The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed – for lack of a better word – is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.
– Gordon Gekko, “Wall Street” 1987
Thomas Sowell’s concise questioning of Leftist beliefs is often seen as the hallmark of debunking the Leftist mythos:
Compared to what?
At what price?
What hard evidence do you have?
This falls hand-in-hand with Milton Friedman’s assessment of corporate profits. Now, as far as ideology goes, we'll give Friedman a salute for being hard and fast on his commitment to the Corporation. He doesn't pretend to think it has anything to do with us, humans. More importantly, Friedman is totally transparent in his beliefs.
Without fail, discussions on representative democracy, social programs, equal rights, and all the Leftist things route back to economics.
You want equal rights? Compared to what?
You want equal rights? What will that cost?
You want equal rights? What hard evidence do you have that supports the call for ‘equal rights’?
Hand it to Sowell, he has distilled the technique of debate to core questions that are, objectively, tantamount to reasonable conversation.
And hand it Friedman, whose essay debunks the idea that corporations have any obligation to the society in which it operates. Granted, his advocacy of unfettered free-markets and unobstructed profits is rather barbaric, but he and Sowell make no concessions to the ideas of a social good. In fact, they both argue that the “social” part of social good falls squarely on the shoulders of the individuals - those who make up society. As far as we’re concerned, Friedman’s logic is sound. If the people elect a government that keeps checks on corporate monopolies and employs progressive taxation on corporations and those made wealthy by those corporations, then the onus is still on the corporation to be as profitable as possible within that structure.
Sowell’s simple questions are easily answered with Friedman’s logic.
Businesses want maximum profit? Compared to what? No profit or limited profit.
Businesses want maximum profit? What will that cost? Achieving maximum efficiency, purchasing advertising real estate, lobby investment as freedom of speech.
Businesses want maximum profit? What hard evidence do you have for the advocacy of maximum profits? Businesses can do more business and build more profit by having more money.
Almost like you can’t justify social spending because people are net losses, while business’ sole focus is on net gain.
Or, exactly like that.
This line of thinking is specifically incompatible with social issues - it’s not some clever discovery that you can delegitimize a thing because it doesn’t fit the way a different thing works. As per usual, the inverse is also true:
The working class wants maximum equity stake (Bill of Human Rights)? Compared to what? The privatization and commodification of human rights.
The working class wants maximum equity stake? What will that cost? Taxes paid on gross corporate revenue, the de-monopolization of energy, media, and finance.
The working class wants maximum equity stake? What hard evidence do you have that they don’t already have it, or that maximum equity stake is good for the people or the economy? Pretty hard evidence for wage stagnation, individual debt burden, decreased corporate tax rates, and the loss of individual net worth over the past 70 years.
What Friedman and Lowell don’t qualify, not once, not ever, is their actual opposition to the issues faced by the working class. They are most certainly vocal about their views on how capitalist structures should work (unfettered by government, unburdened by the needs of the people) while at the same time offering no insight to the social costs of achieving total free-markets. It is the expectation of Friedman and Lowell that the free-market will always provide something at a cost to benefit the markets, and that this model is always preferable to one in which there is no net gain. We can already see this truth in predatory lending practices - high interest rates, high penalty fees - as well as the integration of credit values (what a person is worth) as a prerequisite for service, and the depletion of public funds for public institutions in favor of privatized service.
The problem is that people cost money. Women get pregnant and lose productivity. Children are born and have to be cared for. Kids get sick. Adults get sick. There is injury. There is disability. There are elderly who can’t work. The problem with capitalism, when it’s all said and done, is people. Friedman and Lowell advocate for the corporation in a perverse sense that a sick business can be bought and salvaged, or liquidated and plundered, always to the benefit of another business, but that Darwinian principles ensure there will always be a hierarchy of corporations that only get stronger, wealthier. There is a more certain return on capital investment than on human investment, and it doesn’t matter what the humans want. The corporation can outlast them. The corporation can outspend them. The corporation can outmaneuver them at every turn. The only other entity that can rival the corporation is the State in terms of wealth and longevity. And if the State does not challenge you, you have in essence gained capital sovereignty.
So, compared to what? What we have now. Gross inequality and the degradation of the working class.
At what cost? At your cost, Friedman’s and Lowell’s, those who champion the corporation over the people.
What hard evidence? The world you built for us, whose rules of engagement are set by you, whose determination of what’s best for the world is, in reality, what’s best for capitalism. And then all the data, data, data, data, data. That evidence.