Sunday, February 23, 2014

Demon Profit

We have all heard that money is the root of all evil, or perhaps that the love of money is the root of all evil. Some people equate profit with the love of money and therefore with evil. As a result, many of those who speak about "profit" and the "profit motive" load the word "profit" with negative connotations.

At we do not have feelings one way or the other about profit because one of our principles is that those who can produce more than they consume should do so. Or, if you prefer, we should all make more than we spend so that we can build up savings. Savings, which is profit in the accounting sense. See our post Theory of Wealth.

While we think that the word "profit" has an undeserved bad reputation, the rich do tend to increase their own profits at times when the poor are losing their savings. For example, hedge fund manager John Paulson is said to have earned, personally, almost $4 billion in 1987 by using credit default swaps to hedge against the US housing market. Mr Paulson and his investors were raking it in while the rest of us were suffering. Yet Mr Paulson and investors like him did nothing illegal or even overtly immoral as far as we know.

Even so, there is currently an economic ratchet effect in which the rich get richer in good times and bad times while the rest of us lose our savings in bad times. (See also our post Left for Dead.) Unstopped, the ultimate result of this trend will be that the rich will end up with almost everything and the rest of us will end up with almost nothing. Ever-greater income and wealth inequality is not sustainable. It is a harbinger of the breakdown of the social contract between the rich and poor in the US.

So what is the real problem here? Are profits good or evil? Should profit be our goal or not? The answer is that profit should be our goal, but only in the context of balanced competitive markets. Right now the markets are not as balanced or competitive as they should be. Mr Paulson and his investors made extraordinary profits only because he and other rich people were able to hedge against our home loans, while, in effect, the rest of us were not.

If we are to feel that our toil is really leading to a better society instead of being, as we wrote in another post, The Capitalist Road to Serfdom, then when we build up savings, they should not be so vulnerable and so easily destroyed by the worldwide financial shenanigans of the rich. But how can we do that when the rich make the markets and have direct access to our savings; our invested profits? We cannot.

Again, the only solution is to deny the rich direct access to our markets and thus to our invested profits. That is what's plan of multiple exclusive markets and currencies is all about. So yes, we want profits. We need to produce more than we consume so that we are not stuck in lives of mere subsistence, of bare survival. We need the extra resources so we can increase our capital and at the same time, build an ever-better, ever-wealthier society. But it is pointless to do that when the capital that we build up is so vulnerable to mistakes, thoughtlessness, or even ill-will on the part of the rich. Support

The way capitalism should be.

Socialism for the socialists and capitalism for the capitalists.

TheOtherSideOfCapitalism (

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