Having covered the most common responses to the question “what is the meaning of your life”, I thought it would be best if I explained my conception of it. As you can tell by the title, my purpose in life is rather controversial. I essentially want to become a capitalist and make as much money as possible. And for that, I want to work towards keeping capitalism as the system whereby society organizes itself. I can imagine Marx rolling in his grave right now. Jokes aside, my rationale for this telos isn’t malignant by any means; in fact, it’s moral: I intend to make as much money as possible so that I can help as many people as possible.
There can be many objections against holding making money as one’s meaning of life. Well, first is the Marxist objection: extracting profits (only possible through surplus labor according to Marx) is immoral. It doesn’t matter what you do with that money, whether you use it to buy yourself a private jet or give it away to starving children in Africa. You should not extract profits in the first place. For extracting profits means you are exploiting someone; you are paying someone less than their worth. You are deceiving them.
A Kantian objection against this telos would be that you are denying the worker—the person whose surplus labor you are using to make a profit—their rational autonomy. Kant said morals should be based upon whether an act respects or denies a person’s autonomy. By lying to the worker regarding the true value of their labor, you are disrespecting their ability to think for themselves, denying their rationality. If the worker is OK with being deceived, then by all means. For then the worker made this decision by own choice, exercising own will, rather than foisting your values upon them.
So the chain becomes something like this: you pay workers less than their worth; you don’t disclose this to them; you, therefore, disrespect their autonomy. That’s immoral. Thus, the profits are morally stained, and you should avoid this at all costs, regardless of whether you donate it or not.
This objection is valid. Of course, the classical repudiation of Marx’s surplus labor enabling profits—that the market value of a product doesn’t arise solely through social labor, but also through innovation value addition via marketing (more common nowadays as people have found ways to make marketing exceptionally effective)—repudiates this objection as well. But, there’s another reason why making money isn’t an immoral act per se., summarized by “the means justify the ends.” That is, donating loads of money to people—the end—is noble enough to offset the immorality involved in profiteering.
Moreover, the workers being exploited (which aren’t in many cases), are living in better standards than those who aren’t even employed or belong to the lower classes in underdeveloped countries. These folks truly have it bad. Therefore, by making money and giving it away to needy people, you are essentially acting as a redistributive machine: redirecting it from the less needy to the needier. This is also essentially what progressive taxation does, and I don’t see anyone up in arms against that. Indeed, even folks who are against social programs tend to support progressive taxation.
And, you are correct if you guessed this is also a utilitarian mission, for it rests on the argument of the greatest well-being of the greatest number of people. The workers you know personally aren’t being given the profits, in the form of stock options or bonuses, let’s say, but rather folks thousands of miles away are being handed over the profits, simply because that money can do more good there. It does not matter if you know those people far afield. All that matters is that they are just as conscious and sentient as any one of your workers and so their suffering, objectively speaking, equals the suffering of anyone you happen to be acquainted with. Making money, therefore, is my meaning of life, for it is the only goal that feels both realistic (pardon my overconfidence) and impactful.