Corporate Altruism?

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.” – “Gordon Gekko” in the movie Wall Street (1987), screenplay by Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone

To the great dismay of the “corporate America is evil” crowd, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Bank of America, Verizon, and many other large corporations pledged millions of dollars in aid to fire victims in southern California. So, doesn’t their generosity demonstrate that corporations really do have an altruistic side? Doesn’t it prove that pudding-head socialists are wrong about corporate greed?

Brace yourself. Would you believe that I agree with the lefties who insist that corporations are not altruistic and that they are greedy? How in the world can I – one of only eight pure laissez-faire capitalists left on the planet – say such a thing?

Because the fact is that greed and self-interest are not only moral from the point of view of corporate shareholders, they are the psychic fuel that makes the economy grow and motivates corporations to provide better products and services for everyoneat the lowest possible prices. These are the marvelous, unintended consequences that Adam Smith wrote about so eloquently in The Wealth of Nations.

The fact is that greed is neither good nor bad. It is simply a human trait. Greed is technically defined as “an excessive desire to acquire more than what one needs or deserves.” And since no one has either the moral authority or omniscience to decide what is excessive (let alone what a person needs or deserves), what greed really means is desire. And everyone has desires – for wealth, power, prestige, love, understanding. No end to the list.

Thankfully, corporate leaders have a desire to make as much money for their shareholders as possible. And that desire, in turn, is fueled by their more personal desires to hang onto their high salaries, generous stock options, prestige, and perk-laden positions.

Thus, as a result of corporate greed, everyone wins – especially consumers. Why so? Because the only way a company can keep growing its sales and profits is to keep on providing consumers with what they want at the prices they are willing to pay.

Socialist minds are incapable of comprehending that corporations don’t lower their prices as an act of benevolence toward their customers. They do it for only two reasons: (1) to be competitive in the marketplace, and (2) to make bigger profits. Any beliefs to the contrary are nonsense.

Thus, when you get right to the core of the matter, corporations did not give millions of dollars to the California fire victims for altruistic reasons. They gave out of self-interest. They knew they could never buy the great publicity they got, even if they spent 10 times as much money with a top-notch PR firm.

Again, everyone wins. The corporations got good PR and the fire victims got the money. Gosh, and all this without the use of government force. Who would have believed it?
But it’s even simpler than that. The truth of the matter is that corporations themselves are neither good nor bad. A corporation is merely a vehicle for organizing resources.

Take Wal-Mart, for example. It produces nothing. It is but a giant distribution machine. And the reason it is the nation’s largest employer (1.8 million employees!) is that it performs that function better, and at a lower cost, than any other company in this part of our galaxy.

Of course, when the big corporate guys use shareholder money to buy little necessities for their homes – such as $8,000 wastebaskets – we have no choice but to send them on a paid vacation to a federal prison.

But we don’t punish them because of their greed. We punish them because they are stupid – stupid enough to steal money from shareholders, in spite of their fat salaries, stock options, and perks. Theft is an act of aggression; greed is not. Never confuse the two.

All this is not intended to inspire you to cast a presidential write-in vote for Gordon Gekko (of Wall Street fame). But you might think long and hard before voting for any candidate who rails on endlessly about corporate greed and the virtue of altruism. Especially since so many of the politicians who huff and puff about such “evils” are themselves wealthy. Make that very wealthy.

But in the event you can’t resist voting for such a candidate, for goodness sake keep your hand on your wallet at all times. Because he – or sheis planning to come after it. Trust me on this one.

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