October 13, 2005

Friends and Money

The division between business and friendship is one of modern times and represents the very worst of our western cravings for wealth. The notion that market forces can generate the best outcome for everyone is an old and tired dogma that overlooks the humanity of our societies and will ultimately divide nations into rich and poor.

There is one concept that pops it's head up in my life again and again and again. western cultures have adopted in recent decades the notion that business life and personal life are separate entities and require different moral codes. This has resulted in the notion that you shouldnt do business with friends, and conversely that anything goes so long as you make a profit - "It's just good business", or "It's not personal, it's just business".

This is a great fallacy that leads to a dangerous undermining of social standards. If economic goals are the only determining factor in government policy then you reap community dysfunction on a grand scale. Rational economics and 'market forces' do not deliver good health care, quality education, or equality of employment. They merely serve to concentrate wealth into the hands of those who already have it. Conversely, the notion that factoring-in a social dimension into government policy is 'socialistic' and flawed is misguided and harmful. There are countries that have perservered with social equality, welfare assistance and employment protection policies. These are typically wealthy countries from northern europe who enjoy higher standards of living, healthier lifestyles and extremly good education.

Morality, ethics and social responsiblity should never be divorced from capitalism. It's a gross error that has been perpetrated on the unwitting masses. Removing social conscience from capitalism is like removing compassion from Buddhism. Making a dollar isn't wrong, but making profit unfairly and PURELY FOR THE SAKE OF IT is shallow, corrupting and soul destroying. We have become so fixated on financial success in western cultures that we have forgotten our heritage and hearth. There was a time when success was owning a home to live in - now it's about owning lots of homes to add to our portfolio.

Let's think about that. If everyone could own their own home then no one would need to own lots of homes would they? It's not easy to utilise more than one home, except for a holiday beach house or cottage in the mountains. But if one person owns ten homes, that means nine other families who rent those homes are in a less fortunate
situation. It turns out that investment properties also raise the overall value of homes, making it a little harder for those same nine families to buy their way out of renting. This is the thin edge of the wedge. The continuing divide between the haves and have nots is like an ugly scar that cuts deep into the body of the nation.

So if you want to be a Zen property developer i might suggest you find a way to make money while helping lower income earners enter the housing market - and make sure you like them because it's better to have a friend than just a client.

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