If You Don’t Like Profit, Advocate Free Markets

I don’t find anything at all distasteful about profit.  Profit seeking behavior is as natural and inescapable in humans as breathing, and deserves no moral censure.  When placed in an open and voluntary institutional setting profit is an indicator of value created for others.  Still, a great many people find profit disturbing and wish to curb it.  If that is you, you have no practical choice but the full-fledged support of free-markets.

Competition exerts a relentless downward pressure on profit.  Open markets invite competition and power positions in the market are never secure.  It is for this reason that those in the temporary position of high profit-earners are most likely to be the ones lobbying for new rules and regulations.  They don’t want to compete, they want to monopolize.

The only true monopoly is government monopoly.  All other applications of the term are illusory and not to be feared.  Peter Thiel has famously advocated for monopoly, but he uses the word to represent a business that creates a product so unique it is all but impossible to be replicated by competitors for a long period of time.  That is not the same as the textbook description of monopoly with all of its attendant dangers.  The only true and dangerous form is government monopoly.  It eliminates not only present competition, but potential competition.

Unlike competition, monopoly exerts no downward pressure on profit.  Indeed, its sole purpose is to suppress competition so that profit can balloon, without any corresponding increase in value creation.  In this sense, the critique that, “There is too much profit in X industry”, or, “The profit motive corrupts Y good or service”, is correct.  In a truly monopolized industry, the profit motive is terrible.  Again, not because of the motive itself, which is ever-present in all humans, but because of the institutional setting which prevents all of the incentives to curb and corral profit motive towards value creation and away from plunder.

In monopolized industries the profit motive is very destructive.  Do not be fooled by tax designations or accounting terminology.  Governments and “non-profits” are also profit driven.  It is here where profit is the most dangerous and often deadly.  The justice and law enforcement industry is all-but entirely monopolized by the state.  Because it faces no real competition there is no downward pressure on profits.  It is therefore one of the most profit-driven enterprise imaginable, only it needn’t create value to profit.

An ever growing number of laws and regulations ensure that more and more people are guilty of crimes.  This is a highly profitable state of affairs for the justice system.  Law enforcement routinely harass and abuse and give out tickets for violations of no practical importance.  They find or plant illegal substances for the sole purpose of seizing assets of the accused.  Prosecutors, medical examiners, judges and law enforcement regularly lie, exaggerate, and falsely convict.  The profit motive is what drives them.  They have a monopoly on the administration of justice, so they invent whatever means they can of increasing the profitability of the enterprise.  The greater the number of crimes, the greater the receipts.  Indeed, the origin of government monopolized police and courts attest to the revenue-enhancing motive at their core.

We cannot wish away the profit motive, or hope to elect or appoint people who magically do not possess it. (How would they win an election or appointment without it?)  We can, however, realize the danger of granting monopoly status to any profit-seeking enterprise, including governments.  If it is profit that is driving the corruption and abuse among police, courts, and other sectors, the surest way to suppress the ability to generate more profit is to open it up to competition.