If you have never been in business for yourself, you may not understand the peculiar affection of the lone entrepreneur for money. Granted, all of us, as customers, have had our own tender and protective feelings about our money at times, or perhaps constantly; but this is not what I mean. Those of us who are employees also have a special appreciation of money, in the form of paychecks, and we may even associate it with inner worth, power and other sexy things; but this too is not the same.
To the entrepreneur, money is more than a barricade against poverty, or a means of purchasing necessities or luxuries, or a symbol of success. It is a measure of all the things that make his or her business prosper: hard work, productivity, good decisions, luck, good relationships with associates, inventiveness and ability, to name a few. The person with a small shop has an intimate and detailed appreciation of the money that flows through that shop: where it comes from and why, how it functions, and how to record and analyze those functions. You could try to epitomize all this and say that the entrepreneur loves money, and you would be correct in a sense, but you might be conveying a false stereotype, because his or her relationship to money is much more complex than that of the miser, gambler or spendthrift, who also love money.
Money has become a sensitive subject in this age of big business and commercialism, so present-day entrepreneurs tend to hide their feelings about it in public. There are too many people around who call it filthy lucre, the root of all evil. In earlier periods of history, however, entrepreneurs were not at all reticent. One successful businessman of Pompeii about 50 A.D. had inscribed in his floor, probably in mosaic:
LUCRUM GANDIUM (Profit is joy)
He was not the only one. Another had this inscription in his floor:
SALVE LUCRUM (Hail, Profit!)1
Centuries later, when the New World was being explored and the Commercial Revolution was well underway, a European merchant named Ympyn (real name, no joke) wrote piously in his account book,
May God our merciful Saviour vouchsafe me Grace to make a profit and preserve me from all bad fortune 2
That prayer is as good today as the day it was written. If religion does not go out of fashion, it should be still useful a couple of centuries from now.
It is hard to find recent expressions that can match these three in sincerity and directness. As early as 1850, when Arthur Hugh Clough's little poem was published, a certain self-consciousness had crept in. But then, he was not in business:
They may talk as they please about what they call pelf, And how one ought never to think of one's self, And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking.
My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.
How could there be anything wrong with a sentiment so guilelessly expressed? Still, he felt it necessary to start out by acknowledging that he differed from the majority.
The Beatles, as twentieth century songwriters and performers, have spoken for the generation of the 1960's and 70's on matters both subtle and significant. As leaders of the counterculture movement who are also entrepreneurs, however, they have been ambivalent about money and profit. Even their best song celebrating love of money comes out sounding humorous, and they are better known for one of their early songs, "All You Need is Love."
Even if today's climate of opinion discourages expression of the joys of enterprise, independent craftsmen and conservators can be proud of the fact that they are making their own way and providing a service where before there was none. They should also be proud that they are part of a commercial as well as a craft and professional tradition. But if they want contemporary inspirational literature, they may have to make do with songs and poems originally written as satire, and simply ignore the derogatory implications. Here is one (to the tune of "God Bless America"):
God bless Free Enterprise,
Stand beside her and guide her,
Just as long as the profits are mine.
Good old Wall Street,
May she prosper;
May they grow;
God bless Free Enterprise,
The status quo.
1 Will Durant, Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944.
2 From a history of accounting practice, reference not available. Year of quotation is 1543.