Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Advice to Young People

Have you seen the ads, on TV and elsewhere, telling youngsters that going into politics or state employment is an ethically good thing? That it will be service to the people? That it is a "higher calling?" I'm sure you have, since I have and I rarely pay attention to television.

Another trend I've noticed is the reverence for non-profit organizations, and the people who start them. Supposedly such people are self-less, giving people who are altruistic at heart and they are to be held up as models of behavior. I'm sure that, by and large, such people are true humanitarians.

Finally, the trend has become that those who seek profit are not good people. Profiteers, or capitalists, or robber barons, whatever you want to call them, are getting rich by depriving others of an opportunity, or by getting the best of people in a deal. In other words, profit results at the expense of another. I see this trend popularized in movies and the media.

Thus the message to our younger generation is that it is ethically better to be a public 'servant' or start a non-profit (or work for one), rather than to be an entrepreneur or work for a for-profit business.

This message is wrong, and it will be to the detriment of us all if people follow this message in large numbers.

The best thing a person can do, and not all are capable, is to start a for-profit business and not take political favors. If you start a for-profit business, the only way to make a profit without enjoying political favor is by creating a product people want to buy. In the remainder of the discussion, I'm going to assume no political favor (i.e. rent-seeking) is sought. It is unethical, in my view, to use political power to game one's competition.

Now then; a business person can only succeed by creating a product or offering a service that others find valuable. The nature of business is trade - bilateral voluntary trade. Are people lining up for iPad 2 and other Apple products because Apple forces them to do so? Certainly not. People pay premiums for Apple products because they really really want them. Apple has made millions of people happier and more productive by creation of their product. And they are a for-profit business. The profit is a result of success in business. Many entrepreneurs do not start business to "get rich" but rather because they don't have a view to doing anything else. But profit is a measure of the entrepreneur's success in satisfying consumers' needs.

If you don't have a good idea, are not an entrepreneur at heart, or are not a risk-taker, does it matter which organization you work for? I suggest that it does. By participating in a for-profit business, you are helping to make consumers happy. You might be an engineer, figuring out ways to make a product more efficiently, thereby freeing up resources to make other products. You might be a manager, figuring out ways to deploy your work force more efficiently, ultimately achieving the same results as the engineer. You might be in marketing, figuring out ways to tell people about the wonderful products your business creates. But the main reason it is more ethical to work for a for-profit business is that you only work for a business that ultimately gets its money for voluntary exchange. You are not tax-funded. You do not exist by guilting people into giving you money. You create and are rewarded. This is marvelous.

Finally, consider the importance of for-profit business in an economy. It is the chief employer of people, and the creator of wealth. The state redistributes wealth, as do non-profit organizations. In order to redistribute wealth, the wealth must first be created. This is the role of the for-profit business.

In closing, dear reader: embrace commerce; embrace business; embrace trade; eschew politics and the "feel-good" trendiness. You will make the world a better place. If you think I am false in my view, consider this: has Bill Gates done more good by starting Microsoft, or by starting the Gates Foundation? Keep in mind - he wouldn't have the endowment for the Gates foundation if he hadn't started Microsoft.


  1. Now, don't you work for a non-profit?!!

    It really irks me when our guv-mint tries to lure away our most talented workers. America's best and brightest should NOT be working for Uncle Sam, but rather for themselves, as you point out.

    Keeping federal pay and benefits below private sector pay is one way to discourage working for the devil. And I applaud the courageous work the folks in Wisconsin are doing. I hope other states take notice.

  2. Yes I do work for a non-profit. But I've always been prone to following my baser instincts ;)

    And you work for the gub'ment. But, for me, national defense is the most important (and perhaps the only real) role for the federal government. So that's cool.

    I reconcile my working for a non-profit with the fact that my role is to fight against the statist pinheads from the other colleges. Someone has to fight the good fight, and this is the best way I know how to do it.

    P.S. I like what's happening in Wisconsin too.

  3. Do as I say, not as I do....LOL ;)

  4. Eddie,

    That's why I'm a teacher! Those who can't do...

  5. I thought of that "Those who can do, those who can't teach" quote as well but didn't dare state it for fear of it coming off as a horse's backside when I would have only meant it as a joke. I took the other quote approach because it would apply to both Brad and you. :)

    Nice write up though. I enjoyed reading it and think your case is valid.