By Theresa Camoriano
Many young people today have a strong desire to make a positive impact on the world. That is a laudable sentiment. The trouble is that most of them have an incorrect view of how the world operates. They have been taught that profits are evil, and the only way to make a positive impact on the world is to do non-profit, charity work. They do not realize that the vast majority of good that is done in the world is done by for-profit businesses and that profits are a good indication of how much you are serving others.
In order to earn a profit in a free market system, you have to provide goods or services that others are willing to pay for on a voluntary basis. When they buy your goods or services, they are telling you that they want what you are offering more than they want the amount of money they are exchanging for it. Their willingness to pay is a measure of how much they want and appreciate what you are offering. In a sense, it is a measure of how much you are being of service to them.
When you produce something that someone else wants to pay for, and you are able to earn a profit doing it, you know you are being useful and making a positive difference in the world. (Of course, there are some products and services that are immoral, and you should avoid them if you want to make a positive difference.)
Many charities, on the other hand, while well-intentioned, often do more harm than good. Check out Poverty Cure for more information on the subject. They show many examples in which well-intentioned charity has done real harm. For example, massive donations of clothing shut down the textile industry in Africa. Donations of eggs to a village shut down the business of a chicken farmer and left the village without eggs when the donations ended.
The fact is that people are happier and more secure when they are able to earn a living for themselves rather than having to depend upon charity.
So, instead of making charitable donations that displace local, indigenous businesses, we ought to be trying to remove the obstacles that prevent people from creating businesses that would empower them to earn a living by serving others. We ought to promote free market capitalism instead of attacking it, recognizing that free market capitalism is the only thing that has lifted massive numbers of people out of poverty.
There always will be a need for charity for people who are too disabled to take care of themselves or for people who find themselves in an emergency situation. However, we still need to generate profits in order to be able to give that charity.
So, to all those idealistic young people who want to make a positive difference in the world, I would encourage you to start out by finding a way to earn a profit by serving others.
(Theresa Camoriano is a patent attorney in Louisville KY.)
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