Working for “the man”

I have heard many small business owners say that they started their business because they don’t want to work for “the man”. They want to be their own boss. They don’t want “the man” to make money off of their sweat and toil.

These comments are usually accompanied with claims, both explicit and implicit, that “the man” uses others to further himself. “The man” they claim, both explicitly and implicitly, is a dishonest charlatan who will do anything to make a buck.

As is common with those who cast such aspersions, “the man” remains unnamed and undefined. He is a faceless, nameless demon who sucks the life out of decent, hard working people. Who then, is “the man”?

If we accept the implications of those making these comments, “the man” is anyone who employees others and/ or makes a profit. A profit is a gain, an improvement in one’s position. If someone profits during an exchange with others, the thinking goes, it could only be at the expense of others.

The fact is, an economic transaction is a voluntary exchange. Each party believes he will profit—he believes he will gain something he values more highly than what he is giving up. Voluntary exchanges are mutually beneficial.

An honest businessman (and most businessmen are honest) offers value to his customers. He does not seek something for nothing. He seeks to create values desired by the purchasing public. And the greater the values he creates, the greater his profits.

This concept is completely lost on those who disparage “the man”. To them, a profit is a sign of dishonesty. A businessman is simply a slick talking conman. A business is simply organized crime. Those who put down “the man” are really putting down businessmen.

They do so because they believe that mutually profitable relationships are impossible. They do so because they cannot or will not create greater values. They do so because the successful businessman represents everything they are not.

The history of mankind is replete with examples of men and women who created tremendous value and profited in the process. Some look at these heroes as inspiration and as evidence of what is possible in life. Others look at them in envy and as evidence of what they will never be in life.

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