Speaking of movie scripts, Aaron Haspel has a nice disection of how Hollywood protrays the business world.

The anti-business movies deal overwhelmingly with schlock purveyors: yellow journalists (Citizen Kane), swampland peddlers (Glengarry Glen Ross), penny stock hustlers (Boiler Room), shady aluminum siding salesmen (Tin Men), and out-and-out gangsters (The Godfather). It's a Wonderful Life gestures half-heartedly toward the notion of quality as good business, as in the scene where Mr. Potter's rental agent lectures him on how all the nice houses in Bailey Park are killing his real estate business. But mostly it's more people vs. profits hoo-rah.

In a "pro-business" movie like Executive Suite, our hero, William Holden, is the research chief for the furniture company, and in his big speech, as he ascends to the chairmanship, he tells the board that the company will never sacrifice quality, profits be damned. That it might actually be more profitable to manufacture good furniture does not cross the screenwriter's mind.

Incidentally, if I ever hear an executive of a company I own stock in say "profits be damned", I'm going to immediately sell.

Most people don't understand capitalism, and think profits are evil. The root of the misunderstanding is that many people want companies to be "nice", but companies don't exist to benefit humanity any more than you as an individual do. Companies consist solely of the assets of people who have invested (shareholders), and those people expect their money to be used for their own benefit, just like you expect your money to be used for your benefit. As Neal Stephenson hammers home in his excellent
Cryptonomicon, people who invest in corporations are interested in one thing: increasing shareholder value. Every corporate executive should realize that increasing shareholder value is the only moral use of company assets.

Individuals should be charitable and generous with their own money, but no one has any business giving away money that belongs to other people.

Update:
Plus, the very existence of profit (absent monopolies and other market distortions (which are never entirely absent)) demonstrates that a company is providing a beneficial service to its customers as well as it's shareholders. As I explained here, trading in a free market is generally profitable for both parties -- otherwise one of the parties would refuse the trade. The economy isn't a zero-sum game; wealth is created through trading by redistributing resources to those who value them most.

Update:
Director Mitch notes that there just aren't any good bad guys left. But there's always someone richer than you to be jealous of!

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