Profit – what’s left over after all the expenses are paid, that’s all it is. But it has achieved cult status in the last few decades – since gambling on the share market became a favourite sport for those with a few dollars to spare.
Profit, or potential to make a profit, determines the size of the dividend shareholders get each year. CEOs’ reputations, and salaries, are based on their ability to keep growing the profits of the organization they spearhead.
But profit means only one thing, exploitation. Workers are paid too little. Consumers are charged too much. Natural resources are acquired too cheaply and/or shortcuts are taken around health and safety and environmental protection. And it means not sharing ideas and information that could improve the lives of people everywhere. Ever-increasing profit usually means exploitation in all of these areas.
Not making an ever-increasing profit is not the same as running at a loss. Nor does it mean not keeping some money aside for contingencies such as exploring new ideas. It is about everyone getting a fair share. And it works out better for everyone.
Freedom from the constraints of having to make bigger and bigger profits each year means that running a business becomes less about making money and more about doing something worthwhile for the community by providing it with quality goods and services. It means evaluating what is being produced in terms of its usefulness and its environmental impact both during production and once the product has reached the end of its life. It means making sure that workers are paid a liveable wage and have a safe and healthy working environment. It means consumers are charged a fair price for the service or product.
It also takes the stress and desperation out of running a business – making poor quality items or providing mediocre services that no one really needs, or even wants, and then trying to persuade people to buy them.
It conserves the Earth’s resources and reduces pollution and waste. It is possible to concentrate on quality goods and services rather than quantity. No longer is it important to ensure obsolescence within a very short time so that people will need to buy new again. It means everyone has access to new information with potential to improve our lives and the health of the planet.
It also stops the slash and burn mentality of CEOs who strip organizations of assets to increase profits in the short term and enhance their reputation in the corporate world, so they can move on to an even higher paying more prestigious position.
The obsession with an ever-increasing profit / budget surplus has infiltrated the not-for-profit sector and the government. It has led to punitive budgets, even for vital services like health and education. The result is under resourcing, understaffing, lack of maintenance, and restricted access to services. And a two tier system where those who can afford it can get better access to an entire range of essential services.
A measure of a good government should not be the size of its budget surplus. It should be the contribution it has made to improving everyone’s quality of life.
The love affair with profit is not a healthy relationship. People, and the planet, are getting hurt – badly. It is time to end the love affair with profit.