The way some socialists, communists, and other oppressors of human dignity talk about it, it seems as if the “p” word is the only evil there truly is in the world: “profit”.
Let me help people understand why profit is not only good, but the only good thing there is in the world.
Profit is what is left over after you’ve earned all your money and paid all your bills. If you’re only thinking of dollars, profit is the money you actually make and get to keep.
Where does profit go? You have really only 3 choices: Spend it, save it, or invest it. If you spend it, then someone else gets to earn some money doing work. If you save it, then you’re setting it aside to be spent or invested in the future. If you invest it, then you’re hiring someone to do something that today is unprofitable, but may lead to greater profits in the future. There is nothing else you can do with your profit. All of these things are good.
After all, wouldn’t it be good if more people had jobs making things and providing things to others? Work is a noble endeavor. Those who are lucky enough to have a job know that it brings self-worth and confidence. It gives purpose and meaning. If you think about it, it is the worker who is truly obeying Christ’s commandment to love each other as we love ourselves. No matter what you do, if someone else wants it done, it is service, whether you are paid or not.
Wouldn’t it be good if more people had more savings? With savings, you can take greater risks, such as education. You can take a vacation and relax your body, mind and soul. You can pace yourself. Just like a farmer with silos full of grain and a barn full of animals, the worry of whether tomorrow will be sufficient disappears. Wouldn’t it be good if everyone had a month, a year, a decade of income saved?
Wouldn’t it be good if we had more investment money flowing around? Those of us who want to create something new and perhaps amazing, and who are willing to risk it would be joined by ever more hordes of people with similar desires. This is what progress is made of: People taking risks with their capital. It’s how we would get better batteries, electric cars that were actually cheaper than the gasoline-powered machines we have today, or perhaps entirely new modes of transport that can reduce pollution and resource consumption. Perhaps we can discover cures for cancer, or a way to make even more food, healthier and more cheaply. If we want to progress, we need to invest, and the more we invest, the faster we progress.
Given that the fruits of profit are universally good, why can it possibly be bad? Let me outline why I think socialists and communists see it as bad. (Spoiler: It’s pure envy.)
When we look across the landscape of the economy, we see some people who are able to take a few dollars and convert it into billions. Their ideas are so good, their execution so perfect, their attitude so mature that they have developed what we can only call the Midas Touch. On the other hand, we see wastrels who seem incapable of turning a profit, even when they have thousands or even millions of dollars. They seem to be worse off year after year.
The socialist or communist will deduce that the reason the rich get richer and the poor poorer is because the rich are taking things from the poor. After all, there is only so much stuff in the economy, and if someone gets more, it can only be because they are taking it away from someone else.
Not only is this thinking wrong, it is dangerous, and one of the many reasons why the poor get poorer. Let me share a story.
Once upon a time, a bunch of people came to America. There were no cities, no roads, no factories, just trees and prairies and dirt and Indians. Over time, these people cut down the trees, built homes, and planted fields. It didn’t always work, and many people starved or died of disease. Also, they didn’t always get along with the native population, and so they were killed or had to spend time fighting. As time passed further, these people built more roads and more houses and more farms. Then they started to build factories and refineries. At first they built a lot of boats. But later, they started to make many more things. After a very long time, they were manufacturing the first affordable car, telephones, airplanes, and much more. After some more time, they had huge cities with massive road networks and millions of cars to run on them, along with oil refineries, microchip factories, etc. Soon they had iPhones and iPads.
It’s remarkable, isn’t it, to consider the long road we’ve walked from virtually nothing to iPads. Where did the iPads come from? Did we steal them from the Indians? Did we take them from the Chinese? No, the iPads came into existence because of a simple principle: When two people get together and trade, voluntarily, they both benefit. That is, they both get richer. Even though the quantity of “stuff” hasn’t increased, they both have more “stuff”, or rather, the stuff they have is more valuable to them.
This is because wealth is not found or exploited or stolen. It is created. In fact, when you try to steal wealth, it disappears. Take, for instance, what happened when the barbarian hordes sacked Rome. Did they become Roman and have all the things the Romans had? No, those things were gone. By using force to try and take what they wanted, they actually fared worse than if they had simply tried to trade with Rome. Certainly the Romans were worse off. But the barbarians were worse off too. They could’ve entered into a trade relationship with Rome and they could have, over time, come to have similar living standards to the Romans, but they did not.
Now, the idea behind Marxism, which is really the same idea behind the evils of socialism and communism, is that somehow, the people who trade for wealth are cheating the other guy out of something. When a rich man comes and pays you some money to work in his factory, is he taking anything from you? Without the rich man, would there even be a factory to work in? And without the rich man, how would the factory workers know what to build, or where to send it? The rich man is just as important to an economy as the factory worker.
We see this story repeated again and again in the tech industry. An inventor comes up with a truly novel idea, and he is offered a hefty check to sell it to someone who knows how to make a lot of money with it. Thinking they can do a better job of monetizing the idea, they decide to hold on to it, only to find out that making money off of ideas is entirely different than coming up with new ideas. Perhaps, the inventor thinks, he would’ve been better off selling the idea sooner, or even getting a job working for the people who know how to monetize ideas. Occasionally, we have Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos who figure out how to make money off of the idea, usually because no one else really “gets it”, but these are exceptional cases. The vast majority of inventions end up in the hands of companies like Amazon and Microsoft who can actually make money from it, and the inventors are usually happy to take home a few years worth of salary as a reward, or enjoy continued employment there.
So the principle that destroys Marxist philosophy is simply this: Wealth cannot be redistributed. Wealth is created only with free trade. Everything else destroys it.
Socialists and communists who think that they can somehow make the poor richer by taking from the rich are making the same mistake that the barbarian hordes made with Rome. Sure, you may get some loot, and it may feed you for a day or a week, but at the end of that week, who are you going to raid next? Even the Mongolians learned that they had to settle down and adopt the ways of the people they conquered or else they would run out of food. Perhaps the Marxists would do well to learn that they have to be good capitalists.
So there you have it: Profit is always good. Free trade creates profit. Don’t stop free trade, and don’t try to redistribute the wealth.
But so far, I’ve only been talking about money. Or have I?
See, everything we do, everything we have, everything we are, is prioritized. We all have our own set of priorities. Mother Theresa prioritized serving the poor, so she made that the most important thing and sacrificed pretty much everything else to get it. What is your priority? Where is your treasure? Once you figure that out, then you should apply capitalist principles to it, and sacrifice everything else to obtain the things you really want. If that’s a comfortable lifestyle, even if it means you aren’t rich, then go for it. If it means living in a nicer climate, then go for it. If it means having a big family, or a small family, or living alone in the mountains, go for it! Profit for yourself.