Saturday, May 28, 2011

Giving back or just giving - The Morality of Profit

This is a picture of Bill and Melinda Gates, among the most generous people in the world. Bill Gates is often quoted about his generosity as saying he is just "giving back." The video below from the Atlas Network points out that when rich people say they are giving back, most of them like Gates, are doing no such thing. In fact they are mis-speaking at the best, or being falsely modest at worst. At any rate it is a distortion of the truth. Watch the argument:


  1. The video's producers falsely assume that all economic choices are perfectly rational. For example, people who need real medicine will purchase quack products to the exclusion of real medicine. The video also quickly mentions the problem of externalities without addressing it. The video presents a very presumptive and ideal version of capitalism. Any person of intellectual depth should realize that that portrayal is more propaganda than truth. Yes, capitalism provide's potential benefits to society. But also, it comes with potential harms. We need not pretend that capitalism is perfect to like it or to recommend it.

  2. On the contrary, the narrator said that a fair exchange occurs when both buyer and seller feel they are getting something of value and that has nothing to do with the economic choice being rational from the viewpoint of an outsider.
    I agree quack medicine is worthless except as a placebo maybe - but the buyer thinks they are getting a cure/treatment. Still this is fraud, not capitalism, and there are remedies for fraud in our legal system and governments have a duty to protect citizens from fraud or force.
    I think that cigarettes are worthless and useless, but that it my prejudice. The buyer of the cigarettes thinks they are getting a value - and they are in terms of satisfying their chemical craving. Rational choice has nothing to do with it.
    Capitalism works because there is an unforced fair trade - a meeting of minds on value. Any person of intellectual depth will know the difference between fraud and free exchange. ;-)
    I'm not pretending capitalism is perfect, I'd like to see a better way that is fair to both sides and does not involve coercion or fraud.