours and compensation out of non-profit employees, social workers, and caregivers of all stripes (teachers, nurses, mothers, etc), and it often has really exploitative long-run effects.
If research is something of value (and most of us would agree that it is), it ought to be renumerated in some way. Selling per article seems really silly. But if universities want to have productive research faculty who do meaningful work, their productivity should be rewarded — more carrot and less stick, basically.
Right now we are expected to do ‘free’ work because it is a social good — but other people are profiting off that social good, and the argument that it’s a social good is just used against us, to keep us working for free. For tenured faculty, the compensation is somewhat embedded in the salary. For everyone else, it is absolutely not. And I don’t think it has to be crass or grossly capitalistic or greedy to say good work should be well compensated. How to accomplish this is tricky. But it is still worthwhile.