A Complex Issue: Charity And Profits

Alberto Benegas Lynch (h)

INFOBAE – First of all, it is pertinent to define what is meant when reflecting on charity and what is specifically referred to when it is elaborated on profits. The first refers to what is voluntarily delivered with its own. This clarification is necessary since charity and the consequent solidarity are often mistakenly assimilated when state apparatuses intervene to pluck the fruit of the work of some to gracefully hand them over to others, thus not only violating the justice of “giving to each one your own ”since, as it has been said, they suck up other people’s resources – theirs – by force. This is not a charitable act nor does it reflect solidarity but it is a robbery, legal robbery as, among others, Fréderic Bastiat explained.

In this context, it is appropriate to specify that there is no such thing as altruism since, according to the dictionary, it means “doing good at the cost of good itself”. All human action is carried out in the personal interest of the acting subject. It is actually a tautology, since it is carried out precisely because the person who wants to do it wants it that way, otherwise he would have acted in another direction. In other words, he acts for his own good, that is to say for his satisfaction, for the good of the person who executes the action, in this case when verifying the good of others.

He who gives all his wealth to the poor is because he prefers to do it that way, for example, the poor man’s smile pleases him or eventually, he wants to see himself reflected in the photo when he hands over the check or any other reason that prompts him for that preference. When Mother Teresa cared for her lepers, she highlighted her scale of values, her preference, and her personal interest lay in the care and health of these patients. So it is not an action “at the expense of one’s own good” but precisely it is for one’s own good since it satisfies the acting subject. Of course, the one who assaults a bank also does it in her personal interest. We qualify as a good or bad person depending on where their personal interest lies.

Now it is also the case to point out that charity is not limited at all in the delivery of material goods. Furthermore, the delivery of knowledge is often more appropriate and fruitful so that the recipient can improve and not be dependent on the material help of others. In that sense, that Chinese dictum is very sobering in that “it is much better to teach how to fish than to give away a fish.”

In this line of argument, as Michael Novak explains well in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, the generalization of charity understood as the delivery of material goods is not sustained, leading to the collapse of society. If each gives what he has to the neighbor and no one produces the inexorable destiny, it is death by starvation. The charitable act in this sense reflects compassion and mercy and makes invaluable logistical support in extreme situations but it is not at all the basic solution and in some cases it can lead to very unhealthy dependencies and even be incentives for immobility and rejection of effort personal, inactivity and the abandonment of the habit of work.

The basic solution is to produce, that is to say, to a large extent the entrepreneurial and entrepreneurial activity and of all its collaborators, a process that aims to obtain benefits. In a free society, earnings are a reflection of meeting the needs of others, be it selling clothing, food, housing, drugs, electronic equipment, books, entertainment or whatever. Merchants who are not correct in the likes of others, incur losses. This is how the ever-scarce resources are in the most efficient hands at the discretion of the people in a free society. We underline the relevance of the free society, since the irruption of pre-profit entrepreneurs who ally themselves with the power to obtain privileges constitute the antithesis of competitive markets and in all circumstances operate contrary to the interests of the people since they are genuine exploiters.

And here comes a question of the greatest importance that refers to the so-called “corporate social responsibility”, which in truth constitutes a guilt complex of businessmen who have not understood their mission and role and are seeking an unheard of “return of something of what they have taken society out. ” As the Nobel Prize winner in economics Milton Friedman has well explained, “the true social responsibility of the entrepreneur is to earn money”, in his famous essay published in The New Yorker Magazine (“The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits”, September 13, 1970). As we have stated, the gains in a free society show the degree of satisfaction of the peers, it goes without saying that the entrepreneur must internalize his costs otherwise he would be damaging third party rights. The size of the company and the consequent investments are directly linked to the supports that it can attract in the open market without privileges of any nature.

That is why authors such as Herbert Spencer and Juan Bautista Alberdi argued that in public squares, instead of building monuments to politicians and military personnel who are usually the ones who put sticks on the wheel for progress, monuments to businessmen should be placed, since thanks They have come up with innovative means of transportation, dams and dams, irrigation systems, medicines, effective procedures for obtaining food, housing constructions, ingenious procedures for communications, clothing, musical productions and everything else we have.

This does not mean that the entrepreneur understands the foundations of his own actions, as Adam Smith has shown in 1776, the opposite generally occurs. Due to the fact that the merchant has a refined sense of smell to detect arbitrations, that is, the conjecture that costs are undervalued in terms of final prices in order to take advantage of the difference, this is not why we say the businessman is a connoisseur of political philosophy, not even of the economy itself. That is why the members of the Scottish School were suspicious of the businessman as an adviser to politicians and rather had to limit their action to the market and refrain from consulting it on matters of policy. Even in one extreme Adam Smith in his summit work states that even the business chambers are not convenient since “they usually conspire against the public”.

So, in the world in which we live, what we have been commenting on is generally turned and mixed in the most complete way: the claws of the Leviathan are applauded to deliver resources compulsively taken from the pocket of third parties and successful entrepreneurs are condemned, or in any case Sometimes small businesses are weighed as if their ambition was not to be great, but when they succeed in their task, namely, to become great, they are reviled and censored. The moral basis of earnings is that they are the product of their own, acquired in a lawful way to improve which requires the improvement of others as an indispensable condition. In this context and at this stage of the process of cultural evolution, the function of the monopoly of the force that we call the government is the protection of the rights of the people that naturally includes the punishment of fraud and deceit.

Behind these convictions hides envy and a phenomenal misunderstanding of the meaning of inequalities of income and assets that take place in a free society. As we are all different from an anatomical, biochemical, physiological and above all psychological point of view, the consequences of different talents and physical forces naturally translate into also diverse results. And the differences are a true blessing since it is what makes social cooperation possible. If we all had the same inclinations and vocations, the division of labor would collapse along with the same society. The income delta is not relevant, it is the manifestation of purchases and abstentions to buy that occur daily in supermarkets and similar. The transcendent thing is that everyone improves, which occurs where the creative energies that are reflected in the profits are maximized and in this context charity as a delivery of material goods -although noble- plays a secondary role and, for its part, charity as Knowledge delivery constitutes an essential pivot for progress.

Of course, those who use the poor for their diatribes to free markets and maintain that poverty is a virtue are disqualifying material charity, since with it the recipient cushions their poverty, which if accompanied by painstaking work may constitute the first step to get out of this situation as long as it operates in a climate of liberal institutional frameworks that always imply the firm protection of rights.

As a footnote, I note that there is no room for comparisons as if charitable aid were on the same plane with commercial activity in terms of degrees of nobility. They are two lifts of a completely different nature: in this context it makes no sense to compare the kindness of the mother who transmits values ​​to her son or the kiss she gives to a neighbor on the one hand, with the work of the mechanic or the baker on the other. In the first case the interest lies only in the good that is done to another and in the second the interest lies in the money obtained for which the other must be satisfied, but to fix the motor of a car or to eat it is not required a lesson in economics or demonstrations of love but ability in mechanics or baking. Therefore, poverty is solved with strong incentives for production and love is demonstrated with affection and transmission of values. In addition, the human being is multidimensional: the good mechanic or baker also have their affections and the good mother can also be an effective professional seamstress or manage a banking institution.

These concepts and others intertwined with the ideology of the tradition of liberal thought must be maintained, that is not something sporadic and fleeting in order to obtain good results. In this sense, I close this note with something I said when I was invited to make a speech addressed to graduates in a degree collation event at my school – St. George’s College in Quilmes – where I was a ward. I learned the following story when studying there, it is a fertile correlation between the personalities of each one with the matches: some rub and disappears without success at lighting, others make a momentary flare and die out immediately, and those of the third They keep the flame, they are the constant personalities in their noble objectives that must be imitated.