Doing Good & Doing Well

I have a friend who complained that the CEO of Good Will Industries made about $300,000 last year running a charity.  She became really miffed when I suggested that the CEO of Good Will was not overpaid, but rather underpaid.

She griped, “Look – he takes our donated stuff, sells it to the poor, and makes a fortune!  He’s getting rich off of our generosity and their poverty!  What kind of charity is that?”

I replied, “Think about it – this fellow takes the stuff we sell at garage sales and sells it to the poor at garage-sale prices, then takes the proceeds to help about 10,000 distressed people per year get job training and find jobs.  You have a problem with this?

“After all, the fellow who owns and operates the video game ‘Grand Larceny III’ made about $5,000,000 last year.  He sells a video game that teaches teenage boys how to steal cars, assault women, and spray sidewalks with machine gun fire.

“One fellow makes $300,000/yr. helping the handicapped, the other fellow makes $5,000,000/yr. teaching our kids how to be felons, and we complain about the do-gooder?  This is totally upside down!  The rewards should be exactly the opposite!”

What is so wrong about doing good and doing well?  If we rewarded “doing good” with a competitive comp package, we would see many, many more people entering the humanitarian market, so to speak.  But, for some reason, we think do-gooders should be paid poorly; it is “unethical”, apparently, if people who fight fires or nurse the sick are paid more than a livable wage.  That is the only reason I can think of that would explain my friend’s reaction to the CEO of Good Will: if you happen to make money doing good, it’s time to break out the tar and feathers.

We want people to do good, but do we really expect them to take a vow of poverty to do it?  It seems that it is okay, even laudable, that Entrepreneur-Boy makes a few million bucks fraking a state park to death in search of oil, but pay someone well who takes care of the park so that we can enjoy it and we think we are getting screwed.  We have this totally backwards.


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