The Problem of Profit: Circulatory metaphor stated

As a small disclaimer, I’ve received one response to this idea already and would like to dismiss it out of hand: I am at base a capitalist. I believe in the free market with some important exceptions, and my base struggle here is to balance that belief with an underlying assumption in the equality of men, which is a democratic–not a communist–viewpoint. I sympathize with Marx in that our current capitalism seems to be bleeding itself dry, but I do not believe the rhetoric that a perfect society will one day inevitably replace what we have: no generation supercedes the last in those matters truly human, and inequal power distributions and massive ignorance are among those truly human matters. What I do mean to say here is that our system is broken, has been for a long time, and I offer this metaphor to propose at least one solution.


Capillaries are so small as not to be seen by the unaided eye. Therefore, the best European science use to believe, as ridiculous as it seems today, that blood did not circulate through our bodies but was constantly generated and discarded. It wasn’t until William Harvey came along and in his book On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals offered several obvious but previously unseen arguments about how difficult it would be for a body to maintain a non-circulatory blood supply including food intake and waste based on the amount of blood pumped by the heart per pump. Harvey may not have know what capillaries were, but he proved that blood must circulate, which lead to their discovery. This book singlehandedly initiated the controversy about looking at the human body as a machine instead of as a mystery, from which comes all of modern biology (most true to this tradition neuro-psychology). Regardless of the metaphysical implications of such a view, the outcome of modern medicine itself encourages the pragmatism of such a system.

A few hundred years later and in the same spirit, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations served a similar role by replacing general mysticism about what wealth is and from whence it comes. Like blood cells, every dollar has an orgination point and follows a measurable path to a knowable destination. Adam Smith may not have known what I refer to as the problem of profit, but he did know that some abuse would occur once a system of the circulation of wealth was known, and so he listed some duties to which the people should hold their sovereign. Sovereigns’ general failure to maintain these guidelines because of power’s loyalty to laissez faire has in general lead to the Marxist theory of capitalism–that capitalism holds within itself the seeds of its destruction–and the peoples’ desire to maintain Smith’s duties of the sovereign has in some places inspired socialist movements.

Despite the dollar’s basic adherence to the law of conservation and the hundreds of years since the establishment of a system of economy, Americans continue to treat wealth as if it were a part of impregnable Fortune, and this is more true the lower the monetary class of the individual in question. But I liken the American economy and Smith’s wealth-circulation application therein to describing a patients’ bleeding to death in terms of Harvey’s system of blood-circulation. Harvey describes a closed and efficient system, and modern science makes up for this error by explaining why some blood is lost and where new blood comes from such that it remains essentially a closed system. But the circulatory system becomes open when wounded, sometimes losing blood at a rate faster than it can replace the loss. These situations can prove fatal, and this is exactly the situation of the American economy.

Profit is one means by which the closed system of the American economy is compromised. Importation and out-sourcing are other wounds, but these are mostly managable by law and extremely small compared to the problem of profit. The American economy exists within a system of world economies, and importation and out-sourcing are means by which these economies interact with each other. Profit, however, is the means by which wealth is removed from circulation within a system. Therefore, importation and out-sourcing can be seen as blood donations, basically useful and on occasion beneficial to both parties, whereas profit is a bruise, a self-inflicted wound in which all material is lost and from which no benefit can be derived.


Follow-up posts will include why profit-money can be considered as having left the system and a rebuttal to the argument of incentive.



Filed under Criticism, Humanistic

3 responses to “The Problem of Profit: Circulatory metaphor stated

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on the 99%: A little narrative about overthrow | NQOKD

  2. Ben

    Profit is reinvested as capital you dumbass. You spoiled a wonderful metaphor.

    • gregfreed

      Thanks for welcoming me to the internet with your unnecessarily harsh language. I’ll just prioritize “wonderful metaphor” above “spoiled” and “dumbass” and deem you worth a response.

      I stipulate that the metaphor would hold, given some tweaking, in the case of reinvested capital. Blood lost in a bruise is reabsorbed back into the body over the course of the healing process and remains as vital as the rest of the blood in your stream. Not all capital is reinvested, though; some is hoarded, some exported, and so on.

      Take, for example, Apple’s cash-on-hand, reported at $159 billion this April by the New York Times. Journalists and business people are speculating about what Apple might do with that cash, but rather than invest it in their or another business, they’ve actually sold bonds and raised yet more money, though quick research didn’t show why they were amassing this; perhaps for a stock buyback. In the meantime, their $159 billion is sitting in a bank, waiting to be divested, invested, whatever.

      And surely it will be; surely it will go back into the company or into shareholders’ pockets, etc. But in the meantime it’s just sitting there, potential, like a bruise.

      Also, just because in its natural state a circulatory system is closed doesn’t mean it can’t by some means be opened. Just because in our economy’s natural state “profit is reinvested as capital” doesn’t mean that that circulatory system can’t be opened and syphoned, either for transfusion or sometimes for death. Economies have died before, and being ideas, they won’t naturally die of of old age. Breakage in circulation must happen to cause massive systemic failure, and history has proven that such breakage is possible.

      Current events might suggest so, too: given this metaphor, the delta of our wealth inequality might look something like a headrush. If allowed to go on long enough, such a status might lead to a headache and later perhaps to cardiac arrest or stroke.

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