There is no more exasperating aspect of modern-day leftism than its insistence that anything from which someone actually makes money is somehow impure and unworthy. This results in handwringing over such nebulous tragedies as “income inequality,” as though Professor Tokeworth is going to pay her nanny the same sum she earns at Cal State-Anywhere.
Mark Alger’s been kicking around this idea for a few days, and now boots it through the uprights:
The same mind-set which embraces income taxes, class warfare, wealth-envy, and anti-free-market ideas also sees profit as a dirty word. It is somehow seen as unearned or “found” money. A windfall. A close examination of this notion reveals to an open mind exactly how wrong-headed it is. Absent coercion — of the type that, in a free republic, only a government can muster — a profit will always be earned — albeit perhaps sometimes less-than-honorably. One cannot have a return on investment greater than 1.0 unless one has provided goods and services that people are willing and able to pay for. The only way you can get around that rule is by collusion with government to distort the laws of the natural marketplace. If the merchant is behaving honestly and the government is doing its job, coercive monopolies, price-fixing, barriers to entry, and the like are virtually impossible. But, these days, economic ignorance is widespread (by design, I hasten to add), and so, when demagogues inveigh against profits — obscene, record, unheard-of, windfall — they have a ready audience.
It doesn’t help that the same merchants, once they reach a size somewhere between too small to notice and “too big to fail,” often — let’s say, too often — are perfectly willing to engage in collusion with government, perhaps to see their own business practices enshrined in law, perhaps to make life difficult for their competitors. Neither of these practices strikes me as meeting the definition of “behaving honestly”; if anything, they argue for a government too small to grant such favors.
We were told during the Energy Crises of yore that profits were “obscene.” I’m just contrarian enough to think that if anything in the marketplace is obscene, it’s losses.