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New Rule: Not Everything in America Has to Make a Profit


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Roads don't turn a profit. The business model for a road is pretty pathetic... you spend millions of dollars to build something that people will use for free, and you have to keep spending money to maintain it. Why bother? What kind of fool would invest in something like that?

Air doesn't turn a profit. There's a strong, predictable demand... but the supply side is just this huge glut that makes the stuff completely unsellable. It doesn't belong to anybody, so why not dump exhaust and smoke and waste into the air? If it costs millions of dollars to upgrade the scrubbers on the chimneys at my factory, and there's no reason not to dump waste into the air, how does it make sense for me to spend the money to clean up my emissions? Air costs nothing... is it valueless?

August, you've talked in the past about the difficulty of assigning value to things like clean air and roads... things that have collective value, yet no reasonable model for people to profit from providing them.

It seems to me that there are other sorts of things that fit that sort of argument as well. The military and justice and law enforcement are obvious examples of situations where there's no way of incorporating a profit motive in a way that corresponds with our fundamental values. Education... some people might argue that education is a service that people should pay for; others would argue that the cost to society of making education a priviledge that people must be able to afford for themselves would be catastrophic.

There are things that we believe to be in the public good that we have a difficult time assigning value to because they are of benefit to us as a group in ways that go beyond what can be easily governed by commercial transactions. We have no difficulty accepting this in situations like building roads or maintaining police and military and justice systems, or in government regulation of radio frequency bands. I think the scope of things that fall into this area is broader than that.

-k

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Air doesn't turn a profit. There's a strong, predictable demand... but the supply side is just this huge glut that makes the stuff completely unsellable.
On the contrary, air turns a huge profit. The benefit of using it is so much greater then the cost of getting it - at least when the air is clean and unpolluted.

Kimmy, I object to the idea that we should not measure to determine whether an activity is worth doing. The OP argues against profit. I argue that the principle of profit is good. If an activity produces more benefit than its cost, then in principle that's a good thing. To use a big word, I am arguing in favour of what might be called "utilitarianism".

OTOH, how do we value/measure the "cost" of an activity and how do we value/measure its "benefit"? IMV, this is the real question that Maher skips over. For example, Maher only thinks of the supposed benefits of Walter Cronkite without considering the likely costs.

Not everything with value is profitable.
I missed this quote above. IMV, you are dead on, smallc. Some valuable activities are not profitable - when measured in money terms. But which?

-----

Kimmy, God bless your soul, I'll now quote you at length:

Roads don't turn a profit. The business model for a road is pretty pathetic... you spend millions of dollars to build something that people will use for free, and you have to keep spending money to maintain it. Why bother? What kind of fool would invest in something like that?

Air doesn't turn a profit. There's a strong, predictable demand... but the supply side is just this huge glut that makes the stuff completely unsellable. It doesn't belong to anybody, so why not dump exhaust and smoke and waste into the air? If it costs millions of dollars to upgrade the scrubbers on the chimneys at my factory, and there's no reason not to dump waste into the air, how does it make sense for me to spend the money to clean up my emissions? Air costs nothing... is it valueless?

August, you've talked in the past about the difficulty of assigning value to things like clean air and roads... things that have collective value, yet no reasonable model for people to profit from providing them.

It seems to me that there are other sorts of things that fit that sort of argument as well. The military and justice and law enforcement are obvious examples of situations where there's no way of incorporating a profit motive in a way that corresponds with our fundamental values. Education... some people might argue that education is a service that people should pay for; others would argue that the cost to society of making education a priviledge that people must be able to afford for themselves would be catastrophic.

There are things that we believe to be in the public good that we have a difficult time assigning value to because they are of benefit to us as a group in ways that go beyond what can be easily governed by commercial transactions. We have no difficulty accepting this in situations like building roads or maintaining police and military and justice systems, or in government regulation of radio frequency bands. I think the scope of things that fall into this area is broader than that.

As you point out repeatedly in your post, the issue is "value". Not the principle of "profit".

Contrary to this crzay link in the OP, a successful society should adopt policies that create value (make profit) not destroy value. Profit isn't a bad idea - it's the valuation idea that poses a problem.

Value? Obama favours cap and trade. So do I - but a carbon tax may be more practical. Value is hard to determine.

Edited by August1991
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Value? Obama favours cap and trade. So do I - but a carbon tax may be more practical. Value is hard to determine.

This is off-topic, but I'm ok with a cap and trade system put in place on actual pollutants. However CO2 doesn't/shouldn't fit in that category. CO2 is not pollution.

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This is off-topic, but I'm ok with a cap and trade system put in place on actual pollutants. However CO2 doesn't/shouldn't fit in that category. CO2 is not pollution.
It's not off topic.

If someone, anyone, is prepared to pay for something, give up something to have it, then it's worth something - it has value. The value of something? Watch carefully what people are prepared to sacrifice to get it.

Is this idea of value short sighted?

Well, why do people have children? Or rather, why do people have sex and risk having children?

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Profit? :lol:
Profit?

Well, as my sister recently explained to me, after dealing with an older family member of her husband in extended care:

1. Make sure you have children

2. Make sure you have nieces/nephews.

3. Make sure you get along with children/nieces/nephews.

4. Your're fucked.

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I do believe working for no profit is what Obama defines as "Wealth Distribution" you earn it and he takes it to give to those who don't want to work. Frankly the idea has merit for a charity but reeks of socialist ideology of the feeble minded, then again the professional shakedown artist have been getting grants for doing nothing but earn a living wage.

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Roads don't turn a profit. The business model for a road is pretty pathetic... you spend millions of dollars to build something that people will use for free, and you have to keep spending money to maintain it. Why bother? What kind of fool would invest in something like that?

Actually, millions of people make a profit every day by building roads. In fact, some would argue that because the revenue from gasoline taxes (perhaps not in the United States) exceeds the cost of the roads, even the government is making a profit - not much different than charging a toll.

Similarly, I don't buy the premise that simply obtaining 'non-profit' designation means that you don't make a profit. Most charities, and NGOs are big business which have billions of people relying on them for their own profits - just because the end result is a balanced checkbook means not much of anything.

As far as religious non-profits - why is the Vatican one of the richest places in the world?

Edited by OddSox
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