]]]]]]]]]]]]     PROFIT WITHOUT HONOR HAUNTS US ALL     [[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                          By Thomas Sowell                  (9/29/88)
        From the New York Daily News, 14 January 1988, p. 37:1
                  [Uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   In ancient times, it was said that a prophet was without honor
in his own home.   Today, a profit is  without honor in the media
and academia.
   Nothing is  more common than  seeing a  TV reporter describing
the  misdeeds  of some  businessman  and  concluding indignantly:
"Human  beings   were  sacrificed   for  the   sake  of  profit."
Variations on  this theme are  pervasive at  out leading colleges
and universities.
   The  crusade against  profit  is irrational.   What  is really
wrong is that human beings  put their own selfish interests ahead
of the well-being of their fellow man.  They have been doing this
for  thousands  of years,  long  before anybody  ever  thought of
capitalism or profit.
   In  a  primitive society  based  on cattle,  some  people will
sacrifice  the well-being  -- or  the  lives --  of others  for a
bigger herd.  In modern  dictatorships, some people sacrifice the
lives of millions  for power.  In a  society based on capitalism,
the same selfishness  takes the form  of preoccupation with money
-- whether it is for profit, salary or government grants.
   Some of the  greatest tragedies of the  20th century have come
from attempts to change "the  system" so that the particular form
which human selfishness  took in that  particular system would no
longer exist.  Fanatical efforts went into destroying the czarist
regime in Russia and establishing the Communist regime.
   You  no  longer  had  hereditary  despots  or  "the  evils  of
capitalism"  in  Russia.  But  the  new despots  outdid  the old,
whether in tyranny,  terror or slaughter.   Both in the political
system and in the  economic system, the evils  of man were simply
expressed in a different format.
   Nothing is  easier than  attacking a  system.  All  systems --
political, economic  or moral  -- cramp  people's style  and they
don't like it.  Nothing  is more certain than  the abuse of power
by those who  have it, under  any and all  systems, so there will
always be legitimate grievances.
   The fatal step is to go  from grievances to the destruction of
the system under which they occur.  Radical critics -- especially
young  ones --  are  quick to  take  that step.   I  must include
myself, since I was  a young Marxist.  Many  things looked bad to
me, so I thought  the whole system should  be changed from top to
   What  forced me  to change  my mind  was discovering  over the
years that  things were  even worse  than I  thought.  People did
awful things, not  just here but  all around the  world, not just
now but across thousands of years of history.
   It was enough to turn your  stomach -- and to make you realize
that re-shuffling politicians and  re-naming institutions was not
going to do the job, even if you called it a revolution.  History
was especially  disillusioning.  It  showed that  some of  my pet
ideas had already been tried, and had blown up in people's faces.
   Not all  historic changes  have been  for the  worse.  But the
most  successful  changes  have   been  those  that  started  out
recognizing that man  himself is the  problem -- and establishing
human institutions  to keep any  given set of  people from having
too much power.
   Anyone who has  read the "Federalist  Papers" knows that those
who wrote the  U.S. Constitution had very  big doubts about human
beings  in general  and  especially about  trusting  anybody with
unbridled power.  That skepticism  shows in the Constitution they
wrote and was a big part of its success over two centuries, while
more  ambitious political  experiments came  and went,  or turned
cancerous and stayed.
   The economic counterpart of constitutional checks and balances
is an economy  where everyone who  wants profits --  or wages, or
money in any  other form --  has to compete  with everybody else.
Its results aren't perfect, but it beats the next best thing by a
big margin.
                              *     *     *

Return to the ground floor of this tower
Return to the Main Courtyard
Return to Fort Freedom's home page