As it stands, the purpose of business is 1. profit and 2. creating value. The first is problematic enough just being a purpose. Worse yet, the second is unattainable. The true purpose of business is organizing and economizing toward social progress. Business can serve no other purpose. What it can do is to miss the mark so dreadfully, it does the complete opposite. This is our unfortunate reality, owing to the purpose we’ve ascribed it.
It is the individual who creates value. The healthcare provider ushers persons toward health. The educator directs people toward truth and understanding. The lawyer safeguards justice. These are individuals and their purpose.
Hospitals, schools, law firms etc. organize individual expertise to advance said expertise and better serve those who need it. They economize on (intrinsic) costs incurred by those rendering their expertise and those served by it and economic also is the reduction in natural resources extracted for use in any and every field.
For the healthcare provider, the achievement of health is fulfilled purpose. The elimination of disease, e.g. the eradication of Polio (as we are now nearing), is an example of progress and a measure of success. No one individual can claim this or like successes. A collective collaboratively works toward such ends. Organizations at the fore and those on the fringes all play an integral role in these forward movements. The lifeblood of these organizations are the individuals employed therein, that is, therein working.
Individuals and institutions serve their purpose in this interdependent way — all in service of the ultimate purpose of social progress. The purpose ascribed business (i.e. creating value) does not happen. Actually, business (as-is) often does the complete opposite by constricting value in order to fulfill the proponent purpose ascribed it (profit).
For brief moments in times of crisis, it becomes more apparent the complications money causes but purports to ease. Money dictates what can and will be done. But inbuilt in purpose is such guidance; we need only ask what is the most significant work we can engage in in any given moment. However, while businesses and governments are meant to organize and mobilize primarily based on objective needs, politics, bureaucracy, out-of-touch policies and other, determine what takes center focus.
In absence of these institutions, purpose could progress unabated. I don’t argue that (as things are) there would be said progress without them but I argue that should these institutions serve their true purpose, we would progress much more consistently, much more economically, to much greater a degree and with far fewer steps backward.
Now, despite earlier phrasing, individuals do not actually “create” value, they are it. We do not have a singular purpose to fulfill; being our best selves is purpose fulfilled. Engaging (even on social media) toward understanding is invaluable. Sharing what one can about a healthy diet or disciplined exercise routine is invaluable. Speaking out about injustice is invaluable. It is not in being an educator, healthcare provider, or lawyer (as with above examples) that value exists. These terms merely define areas of ongoing contribution and expertise. It is the moments within which an individual contributes to the aforesaid, that value is. Therefore, there is no creating value, there is simply being valuable.
Social values (like those ascribed business) rob individuals of the opportunity to be valuable. We ascribe more or less social worth to what are in fact invaluable beings. This we do based on an individual’s contribution to the market (i.e. to the economy, not the community), leaving all to prove their worth in this pseudo value structure. In it, the measure of worth and reward of work is money earned, so we attempt to “create value” and sure enough, with money, we can keep score of our (pseudo) progress.
Money as the reward of work (or “jobs” as we call them), is a reality made by misguided institutions and conflated purpose. The reward of work is work done. Health, understanding, justice among other such purposes-fulfilled, are intrinsically valuable. They are the measure of social progress. Attaining and maintaining these is the domain of the individual. Businesses (and organizations in general) are purposed with facilitating this. All ultimately (are to) work toward social progress.
- I believe this the reason they’re called organizations.
- There were only 37 confirmed cases of polio worldwide in 2016. That represents a reduction of more than 99.9 percent since the 1980s, when the same saw about 1,000 per day. (Rotary and Polio Factsheet, n.d.)
- Kodak’s suppression of digital photography technology is an excellent example. There’s was not a “bad” decision. Insofar as business goes, it was a well-reasoned move but that is exactly the problem. To achieve the primary purpose of business (profit), value was (and often has to be) constricted.
- Government is another organization meant to serve the same purpose business does but on a much larger scale.
- For example, while we bid farewell to Polio, there are an increasing number of antibiotic-resistant diseases, the consequence of what some may call “advancements” in other areas.
Author: Ervin Welsh
Date Written: September 14, 2017
Published: September 15, 2017
Last Updated: September 15, 2017
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- Duke University Department of Political Science. (2016, October 15). “Two incompatible sacred values in American universities” Jon Haidt, Hayek Lecture Series. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gatn5ameRr8
- Ervin Welsh. (2017, March). On The Absurdity of Ascribing Worth. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.mixcloud.com/ervinwelsh/on-the-absurdity-of-ascribing-worth/
- Rotary International. (n.d.). Rotary & Polio Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.endpolio.org/resource-center#education. Web. 2017, September 15.
- Pachal, Pete. (2012, January 20). How Kodak Squandered Every Single Digital Opportunity It Had. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/01/20/kodak-digital-missteps/#JgYgYL8qtiqw. Web. 2017, September 15.