I Got an E-mail Today from Ritz-Carlton….

by Don Boudreaux on April 27, 2011

in Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen

Dear Ritz-Carlton:

Thanks for your e-mail celebrating your and your employees’ participation in “Give Back Getaways” – activities in which you and your employees (along with some of your customers) “give back to the community.”

Have you taken something that doesn’t belong to you?  If so, by all means give it back!  (But please don’t applaud yourself for doing so.)  If, though, you’ve not taken anything that doesn’t belong to you, you possess nothing that you can give back.

Being a profitable corporation, you certainly possess something that you can give; and I genuinely applaud the generosity that prompts you, your employees, and your customers to give.  (I do hope, however, that you direct your giving according to reasonable criteria rather than according to the hot winds blown by political correctness.)

Please, though, unless your profits are the product of dishonest deals or theft, please drop the rhetoric of “giving back.”  This sort of talk implies that you possess something that isn’t rightfully yours.  It fuels the common misapprehension that corporate profits are either ill-gotten gains or, at best, wealth subtracted from that of other persons.

Because the vast majority of market exchanges are positive-sum deals, your success at business means that you create wealth.  You value the $$$ you get for renting a hotel room by more than you value keeping that room vacant, and your guests value the opportunity to spend a few nights in that room more than they value whatever else they might have bought with the $$$ they voluntarily paid to you for the room.  You gain (“profit”).  Your guests gain.  No one loses.  Wealth is created.

By all means, give if your shareholders approve.  But stop calling it “giving back.”  Your profits aren’t pirated booty; they’re legitimate earnings.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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