no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Can the Profit Motive Save Us?

March 6th, 2009

At the Smoking Argus, Joseph Marohl inquires about the profit motive, in which he’s “never believed”:

How long have I heard it said that the profit motive is what makes the world the wonderful place it is? No, I don’t believe it.

Why must everything the U.S. government proposes, for the past two decades at least, be filtered through the beneficial effects of someone making a profit from it?”

I’d like to answer these questions. If enterprises are not profitable, they are destructive. If they are not creating wealth, they are consuming and destroying wealth. And the more wealth they destroy, the harder we work, the more we suffer, and the less we have.  To clarify, I don’t mean “wealth” in a purely monetary sense. I mean real wealth: an abundance of goods and services that are available to alleviate some of the infinite inconveniences, pains, and discomforts that are present in a world where all resources are in limited supply.

Setting aside for the moment, the myriad problems I have with “the government” in general, it certainly makes sense that government propositions, like all purposeful human action, ought to aim at creating wealth of this sort, rather than destroying it. It is my understanding, however, that governments usually perform poorly at this task, because government failure rarely has severe, personal consequences for the decision-makers.

And I don’t know why so many people think it’s a good idea to funnel government funds into gigantic corporations

In a very limited regard, I agree with Marohl: I don’t want to see money being funneled through government to corporations, large or small. I don’t want to see money going to, or through government, period. But as long as the government is going to spend my money, our money, I’d prefer it be spent on food and housing for the homeless, than on bio-fuel or green energy subsidies. I’d prefer it be spent on roads and school buses, than on bombs and bullets.

The only people I know of who actively support these ideas, are people in the government, and the rent-seekers that intend to benefit thereby. All of the opinion I’ve heard, seen, and read of late, suggests that most people think the current bailout, for example, is a damn lousy idea; perhaps one of the few times in history when “most” people were right.

Marohl makes some solid critiques of modern capitalism, railing against the “what’s good for GM…” and the problems presented by corralling employees in to stock purchase plans and 401k programs that are also going belly-up. But he also refuses to view public school teachers, the quality of whose product over the past 40 or 50 years has been in measurable decline, as part of the problem, indeed he seems to argue that Teacher Unions are the last bastion of salvation, preventing schools from turning “into a mere training post for cheap, acquiescent labor,” despite the fact that most kids these days graduate high school with nary a marketable skill, trade, ability or experience.

Although his derision of the profit motive alludes to his hatred of free markets, this fundamental belief is buried deep in the essay:

No, I don’t believe. I’m an unbeliever in free enterprise, free market, laissez-faire, trickle-down, all of it.”

Let me get this straight… He doesn’t believe in free markets (we’re about a million fucking miles from a free market, FYI, and he doesn’t believe (or has lost all faith) in governments. Profit and productivity can’t save us, nor can Papa Government. I’m going to take the rare opportunity to invoke my blog’s title: there isn’t another way. There is no third solution.

A comment I left there asked him just what the f*ck he does believe in?

This is a serious question. If the language or the tone strikes anyone as rude, it’s because the notion that humankind can benefit, can advance, can thrive or even merely survive without actually increasing wealth from one period of time to the next, is so fantastically ignorant as to warrant nothing more than ridicule.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics