Sunday, February 21, 2010

Value and War

In the spirit of free thought, I want to discuss a controversial subject. Many times, certain subjects which require mature examination do not get the analysis they deserve. As a society, we tend to grab ahold of generalized judgments in lieu of thinking for ourselves, especially were much thought has already been done. René Decartes is said to have written his treatise on human emotions "as if no one had written on these matters before." However, it is vital to the free thinking man or woman to examine difficult ethical dilemmas from an objective standpoint, even if a heart-felt response ultimately is deemed proper.

It came to me to ask the question, what is wrong with war profiteering? Actually, the term "war profiteering" is by definition, wrong. The phrase embodies the concept of abusing power as the result of limited commodities and limited competition over who is providing those commodities. In effect, it constitutes theft from an already overwrought people. That is why it is wrong.

However, several things get conveniently labeled "war profiteering" which may not be wrong. Basically, free nations produce goods through private enterprise. This means that the munitions, rations, clothing, and other supplies are often manufactured privately and sold to the military at a profit. This is not, inherently, "war profiteering." It is merely profit made in a time of war. If a nation (or alliance of nations) is fighting for freedom against foreign oppressors such as Nazi Germany in WWII, then it makes little sense for any nation to strip its own citizens of business freedoms. Those entrepreneurs have more at stake than most if the freedom of the nation disappears—be it from without or within.

What does create a problem is when a dishonest third-party shows up on the scene to take advantage of the situation. As with Oskar Schindler in "Schindler's List." Schindler acquires an enamelware factory in Poland after the German invasion, staffing it with Jewish workers, who represent free labor. Based on a true story, he made a lot of profit on the business, but ultimately began helping the Jewish people escape the death camps through employment at his shop. In a famous scene, Schindler lamented that he could have found more money to save more lives. The profits he extracted ultimately served the higher purpose of saving nearly 1200 lives.

We need not forget the power of the most horrific events to warm even the coldest heart. To assume that such profits never produce guilt even when guilt is deserved is to disregard the moveable heart of man. To be sure, one can avoid seeing the results of his work, but can anyone truly avoid knowing the results of his work? Is it possible at all to profit in ignorance of the end results? I think not.

"Schindler's List" - The true story of a Nazi business man turned hero.

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