I had what felt like a big though yesterday. It was one of those times where you think “Wow. Just. Wow. That was one of the biggest thoughts I’ve had in my entire life.” Now, I didn’t actually know if it was all that profound. But I wanted to run around and tell everyone:
The role of business is to make people’s lives better.
Growing up in the liberal parts of this world, I’ve always had an uneasy understanding of business. I respected market forces. But I’ve never thought they were as good as everyone thought that was, either. They seemed to be causing a lot of problems. The goal of business was just to make money, chase the bottom line, please the shareholders, and people usually got hurt in the process. Corporation exemplifies this view point perfectly.
But business does two more things as well: it improves society and it fulfills individual’s dreams. In fact, it’s the arguably best process on the planet for both. Because of competition and the market economy, businesses have created products and services that help everyone lead better lives – lives that are easier, simpler, and more enjoyable. And businesses also create opportunities for people to spend their lives doing what they like. They not only enables artists and musicians and daredevils and all sorts of crazy “non-productive” jobs, they helps people like me to find others who share common life goals and to achieve them. We have co-workers because of businesses, not because of our goals.
Now the market still isn’t perfect. All you have to do to see this is go to a Third World country and look for the U.S. factories. Wealth creation is not directly related to improving its worker’s lives or society. But business is an improvement – given time competition will indirectly prune out businesses that don’t take care of their workers well, and higher qualities of life will make workers more selective. Technology slowly ease pains and eliminates menial jobs that are forced on people who fall through the cracks.
Maybe it’s a glass half-full outtake on a glass half-empty, but somehow it makes me feel better.