CHAPTER 3Why Profit Is Not a Purpose

To have no set purpose in one's life is harlotry of the will.

—Stephen MacKenna, journalist, linguist, and writer

In 2007, Volkswagen's new CEO, Martin Winterkorn, embarked on the Strategie 2018 with the stated goal to bypass General Motors and Toyota by the year 2018. He succeeded. Sort of.

Volkswagen passed Toyota in sales in 2015 to become the world's largest automaker three years ahead of Winterkorn's target. The year 2015 was also when Winterkorn was forced to resign after it was revealed that his team programmed millions of vehicles to provide false readings during emissions testing.


Headlines chronicling bad behavior abound. From Purdue Pharma and Theranos misleading patients to Goldman Sachs calling their clients Muppets on internal e‐mails, corporate scandals are not new. During the COVID crisis, it was quickly apparent which firms prioritized their employees and customers, and which firms took a more transactional approach, prioritizing their profit above all else.

In Chapter 2, you read about the high cost of Wells Fargo's ethical issues. It would be easy to paint the employees of Wells Fargo and the other transactional firms with the broad brush of greed and self‐interest. I'm going to take a counter‐stance and suggest that the majority of these firms are staffed with well‐intentoned people who are simply trying to provide for their families and do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Their leadership pointed them ...

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