A great (brief) study of profit.

“Most of us take a dim view of breaking even. We are taught that making a profit is the only way to get ahead. But to get ahead of what? And of whom?

Why should we get ahead of others? Can we meet our needs for health and happiness only by leaving others behind?

If indeed breaking even is a bad thing, the only alternative is to break uneven. And a transaction cannot break uneven to the advantage of both parties. Someone must be left holding the bag.

Is this what we should expect of a humane and just society?

When two parties break even in an exchange, each gets comparable value. Neither is shortchanged. Both emerge from the transaction with dignity. But when we seek to make a profit, we effectively oppose this arrangement of equity, and our transactions break uneven to the disadvantage of another person or party.

Is it moral, as you transact in daily life, to take more value from people than you give to them? If you are adept at getting the better end of the bargain, is it cause for pride? Do you feel good at the prospect of teaching children how to leave other parties with the raw end of the deal?

To be sure, we are taught to see profit in a positive light. We are taught to esteem the profit makers. We are taught to look upon profit as fair and honorable. But do we really believe that?

Do we believe our childhood indoctrinations that to extract from society more than we contribute is fair and honorable? Do we really believe that wealth is a measure of good character?

For all our veneration of the profit makers, most of us will never make a profit ourselves. Most of us will only work for a wage, and in so doing enrich an employer with the surplus value of our labor. But even if this were not so, we cannot ALL extract more from society than we contribute. For all the transactions that take place in the world, at least half of us must be left the poorer for it. It’s basic mathematics.

The injustice and insanity of profit doesn’t stop here. The goal of corporations is not merely to be profitable. The goal is ever to increase profitability. The goal is ever to increase the value they take from society and conversely to reduce the value they give in return.

After successive years of this, corporations are emboldened to take still more. Their goal is still more increases. Increases without end. Economic growth without end.

Yes, all on our modest, overcrowded planet.

So now we have, across the globe, all these legal entities, each seeking not only to extract more value than what they contribute, but yearly to increase the margin by which they do so. And before we give our applause and approbation, let’s stop to reconsider. Let’s open our eyes to the ugly truth of profit, that it is immoral, unjust, destructive, and unsustainable.”

– Jeff Mincey –


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