A defense of profit sounds strange, but it is indispensable. Especially because in Mexico and Latin America in general, political “merolicos” have for years striven to condemn profit as evil, while taking purity baths to enrich themselves to the point of insult in the shadow of government.
This phenomenon was again made abundantly clear when last April 9 President Lopez Obrador announced that private sector medical personnel would not be vaccinated. Unlike public sector doctors and nurses, who are already being taken care of, those who are not paid by the government will have to wait to be vaccinated because of their age: “until it is [their] turn” were the president’s literal words.
Hours later, as part of the efforts to defend the presidential decision, Hernán Gómez, one of the main tacit spokespersons of the regime, summarized in a tweet the speech that flooded the social networks in defense of the presidential decision: “It is a basic measure of justice to revert that logic that superimposed the private over the public. Today, public health and its doctors come first, then those who profit from health.”
Gómez Bruera’s statement is not an isolated fact; on the contrary: it’s a reflection of the systematic contempt that exists in a large part of Latin American society towards “profit.” That is, working openly in exchange for a profit. This absurd prejudice is one of the deepest roots of the anti-capitalist and demagogic mentality that has submerged Latin America under the boot of pretentious, hypocritical and (ironically) greedy dictators, all based on a lie, since condemning profit is part of a grotesque ignorance of human nature.
In defense of profit, because we all act in order to improve ourselves
In short, the discourse against profit works more or less like this:
It divides people into two large blocks: the good people, who act for the love of humanity, and the self-interested and evil, who act for the love of money. Supposedly the former are in the government, giving “free services,” while the latter are in the private sector, charging people in exchange for providing them with a service.
However, this prejudice does not hold true. Why? Because all human beings, wherever we work, act in search of a profit that allows us to advance from an unsatisfactory state to a relatively more satisfactory one.
That is the basic driver of human action and it works for everyone. Moreover, in most cases, human beings define the progress towards our welfare goals by taking economic income as a reference. Since money gives us access to the goods and conditions we value, the vast majority of people will work for money. It’s as simple as that.
Perhaps sometimes there are some people who are able to sublimate their desires to the point that they are only interested in the welfare of souls and others, without any earthly attachment or desire for recognition or reward. These are known in Western Christian culture as saints, but the problem is that for every real saint who sincerely exclaims: “I am not moved, my God, to want the heaven you have promised me,” there is a multitude of counterfeiters who outwardly proclaim their love for humanity, when in reality they are moved by simple ambition, made even more grotesque by the addition of hypocrisy.
That’s why modern democracies, especially in Latin America, go from disappointment to disappointment. Instead of looking for suitable rulers, they vote again and again in search of a saint who is beyond the greed of the worldly noise and is not interested in money or status. And time and time again, instead of that enlightened prophet, they find themselves with hucksters who talk nice while they plunge their countries into misery and corruption.
Yes, in corruption, because demonizing profit generates incentives for people to hide this desire and then disguise as love for humanity what in reality is their desire for personal progress. The resulting double talk feeds corruption, because when we go out into the world with the mask of a supposed altruism we are already corrupting our intentions and opening the way to be more susceptible to other types of corruption.
What’s the right path?
The right path is relatively simple and consists of understanding that all human beings (with exceptions as rare as they are notable) move in search of profit and that therefore to condemn profit is to condemn human nature and to cling to failure.
We all move in search of economic gain (status, for instance) and what makes us good or bad people is whether that profit is lawful or not: lawful profit is achieved by generating value for others in a legal and honest way. Illicit profit occurs when such benefits are obtained at the cost of harming or deceiving others.
Therefore, licit profit can be obtained in the government or in the private sector; in the same way that in both areas we can find people who obtain illicit profits. And consequently, goodness or badness is not defined by the social sector, the profession or the legal personality of the person who pays our paycheck, but by our own actions and decisions.
Good news in defense of profit
The good news is that if they understand this and leave behind the demagogy that curses profits, Latin American societies can solve three of their main problems in one fell swoop: poverty, corruption and political disenchantment.
Poverty would be overcome, because by not demonizing private sector profits, it will be easier to develop the conditions for the entrepreneurial talent of more and more people to flourish. The more entrepreneurs generate value for their customers, the greater the prosperity of society as a whole.
Corruption would be overcome, because, as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” If we recognize that human beings have a natural tendency to seek our own profit, accept that this search is natural and distinguish not between evil entrepreneurs and altruistic saints, but between legitimate profit and illegitimate profit, we will take the first and most important step to overcome the hypocrisy and the culture of corruption that has marked Latin American countries.
Political disenchantment would be overcome, because we would stop clinging to find immaculate, perfect and non-existent presidents. We would focus on looking for efficient politicians who obtain an honest and legal profit from their activity, instead of going from merolico to merolico who sells supposed sanctity and then turns out to be a seven-soled corrupt.
All this, simply by understanding that profit is not bad. It is, simply, human.