Clean Business

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Clean Business  (1919) 
by Frank Crane
From Four Minute Essays, Volume 5

Better than big business is clean business. To an honest man the most satisfactory reflection after he has amassed his dollars is not that they are many but that they are all clean. What constitutes clean business? The answer is obvious enough, but the ob-vious needs restating every once in a while. A clean profit is one that has also made a profit for the other fellow. This is fundamental moral axiom in business. Any gain that arises from another's loss is dirty. Any business whose prosperity depends upon damage to any other business is a menace to the general welfare. That is why gambling, direct or indirect, is criminal, why lotteries are prohibited by law, and why even gambling slot-machine devices are not tolerated in civilized countries. When a farmer sells a housekeeper a barrel of apples, when a milkman sells her a quart of milk, or the butcher a pound of steak, or the dry-goods man a yard of muslin, the housekeeper is benefited quite as much as those who get her money. That is the type of honest, clean business, the kind that helps everybody and hurts nobody. Of course as business becomes more complicated it grows more difficult to tell so clearly whether both sides are equally pros-pered. No principle is automatic. It requires sense, judgment, and conscience to keep clean; but it can be done, nevertheless, if one is determined to maintain his self-respect. A man that makes a habit, every deal he goes into, of asking himself, "What is there in it for the other fellow?" and who refuses to enter into any transaction where his own gain will mean disaster to some one else, cannot go for wrong. And no matter how many memorial churches he builds, nor how much he gives to charity, or how many monuments he erects in his native town, any man who has made his money by ruining other people is not entitled to be called decent. A factory where many workmen are giv-en employment, paid living wages, and where health and life are conserved, is doing more real good in the world than ten eleemosynary insitutions. The only really chairtable dollar is the clean dollar. And the nasty dollar, wrung from wronged workmen or gotten by unfair methods from competitors, is never nastier than when it pretends to serve the Lord by being given to the poor, to education, or to religion. In the long run all such dollars tend to corrupt and disrupt society. Of all vile money, that which is the most unspeakably vile is the money spent for war; for war is conceived by the blundering ignorance and selfishness of rulers, is fanned to flame by the very lowest passions of humanity, and prostitutes the highest ideal of men----zeal for the common good----to the business of killing human beings and de-stroying the results of their collective work.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1928, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.