Money: The Unknown Ideal

Posted on Posted in Ethics And Morality

Making as much money as possible should be the ultimate pursuit in your professional life. We are taught continuously—both implicitly and explicitly—that shamelessly setting your goal as making as much money as you can is selfish, evil, or, at the very least, will lead to an empty, morally and happiness devoid life. Money making for the sake of money making is demonized in nearly every facet of society from politics to pop culture. Greedy capitalists and industrialists are reproached for caring about nothing but money in business, and are reviled for the supposed harm they cause to their fellow man as a result of their relentless pursuit of profit. But to people who maintain this type of mindset I would pose the question, what could be more important in terms of your professional endeavors than making as much money as possible?

Now just to be clear, having the acquisition of large sums of money as the singular goal in your life as a whole may (though to each his own) leave you feeling lonely and empty. Money, after all, is only a means to obtain things you value—a means to live a happy and fulfilling life—and is useless in that respect if you have no idea what you value or what makes you happy. In the eloquent words of Ayn Rand’s Francisco d’Anconia, “…money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but will not provide you with desires.” In terms of possession, then, it is easy to see the positive value of large or adequate supplies of money as a means of exchange to acquire the resources you need and want to lead a happy life. Having huge sums of money does nothing for you except as a means to obtain and protect what you value and care about.

But this is not what I want to talk about. It is not difficult to imagine why earning huge amounts of money is good for yourself, but that is only half of the equation. The other, more nuanced side which has been shrouded in false propaganda and disinformation since time immemorial, is the fact that making huge, “obscene” amounts of money is a signal that you are improving the lives of countless others and helping them on their own journey of acquiring what they value and satisfying their desires. We are taught that making money only helps yourself and so is a selfish endeavor, a necessary evil, which must be atoned for through charity and “giving back to the community.” This is a false premise. What we’re not taught is that the more money you make on a free market, the more people you are helping people get what they need or want.

What does making money imply? Behind every dollar morally earned is someone voluntarily giving up that dollar so as to receive something better. A customer gives a store 20 dollars for a toaster because he values the toaster more than the 20 dollars, and the store gives him the toaster because it values the 20 dollars more than the toaster. Thus through this exchange both parties benefitted and both perceive themselves to be better off than before the trade. As a rule, voluntary trades can only make all parties better off than they were for the simple reason that if a trade were to make you worse off then you would not undertake it.

Of course there is always the possibility that either party could have incomplete information and so a trade could actually make them worse off in the long run, but there must always be at least a perceived benefit on the part of both parties for an exchange to take place. Certainly, if you are constantly fulfilling immediate wants detrimental to your longer term health or happiness then that may not be to your benefit, but I would leave such value judgements to the individuals themselves. Every single voluntary exchange, then, either gets people what they need or want, or gets them closer to getting what they need or want. Voluntary must be stressed here because the second that force or fraud is entered into the equation the interaction can almost certainly be said to be benefitting one party at the expense of the other.

On a more mechanical level, profits mean that a person or business is creating a product that is more valuable than the individual pieces or resources that went into it. A finished car is worth more to people than the cost of the raw materials, physical labor, and thinking required to make it and so a car company covers their cost of those materials and then some. In other words, profits mean that you are creating something that others value—and value greater than the resources used to create it. Large profits, then, either mean that you are exceptionally better at providing for that need or want than anyone else, or that you figured out how to provide for it before anyone else.

The idea is fairly simple. The more money a business makes, the more it is helping people acquire something they value—indeed, something they value so much that they are willing to part with property they already own in the belief that they are receiving something better. Furthermore, the money that you personally earn within a company is a sign of your importance or significance in helping the company provide that value for others. The more critical role you have in the supplying of your company’s customers’ needs or wants, the more you will be compensated for that role.

To return to the earlier question, what could be more important than making as much money as you possibly can in your chosen role? Obviously you make decisions concerning the role that you want within a company, or the role you want your company to have depending on a wide range of factors from workload, to family, to location, but given that role, what could be more important than making money? That money, those oxymoronic “obscene profits”, are signals that you are tangibly bettering people’s lives. You are offering them something which spurs them to give up their hard earned property in the pursuit of something better. And the more money that you make the better you are helping others to achieve what they desire.

Others may judge that what you provide them does not in fact improve their lives, but that decision is better left to the individuals themselves—whose own knowledge of themselves, their wants, and their desires are superior to anyone else’s. The more money you make the more people you provide with sustenance, entertainment, housing, transportation, the means to have their own business, the means to provide you with the materials you need to run yours, etc. In short, maximizing the amount of money you make is a sign that you are helping people fulfill their desires, while at the same time putting yourself in a better position to achieve your own. What more could you want?

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