By Theresa Camoriano
It is unfortunate that so many people see the world as a zero sum game.
They believe that one person or one business or one country can only get ahead by victimizing another and making the other worse off. Unfortunately, this incorrect view of the world causes tremendous divisiveness and results in many harmful policies.
If people really thought about it, they would realize that the world is not a zero sum game, and one person usually does not profit at the expense of another but instead profits by making the other person better off too. After all, in a voluntary transaction, the parties are not forced to participate and only take part in the transaction because they both believe it will make them better off.
If everything really were a zero sum game, how would it be possible for so much of the world to have made so much economic progress without at the same time causing great harm to others?
How does a farmer who plants and harvests a crop harm other people? How does an engineer who designs a product harm other people? How does a factory worker who makes a product harm other people?
Yes, it is true that a politician who forcibly takes from one person through taxation to give to another frequently is involved in a zero sum game, but that is because force is being used.
Do you believe you earn your living by harming other people? Unless you are a bank robber or get your money from taxes, you probably are earning a living by being productive and making the pie bigger. You profit by providing something that someone else is willing to pay for – not by ripping off the other person or mistreating him.
Bill Gates did not get rich by robbing the poor. He got rich by creating software that made millions of people more productive, making the pie much bigger for all of us and lifting many people out of poverty.
That is why it is so stupid to attack the entrepreneurs, inventors, investors, and others who play such a large role in creating wealth for everyone.
I saw an e-mail today that was another example of the zero sum misunderstanding of the world. It said that the way to create jobs is to get older people to retire so younger people could fill those jobs. As if there were only a fixed number of jobs in the world, so that one person’s having a job means another will have to be unemployed. And as if taking some of the most productive people out of the work force would make the economy better!
If we used our common sense, we would realize that we are all better off when our resources, including our people, are used most productively to make the pie bigger for everyone. Nobody is harmed, and everyone benefits.
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