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Your Flight Has Been Delayed–And It’s Washington’s Fault!

November 18, 2009

This is a thoughtful critique of the private vs. public control of our air traffic control system. However, it raises some important issues which deserve more attention.

Whenever someone trots out the ‘Profits vs. People‘ line, it is important to recognize this as nothing more than an economically illiterate straw-man. We live in a society of free people, not of slaves.  Therefore, there is no such thing as People versus Profit, rather – they go hand in hand.

In a free society, Profit in not something which necessarily requires the sacrifice of People (as the video above puts it: ‘People before profits’). In fact, Profit is not possible without People – whether workers or consumers. Nor is Profit simply “making money,” though it is almost exclusively discussed this way. (Note that money is nothing more than a representation of value, and a means of easily trading it. Without money – trading would be nearly impossible. I would have to barter hours of web development directly for flight control service, or mexican food, or Wii games, or my mortgage payment, etc.) People trade things they value and produce, (usually represented by money), for things they value more or are incapable of producing. This creates a ‘profit’ for both traders. The one offering the service – turns a profit on the service provide, the other gains a profit from the service rendered. There is no ‘versus’.

Likewise, the animosity toward the ‘profit motive’ is also illogical. This phrase is often used as a pejorative describing an enterprise making money. But what of the consumer’s ‘profit motive‘ to obtain the service for the cheapest cost? Both parties are negotiating a trade of value. Why is only one seen as profiting, and is thus demonized? As a service provider or producer in a free market – it runs counter to the ‘profit motive’ to do something that is destructive to your customers or the public image of your company. Because a private entity does not have the ability to use force (in contrast with the government, which IS force), it is inherently imperative to, not only, earn your trust and support – but provide something of greater value, than whatever thing of value (money) you would trade for it. If a certain product or service is not of greater value – or if the provider is known to harm its customers, you are free to trade for something else that isn’t harmful and is a better deal. Essentially – you are free to choose to pursue a better trade – one in which you gain a bigger (here comes that ‘evil’ word again…) profit with regard to what you offer to trade. The profit motive is hardly more than the desire to not get screwed over when making a trade.

Consider these thoughts the next time someone attempts to decry Profits, the profit motive, or pushes the false idea that Profits and People are enemies fighting for opposing teams.

One Crucial Distinction About Capitalism

Above I am arguing for capitalism. It is essential to point out that private entities who do use governmental force to compel consumers to trade for their service are not practicing capitalism. Capitalism is free trade, hence –laissez faire The power to determine and negotiate value and fairness is on the individual traders. Forced trade is a feature of socialism, communism, and/or fascism. With forced trade, the government (force) is used to increase a private entities influence or bargaining power. For example: Let’s say General Electric is lobbying congress (which they are) for all sorts of things (as is their constitutional right). Among those things is likely a push to pass legislation against incandescent light bulbs in the interest of climate change. Congress then may outlaw these bulbs, and you will be obligated to purchase the new curly florescent bulbs. Obviously, G.E. will profit greatly from this new legislation, even if you buy your new bulbs elsewhere, because the new law will necessarily create an increase in demand. The point is that G.E. will have bargained with the politicians to borrow the government’s monopolistic force to influence the market and raise the value of florescent light bulbs. This is anticapitalism

Perhaps you may argue that you get to vote about the new legislation (usually you don’t, but for the sake of the argument…) – but your decision is either upheld or overruled by the majority of other voters. This is a far cry from actually freely choosing – “I will trade some value, in exchange for something you value more”.

This difference is crucial and must be distinguished, as it is commonplace to blame laissez faire capitalism (free trade) for the faults which are actually aspects of socialism (government sponsored forced trade). Ayn Rand further lays out this distinction in the video below:

Posted via web from Andrew Colclough

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