People and profits are in harmony

In today's headlines and protest signs we hear pleas to "put people ahead of profits." But are people and profits opposed to one another? In commercial transactions, two parties profit: the seller and the buyer. The buyer acquires a product and the seller gains financially. This peaceable, voluntary transaction of value for value to mutual benefit is an exercise of the rights of individuals to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. It is the proper and moral exercise of economic and political freedom.

When a person offers to mow your lawn for payment, he seeks to profit financially from his labor for his own betterment as he sees it. The same principle holds on larger scales. When Steve Jobs invents and sells an iPhone, Apple Corporation profits. And so do you. Profits motivate individuals to improve the lives of others and the prospect of making a profit is what makes any business enterprise worthwhile.

In a free market, a business profits to the extent that it pleases people by improving their lives. When it does not, it properly loses its profits and is replaced by competitors who stand to do a better job of pleasing people and, therefore, of making a profit. Profit is what people willingly give to businesses in exchange for the improvement of their lives in material ways. Profit is the measure of successfully serving the needs and wants of the community in a free, voluntary marketplace. It is the people who rule in a free economy. Consumers vote in the marketplace with their dollars and they are ruthless in their choices. They ultimately determine who will earn a profit and succeed and who will rack up losses and suffer defeat. In this sense, people and profits are in harmony and are not opposing concepts.

— Tim Peck
Asheville

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50 thoughts on “People and profits are in harmony

  1. infinitybbc

    i never understood why some people rail against the concept about profit and success

  2. bill smith

    “When Steve Jobs invents and sells an iPhone, Apple Corporation profits. And so do you”

    I do not profit. I may enjoy some temporary benefits from my proximity to Apple’s wealth, but I do not actually ‘profit’.

    Furthermore, Apple’s products do not ONLY cause profit. They also cause and/or exacerbate environmental and socioeconomic problems which actually deteriorate ‘profits’ in the long run.

    When people say ‘put people over profit’, they are conveying a desire to put the well-being of our whole species, if not the well being of the entire planet, over the short-term gains of of financial ‘profit’ for corporate entities which require a completely unsustainable, ever-expanding profit margin.

    One can live in many fantasy worlds, and the notion that trade creates unlimited prosperity with no side effects is certainly one of those fantasies.

  3. I do not profit. I may enjoy some temporary benefits from my proximity to Apple’s wealth, but I do not actually ‘profit’.”

    If you’re not profiting from your iPhone then perhaps you don’t know how to turn it on.
    ………………..

    • “I don’t own an Iphone.”

      Well, then, my comment about owning an iPhone doesn’t apply to you, now does it, Sherlock?
      …………………

    • bill smith

      “Well, then, my comment about owning an iPhone doesn’t apply to you, now does it, Sherlock?”

      It was in direct response to a comment I made, and yet it wasn’t meant for me? How odd, Watson.

  4. sonipitts

    Your letter assumes a true free market, where transparency allows consumer to know how workers are treated, how products are made, how pricing structures and other legal policies are created and so on. And it assumes that there is reasonable access to such information and reasonable access to alternatives. And in that situation, the premise you laid out is quite reasonable.

    However, in our current world we don’t have a free market. We have a market dominated by a few large corporations in each field operating with the wealth of small nations and using that wealth to silence whisteblowers who would expose dangerous or unethical practices; who use their money and subsequent influence to get laws passed specifically aimed at preventing information about such practices from being exposed (or to simply make them legal); who use that same influence to make competition impossible beyond a few small “industry leaders” and to avoid any but the most trivial consequences for breaking the law.

    For example, there are a whole host of agricultural “safety” regulations that are solely designed to make it financially impossible for smaller farms (who are statistically more likely to use ethical farming practices) from competing for market share with the big-name corporate players. In addition, many states are currently being heavily lobbied toward (and are seriously considering passing) so-called “Ag-Gag” laws that make it illegal to expose food production “secrets” like the inclusion of “pink slime” and other technically legal but unpopular/unhealthy adulterations of food products, abusive animal treatment, unsafe working conditions and so on. Literally, these companies are paying a lot of money to make sure we can’t make the sort of informed decisions your letter’s free market relies on to work.

    Likewise, in many places, there simply *is* no competition to turn to if you don’t like how your current provider is behaving. It’s common practice in many parts of the country for there to be one cable or internet provider available, mainly due to exclusivity arrangements between the big corporations, who can then charge whatever they want, engage in whatever shady but just-legal fee structuring and bandwidth-throttling they want and otherwise be blatant, greedy “screw the customer” jerks with impunity. And we all remember how hard the big telecoms (who were in lockstep about services, policies and pricing to the degree that it whiffed of criminal collusion) fought against allowing smaller competitors to use their infrastructure (without which, again, a true free market setting is impossible).

    And finally, there are far more people in this formula than just the buyer and the seller. There’s the community the product is created in (and that suffer from any pollution, traffic, safety issues and local tax fiddles the company creates). There are the workers who suffer from unsafe working conditions created by cost-cutting and profit-pumping. There are the people who live in the areas where raw resources are mined or otherwise used. There are those who live where the end product is dumped or recycled. And then there’s all of us who live within a closed ecological system that’s affected by every choice every single person (and corporation) makes, whether we buy their product or not.

    Those are the people we need to put above product. The consumer is just a small percentage of those concerned.

    • “However, in our current world we don’t have a free market. We have a market dominated by a few large corporations”

      That’s correct. We do not have a free market (That’s why I said, “In a free market…”). We have a mixed economy with regulation, rights violation and political controls.

      Domination by corporations in politics is not the fault of corporations. (They are acting rationally in an unfree market.) It is the fault of government that is corrupted, unconstitutional and for sale to any bidder in exchange for favors and anti-competitive legislation.
      …………………….

  5. bill smith

    Gosh, if government would just get out of the way, all these companies would be out there cleaning the air and water. Stupid Government.

    • Pollution is a violation of property rights. It is the government’s only proper function to protect individual rights. The solution to environmental problems, where they actually exist, is to strengthen property rights.
      ………………..

    • Barry Summers

      Yes, but it’s not Tim(1)’s fault. The “invisible hand” of the market has been flogging it.

    • “Tim, your horse is dead.”

      Brilliant intellectual retort.

      Specifically in what way is my horse dead?
      …………………

  6. Christopher C NC

    Specifically Tim you have been peddling this one note vision of economics as long as I have been reading the Xpress; many years now. No matter how many times it is pointed out to you that real human behavior mucks up your simplified vision of how things should work you keep peddling this same tired line of BS.

    Real human behavior means commerce and the economic system have to be regulated. Stop beating a dead horse.

    • bill smith

      Chris, the finance and banking center can be trusted to regulate themselves! The crash of 08 just proves government got in the way. Without regulation, banks would have had to develop morals, which would have prevented them from acting against the public interest. But the nanny state kept them from developing notions of responsibility. The government can regulate pollution in a stream, but not pollution in a revenue stream! Come on, now! Stop making this all about me!

    • “economic system have to be regulated”

      We certainly don’t agree about that. I believe in free market economics and the protection of individual rights under objective law.

      No one has shown how this horse is dead. Quite the contrary.
      ………………..

  7. sharpleycladd

    Generally, a belief in something that has never – and will never – exist, such as free market capitalism, is best left to the masturbatory fantasies of novelists whose protagonists blow up buildings and invent new metals for their choo-choo trains.

    In the real world, the closest approximations of laissez-faire capitalism we’ve seen have produced the most volatile economies (the long depression of the 1870′s, the depression of 1908, the crash of 1929, and, one could argue, the post-deregulation crash of 1982) and, significantly, the highest unemployment. There is no real-world case of government regulation or economic intervention causing unemployment, really, Mr. Peck. NAFTA is deregulation – it costs jobs. Environmental regulations actually create jobs (safety, abatement and conservation have to be carried out by somebody, right?). Highways, insulation, water conservation, pollution abatement are government-mandated capital investments that create jobs. The Randian alternative – assertion of property rights against nuisances in courts of law – makes lawyers wealthy but doesn’t get thing one done or person one hired.

    The Randian notion of some sort of utopian free-market fantasyland is headed for the ash-heap of history, there to join Marxist orthopraxy in its search for a property-less, profit-less nirvana. Let’s hope it doesn’t take us with it. As we listen to these clowns, other countries are taking over the solar market, the conservation market, the desalination market, the wind turbine market, and many other markets, because their governments do not pay attention to idiots.

    • “The Randian alternative – assertion of property rights against nuisances in courts of law”

      The problem with pollution is the erosion of property rights. The reason for this is the public policy of sacrificing the individual to the collective, or “serving the common good,” which has driven the courts to regard the social good, or public interest, as superior to the individual good. What is the social good in this case? Industry, jobs, economic activity. Courts rule in favor of industry over property rights and this encourages pollution. The solution is stronger protections for property rights. If you follow pollution to its source you will find the philosophy of collectivism enforced by government.

      Free market environmentalism by Walter Block Part 1
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrTsaSUFfpo
      …………………………………..

  8. Barry Summers

    No one has shown how this horse is dead. Quite the contrary.

    Yes, ignore completely the example you yourself raised over on this other thread:

    http://mountainx.com/article/41249/Photos-Occupy-Ashevilles-Tyrannicide-Day-March

    John Allison, CEO of BB&T, the chief standard bearer of Objectivism, sold you and Ayn Rand out in 2007 when he took $3.1 billion from the TARP program, even though he said they didn’t need it.

    (Where is the damn liberty to say no to the Feds when they force billions into your pockets?)

    And his argument was that he wasn’t betraying Objectivism’s tenets by accepting massive taxpayer intervention in his business – No, no, no – he simply had no choice, as the other banks were all going to take the money, and he didn’t want BB&T to be at a disadvantage.

    Ana as the French say, Voil

  9. sharpleycladd

    Incidentally, I’m aware of granules of fact in Mr. Peck’s quibbling with the working conditions and antitrust Apple’s gotten. I’d say they’re only granules. However, I’d also say that his strident defense, his obsequiousness toward the Largest Share Cap Corporation On Earth versus his antagonism towards government, which is, at bottom, All Of Us, is pretty doggone strange, unless one delves into power-worship politics. Or psychology.

    Perhaps this thread IS about Mr. Peck.

  10. “(Where is the damn liberty to say no to the Feds when they force billions into your pockets?)”

    Clever.

    Allison DID say not. The government responded by telling him he had no choice in the matter. They threatened to regulate his company out of business. This is pure extortion on the part of the government.

    “A mobster comes to a man’s store and say’s, ‘Pay us and we’ll give you protection.’ The store owner says, ‘Protection? From who?’ Mobster says, ‘From us.’”
    …………………

  11. “(Where is the damn liberty to say no to the Feds when they force billions into your pockets?)”

    Clever. But not clever enough.

    Allison DID say no.

    The government responded by telling him he had no choice in the matter. They threatened to regulate his company out of business. This is pure extortion on the part of the government.

    “A mobster comes to a man’s store and say’s, ‘Pay us and we’ll give you protection.’ The store owner says, ‘Protection? From who?’ Mobster says, ‘From us.’”
    …………………

  12. “In the real world, the closest approximations of laissez-faire capitalism we’ve seen have produced the most volatile economies (the long depression of the 1870′s, the depression of 1908, the crash of 1929, and, one could argue, the post-deregulation crash of 1982)”

    FALSE.

    Business cycles and economic depressions are caused by government interference in the economy.

    You seem to have missed something in your analysis of your so-called real world. ‘Tis a pity.
    …………………..

    • bill smith

      `Business cycles and economic depressions are caused by government interference in the economy.

      FALSE.

      See, I can do that, too.

    • sharpleycladd

      This statement of yours is one of the core canards of the whole BB&T/Rand School of Economics, and I could get into about 16 paragraphs about how capital, productive and labor markets “clear” differently, leading inevitably to business cycles that slowly, inevitably grind wages into the dirt. But I won’t. When a Randian explains all business cycles as attributable to government intervention, I figure we’re in Kool-Aid land and don’t see the point.

      I’ll just say this about laissez-faire economics and compensation of labor: the state of nature is slavery. Slavery has never been stopped without action by the polity, i.e., government.

    • bill smith

      It being lengthy does not negate the fact that it de-regulated many aspects of the American workforce, allowing those jobs to be outsourced.

      The notion that de-regulation is a simple process, not requiring lengthy legalese, etc, seems to highlight a sort of child-like naivete.

    • sharpleycladd

      A trade regime that’s essentially deregulation because the regulators aren’t regulating. That’s for the rich.

  13. “The Randian notion of some sort of utopian free-market fantasyland is headed for the ash-heap of history,”

    The Randian notion of economic and political freedom is actually in its ascendancy. Not that you would have noticed. You see, you’d have to be paying attention.
    ……………………

    • sharpleycladd

      Political ascendancy here in the USA granted, Mr. Peck. Historically, however, industrial societies that embrace objectivism will in due time be poorer, dirtier and less educated that industrial democracies that regulate in order to build up the commonwealth.

  14. “There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one

    • Christopher C NC

      And because we are dealing with the fallen nature of the human condition, there are plenty people who will commit robbery in the pursuit of profit and call it free trade.

  15. bill smith

    People who think ‘government’ is a dirty word don’t understand its merely a system of laws we enact to keep a civil society. Those who wish to eschew government are opening up a world ripe for the picking from the monied interests who are currently only moderately stymied by the last remnants of the laws which once protected us.

    It is a childish naivete that thinks everything would be fine if we just got rid of government. It’s very much like a sullen teen thinking everything will be fine if their parents never come home. As long as the bills stay paid and we don’t have to go out and actually get a job like the rest of the population.

  16. mat catastrophe

    There’s no reply button under one of Mr. Peck’s posts but it is very important to note that he is incorrect in his assertion that “details of one report from one of Apple

  17. “And because we are dealing with the fallen nature of the human condition, there are plenty people who will commit robbery in the pursuit of profit and call it free trade.”

    1. Humanity has no such ‘fallen nature.’
    2. People who commit robbery in pursuit of anything are violating the rights of others and it is the government’s proper role to police crime.
    ………………..

    • Christopher C NC

      Mr. Peck it may surprise you, but courts do not work without laws that define what is and is not legal. That includes economic behavior. A law by your reckoning would be a regulation. How do the courts function in your world?

      Even an atheist can figure out what fallen nature means. For your edification humans are capable of good and evil.

  18. “assertion of property rights against nuisances in courts of law – makes lawyers wealthy but doesn’t get thing one done”

    That would be a failure of government, not markets.
    ……………..

  19. mat catastrophe

    For someone who claims to be an atheist, you sure do have some funny beliefs about “freedom” and “markets”.

  20. sharpleycladd

    Here’s Mr. Peck’s politics: There is no God, and anything we, as a common polity, get together to do is bad.

    That pretty much sums up nihilism.

    • mat catastrophe

      I would honestly argue there is actually more to nihilism than is dreamt of in Mr. Peck’s philosophies.

  21. sharpleycladd

    Touche. Paul at Mars Hill, unknowing worship, making an idol of power, &c.

  22. Rilee

    MountainX – thanks for running this dead horse up the flagpole again! (to audaciously mix metaphors) Enjoying the opportunity to comment on it myself, and so:

    Tim, sonipitts & sharpleycladd obviously have the most informed & educated understanding of the exigencies and ramifications of having a truly “free-market” system. What’s more, your statement that “I believe in free market economics and the protection of individual rights under objective law” ignores that the two qualities you believe in are mutually exclusive. In fact, under Bush, the market was almost completely deregulated, and you see where that got us, ca. 2008! In the economic system we have now, sociopathic behaviours are rewarded, and it is those who behave the most like sociopaths who receive the greatest remuneration. The players in that game are not going to start behaving morally in the absence of regulations – because they would gain less by doing so. Each of them is thinking “if I apply ethics to my behaviour, the other guy can get over on me by not doing the same, so I better not go there.” The players are not incentivized by the current Wall St. game to behave ethically.

    Furthermore, the money they’re playing with is related to gains that are gotten by the exploitation of [primarily] nonrenewable resources. Fracking is a great example of the mutual exclusivity of your two vaunted qualities of the ideal; a completely unregulated market will permanently despoil the private property of people surrounding the site for miles around. Protection of the private property rights of *all* people (not just the “rights’ of corporations) cannot coexist with an unregulated market.

    We need to begin to see that the Earth is a closed system, and our current approach to resource extraction is profit-oriented, when it really needs to be resource-managment oriented. The way we treat the planet is comparable to being retired, having a 401K, but having a standard of living that can only be maintained by living off the principle rather than just off the interest.

    Regarding BB&T being “forced” to take the money – when, through the agency of ALEC, among other avenues, laws are made to order at the behest of corporations and money market interests, it’s disingenuous for a bank to then throw up its hands and say “they *made* me take the money!” Timothy Geitner, one of the principle architects of TARP, is actually a well-connected player on Wall St. It’s disingenuous, if not naive, for you to accept Allison’s assertion at face value, as well.

    No Tim, your horse is not dead: it has two heads and is trying to go in two completely opposite directions at the same time.

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