Let's examine the role of profits but first put it in perspective in terms of magnitude. Between 1960 and 2012, after-tax corporate profit averaged a bit over 6 percent of the gross domestic product, while wages averaged 47 percent of the GDP. Far more important than simple statistics about the magnitude of profits is its role in guiding resources to their highest-valued uses and satisfying people. Try polling people with a few questions. Ask them what services they are more satisfied with and what they are less satisfied with. On the "more satisfied" list would be profit-making enterprises, such as supermarkets, theaters, clothing stores and computer stores. They'd find less satisfaction with services provided by nonprofit government organizations, such as public schools, post offices and departments of motor vehicles.
Profits force entrepreneurs to find ways to please people in the most efficient ways or go out of business. Of course, they can mess up and stay in business if they can get government to bail them out or give them protection against competition. Nonprofits have an easier time of it. Public schools, for example, continue to operate whether they do a good job or not and whether they please parents or not. That's because politicians provide their compensation through coercive property taxes. I'm sure that we'd be less satisfied with supermarkets if they, too, had the power to take our money through taxes, as opposed to being forced to find ways to get us to voluntarily give them our earnings.
Arthur C. Brooks, president at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Who Really Cares," shows that Americans are the most generous people on the face of the earth. In fact, if you look for generosity around the world, you find virtually all of it in countries that are closer to the free market end of the economic spectrum than they are to the socialist or communist end. Seeing as Pope Francis sees charity as a key part of godliness, he ought to stop demonizing capitalism.