Stossel Show – Lies, Myths and Stupidity! (Part 2/6)
In this segment of the show, Michael Medved and John Stossell discuss the phrase “obscene profits.”
Michael Medved: “One of the things that I hate is this term ‘obscene profits.’ There are no obscene profits.”
The debate over the which transactions in our lives one can morally profit from has been going on for some time and is not likely to be settled any time soon. Just look at the history of morality in moneylending–it will still be debated thousands of years from now.
The term “obscene profits” is usually applied to oil and health insurance companies, or basically any business that supplies things necessary for survival. “Obscene” in these cases means they made a lot of money in an area some believe it immoral to seek profit.
Profit is one of those words that people have multiple definitions for and as a result, debates and discussions often become convoluted because people end up arguing about the morality of profit, without first clarifying what profit means to them.
Generally profit is viewed as experiencing a gain from a transaction. I know of no voluntary transaction between people that won’t result in at least some type of gain or profit for both sides. Even acts considered selfless result in a profit of well being, so simply profiting from an action isn’t inherently immoral.
I slightly disagree with Medved when he said there are no obscene profits. Theft is an obscene profit, when only one side gains from a violent transaction. Medved’s use of the word profit was meant in terms of a free and fair exchange for goods or services. There is no such thing as an obscene profit when it comes to non-coercive transactions between free people.
Non-coercive is the key word here. People that use that term “obscene profits” often believe profiting from selling goods or services necessary to survival is a form of coercion. Since life forces you to eat, you must buy food from those who sell food if you do not produce your own. The people offering their goods and services are then equated with being uncaring.
Business doesn’t determine the rules of life; nature does. Call life obscene if you want, but don’t blame the people that make life a lot more bearable.