Following the Democratic National Convention in September 2012, a Human Events headline urged, “Let’s Ban Corporate Profits.”

What an amazing statement!

Have we finally reached the point where the idea of making a “profit” is no longer acceptable to a large segment of the American population? Especially young people, many of whom have little or no work experience and simply don’t understand the concept.

An article by David Harsanyi in September 2012 made the following observation about profit: “At the Democratic National Convention, where one speaker after the next swears they love free enterprise, delegates and attendees (maybe some media, who knows?) were asked by Peter Schiff, posing as an anti-corporate activist, if they would support capping or banning corporate profit. … Well, there seems to be plenty of enthusiasm for the idea in Charlotte this week — and not from the fringe. ‘We deliberately avoided speaking with the Occupy protesters camping outside in tents to get a more ‘mainstream’ Democratic perspective.’”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “profit” as:

» A valuable return: gain

» The excess of returns over expenditure in a transaction or series of transactions, especially the excess of the selling price of goods over their cost

» Net income usually for a given period of time

» The ratio of profit for a given year to the amount of capital invested or to the value of sales

» The compensation accruing to entrepreneurs for the assumption of risk in business enterprise as distinguished from wages or rent

Here are some examples of how the word profit is used:

» The company made a profit this year.

» Profits are up from last year.

» There was a rise in profits this year.

» The profits from CD sales were donated to charity.

» The organization is not run for profit.

» The film made $1 million in profit.

» The book can be read with profit by anyone who wants to understand how the system works.

Synonyms for profit: earnings, gain, lucre, net, payoff, proceeds and return.

The generally accepted definition of “profit” as “the excess of returns over expenditure in a transaction or series of transactions” seems like a pretty simple concept to me, yet an increasing percentage of Americans, especially the young, appear to have no idea what it means.

We have witnessed young people demonstrating to eliminate “corporate profits,” without having the slightest idea what that means.

How is it possible to “ban profits” without eliminating the enterprise itself? Somehow that concept seems to escape the understanding of those who are against “profit.”

They seem to think that the government can give them anything they want without knowing how and where the money comes from, simply by waving the “magic wand” of wanting something. You want it, ergo you got it, appears to be their motto.

It’s not that they are stupid, but they are ignorant.

What they don’t understand is that without the incentive of earning a profit, no one would be willing to risk their capital or invest their time in establishing and operating any sort of business enterprise.

Without a doubt, there are many young people who understand the need to work, but far too many of them appear to be completely clueless about why it’s necessary to work and somehow think it’s possible to simply have the goodies they want handed to them by a benevolent society.

I’m not sure who to blame for this sad state of affairs. Like most of the elderly, I have worked all of my adult life, starting around age 13. I chose a career that required long hours, often 60 hours a week or more. And I worked for profit — mine and that of those around me — without ever giving it a thought. I “retired” almost 20 years ago, at age 65, but continued to work part-time as a consultant and advisor until recently.

My conclusion is that the attitude of those young people who expect something for nothing is due to a combination of the failure of our education system and parents who don’t see the need to make their children work for their “goodies.”

In short, I guess you can color me old-fashioned.

— Harris Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.