What Does Honest Capitalism Really Look Like?
Not all enterprises are evil: in fact, most are not, as Self-made Man forms organizations, too. Many moral lessons can be learned by studying America’s finest corporations. They are the perfect example of men uniting in order to produce bounty—a fair, deserved, profitable result. Profit means that after a day’s effort, you have something to show for it. Profitability is a sign of living competence, not of greed. A business has an abstract life like a person, and profit is its lifeblood. Even in the process of learning, to end up with a greater sum is to profit intellectually. We see that plants and animals run a process like our own, accumulating, processing, and storing food for the sustenance of their lives. As wealth and profit are fundamental patterns of life for all organisms, those critical of it are simply damning us for our ability to live.
We hear that money is the root of all evil, but money is simply a tool that allows products to pass easily between producers and consumers. It is easier to trade with a standard medium than having to hope a vacuum cleaner salesman has use for your stair-master. No, there is nothing wrong with the medium of money; nothing wrong with the honest, peaceful accumulation of capital, and nothing wrong with producing more than you consume, as profit permits innovation. These are essential life-serving, forward-thinking, sound, civil, and moral principles. With full understanding and respect for the effort we all put forth to create products that make life easier for everyone, I for one, salute you.
The man of greatest capacity at every level within the organization should lead. He should be chosen by his people, and replaced when he is no longer effective (if the life of the organization is to come first). A business has a dynamic just like a human body, which gets sick if its focus strays or if it comes to require a specialty which is different from that of its head. As a part of the company’s body, each employee contributes to or detracts from its health with every action they take in its name.
The products of men will have the integrity of those who built them. Those who earn a fortune by moral means in a free system of exchange have accumulated a wealth of trust, and it is a rational measure of pride, but be careful not to go overboard. I have often witnessed a company executive looking for a way to persuade his people to stand behind the company’s proud, long-range goals as if they were their own; to display pure loyalty to his dream as if it was their own. If your campaign doesn’t come with stock options, forget it. Such a mindset only comes with ownership. Mass support for another individual or his corporation above and beyond their own lives isn’t sound—it isn’t moral and it isn’t ideal. All individuals work for their own health and objectives within the corporation—job satisfaction, advancement and financial reward—and they should. The company’s health is a result of managing these forces wisely—having all of the independent entities flying in formation while they are on your time.
When businesses try to steal customers from each other, it isn’t actually stealing; there is no moral violation. No one has a right to patronage; all market activity is voluntary. If men dislike a product or if it is too complex they won’t buy it and will find another way to satisfy their needs. Our most complex products, such as computers, will never extend beyond the range of an individual’s comprehension for effective use; the free market will never allow such a breach. It is in every businessman’s best interest that his products stay within the conceptual range and efficiency of the user and that he continually seeks to improve their attractiveness to that end.
The battles between real Self-made Men are civil, honest, and fair. The spoils go to whoever does it best, and whoever doesn’t, often ends up working for whoever does. To lose a corporate battle is not a life or death issue, it is a spiritual issue, and a challenge to come back better, stronger, and prouder than before, often catching the leader off-guard. It is a genuine pursuit, and it’s fun! With a free economy, there is room for many levels of talent and of product quality—take cars for instance. We buy economy until we can afford luxury, with many different brands and styles to choose from. By competing in a vast marketplace, many entrepreneurs get to see how well they perform in the role of leader, and their ability determines their position among the great firms of the world.
Competition spurs discovery, and results in the more efficient use of human energy. An advance of technology is an advance in wealth for all—regardless of how jobs are restructured for the change. The freer a field is, the better it is for everyone. Fierce competition, as in the computer industry, just results in more stars, greater talent, more numerous fortunes, and a purer distribution of wealth than has ever existed. It is said that Microsoft has more millionaire secretaries than any other firm.
Morale is the most underrated, avoided, and seemingly incomprehensible issue in business. Bad morale has a silently devastating undercurrent; it is cancer to a business. Why is the subject avoided? Because it involves the mystical, uncertain realm of morality. Like it or not, managers are responsible for a happy staff. As a body is only as healthy as its cells, its cells must be healthy, and people are the cells of a business. Much more than protoplasm, people harness the capacity of volition, but as an analogy, people, like cells, have a specific nature which must be accounted for.
An employer/employee relationship is governed by and must contain all of the essential attributes of any human relationship: rationality, civility, honesty, mutual interest, and mutual benefit. Good managers don’t require submission in a world where force is banned; that is a psychological remnant of the past. If you deserve your position as a leader, you are beyond tantrums, beyond neurotic dominance, and you are able to treat everyone in your organization with deference. Likewise, responsible employees are objective, sincere and perform tasks as or better than expected. They are emotionally mature and apply themselves as their interview promised they would. Satisfied employees and employers get the job done together, and look to accommodate and foster the deepest goals of both. We all have dreams.
Morale is defined as the general mood of employees determined by the working conditions provided by management. Respect for one’s superiors does not come from enforcing inessential issues such as strict start and stop times. It cannot be had by steering people at every step. Instead, decent morale comes from communicating what is crucial to accomplish, providing the tools, and leaving employees free to achieve. All minds approach their work in patterns tailored to their own psychological makeup, and they must be free to function unimpeded. A good manager lets them address tasks by their unique means. With a successful performance, everyone deserves acknowledgement. To be valued is much more than spiritual gratification; it assures our living security. As most people live check to check, that comfort has very real psychological consequences. My own custom when reviewing a performance issue with an employee is to project why the improvements or new skills are needed for their role in future projects. Try this yourself and witness the sighs of relief you hear. You will likely see a renewed invigoration and increased sense of loyalty from them as well.