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Maybe Your Business Shouldn’t Exist

By October 13, 2022Personal

A LinkedIn rant that got too long

 


 

Recently, in my personal daily studies, I have been extremely occupied with the question “What is the purpose of life?”


All the answers I thought I had to that question — spiritually, financially, and evolutionary — have begun to seem less than satisfactory. This education was inspired by my unemployment this year, during which I was forced to meet and learn about many companies and their purpose, or reason for existing. I was disappointed more often than not.

An experience I had the other day explains my point:

I had a discussion with a friend. He was complaining about recent policy decisions that limited the freedom of companies to operate how they wanted and took away the profits that they said rightfully belonged to the owners. He complained that we were becoming like European counties that tax their businesses too much. I mentioned that those counties are among the happiest in the world. He countered that happiness is subjective, and he would always default on the side of free markets rather than socialism. He told me capitalism is the greatest tool in the history of mankind for creating wealth and lifting people out of poverty.

 

I agreed.

I agreed that since the advent of free markets, more capital has been created and the world has enjoyed a level of wealth never before seen, and more people are enjoying a “middle-class” existence than ever before. I agreed that there are more millionaires and billionaires than ever before and that the companies they own have been able to create some of the most impressive technologies and sell them on the free market because of capitalism.

But then I told him that I don’t believe the purpose of life is to earn money.

“I don’t believe I was put on this earth to see how much money I can earn,” I said

“So you want socialism?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t trust our politicians.”

“But you’re anti-capitalism.”

“Also no, I am pro-humanity, I am pro-earth, I am anti-suffering, which more often than not leads me to be in conflict with capitalism,” I replied.

“So you’re a socialist.”

“Again, no.”

He scowled at me, and I explained that I believe there are other options, that life isn’t black and white, and that I don’t believe human creativity has peaked with the choice between capitalism and socialism. I told him I believe that those who peddle the capitalism/socialism dichotomy are those who benefit from the constant struggle between the two. We have become so invested in the benefits and differences between them that we are unable to even comprehend anything outside that fight.

I anticipated his next comment by saying, “We don’t have to choose between child labor working in iPhone factories and Stalin-esque state control. Both are evil. Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”

I told him there are many intelligent people who have fallen for the ruse, and it’s not their fault. In the Western world, we are taught from a young age about the struggle between good and evil, and that there are only two options for those who die: heaven and hell. So we naturally look for parallels in our earthly existence: capitalism vs socialism, republicans vs democrats, happiness and sadness, prosperity vs poverty, “us” vs “them”, East vs West, and so on. We cannot even consider other options because to do so is to question our own worldview. It is to doubt the way we were taught the world works.

But that’s not how the world works. That’s not how life works.

I have seen too many business owners complain about not being able to operate due to wage increases, or employees being unable to work long hours and harsh conditions. For some, these and similar issues have caused them to close their businesses for good.

Does it make me sad that someone’s dream of running their own business falls apart? Of course

But…

It also makes me sad when I see employees earning six figures declare bankruptcy because they can’t afford the prices of private healthcare.
It makes me sad when I see GoFundMe pages for people who can’t afford to treat their child’s cancer treatments.
It makes me sad when LinkedIn celebrates business leaders who create abusive work environments, who think they own their employees’ time, or who perpetuate unhealthy and corrupt business practices.
It makes me sad when profits come at the expense of the environment.
It makes me sad when Christians judge someone’s faithfulness by how much “god has blessed them” with money and success.
It makes me sad when people literally cannot afford to be poor because our society has decided to punish the poor instead of helping them.
It makes me sad when we demonize those who ask for work-life balance, a live-able wage, or reasonable work benefits.
It makes me sad when business owners don’t offer raises or job growth, then blame poor people for spending their money on avocado toast.
It makes me sad when people, in developed countries with college degrees, are forced to work 60+ hours a week just to not freeze or starve to death
It makes me sad when we force teachers to pay for the supplies for their students, then blame them for being lazy when they quit or want to unionize.
It makes me sad that we pay college football coaches millions of dollars, but fight tooth and nail to market the athletes’ likenesses for free.
It makes me sad when American corporations sue poor Indian farmers for growing similar crops they sell, or villages for drinking their own water.
It makes me sad when we equate “fair wage” with “good wage”
It makes me sad when we’re presented with the horrors of modern work environments, we say “Yes, but…” instead of “How can we fix this?”

I told him that I used to think the way he did. That a business owner should be able to do what he wanted with his profits because they were his, and “possession is 9/10 of the law.” But while I was in business school at BYU, one of my professors told me something that changed my outlook on life. He said, “The level of executive pay and their rate of increase is one of the greatest evils of our world.”

It made me stop everything. I didn’t believe him. How could a business professor say such a thing?

I asked myself, “Why?” And the answers I found I could not ignore.

I now believe the elevation of capitalism to an almost cult-like religious tenet is one of the greatest mistakes we’ve ever made as a species. The mixing of corporate prosperity with religion and faith is an evil beyond comprehension. It is a tool of evil people perpetuated by the ignorant and the greedy. The dogma of freedom and profit over all other aspects of life is destroying lives, and I see it every day.

In the end, I told my friend that I find it immoral and anti-Christian (he is Christian) to hoard wealth, to own multiple homes you don’t use, and to exploit others for capital gain. I have no respect for those who go on and on about “the grind” or “the hustler lifestyle” or “the alpha/beta mentality”. I lose respect for anyone who puts money and success over humanity and love. These mindsets are, at best, immature and ignorant of the meaning of life. They are signs of a stunted spirituality. Our society is sick, and the antidote is not more of what got us here.

I would not be able to live with myself, let alone sleep at night, knowing that I could brag about an extra half percentage of profit margin while my employees have to use sick days to take their kids to soccer practice because both parents work but still can’t afford a babysitter.

I pity those who read more books about productivity, money, investments, management, leadership, and business, than books about compassion, spirituality, love, peace, and how to save the environment.

If your business doesn’t make the world a better place, if you don’t pay your employees a decent wage, if you put profit above the needs of the people who work for you, if you put your “rights” above the humanity of others, if you destroy the Earth to make an easy buck, then maybe your business shouldn’t exist.

Aaron J. Webber

Author Aaron J. Webber

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