Making Money is a Virtue, More than Giving it Away

First Published: 2012-06-14

Mother Theresa is almost universally admired for her personal sacrifice and charitable work. For the same reasons, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Andrew Carnegie and other wealthy individuals are respected and frequently praised for giving away their billion dollar fortunes.

In my opinion, Thomas Edison contributed far more for the good of humanity than Mother Theresa ever did, and so did Bill Gates and other like him. These men demonstrated a rare talent—the talent to create wealth on an enormous scale through their own ingenuity, hard work and productivity. Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, Jobs, Morgan, and others created wealth that did not exist before by building railroads, discovering and producing oil, manufacturing steel and developing time-saving computer hardware and software.

These giants solved problems of efficient production that challenged mankind throughout history, and still plagues many developing nations of the world. Their work was life-giving activity. The billions of dollars of wealth created by these giants made people that much better off than they would have been without their efforts. Think of the amazing efficiencies possible today with a computer that would not have been possible without the work of Bill Gates and others like him. The “innovation revolution” spawned by them advanced our standard of living significantly. Yet Gates is more often admired for giving away his fortune rather than for creating it.

Today, there is much discussion about the redistribution of wealth. Many take the creation of wealth for granted, conveniently overlooking the fact that it must be created before it can be redistributed. They imply that earned wealth belongs to everyone and that we have a moral obligation to give it away.

Carnegie believed it was a “divine duty” and that if you died rich you were disgraced. He believed in the altruist philosophy that people have a moral duty to sacrifice themselves for others. That kind of thinking repudiates the meaning of the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Certainly, Carnegie felt guilty for his success and once he got rich, tried to atone for it.

The right to our own life is essential if we are to be free. It is morally right to work to sustain our own life and to produce the wealth that a flourishing life requires. Your basic right to your property includes the right to use and dispose of that property according to your own ability and desire. And certainly, that right gives Carnegie and Gates and others the freedom to be philanthropic and give away their wealth if they so choose.

Unfortunately, the redistribution of wealth either voluntarily or forcibly by government is routinely commended, whereas the creation of the wealth is looked upon with indifference, or worse, condemnation and punishment. To forcibly redistribute wealth requires a thief with a gun or a legislator armed with a Bill that authorizes him to take your wealth, the same as a thief. If it’s immoral to steal from your neighbour, then it’s equally immoral to appoint a government official to do it on your behalf.

Our ethical thinking must be turned around. We must begin to praise and admire those who produce the wealth on which our lives depend, rather than focusing our praise on those who redistribute the wealth and dispense the charity. The wealth that Carnegie, Gates and Buffet gave away has marginal benefit compared to the benefits we derive from their creation of that wealth. We must celebrate the virtue of producing wealth rather than giving it away.

Millions of business leaders provide their employees with the opportunity to do productive work. That is the greatest humanitarian gesture one can make, an act of greater virtue than a handout given by government or the most benevolent “public servant.” Business people do that every day. As a businessman, I am proud of the contributions made by the organizations I have led, and indebted to the business leaders who gave me the opportunities to both benefit and contribute. I thank you all.

Mr. Marwood has over 40 years of international business experience, including 30 years working with the Caterpillar organization in the USA, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Born and raised in Canada, he obtained a MSc. Degree (engineering) from the University of Guelph and later, an MBA degree from the University of Chicago.

During the past 15 years, he has successfully led several turnaround and restructuring assignments for a variety of Canadian businesses in the high-value capital equipment industry. Mr. Marwood is certified as a Six-Sigma Deployment Champion and has used the methodology to improve sales and profit growth.

Recently, he started his own consulting firm, MMARCO International Services Inc., specializing in strategic consulting, executive coaching, international marketing, business planning, restructuring and turnarounds for SMEs.

He has long-standing ties with the private and public sectors and has served several organizations in a variety of capacities throughout his international career. Mr. Marwood is currently is serving the community as a member of the Board of Directors of WEtech Alliance Network, Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator, and Windsor-Essex Community Health Centre, as well as the LBA. He is also a coach and mentor for the University of Windsor’s Centre for Enterprise and Law and the New Canadians Centre of Excellence Inc.

Mr. Marwood recently published Professional Nomad, a memoir that recounts his on-the-job successes, failures, and frustrations intertwined with recollections of personal adventures, alongside reflections on ethics, morality, spirituality, and the epidemic of mysticism that destroys the lives of so many. Professional Nomad is not only a reference for those aspiring to a successful career in international business; it is a blueprint for a flourishing life—personal as well as professional—one lived with passion, determination, and ultimate satisfaction.

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