A financial gain, esp. the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent in buying, operating, or producing something.
Masters of the obvious
The last time you were at a barbecue, did your guest by chance walk about in a “people over profits” apron, smiling broadly and secretly waiting for someone to ask him “so, what’s that about”?
Or, more likely, have you ever noticed that some folks in your home town sometimes feel compelled to march about the city holding signs stating that the individual’s rightful place is above profits, and not below?
At first glance this is surprising, as it would seem obvious that people are more important than the extra value they produce. A vote on it would probably be considered an insult to voters’ willingness to oblige the theatre of politics.
Why, people’s lives are the most important thing of all!
Mainstream society itself reflects the message that even a single life is far more important than all the money in the world. Just watch what happens if a kid gets stuck in a deep well. No expense is spared to try and get him out alive. No mayor would ever say, while peering down the hole… “you know, to get that stupid kid out is going to be hard… why don’t we just go about our business and let him die, it’ll save us quite a bit of money!”
The argument, then, seems to be already settled. Additional proof is that there are no aprons nor mugs promoting the opposite message of Profit over People. There is really no debate at all, or there would surely be merchandise to arm both camps!
So why even bother to make a sign, or an infant body suit for that matter, and flaunt it as if we needed to argue such an obvious position at all?
It’s like making a mug that says “the Mug” on it. Everyone instantly agrees with that statement, it’s hardly a point that needs underscoring… unless of course you’re trying desperately to be original and can’t think of anything, nothing at all to print on a mug. But even then, why not stick with Jesus holding a giant cigarette surrounded by cigarette balloons, I think that would be enough, no need for weak attempts at shocking originality.
The hidden opposition
Still, while 99% of the world surely agrees that profits should be gained after humans are taken care of and not otherwise, there’s this thing, this effect that magically manifests when you see a guy on a street corner with a sign that says People over Profits.
He may be just posing for a picture, thinking finally!, here I am with a message that even my wife can agree with, but next thing you know the cops show up and, wasting no words, explain to him just how wrong he is.
Believe it or not, the statement People over Profits is often eyed suspiciously.
It’s an offensive statement for vast numbers, a sign of impending revolution for some, and even a shorthand for petty thievery for an older gentleman I’ve met in Santa Monica: the man, as youngsters were merrily painting such an agreeable statement on a sign, came by explicitly to state the point that even if he was older, he knew the hidden meaning behind those words – “I know what that means: ‘I want to come to your home, kick you out of your apartment and live in your home!’ “
He made it clear to me that there must be some confusion about what people over profits means, so I’ve given the matter some ponderous thought, to see if I could understand why folks who are seemingly well meaning and decent all around can disagree on such fundamentally clear moral issue.
The real reason why we disagree
For starters, I know the defenders of profit at all costs are ultimately on the same side as their apron wearing counterparts. No one in their right mind, except the reptilians among us, would wish harm on another living being, unless it is to preserve their own well being.
For example, let’s pretend for a moment that we had enough profit for everyone. That we had plenty of cash, about 31.2 billion dollars each, and that not only surviving, but vacationing on the moon would cease to be a matter of tightening one’s belt. Unlimited money, unlimited resources. Planets lined up waiting to be exploited, universes begging to be filled with our waste.
In this made up fantasy, let us assume that some folks had nothing, but all that we needed to do was to simply make new money for them. Forget for a moment about inflation, overpopulation and all that. Give them all they want, it won’t cost you anything.
So my question is, if helping someone else cost us nothing, nothing at all, if lending a hand did not affect our welfare, would anyone object to doing it? Of course not. We would immediately vote in a department of Helping People, creating unlimited welfare for all.
It is important to understand this, because it helps us identify what the disagreement is about. Yes, People over Profits is about whether or not people have a right to acquire resources at the expenses of other people, and how much of those resources they should hoard, but only in times of scarcity. When there’s plenty to go around, we’re all as generous as they come. So let us remember that, it may seem obvious but it is very very important. The reason why we have the debate at all is only because of the apparent scarcity of resources.
Eliminate scarcity, and we’d have no further use for people over profits merchandise.
The means and the goal
So when we have throngs of loud protesters yelling at champagne sipping psychopaths watching from their balconies, in the end they both agree. People are more important than profits, and the psychopaths do their best to let everyone know how beneficial profits are when working for people, people like themselves.
The premise for the whole confrontation though is that there are not enough profits, not enough resources for all, so necessarily some will be left without, and some will hoard, out of infantile fear of running out before eternity is over.
Why are there not enough profits for everyone? It’s not because there’s not enough resources, at least not so far in our history. They may be less, they may be getting polluted and we can talk about that, but we’ve had, and we still have, a pretty good run.
We’re even growing food for 10 billion people, yet millions die of hunger every year.
It’s because there’s an artificial scarcity of profits.
Before explaining further, I’d like to help the reader – especially if American – to get past the feeling of “crimethink” (entertaining unacceptable thought) that will arise once I point the finger towards the current capitalist system.
First of all, I strongly believe the goal, the whole point of capitalism is something we can all agree on, communists, socialists, whateverists:
“The goal of capitalism is to get us all to Star Trek, where we’re zipping around the galaxy in luxury starships and you can get anything you want, from a souffle to a free guitar, just by asking a gizmo on the wall. “
While some people may be more interested in a beautiful meadow littered with wild horses drinking from our very own sparkling stream rather than a spaceship, that’s more or less the idea – individual well being, freedom of choice, and good times all around, whatever that may mean to you personally.
The debate about capitalism is another case of people yelling at each other while fundamentally agreeing. Why? In this case because we confuse the means, that is the capitalist system, with the goal, that is well being.
Scarcity is abundance!
It’s ok to openly talk about whether or not a solution really works to solve a problem, but somehow we’re told over and over not to talk about capitalism – never to question its basic tenets. Why?
It’s not that the folks who are credited for giving rise to the modern capitalism about 500 years ago were so smart, nor that they were doing it to better everyone’s life for that matter. They just figured out how to get rich themselves, most of them while still teaching their kids not to walk over the edge of the Earth or they’d fall off.
And how do you get rich yourself? By having something that other people want. Oh yeah, the more they want it, the more rich you become.
In the end, to really make it big, you should convince others that what they want the most is something that you are in a good position to generate without much effort, like your good looks, or pieces of paper you can just scribble on or print, that they’re willing to borrow at high interest. You know, regular people can be convinced to kill each other for no reason at all, as long as you wear a tie, a white coat, or speak pretending you know what you’re talking about.
To realize we’re idiotic monkeys is very humbling, but also in a way it sets you free – it’s no use pretending, and those who do suddenly just look as funny as monkeys with ties.
But of course, since we are curious monkeys, for something to be valuable and wanted it has to be scarce. If everyone was super good looking, fashion magazines would go hunting for the rare ugly model.
if money is scarce, is more valuable
When the currency of exchange is scarce, then you have a systemic scarcity built in the very mechanism that you are using to supposedly relieve scarcity. You have created artificial scarcity, and by manipulating the amount of money available you control how desperate people are to get it, and therefore how profitable having money to give is.
If the only way you can acquire food and water and shelter is by using a currency of exchange, it doesn’t matter if there are 16 million empty homes in the US, because the 3.5 million homeless cannot get in them without money!
So you see, in this case the problem is not the lack of homes, it’s the scarcity of the currency of exchange.
Today, in our debt economy which requires ever growing amount of currency to pay the interest on old debts, the primary scarcity we are fighting is that of money, not of the resources we need for survival. We can’t get those resources not because there aren’t any, but because we need money to get them. And money is kept scarce by the debt economy.
Scarcity of currency is built into the capitalist economic system
Rather than me trying to talk about why the system we’ve idolized will never bring welfare for all, I wholeheartedly suggest spending 43 minutes of your time to watch
Eisenstein is a master storyteller and not only can help us to understand why “everybody is always in competition with everybody else for never enough money, because it’s mathematically part of the system“, he can also make us appreciate that there are other possibilities, and none of them has to do with you living under a bridge while the rest of us party hard on your white carpeted floors.
People over profits, yeah
So what’s the point of the apron wearing weirdos? Their point is that a system is just a system, a solution is just a solution and if a solution doesn’t work, if a solution for scarcity becomes the problem in itself because it creates scarcity, then that solution is plain wrong and we should talk about changing it, because it’s supposed to work for us, not us for it.
To keep asking people to sacrifice their lives for a solution that doesn’t work for them is morally wrong and creates a whole lot of problems for everyone, at so many different levels.
Apparently, there are many other solutions out there, except that the dialogue about them is not a welcome one.
The problem is that for about 1% of us, usually those who give the orders and print the news, the scarcity of money, a resource of which they have much, is working just fine – the more scarce money is, the more valuable the money they have becomes, and the easier it is for them to acquire vital resources – like water for example – which then they can sell to us for money which we have to work really, really hard to get – if we’re that lucky.
So, next time your neighbor sneaks out of their home in the middle of the night to avoid the shame of being evicted, think about why it’s happening.
And the next time a politician points a finger at people who have tried and tried again but were part of the mathematical, unavoidable effect of scarcity, think about why it’s happening as well.
It just may happen that your heart and mind – after an initial attack of cognitive dissonance, will open up a bit, and next thing you know you’ll be heading to the store to proudly buy yourself one of these.
It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.