John Singleton with Bob HowardRip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 204-08, under the heading “Profits”.

It is a socialist idea that making profits is a vice.
I consider the real vice is making losses.


Profit is the driving force of the free market. It determines where, and in what quantities capital is invested. It determines what is produced, in what quantities, and of what quality.

Profit can be measured in many ways, but the most common is in money. It could be argued that too much emphasis has been placed on money, and as a result, the pursuit of profit has come to be regarded as a regrettable, though unfortunately necessary, evil. Another way of putting this would be to say that too much emphasis has been placed on short-term profits, and not enough consideration has been given to the requirements of long-term profits. For example, a ruthless businessman could get larger short-term profits by brutally exploiting his employees, but by so doing he would be signing his long-term death warrant. Competitors who offered better working conditions would take his employees away from him, or, if the practice was widespread, the conditions would produce a situation favourable to the growth of a strong, anti-business Union movement. Furthermore, the general attitude of people to business would be hostile, and favourable to government legislation to control business. In all these ways, there have been enough short-sighted people in business to bring all these problems (and attempted solutions) into being in Australia today.

Profit is a dirty word, and business is regarded with suspicion and even hatred. The proposed solution is to get rid of the evils of greed and its consequent rush for profit, and to put “a human face on business” by turning it over to “society as a whole”. In other words, to turn to socialism, or some variation of it.

While one can, to some extent, sympathise with people who feel this way, it is not possible to agree with them. Their proposed solution is far worse than the problem, and arises from a basic misunderstanding of both business and people. This is not to deny that there have been bad businessmen, and bad business practices. There have been, and always will be.

But what is profit? How does it arise, and what does it signify?

The first thing is to understand something fundamental about human nature: people will only act when there is some incentive to act — for example, when they can see some profit in acting. A businessman runs his business to make money. He may also love his occupation, and a get a kick out of the whole business experience — out of the challenge, the competition, the enjoyment of his skill. But he must make money to survive.

A person in a burning building will (usually) try to get out of it. His profit is staying alive. Another person might work hard for twenty years to spend two years lying on the beach. His profit is being able to escape from work. Others might work to help others, because of the sense of satisfaction and fulfilment this gives them. Whatever the situation, people act because they have some incentive to do so. In most cases, this incentive, directly or indirectly, involves getting money. Money is either an end in itself (for example for a greedy miser) or a means to other ends (allowing a life of luxurious leisure, or gaudy ostentation, or whatever).

The pursuit of this profit motive usually involves trade. This again is a commonly misunderstood process. It is often thought that in any trade, there is a winner and a loser. There isn’t, unless the trade is a forced one. In any voluntary trade, all parties must gain (or at least, at the time of the trade, believe they are going to gain — they could, of course, be mistaken) or the trade would not occur. A common example of this is the used car business. The buyer looks for a car to buy. The seller has cars he wants to exchange for money. The buyer rejects many cars because either he can’t afford them, or, in his opinion, they are not worth the money he’d have to spend to get them. In other words, he decides he’d rather have his money than that particular car. At last he makes up his mind on a car he’d like. He tries to beat the salesman down. The salesman may drop his price a little, but finally reaches a point where he will go no lower. Beyond that point, he’d rather have the car than the money.

When an exchange finally does take place, implicit in it are the facts that the buyer, at the agreed price, preferred the car to the money, and the seller preferred the money to the car. They both get what they want — they both gain.

Even if the buyer was in a position where he didn’t really want a car, but had to have one for a job he wanted, he still is making a net gain. The desire for the job outweighs the reluctance to buy the car.

In any voluntary trade, all parties believe at the time of the trade that they are going to gain from it. Therefore, one person’s profit is not another person’s loss. The price paid is a measure of the balance between the buyers demand and the available supply. You might be tempted to say that that’s all very well. A “reasonable” profit is okay, but why should an unscrupulous person be able to fleece other people and make “excessive” profits just because of, say, freak circumstances? Nobody minds “reasonable” profits, but “profiteering” should be outlawed.

Why should it? The “excess profit” situation sometimes arises during time of personal suffering, for example, Queensland’s annual floods. Motorists are sometimes stranded for days at a time with floods in front of and behind them. “Profiteering” takes the form of excessive prices for food, drink, shelter or a tow out of the water, and the public cry of disapproval goes up. The same thing happened in Darwin after the cyclone — “greedy” landlords raised the rents on the few houses left standing making huge profits out of other people’s misfortune.

In these examples we can see an extreme case of high demand versus low supply. According to our previous equation of price being a measure of supply versus demand, this situation should naturally result in high prices. Of course, what people find offensive about this situation is the apparent inhumanity of it: taking advantage of other’s misfortune. But when one considers the consequences, the results are anything but inhumane.

Take Darwin. If rents had been allowed to rise to very high levels, what would have happened? People would have paid them, because they had little choice — in fact, that’s why they would have risen in the first place. People would have bid for the houses, just as they bid in an auction. Home owners would have been confronted with a number of families wanting the house, all trying to outbid each other for it. There are two other extremely important results as well. First, families would have shared the houses to split the costs. As the prices went up, they would rent out rooms, and make do with less and less space. This would be a good thing, as the available houses would have spread much further than otherwise. Second, there would be the prospect of high profits for anyone who could supply housing or shelter of any sort at short notice. So, every builder, caravan owner, or manufacturer, prefab house builder, or even boat owner, in Australia or overseas, would have done some quick sums to see if there was anything to be gained from moving into Darwin. There would also have been a great incentive for the people of Darwin to get their homes repaired. Within a very short time, shelter would have been available again.

Admittedly, much of this early work would be temporary, and standards might not be high enough to withstand another cyclone. But the people would have had shelter, quickly, and they could have, at a later time, upgraded their buildings to whatever standard they liked, or even simply discarded their temporary shelter once they had something permanent constructed. Quickly, within six months, this new shelter would have forced the rents back down to “reasonable” levels. As far as standards are concerned, the people who live in Darwin should set their own. Having just been through the hell of that cyclone, and suffered the high costs associated with it, they wouldn’t need to be forced to ensure that their buildings were of adequate strength and safety. In this regard, the high rents would help to drive the lesson home, because if their house was strong and still standing, they reaped their own rewards. If it wasn’t they paid the price. And also if it wasn’t strong enough the chances of getting insurance would be between none and zero.

All of this could have happened and would have happened. But as we all know, it didn’t. Instead, during the Darwin disaster we saw a pure exercise in fascism, as, true to form, eager politicians practised the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the government. Glory hunters were everywhere, jostling one another to get their photos in the papers, expressing “concern”, offering “help” and (unsaid) seeking votes. All they succeeded in doing was perpetuating the disaster.

They, for example, imposed rent control, and at a stroke, killed off all chances of a natural economic recovery. They forbade people to repair their own houses, and dithered about letting contracts for the building of new houses. Result? It was over a year before a single new house was built.

People who complain about profiteering are never consistent about it. When it comes to them selling something, they charge what the market will bear. If you, for instance, had a car that you thought was worth $1000 and you wanted to sell it, would you take $2000 for it if someone offered it? Would you sell it for $800 if you thought you could get $1000 for it?

Profits serve a very important economic function. They do not, as is often thought, simply go into rich people’s pockets to be squandered on lavish parties and high living. (Usually, the people who squander money are those who have never had to earn it in the first place, for example public servants, politicians — or anyone spending someone else’s money.) However, as they squander the money it finds its way into the hands of people who do value it. It has always been the case that if a person is not big enough to live up to their money, it will destroy them.

What do those people who do have money do with it? Where do Lang Hancock’s millions go? Back into the ground to find more minerals to produce real worth, and to provide jobs for people.

It is fashionable to crucify profits, but what really happens to the money when a company does make a profit? The government cops 42.5 per cent of it for a start. Most of the rest pays dividends to shareholders, and the remainder is invested (often the dividends are simply re-invested anyway). The invested money is used to build new factories, start new industries, expand operations, install newer and better equipment, research and develop new processes, machinery, production methods, and in all these ways provide new jobs. Furthermore, by developing and installing new plant and equipment, thereby raising the productivity of employees, the company ensures its future competitiveness which enables it to pay higher wages.

The higher the profits, the more a company is able to do in all these areas. That some of the consequences don’t always follow is often attributable to restrictive legislation, which prevents competition or experimentation, or which has allowed Unions to control wage movements. Companies that don’t make profits are either bankrupted, or are propped up by the taxpayer. Either way, they help no one.

On a real free market, profits would flow to those who best satisfied consumer needs. Competition would ensure that only by cutting costs, increasing efficiency and building “better mousetraps” would people be able to achieve greater and greater profits. Market situations would develop that allowed entrepreneurs to reap very high profits, but the very fact that they did so would being into being the competition that would quickly reduce the level of profits to an equilibrium point. Money would always tend to flow into the most profitable areas in the economy, thus providing the lifeblood of healthy competition with its resultant maximisation of quality and supply and minimisation of price. In a rigged economy, such as we have now, this doesn’t happen. Inefficient industries are propped up, or protected. Industries that we should not have, because of the possibilities of cheaper imports, are maintained by tariffs. Monopolies are institutionalised so that open competition is not allowed, and the consumer is constantly exploited. Free enterprise and the profit motive cop the blame. But they don’t deserve it.

(in order of appearance on
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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