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Do Non-exploitative Profits Exist?

December 16th, 2009

Depends how you define “profit”. If you define “profit” as the result of “exploitation”, your best argument is a tautology. You’ve cornered yourself into accepting a foregone conclusion.

I argue that profit is simply a net benefit accruing to productive activity; therefore there is such a thing as non-exploitative profit.

If the worker receives the “full product” of his labor, sometimes he will find that the “full product” is not satisfactory, given his opportunity costs. If he is wise, he’ll not make that mistake again, either adjusting or perfecting his technique, or performing a different sort of labor in the future. Other times, he will find that the “full product” was more than he had anticipated, that he has gained more than he expected to gain, and is therefore able to enjoy more leisure than he otherwise would’ve.

There is nothing per se exploitative about either of these outcomes.



  • KipEsquire says on: December 16, 2009 at 10:45 am


    “Profit” is merely the return to the factor of production often referred to as “entrepreneurship” or “risk-taking.” It is no different conceptually from “wage” to labor, “rent” to land or “interest” to capital.

    Only by defining “profit,” as Marx et al falsely did, as a residual rather than as a factor market can there be any notion of “exploitation.”

  • George Donnelly says on: December 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm


    Agreed. Nicely argued.

  • Neverfox says on: December 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm


    @KipEsquire – The marginal productivity theory died in the Cambridge Capital Controversy and needs to be tossed in the rubbish bin of history along with Marx’s exploitation theory. Both rely on the concept of flawed concepts quantifiable captital and labor. What matters are the proper assignment of property rights in the positive and negative results of production. Once property is correctly assigned, sold and debts are paid, property ownership takes care of who gets what income as a result. No fallacious abstractions needed.

  • Don says on: December 17, 2009 at 10:57 am


    Exploitation is an *emotional* word used to inject feelings into a logical issue. I’ve owned an architectural design business for 26 years and have never thought of myself as having been exploited. I prefer the word *exchange*, I exchange labor for legal tenders. Most of the time the exchange is favorable to me, and others not so favorable, so I do as David mentioned, examine my business model and strive to improve.

    I like the part about *net benefit* and don’t know if David meant it as I see it. I like what I do, and always have, since I discovered the realm of architecture at age 11. If I was independently wealthy I would still design buildings and in fact much of my spare time is spent designing buildings for fun. Other than the business side of my business my job doesn’t seem like a job. It seems like a hobby that lots of people pay me good money to do for them. So for me the profit part IS a net benefit.

    The word *exploitation* in reference to business is most lilely used by envious people that haven’t the first clue as to what is required to run any business and see things from the very narrow view of an employees eyes and unfortunately their built-in handicap (mental dificiency) will keep them in that role all of their days leaving this plane with an angry, disgruntled look on their faces. Sadly, it is their choice to be this way.

  • David Z says on: December 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm


    @Neverfox – thanks for the insights. You have a great way of distilling concepts.

    For some reason I can’t figure out, every time you leave a comment here Akismet marks you as potential spam. Sorry for the delays in approving your comments.

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