Most people look at “business” as something separate from everything else in life, and at best, a necessary evil. Something you have to do. Or a way to make money—in a practical, but never creative, artistic or (perish the thought) moral way.
In today’s political climate, business is the first thing under attack when things go wrong. And it’s no wonder. “Greed” and the actions of corporations—whether or not they’re demanding government handouts—are blamed for everything that could ever go wrong. Yet even when things go well, business is accused of engaging in “irrational exuberance” or otherwise being “too successful.”
Gigantic business successes, such as Bill Gates, live out their careers apologizing for their successes, either by fawning over incompetent and corrupt politicians, or by making a show of giving lots of their money to charity. And where does it get them? Nowhere. Business just can’t win. As a result, neither can business people.
Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet achieve acceptance only because they endorse the candidates who attack capitalism, the only system which makes wealth creation possible in the first place.
We need businesspeople who grasp that business is more than just a way to make money. It’s a way to practice the art of living. Business, at the core, is a trade. It’s a trade just as any other human association involves trade. When you’re friends with someone, or in love, you’re trading the variables of your individual characters: your personalities, your temperament, your interests. Business is no different, except that the trade is more explicit and generally has a clear beginning and end.
Everything that matters in personal relationships also matters in business. If a spouse, romantic partner or friend betrays you, you’re emotionally devastated. If someone providing you with a valuable product or service does the same, you’re devastated financially, and sometimes emotionally as well. If you don’t live up to the objective qualifications of being a good friend or a good business associate, people will not like or trust you, and you will not succeed.
The first rule of business, then, is to identify what your core values are, and resolve to live by them. Associating with others who share those values can help you in this quest, supporting, nurturing and honoring you and your value system. It provides the unique opportunity to combine two things that are rarely merged: Business—and personal values.
A business association is established upon the moral defense that what one does is unique. This is true now more than ever, for we live in an era where business is assaulted, on moral grounds, more than ever before. Gigantic corporations have disgraced themselves and the word “business” through pathetic begging for money from the very politicians whose reckless government policies brought them down in the first place. For an even longer time, most businesses have been apologizing for the money they make and attempting to show—truthfully or not—how much of it they “give back.” From whom did they “take” the money—voluntarily given to them by satisfied customers?
No answer is given, because the question is never asked.
Thinking businesspeople must take pride in what they do and make no apologies for it. They can, on moral grounds, honor their own right and the absolute right of everybody else to keep what they earn. An association of thinking businesspeople could resurrect the notion of a right to private property, at a time when it is being slyly and systematically dismantled by Big Government.
We already have unions for workers and employees. Employee unions (in the private sector) are perfectly fine, so long as the government doesn’t intervene to use coercion in favor of the unions against employers, or against workers who don’t want to be in unions. Sadly, this is what our government routinely does today. Government-backed unions essentially destroyed the American auto industry, although capitalism always gets the blame. Unions for government employees are nothing more than legalized mafias enabling some to live off the income of others, thanks to the pull and force of government.
Businesspeople need their own kind of “union” or association to fight not just politically, but morally, on their own behalf. I’m not just talking about small or big business. I’m talking about business as such.
Such a business “union,” through its actions and example, could advance not only the interests of those who seek to restore genuine capitalism, but, more broadly, the rights of the individual to live free from intimidation and coercion.
Others are trying to make this happen, but a businessperson can do this unlike anybody else. Imagine, for a moment, a politician or a presidential candidate confronted by the question, “What gives you the right to punish me, and other financially successful people like me, for the success I have earned? Why does someone’s right to keep what he or she earns end at a certain dollar figure? And will you please specify what the figure is—and exactly how you arrived at it?” Imagine this question coming, without shame or appeasement, from someone who actually made the money. Imagine putting these incompetent, self-important politicians on the defensive—just once!
As a businessperson, you ought to do this in defense of your own survival—and there’s strength in numbers. Especially in today’s society, the media and powerful people pay more attention to groups and organizations than they do to individuals.
Business people fighting on their own moral behalf? We’re definitely talking about a minority movement, at least at first. But minorities with big ideas have always swayed history. They did in the first American Revolution, and they can in the next one, whatever form that revolution takes or looks like. Businesspeople, standing up in their own moral self-defense, must be part of that next era of human society. Otherwise, human society as we know it will continue to flounder and will eventually perish.
If you think about it, the ideas of freedom and individual rights have always started as a minority idea. But look how they improved the world in the last several hundred years! Using the channels of mass communication now available to us, businesspeople have an extraordinary chance to spread the right ideas as never before.