Dogma Premise # 37

Wealth results from hard work and/or special talents that have been applied to create something socially useful.

Dogma Premise 37, that wealth results from helping others, is the logical extension of Dogma Premise 17 (that profits can only be generated by giving people what they want). The idea is that if profits come from helping people improve their position through voluntary exchanges, then wealth is a sign of virtue -- you would have to help a lot of people to accumulate so much profit.

Because, as we have seen, Dogma Premise 17 is false -- there are other ways to generate profits besides helping people -- Dogma Premise 37 cannot logically follow, and wealth is not necessarily a sign of virtue.

However, there are additional problems with connecting exchange and virtue. For example, if wealth might result only from voluntary exchanges, then so might poverty. For example, supposed that you have something I badly need -- perhaps a life-saving medication that is under patent. Capitalism's voluntary exchange theory says that I will be better off if I trade you all my wealth for the medication, because otherwise I would be die. You would of course better off trading the medication for my life savings. After the exchange, you are rich and I am poor. Since we have both helped each other, is not my poverty just as virtuous as your wealth?

It appears, then, that the logic of capitalism finds virtue in participating in market exchanges, regardless of their outcome. Indeed, if one market participant becomes particularly wealthy, it suggests that they may have exploited some sort of advantage over the others, which would not indicate virtue of generosity or helpfulness; just the opposite. Similarly, if someone ends up impoverished, that suggests sustained incompetence or ignorance, so that poverty is not a sign of a moral failing but an intellectual failing.

This conclusion agitates the capitalist, because they have a different paradigm in mind. The capitalist imagines that every trade provides an incremental benefit, and so wealth is a sign of great effort or a high volume transactions: to get a lot of profit, you have to help a lot of people, which takes a great effort, resulting in many sales.  By contrast, the capitalist imagines that poverty results from indolence, laziness, or an unwillingness to work.

This line of argument abandons the direct connection between wealth and virtue, and instead argues that the capitalist's true virtue likes in hard work, and wealth is merely an indicator of hard work. We already saw in Dogma Premise 34 that wealth may be attained by many methods besides  hard work, and it is pretty obvious that many laborers who work hard are not wealthy. So the proposed connection between effort and profits is just as tenuous as the connection between wealth and virtue. Poverty may or may not result from laziness, and wealth may or may not result from effort.

Disproving Dogma Premise 37 prevents capitalists from cloaking themselves with an assumption of social accomplishment. Without further inquiry, we cannot know whether a wealthy person was immensely compensated for providing a great social benefit, or merely robbed bank.

There is in fact a strong case to be made that wealth is inversely correlated with virtue, and that "behind every great fortune lies a great crime," as Balzac said. The argument would be that profits only exist when I charge you more than it cost me to deliver a good or service. If virtue lies in helping others, then profits measure the extent to which I could have helped someone else but instead helped myself at their expense. Wealth accumulations indicate sustained self-love.

Pursuant to the capitalist's theory of virtue, Jonas Salk, who refused to patent and profit from his polio vaccine because he wanted to ensure that it was affordable and available to as many people as possible, was less virtuous than another capitalists who found a way to charge much more than it cost to deliver the precious medicine and therefore become wealthy. This scenario vividly illustrates the inverse correlation between wealth and virtue. Although not all products involve monopolies over life-giving goods or services, the underlying dynamic of taking from people as much as you can, regardless of the negative consequences to that person, is the same for all capitalist enterprises.

However, it not necessary to equate wealth and wrongdoing to defeat Dogma Premise 37. Instead, we merely need to show that the assumption that wealthy people must have done a great social service cannot be justified.

Dogma Premise 38

All Dogma Premises