Profit: Then and Now
Maree Howard writes that young Kiwis "mostly voted for parties of the left" and asserts that "in New Zealand the role of business and profit seems to be little understood." She then offers us a lovely little anthropological ditty on how entrepreneurialism benefits all.
I think Maree does young New Zealanders a disservice in implying that they have little grasp of the importance of profit. I also think that almost no one disputes the legitimacy of true and honest profit.
Maree also mentions that "business groups" have a problem with the Greens. I am not a member of the Green Party nor have I been to any of their conferences, but I would hazard a guess that people like Sue Bradford, Nandor Tanczos and Keith Locke are neither "anti-business" nor "anti-profit" but are advocating sustainability and fairness in business. I would also suggest that the Greens are speaking for a growing number people who no longer believe that just about anything can be justified in the name of "economic growth" as measured by GDP.
I think that many New Zealanders are very cynical about large businesses and powerful "business groups" manipulating the media and using their money and influence to further enrich themselves and their allies unfairly. Such manipulation, particularly when extended into politics and legislation, is the antithesis of "true and honest profit."
Returning to Maree's quaint prehistoric fable, although I realise it's only a convenient vehicle for illustrating her point about entrepreneurial benefits, overly simplistic tales can be rather misleading. For example, she seems to imply that in days of yore people weren't very intelligent - to the extent that they would build their settlements an hour's walk from the nearest water source. Hardly plausible. And all hundred people going every day to get water? Since most early agricultural cultures were based on clans and the necessity of working together, this also seems to stretch a point. Early societies, once they reached a certain size, also tended to involve a lot of inter-tribal warfare and slavery, which while being quite entrepreneurial are not particularly desirable. Although it seems we haven't quite shaken off all such barbaric tendencies.
- stephen walker