Profit is an index of altruism

Because George Gilder believed (and wrote) the following, Ayn Rand denounced him.

The moral code of capitalism is the essential altruism of enterprise. The most successful gifts are the most profitable—that is, gifts that are worth much more to the recipient than to the donor. The most successful givers, therefore, are the most altruistic—the most responsive to the desires of others.

The circle of giving (the profits of the economy) will grow as long as the gifts are consistently valued more by the receivers than by the givers. A gift is defined not by the absence of ANY return, but by the absence of a PREDETERMINED return. Unlike socialist investments, investments under capitalism are analogous to gifts, in that the returns are not preordained and depend for success entirely on understanding the needs of others. Profit thus emerges as an index of the altruism of a product.

Rand despised altruism, but I believe Gilder is right.

The most profound thing I have ever read on the morality of capitalism is Gilder’s “Soul of Silicon” speech delivered to the Vatican in May 1997. It’s not a light read, but well worth the investment.

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