Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Surplus Value

Can't remember how we got into that conversation. Son learned the idea of 'profit' as we talked about 'the little girl in China who makes my toys'.

It came down to "Does Daddy make a profit in his work?"

"You go ask him yourself."

Daddy was duly summoned upstairs, "Dad, in the work that you do at your office, do you make a profit?"

"Yes," came the decisive and immediate answer.

Son was shocked. In his little mind surely his Daddy, his hero, does not stoop to making a profit out of the labour of others.

When he had recovered from this shock, "If I told the man who employs the girls who make my toys that I really appreciate the toys, would he pay them more money?"

"I don't think so," came the answer. "I'm afraid that's called economics. People pay as little as possible to get as much out of it as possible."

"Unless we are willing to pay more," said I, "Which is what fair trade is all about."

"But that does not mean that the girls will be paid more, until and unless customers make it clear that they are not going to buy from these manufacturers until they are willing to treat their workers properly and give them a fair wage," wise old Dad said.

I don't think son got the answers he needed or wanted to hear, but I'm making some headway, I think, in getting him to understand that our lifestyle of needless consumption is only making a few people very rich to the detriment of hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of others who have little or no bargaining power at all.

Profit is not an evil thing when profits like those made by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett can be put to good use for the rest of humanity. It is extreme profit that is the issue, when a human being is taken to be nothing more than a 'resource', to be exploited, squeezed dry, and like a piece of machinery that has outlived its usefulness , could then be 'de-commissioned', dismissed, whatever.

Money is NOT the root of all evil as has often been misquoted. It is the "love of money", an excessive worship of profit, that is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

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