To many people, no current slogan is more self-evident than “people before profit.” For the ninth time, I saw this repeated a few days ago in a benevolent attack on social media freedom: “How Social Media Platforms Put Profits Before People,” financial bar, July 28, 2022). I suggest that there are few mantras as simple or non-sensical.
Profits go to humans, not animals or gods. So the slogan can only mean “some people before some people” and it has to explain why redistribution or discrimination is better than anyone else in imagining or intuiting the possible infinity. A priori, it makes no more sense to say “people before profit” than “profit before people”.
In contrast, classical liberalism and libertarianism aim at no discrimination between individuals. If the concept had to be reduced to a slogan, it would be something like “there is no person before a set of people” or, more precisely, no person before another person because a set can only have one element. Statements must be taken as invitations official Equality of all persons (equal rights, equal freedom) is the reason material Equality would require constant redistributive interventions and thus, a violation of formal equality for those who find themselves on the wrong side of the wicket. This idea can be found in the writings of all modern (classical) liberals, perhaps most notably FA Hayek and Robert Nozick.
Incidentally, the profit Only the form of remuneration goes Remaining claimants, who get whatever is left of the enterprise after everyone else is paid, whether the residual or the bottom line is positive (profit proper) or negative (loss). It must be distinguished from executive remuneration. Crony capitalism and “state capitalism” work differently.
Mentioning liberal solutions certainly does not solve all problems. One problem is that individuals who violate the basic requirements of life in a free society (unprovoked violence being the obvious case) can and should be punished. In a sense, these criminals are discriminated against, but the rule of law will ensure that they know in advance what is prohibited. Not all problems are solved but we are intellectually on the way to a liberal society.