Serving People

The Washington Post is reporting that Jay Rockefeller, senator from West Virginia, will not seek reelection after serving almost 30 years in that position. It surely has to be reckoned as a flaw of democracy when voters of a state or district elect the same guy to Congress decade after decade. One would think that every once in a while the voters could find at least one other person qualified for the job, but evidently not in West Virginia.

The Post article includes a quote from a political advisor who praises Rockefeller because he “found a way to be a Rockefeller that was about serving people.” So it seems that Rockefeller, as a politician, served people whereas his ancestors apparently disserved people by working in business. The idea that people are served best through politics and not business is seriously misguided, and requires a quick review of how the world works.

No doubt businesses and their owners seek profits, but in a society based on voluntary exchange and competitive markets, businesses do not earn the profits they desire unless they first figure out how to serve others. Profits are derived from the sale of goods and services that people need and want, and businesses that fail to provide those goods and services generate no profits. Such firms quickly disappear from the market in favor of businesses that do a better job serving others.

When exchange is voluntary, we value what we receive more than what we give up, otherwise, we wouldn’t make the exchange. So the millions of us who have purchased Microsoft products and enriched Bill Gates in the process, for example, actually received more in value from Gates then what we paid. And because Gates received more in these exchanges than he gave up, the exchanges have left all parties better off than they were before making the exchanges.

Gates became a billionaire because his company served millions of us, and it’s not hyperbole to say that buying and selling in a competitive market based on voluntary exchange is the epitome of service and serving others. Politics is unable to match this, and the sooner we reacqaint ourselves with this basic truth about markets and competition, the better off we will all be.

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