First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

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Profits, Contributions to Society, and “Luck”

March 4th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Glenn Reynolds often likes to remind his readers of this Robert Heinlein quote, and rightfully so.  I thought of it a few days ago when a reader sent me this blog post from Exxon Mobil’s website.

Some in Washington would have you believe that because companies like ExxonMobil are profitable, we are “taking from” the U.S. economy, rather than contributing to it.

But the facts prove otherwise. Last year, while ExxonMobil’s operating earnings in the U.S. were $9.6 billion, our total contribution to the U.S. economy was $72 billion. That is how much ExxonMobil spent in the United States on things like taxes, salaries, returns to our investors and money paid to other businesses and industries to keep our U.S. operations running.

In other words, for every dollar we earned in the U.S., we contributed seven more dollars to the U.S. economy – to both governments and individual Americans.

I wonder how many community organizers (c0mbined) have ever contributed $72 Billion to any local, state, or national economy.

Another reader sent me this piece from Emmanuel Goldstein Koch Industries:

If the President’s campaign has some principled disagreement with the arguments we are making publicly about the staggering debt the President and previous administrations have imposed on the country, the regulations that are stifling business growth and innovation, the increasing intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of American life, we would be eager to hear them. But it is an abuse of the President’s position and does a disservice to our nation for the President and his campaign to criticize private citizens simply for the act of engaging in their constitutional right of free speech about important matters of public policy. The implication in that sort of attack is obvious: dare to criticize the President’s policies and you will be singled out and personally maligned by the President and his campaign in an effort to chill free speech and squelch dissent.

This is not the first time that the President and his Administration have engaged in this sort of disturbing behavior. As far back as August, 2010, Austan Goolsbee, then the President’s chief economic advisor, made public comments concerning Koch’s tax status and falsely stated that the company did not pay income tax, which triggered a federal investigation into Mr. Goolsbee’s conduct that potentially implicated federal law against improper disclosure of taxpayer information. Last June, your colleagues sent fundraising letters disparaging us as “plotting oil men” bent on “misleading people” with “disinformation” in order to “smear” the President’s record. Those accusations were baseless and were made at the very same time the president was publicly calling for a more “civil conversation” in the country.


I have to say – I wish Exxon would have thought of this before climbing so cozily into bed with the government in the first place.  They helped create the problem by being complicit in the expansion of government, and the expectation that government should be chest-deep in private industry.  But maybe now they’re figuring out that feeding the crocodile to save yourself doesn’t mean you don’t get eaten in the end, it just means you get eaten last.  Maybe today’s startup companies will realize this truth much sooner.


Profitable, successful private companies are good for America.  It’s about time those companies, which we would surely miss if they were gone or hobbled, stood up for themselves.  Businesses large and small will benefit from their defense of capitalism, and that means so will the American economy.

If they keep it up, maybe the USA won’t run out of “luck” after all.

Tags: Big Government · Capitalism · Class Warfare · Deficits and Debt · Economy · Free Markets