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Howard's End: The Joy Of Profit

Well, the election is over with the media, business and union lobby groups already offering their spin about which minor party might, or should, make it to the Cabinet table in the first Government of the new Millennium. Maree Howard writes.

I'm not going to speak about a United Future coalition because at this point in time they are not tested as a functioning parliamentary party and I really know nothing about them or their people who are now MP's. For me, it's too soon to call.

So along with Jim Anderton, the Green's seem more likely to play a significant role in a new coalition Cabinet, but that in itself seems to present some perception problems.

On the one hand, business groups generally appear to see the Green's as a no growth party, hell-bent on stopping almost every economic development, with 'profit' being a dirty word.

On the other hand, the unions generally seem to push more for social justice and often argue just how there can be 'profit' which is not taken from the work of someone else. The unions will obviously see the Green's as part of a new coalition Cabinet.

Watching Vote 2002 on Saturday night with a group of young Kiwi's who, it seems, mostly voted for parties of the left, I realised that in New Zealand the role of business and profit seems to be little understood.

So what is profit?

Let's consider 'profit' in a primitive community of, say, a hundred persons who are non-intelligent beyond the point of obtaining the mere necessities of living by working all day long.

Our primitive community, living at the bottom of a mountain, must have water. But there is no water except at a spring near the top of the mountain.

Therefore, every day all the hundred persons climb to the top of the mountain. It takes them one hour to go up and back.

They do this day in and day out until at last one of them notices that the water from the spring runs inside the mountain in the same direction that he goes when he comes down.

He conceives the idea of digging a trough in the mountainside all the way down to where he has his house and he sets to work. The other ninety-nine are not even curious as to what he's doing.

Then one day this hundredth man turns a small part of the water from the spring inside the mountain into his trough.

He then says to the ninety-nine others, who each spend an hour a day fetching their water, if they will give him the daily production of just ten minutes of their time it takes to get their water, he will give them water from his trough.

He will then receive nine hundred and ninety nine minutes of the time of the other people each day, which will make it unnecessary for him to work some sixteen hours a day in order to provide for his necessities.

Granted, he is making a tremendous profit, but his enterprise has also given each of the other ninety nine people fifty additional minutes each day for himself.

The enterpriser, now having sixteen hours a day at his disposal and being naturally curious, spends part of his time watching the water run down the mountain. He notices that it pushes along stones and pieces of wood. So he develops a water-wheel. Then he notices that the moving water has power and, finally, after many hours of contemplation and work, makes the water-wheel run a mill to grind his corn.

This hundredth man then realises he has sufficient power to grind corn for the other ninety-nine. He says to them, " I will allow you to grind your corn in my mill if you will give me one-tenth of the time you save."

They agree, and so the enterpriser mow makes an additional profit. He uses the time paid to him by the other ninety-nine others to build a better house for himself.

And so it goes on, as this hundredth man constantly finds new ways to save the ninety-nine the total expenditure of their time - one-tenth of which he asks them in payment for his enterprising.

This hundredth man's time finally becomes his own to use as he sees fit. He does not have to work unless he chooses to. His food and shelter and clothing are provided by others.

His mind, however, is ever working and the other ninety-nine are constantly having more time to themselves because of his thinking and planning.

For instances, he notices that one of the other ninety-nine makes better shoes than the others. He arranges for this man to spend all his time making shoes, because he can feed and cloth him and arrange for his shelter from some of his profits. The other ninety-eight do not now have to make their own shoes. The ninety-ninth man is also able to work shorter hours because some of the time that is paid to him by each of the other ninety-eight is allowed to him by the hundredth man.

As the days pass, another individual is seen by the hundredth man to be making better clothes than any of the others, and it is arranged that his time shall be given entirely to his clothes-making specialty.

And so it goes!

Due to the foresight of this hundredth man, a division of labour is created that results in more and more of those in the community doing the things which they like and are best fitted.

Everyone has a greater amount of time at his disposal, and each becomes interested in what others are doing and wonders how he can better his own position.

But suppose that, when the hundredth man had completed his trough down the mountain and said to the other ninety-nine, "If you will give me what it takes you ten minutes to produce, I will let you get your water from my trough," the others had turned on him and said, " We are ninety-nine and you are only one. We will take all the water we want, you cannot prevent us and we will give you nothing."

What would happen then?

The incentive for the most curious mind to build upon his enterprising thoughts would have been taken away. He would have seen that he could gain nothing by solving problems if he still had to use every waking hour to provide his living. There would have been no progress in the community.

Life would have continued to be a drudge to everyone, with opportunity to do no more than work all day long just for a bare living.

But the other ninety-nine didn't prevent the hundredth man from going on with his thinking, and the community prospered.

Soon there were a hundred families. As the children grew up, it was realised that they should be taught the ways of life. There was now sufficient production so that it was possible to take others away from the work of providing for themselves, pay them, and set them to teaching the young children.

As the community developed the beauties of nature became apparent. Men tried to fix scenery and animals in drawings - and art was born.

From the sounds in nature's studio and in the voices of the people, music was developed. And it became possible for those who were good at drawing and music to spend all their time at their art, giving of their creations to others in return for a portion of the community's production.

As these developments continued, each member of the community, while giving something from his own accomplishments, became more and more dependent upon the efforts of others.

And, unless envy and jealousy and unfair laws intervened to restrict honest enterprisers who benefited all, progress promised to be constant.

So there can be profit from enterprise without taking from others and that such profit adds to the ease of living for everyone.

True and honest profit is not something to be feared, because it works to the benefit of all.

It's time in New Zealand with the first new Government of the new Millennium to build instead of tearing down what others have built. We must be fair to all, or the world cannot be fair to us - and let's all hope that it's not the politicians but all New Zealanders, who will be the real winners from Saturday night.

ENDS

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