Walter E. Williams

One of the wonderful things about free markets is that the path to greater wealth comes not from looting, plundering and enslaving one's fellow man, as it has throughout most of human history, but by serving and pleasing him. Many of the wonderful achievements of the 20th century were the result of the pursuit of profits. Unfortunately, demagoguery has led to profits becoming a dirty word. Nonprofit is seen as more righteous, particularly when people pompously stand before us and declare, "We're a nonprofit organization."

Profit is cast in a poor light because people don't understand the role of profits. Profit is a payment to entrepreneurs just as wages are payments to labor, interest to capital and rent to land. In order to earn profits in free markets, entrepreneurs must identify and satisfy human wants in a way that economizes on society's scarce resources.
 
Here's a little test. Which entities produce greater consumer satisfaction: for-profit enterprises such as supermarkets, computer makers and clothing stores, or nonprofit entities such as public schools, post offices and motor vehicle departments? I'm guessing you'll answer the former. Their survival depends on pleasing ordinary people, as opposed to the latter, whose survival is not so strictly tied to pleasing people.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that self-interest and the free market system produce perfect outcomes, but they're the closest we'll come to perfection here on Earth.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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