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I Am Not a Ferengi

ferengiCall me a businessman if you like; an entrepreneur, a capitalist even… but I am not a Ferengi, dedicated to grabbing as much of your money as I can, however I can.

If that was all I wanted, I’d be exploiting Washington and Wall Street, or maybe I’d see if I could wriggle my way into central banking.

And just in case some of you are not familiar with the term, the Ferengi are a fictional race of aliens in the Star Trek universe. They are characterized by a completely amoral obsession with profit. Here, to illustrate, are a few of their Rules of Acquisition:

The best deal is the one that makes the most profit.

Anything worth doing is worth doing for money.

A deal is a deal (is a deal)… until a better one comes along.

Expand or die.

Learn the customer’s weaknesses, so that you can better take advantage of him.

The reason I bring this up is that I have, for too many years, heard people repeating the slogan, “The job of a company’s management is to maximize profit for the stockholders.” If you want to define “profit” more broadly than currency units, the statement is okay, but I’ve very seldom heard it used that way.

If all that matters to you and your company are the Rules of Acquisition, you should be bribing politicians and marketing cocaine. And yes, sadly, there are companies whose managers believe in the Rules of Acquisition but are too slick to admit it.

I happen to think that business is much bigger and much better than that.

“Why Is the Hippie in Crypto?”

I manage a company called Cryptohippie, and this is a question I get from time to time, and I think the answer is illustrative:

The people who run our company decided on this name to make what we think is an important point. This is a humane mission for us and not about the maximization of profits. We all had other careers; we didn’t need to start the company. We did it because it needed to be done and because no one was doing it even remotely well.

We see profits as a tool, not as the sole purpose of our lives. And that’s my point today. There has to be something more to your business than profits alone, or else you may as well exploit human weaknesses, spread enough money around to secure profitable legislation, and pay off whatever enforcers you need to.

I believe the contrary: that business can be a great, creative venture, delivering real benefits to humanity. Businesses feed people; they move them effectively; they house them, clothe them, cure their diseases, and so on.

Businesses bless humanity.

Good businessmen and women are blessings to the world. They are not craven Ferengi, perpetually grasping at everyone else’s wallet.

Yes, Profits Are Important

Indeed they are. And in truth, profits are far more than important; they are no less than essential. And here’s how necessary I believe they are:

Without profits, we go back to slavery.

If you’d like support for that statement, you can find it here.

To portray profit as something dirty is immensely ignorant. Sure, some Ferengi-type operators may be dirty, but as an ancient prophet once wrote, “What is the chaff to the wheat?”

Why I Love Business

If you look carefully through history, one of the things that will jump out at you is that the real good of mankind doesn’t come from governments, but from business: from traders, from the financiers who make trade possible, from hustlers, smugglers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business people of all sorts. Governments and other hierarchies just get in the way to a greater or lesser extent. Commerce frees people from poverty and grim lives of bare subsistence.

Think of a poor boy growing up in a small village, living in the same primitive squalor that his great-great-great-grandfather did. Then he gets a chance to work in a condition of market-based trade. He works very hard, lives responsibly, and makes a beautiful life for himself, for his wife, and for his children.

It’s commerce that makes that possible, not rulers.

My Point…

My point is that “businessman” should be a term of honor.

Yes, I know, we’re coming out of a century where Marx ruled the university, ruled half the political dialog, and ruled over a goodly portion of the planet. And I know that even with the sickening death toll attributable to Marxist ideas (or at least Marxist-Leninist ideas), the slander on profit continues. Businesspeople and economists, however, should not be helping such ideas along.

Good businesses bless the world, and if that isn’t what we’re doing, what’s the point?

Business is not a competition to stack up the most game chips and to declare ourselves the monkey with the most… or at least I don’t think it is.

The point of business is to bless ourselves while blessing others. There is virtue and beauty and honor in that. To portray it as anything less is to devalue ourselves.

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

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  • Inspector 12

    I think you’re confusing ‘capitalism’ with ‘free enterprise’.

    • http://www.jesus-on-taxes.com/ Ned Netterville

      Not really, capitalism–rightly understood and not corrupted by the political system–is free enterprise. However, because the confusion is so ubiquitous, I seldom use the term, preferring to call capitalism by its original name, laissez faire.

  • LieutenantM

    Tell that to my old “friend” and EMPLOYEE,BERNIE SANDERS.

    When I said it to him years ago after we had worked together in politics for quite awhile but I left to organize a business in Burlington, Vt, Bernie said to me in his best Brooklyneze: “YOU’RE DA ENEMY NOW, DEN!”

    I am today trying to organize an answer for Bernie…..

    2LT Dennis Morrisseau USArmy
    [armor – Vietnam era] retired. POB 177 W
    Pawlet, VT 05775
    802 645 9727 dmorso1@netzero.net

  • Charles

    I think all businesses should maximize their profits. You generally maximize your profits by lowering price, increasing quality or both and increasing your volume. In the long run and in general, you make more money by increasing your market share, When you make the best product at the best price and everybody wins, you make more money and you create more happy customers.
    I define profit as any moral increase in happiness.

  • http://www.jesus-on-taxes.com/ Ned Netterville

    Yes, indeed. Spencer Heath likened the modus operendi of the “contractual” or free-enterprise system to the Golden Rule, and the political system to the Iron Rule. Good analogy, because the former depends on delivering value in exchange for value and both parties to the voluntary transaction necessarily realize (or expect to realize) a “profit,” else they wouldn’t bother to exchange. Whereas the political–statist, government, etc.–system relies on force and the exchange always benefits one party at the expense of another. Expressed mathematically, in a free enterprise exchange 1 + 1 = 2, everyone wins and the world is thus richer. Under the political system, the Iron Rule +1 -1 = 0, one wins but only at the expense of the other, and the world is no better off–but the Iron Rule doesn’t end there.

    There are many seen and unseen costs necessary to utilize political means to acquire someone else’s property.. The tax collectors must be paid, the tax administrators must be paid, the executive, judiciary, legislature and lots of bureaucrats and political cronies must be compensated, so that all and all the world’s people suffer great losses so that the beneficiary of the forced exchange can have his “benefit.”. Last but not least, all of those–the beneficiary, tax collectors, administrators, executives, judges, legislators, bureaucritters and cronies all lose somethings that cannot be numerically represented because they have relied on force and violence to achieve their ends. They all lose their integrity, self-respect, independence and good repute among honest people.

    The only good thing about the political system is that as a consistent net loser it will perforce eventually self destruct. Good bye U.S.A. Hello…

  • Freespirit

    Precisely ,Paul and may I extend the thinking by stating that “Marxism” ( Collectivism) was and IS just another, but VERY IMPORTANT TOOL, used to keep “out the “competition”

    Convincing poorer individuals and groups from going into business because they were indoctrinated to believe PROFIT is EVIL kept more of the luker for the “FERENGI”,

  • travis690

    I believe profit is not a dirty word. If enterprises existed without a motive of profit, then what would be their purpose? If enterprises were operating as non-profits, they either become wards of the state, or they are constantly seeking contributions from those who are not consumers of their services for the purpose of being able to offer their services to their true customers. And those customers do not treat their benefits as being rightfully earned.

    Profit is one measurement of the value that your customers place in the goods you produce or the services you provide. How much effort would any businessman put forth if he was not able to sustain those efforts with the results of his labors? I daresay, not as much as if he knew that his results kept his business going.

  • Bruno

    Without profit we go back to slavery.
    This is a ridiculous statement because facts show the exact opposite.
    What you could write is: for profit, we go back to slavery.
    Profit is a technical, or financial, necessity for business to strive.
    Somehow, it is similar to sex which is a necessity for life to strive.
    But, in the same way that there are sex addicts, there are profit addicts, and unfortanely these sociopaths happen to be those who run the largest businesses.
    Thus, in order to maximize profit, not for shareholders, for themselves, they constantly cut costs, and quality by the way (a word which has disappeared from their vocabulary).
    And what better way to cut costs than reducing employees’ salaries…to zero if possible.
    Enters Asia and especially China with its unlimited manpower available for almost free, as long as one lines the pockets of some influent local politician.
    In search for ever more profit, the sociopaths transfer all their production in this paradise, in the process creating legions of slaves in the host country, as well as in the country they just left, say the US, were newly unemployed become slaves of the state, zombies as Bill Bonner call them.
    Ever wonder why Apple, under cover of Foxconn in China, has to install nets under its factories windows, so that employees trying to jump won’t hurt themselves?

  • URSULARICHES

    There must be some profit in everything but what do you mean by profit, do you mean shareholders pushing up the prices and lowering the wages or do you mean simply that if you buy something to sell, you must make a profit. In that case, it would be better to used the term making a living.
    For those who have invested savings into a company, they should make some profit but the profit should be comparable to the interest on a loan. This loan will not be repaid until the person sells their shares so the person should not be receiving overly much on the loan.
    The story of the talents indicates that money should be invested so that there is an increase and in order to help to make the world go around. AS the person who only gave the same amount back shows, investing in a substance like gold and keeping it safe is not the best way to use our finances wisely. We really do need more small businesses to be started up today to help others find useful employment and for our own selves in order to work. Investment then is necessary and a backer may be a lot better and safer than a bank.

  • vic

    The problem is not profit, but dishonest money, which is what we have in existence with fiat currency. And because it is dishonest, profit for Wall Street and the big corporations has to grow exponentially, otherwise the system collapses. The statement: “The job of a company’s management is to maximize profit for the stockholders” is nothing more than part of the propaganda and manipulation to get every businessman that graduates from business school in “synch” with the big banks and Wall Street to play the game they have so shrewdly devised. Therefore, in order for the current international monetary system to survive, it is overly depended on “Ferengi.” What we have to keep in mind, regardless of the gyrations of the Stock Market and all the other markets is that a system based on corrupt practices, greed, and a foundation built on quick sand will not last forever, and like all other fiat currencies in times past, they all eventually return to their true value – zero!

  • http://the20nowsite.com ellion

    I do believe that profit sharing is the way of the future. It not only cultivates a spirit of hard work but also a sound hope for the future. Many digital,as well as brick and mortar companies, are adopting this method and therefore a “tide that raises all boats,” is doing just that. This method gives people a way to contribute what they can afford, both Physically and financially while being rewarded for doing so. It must be structured to do that in a measurable way without violating the goals of each participant.

    There must be a way incorporated in the construct which does not violate personal growth at the expense of “freeloaders”, thereby also allowing free will to live on. In other words anybody can see the benefits of “working” hard and can take it or leave it.
    Although capitalism has been the stimulant for Western growth, the end game was already compromised from the very beginning due to imbalance, as we all are witness to now. Money likes speed and stagnant bank accounts that only live to fatten themselves lose popularity with the masses. Especially the skinny ones.

    A financial shift is in progress and businesses who recognize and adapt are those who will thrive.

    ellion

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