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  • John Concklin

Nonprofits are the Future of Capitalism

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Capitalism is inevitable. It’s human nature. Resistance is futile. By sheer numbers it’s “the best” economic system, but it also inherently values money over human beings. In the end, when faced with having to choose between the two, it most often chooses money (which is a fabricated, and begrudgingly necessary, concoction, to be frank). To prove it chooses money, see climate change, the housing market, and healthcare, just to name a few. Capitalism is a zero sum game where the entities with the money get +1 and those without get -1. It’s not evil, but it has the potential to be and often is. I know this is an oversimplification of a complex issue. You get the point. This was just an exposition. Don’t @ me.  

But one neat little thing about capitalism is its unintended offspring: the not for profit. Whereas in socialism, not for profits would be more or less government departments, what we have in capitalism are not for profits. But because this was unintended, we have accepted the thinking that came along with it, and it’s time we acknowledge that the term "not for profit" is, at best, self-defeating.

"For Profit" is more accurately labeled as "For (Shareholder) Profit" which, if you don’t think about it much, forces the yin to that yang to to be "Not For (Shareholder) Profit." The problem with the term "Not For (Shareholder) Profit" is that being not for something is inherently weaker than actually being for something.

Since Not For (Shareholder) Profits seek and are often beholden to For (Shareholder) Profits, this means the For (Shareholder) Profits get the +1 (or +2, +3, +10,000; see: Amazon) described above, and Not For (Shareholder) Profits get +.000001, or whatever is tax-beneficial to the For (Shareholder) Profits. We pretend this isn’t a zero sum game, but it is; and we should call it such. But hold on: I’m not saying we take down the corporations completely, I’m emphasizing that in capitalism, and in every economic system, everyone is attempting to make a profit –– the only question is for whom.

If we shift our terminology a little bit, Not For (Shareholder) Profits should simply be "For (Mission) Profits."

Profits for mission implies financial profits, with the financial profits put towards mission rather than shareholders.

Pause: I’m not describing a B-corp. B-corps are still For (Shareholder) Profits, though they purport to have other equal priorities. However, in the end, they are beholden to their shareholders. It’s still a zero sum game.

Play: If we take this one step further, and think about For (Mission) Profits in American capitalistic terms, they actually have one distinct advantage that For (Shareholder) Profits do not. And it’s a big one.

For (Mission) Profits DO NOT PAY TAXES.

The 1% and corporations spend a great deal of money avoiding taxes, and IT’S FEDERAL LAW THAT FOR (MISSION) PROFITS ARE EXEMPT. GTFO.

Just stop and think about the possibilities that opens up.

It’s just a turn of phrase but, given this tax advantage, For (Mission) Profits all of a sudden have the potential to be equally (or more!) profitable than For (Shareholder) Profits. It's just a matter of to whom the profit will flow.

Here, instead of playing a zero sum game that pits money and humans against one another, capitalism and the tax code are used to create instances where both receive +1, equaling 2. God Bless America. There is actually even more here if you want to go deeper, but “Hi, we’re Lauren and John –– would you like to hire us?”

A lot has been written about late-stage capitalism and how we are now over the proverbial cliff. On dark days, I may or may not be prepping for the end of the world. But most days, I’m a believer that For (Mission) Profits are the future of capitalism –– not because there was some kind of revolution and we’re all socialists now. It will be because we did capitalism better than the capitalists did.

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