Here’s an article I wrote for Falkvinge on Infopolicy, the third in a three-part series on how the theoretically reasonable and rational “profit motive” is actually broken and damaging to society. But we can fix it.
A banker offers you a loan so that you can buy a house located near your cushy new job. You sign, comfortable that your salary will allow you to afford the payments. Months later, your employer downsizes, and your job disappears. With no job, you can’t pay back your loan. But the banker’s not upset — in fact, he was hoping for this. As you miss payments, your interest rate goes up. You need a new job to pay your increasing debt, and conveniently enough, the banker is the only one in town hiring. This is the crux of the issue with the profit motive: those who profit can put harmful pressure on others.
At its core, profit is power. Whether it takes the form of having many coins, being owed many debts, or something else entirely, profit is a measure of one’s ability to get other people to do things. By giving a merchant money, I can get her to give me her product. By reminding my friend of all the favors I’ve done for him, I can get him to do me a very large one. I gain these abilities through profit.
As I’ve tried to drive home, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to desire, and a perfectly natural thing by which to be motivated. But today, sometimes profit enables us to make people do things that they don’t want to do. Is this a necessary evil, or just another fixable bug?
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