Making Money is Not Wrong

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 24 February 2009)

When people ask me why I get into business, without hesitation I tell them, “because I want to make more money”.

I do not apologize for believing in such. Some of my friends look at me funny when I told them so. These are the same people who always complain and ramble on and on about how the economy is getting worse, how prices are going up and how hard it is to make ends meet these days. These people are contradicting themselves when they even insinuate that making more money is not good.

Am I greedy? If I am greedy, then by the same logic, the women selling nasi lemak at the roadside stall is greedy. She should sell nasi lemak for 50 sen per packet because that is how much the cost of rice, coconut milk, chilli, egg, onion, anchovies, peanut, cucumber, banana leaf, cooking oil, gas, and labor to make one packet of nasi lemak. She should not sell one packet for RM1.50. She should not charge higher than what she spent, because what’s her business making money all for herself when other people need that money to buy something else other than nasi lemak. So greedy of her.

Making money is not greedy. Making more money is not greedy. Making a lot of money is not greedy. Making money is why we go to work. We go to work not because we want to make this world a better place, but to make money. Sorry to sound harsh, but I am being realistic. This is what you believe as well, but you are afraid to say it.

Money is the modern currency. If you look down on people making money, let’s see how much you like to labor all day and get paid by grains and livestock.

Of course, some people act all high and mighty and ascetic when I talk about making money (they are actually jealous).
“Cukup lah apa yang ada”
“Bersyukurlah rezeki yang ada ni, buat apa nak cari duit banyak-banyak lagi”
“Duit banyak-banyak ni tak bawak kemana pun”
When these people get cancer and stuck with a RM 20,000 hospital bill with RM 4,000 in their bank account, let’s see how much they “feel grateful” because “they already have enough”.

People say money is not the solution. This is true in an abstract, metaphysical, moral, ethical dimension. In real life, money solves problems. Almost all of it. For any one example you can give of how money makes things worse (e.g., spoiled brats), I can counter with one hundred examples of how money makes things better.

Anything that needs fixing – potholes or the economy – can only be fixed when one has money. The condition of having no money, or owing other people more money than you can possibly earn, is called bankrupt. Lehman Brothers is bankrupt. Bernie Madoff is bankrupt, but still lives in a huge mansion. Donald Trump’s casino group is going bankrupt. The state of California is almost bankrupt (the Terminator, indeed). Bankruptcy is a bad thing; we call bad people morally bankrupt, not morally liquid. Without money, you are impotent and useless and you have to file petition with the courts to protect you from your debtors. You can’t travel abroad, and you can’t own any asset under your name. Having no money sucks.

Making money is not dirty, and should not be frowned upon.

It is human to like money. Sugary Hollywood films teach you that “money can’t buy love.” This gives hope to slackers everywhere, who thinks that their girlfriends will stay true to them and not run away with other guys with a steady job. This is typical Hollywood pablum, which happens as often in the real world as the occurrence of a slum kid becoming a millionaire. We human love when our needs are fulfilled. Other than a few exceptions (sexual and emotional needs, for instance), most needs are fulfilled by money. This is not buying love. This is about expressing gratitude to the person who brings the dough. And good feeling (gratitude) begets another good feeling (love).

I am not apologetic when I tell people that I want to make money. I am getting into business to make money. I work hard, sleep late, and go to office on weekends to make money. Making money is good. Those who disagree are full of shit.

SUPPLY SIDE CHARITY

While we are talking about money, let’s talk about charity.

Money is a force of good. While I’m not a big fan of billionaire type charities, I do commend anyone who gives to charity. In this department, rich people can do more good than poor people. It is heart-warming to see poor people give what little they have, but in reality, rich people do more good by giving what they have.

To illustrate this point, let me give you a hypothetical situation: on one hand, we have William Gates III, of Seattle, Washington, with net worth of US$40 billion. On the other hand, Prakesh, of Mumbai slum, net worth US$2. Both person want to donate to a local charity. Bill gives US$1,000 and Prakesh gives US$1 (in the local currency). Who had done more good?

It is the morally correct position to say that Prakesh had done more good since he had sacrificed half of his belongings. Bill had given not even one millionth of what he owns. So Prakesh is an angel, while Mr. Gates is a stingy rich asshole. Right?

Wrong. Imagine you are dying in the slum area of Mumbai and the only chance to save you is an emergency operation in a hospital. You have no money. Will you take Prakash’s dollar, or Bill’s one thousand dollar? You bet your ass you’ll jump at Bill’s grand faster than Internet Explorer picks up spyware. Suddenly, Bill is not a rich asshole anymore, eh? And Prakash can take his dollar and buy pratha for all you care.

This is supply side charity. Even if Bill gave US$2, he had done twice as much good as Prakash. I am not saying that Bill is the better person, but in this particular instance, he had surely done more good. What matters in giving money is not how good you feel about yourself, or how much you sacrificed, but rather how much money goes to the recipient and how much good it does to her. Charity is for the recipient to benefit, not the other way round. If it does not benefit the recipient much, not much good is done, although the giver feels warm and fuzzy inside.

So stop feeling like a saint when you give 50 sen to a roadside beggar. Call it what it is: a meaningless act that keeps you from guilt.

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