Stop Giving Back

Every now and then on LinkedIn and other sites, you’ll see an individual or organization promote a charity of some kind, usually including “Giving Back” somewhere in the post.

For reasons I’m about to explain, I can’t stand this phrase.

I once had the following pinned up at my desk

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save [any company], but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

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These are the iconic words spoken by the character Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 movie “Wall Street.” It’s unfortunate that semantically “greed” is the dark cousin of “self-interest” but if Gekko had used the latter it wouldn’t have worked in the movie. In business and in life, self-interest keeps the world moving.

A really good salesman where I once worked, who was also a friend and a liberal (though not leftist), got the vapors whenever we discussed politics. He would point to that sign on my desk in perceived victory and bash the evils of capitalism. “Look at that sign,” he’d say. “How can you defend that??”

Irony alert: He’s a salesman. He makes a solid living by selling people what they want. And he bashes capitalism.

This is the problem with the left: Like other words they’ve destroyed, they’ve done a masterful job at turning capitalism – the free exchange of goods and services — into a swear word.

The movie Wall Street does a bit of a disservice to business by carelessly wielding “greed” around like a kid using daddy’s gun, but the truth is no one can survive this world without acting in his own self-interest. To achieve anything in life, we must provide value to another. We don’t do this purely out of charity.

When people get ripped off, word spreads. Most con artists don’t last long, lawsuits proceed, and shady businesses close. Case in point, Elizabeth Holmes of the car-wreck-of-a-company called Theranos. Bernie Madoff has become a verb. Does this mean every scam artist loses? No. But on the whole, the good guys who work hard to give people what they want win.

If you as an individual or corporation wish to support a person or charity, do it. We all should give our time, talent, and treasure to those in need. But don’t do it because you think you’re stealing from others. If you’re not forcing or coercing people into paying for what you do, carry on. Be proud of it. Do it better than anyone else so you can continue to lift others up.

If you aren’t stealing, stop giving back.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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