Tuesday, December 2, 2014

“To Make Money”: The Noble Motive of PennEast Pipeline Company

Ever since the news of the PennEast Pipeline proposal broke, activist groups have sprung up to oppose it. A letter by one such activist titled Sign Nothing appeared in the Hunterdon County Democrat on 9/3/14. The letter basically advises property owners in the path of the proposed pipeline not to sign any documents they receive from the pipeline company asking for access to their property to do surveying work. It’s a delaying tactic adopted by the Sierra Club to hinder the company’s work.

That’s not my complaint. People do have legal and moral rights to their property. My issue is with the reasoning behind to campaign. The letter stated:

You may be asked to enter into easements which will give the company rights to your property, in exchange for a little money. Please remember the gas company’s focus is to make money, so it will try to gain permanent access to part of your property as quickly as possible for that purpose. It’s that simple.

The letter was from Susan Fletcher, and concluded with “To learn more, please email stopthepipe2014@gmail.com.”

I left these comments:

“Please remember the gas company’s focus is to make money. . .”

The context surrounding that statement indicates that the author considers money-making to be some lowly, ignoble activity. But what does it mean to “make money?”

To make money means to produce a valuable product that others value and are willing to pay you for. That requires productive work, which is rooted in virtues like intelligence, rationality, self-motivation, self-discipline, skills and abilities, teamwork, and pride. Money facilitates trade; the mutually beneficial exchange of value for value.

Man’s means of surviving and thriving relies on productive work, or reason-guided physical labor. Money-making embodies the values and activities that advance and support human life. Money-making is what every honorable person—from the janitor to the CEO—engages in when he goes to work to support his life. Penn-East’s pipeline, for example, will supply the natural gas that will heat their customers’ homes, cook their food, and generate the electricity that energizes their homes. For that value, their customers will willingly pay and, if Penn-East is successful, the company will make money. Trade. Win-win. Economic value, yes. But it’s more. What can be more morally noble than to “make money”?

I mention this because Susan Fletcher’s implied derogation of Penn-East’s money-making motive tells us something about the premises motivating Penn-East’s opponents. Opponents of the pipeline have offered no objectively valid reason to stop it. So Penn-East’s money-making motive is offered up as a free-standing reason not to allow the company’s employees onto one’s property, requiring no further justification, apparently believing that the ignominy of money-making is self-evident.

But what should be self-evident is the life-promoting value of money-making. The driving motive behind money-making is human benefaction—the producer’s own benefit and, by the nature of trade, the benefit of others. If money-making is a pro-life activity, what, then, does Fletcher’s statement say about the motives of “stopthepipe2014” and other opponents of the pipeline?

The issue is that simple.

[See my recent HCD letter, The rights of fossil fuel producers, on this subject.]

Related Reading:

Money vs. Wealth: Which is the Cart, and Which is the Horse? Ask Gilligan

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