“'Bad, bad,' says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts.”(Proverbs 20:14 ESV)
We aren’t quite like this buyer. When we put the miracle fluid to power our miracle machines at the miracle fluid pumps that are located virtually everywhere, or when we go to the infinite miracle shelves where food from all over the world appears for us to purchase for a low cost, we are more likely to complain than boast. “Corporations are always looking for a profit.”
But what about inflation? What about energy prices?
First reply: In terms of world history, our standard of living still surpasses everything that came before. The free market and the actions of people to devise, produce, and transport goods has resulted in unimaginable wealth compared to what our ancestors had. We are living in an age of miracles compared to them.
Second reply: Inflation and war aren’t the result of the existence of corporations. They are political problems that need to be solved (mainly by removing the political causes). Once these problems are eradicated, there will be corporations continuing to provide people with goods and services at relatively low cost.
I am not saying that there is no reason to resent corporations at all. I am certainly not saying that there is never a reason to resent specific corporations. Re-read the title of my post. I want everyone to stop resenting corporations for not being their slaves.
What I mean is this: To take one example, I’ve been hearing about American oil companies being greedy during this Putin-Biden energy crisis. Well, yes, American oil companies are trying to ramp up production. They are enticed into doing so by the sudden surge in prices. Those higher prices make it worth the effort.
That same motive is the only reason we have a fuel supply for automobiles at all. It is the only reason we ever had a gas station anywhere ever in the world. How could it be otherwise? You don’t go to work every day without a reason. You go because you have responsibilities and needs and wants that require money. Do you condemn yourself for chasing a buck? Then, for the love of God, please shut up about energy corporations!
No one had a duty to devise the internal combustion machine for your benefit. No one was obligated to your pedestrian ancestors to get them on a motor vehicle. These things happened because people had their own responsibilities for themselves and their families and came up with ways to improve their situation by inventing things like mass production. Without the profit motive, you wouldn’t have air conditioning or plumbing. Stop complaining about corporations because of the profit motive. They aren’t your slaves; they don’t have to do anything for you!
If we find that an American corporate lobbyist lobbied for Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil, that will be different. But the problem, then, is ethics, not the bare fact that the corporation operates according to the profit motive. Corporations, when they engage in political lobbying to provide greater profits for themselves by restricting the market, are like a burglar stealing from your home. Just because you work for money doesn’t mean you’re no different than a burglar. So too, corporations that engage in political activity rather than economic activity don’t prove that economic activity should be condemned. The opposite is true.
Don’t attempt to evade this reality by claiming that all people are obligated to help the poor. It is impossible to help the poor without producing wealth in order to have something to share, as Jesus and Paul the Apostle of bourgeois capitalism teach us. Railroads were never spread across continents by missionaries or monks. Airlines were not developed by charities and were never meant to be.
Corporations do evil things all the time, but they are not guilty for operating by the profit motive. Instead, that’s how they benefit you, who also operate in much of your life by the profit motive.
Mark Horne has served as a pastor and worked as a writer. He is the author of The Victory According To Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel, Why Baptize Babies?,J. R. R. Tolkien, and Solomon Says: Directives for Young Men. He is the Executive Director of Logo Sapiens Communications and the writer for SolomonSays.net.