Friday, January 11, 2013

Profit Is a Lousy Ideal


No doubt, capitalism has brought a lot of good to the world – at least to parts of it. But it's at a cost. The strife for profit is an effective engine for the progress of material gains, but it's a lousy ideal.

Probably, the problem of it is that it's never fulfilled. Even in the most successful business, there's always more profit to be made and that is the constant obsession of its owners. At some point, this goal will become destructive. Quite often, it's poisonous to everyone but the owners already to begin with.

The tireless battle for increased profit is some kind of megalomania. It's a marathon where no runner stops until owning everything in the universe. And that can't happen, so the race continues, although millions fall exhausted along the way. Even those – especially those – who never agreed to participate in the race, or were not even allowed to.

So, every business venture turns into a war of sorts, aiming for world-wide monopoly. And every company strives to charge as much as possible for their products, while trying to make them at as low cost as possible.

That can result in quality leaps, sort of accidentally, but not at length. Instead, the world resources are gorged just to be discarded at the next instant. Nothing is allowed to last.

Not only the natural resources are exploited in the process. So are people – all of us, also those who gladly participate in the race. It's a chaotic pillage without end, sparing none.

And no trophy is more than a mirage, a quickly fading sense of success soon replaced by the gnawing frustration of increased greed. And then we die.

Death may very well be what triggered this mania. All we know is that we have this short life to live, so we are obsessed by making the most of it – as if quantity in itself induces quality. It's like the T-shirt and bumper sticker text that was popular in the 1980's, the yuppie era: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

At that point, how to celebrate the victory?

Truly, though, this malady is not one of capitalism. In slightly different shapes, it's present in every country and every historical setting – at least in agrarian society. I'm not sure about hunters and gatherers.

Those with means have always tried to make a fortune and increase it. Those with fame have always tried to expand it – even the infamous. I think it's all about power. Money is power. So is fame. Increasing one's fortune of whatever kind is trying to increase one's power.

If so, could it be a misguided longing for the resources to overpower death? The greed driving us is one for eternal life.

That would be utterly sad, since this futile struggle has nothing but a lot of casualties. If there is such a thing as eternal life, we need to die to begin it. Considering the uncertainty about it, we shouldn't hurry.