That’s Just a PR Stunt

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.

Last week’s lead story, “Praise Capitalism and Pass the Ammunition,” was very well received by readers and by many of my closest friends and colleagues. And while most of the feedback I received from the article was positive, I did get one interesting comment that I wanted to share with you today.

“Jim, that Ammo, Inc. donation to Ukraine is nothing more than a PR stunt.” 

That is the comment I received from an acquaintance who never fails to send me critical remarks about my work, but who also somehow seems to read just about everything I write. Now, in thinking over his comment, I came to several realizations about the ideas embedded into his criticism. Because you see, the criticism waged here is not only wrong, but it I think it harbors a misunderstanding of the concept of “selfishness.” Let me explain. 

First off, a good act is a good act, regardless of whether there are ancillary benefits to the person taking the action. In fact, I would argue that a “good act” is not one of self-sacrifice, but one that is, in fact, selfish. 

Take, for example, one of my preferred charitable donations, the act of giving blood. I am very regular with my blood donations, going just about every eight weeks to have the blood bank extract my rarest of blood types, AB Negative. This donation helps save lives, as blood banks are constantly in need of all blood types, but especially the rarest types.

This donation also benefits me in a “spiritual” sense, i.e., I feel a sense of moral wellbeing at the kinship with my fellow man I am displaying. I also get the physiological benefit of a reduction in my red blood cell count, which for me tends to run high. A donation every eight weeks keeps my red blood cell count down, and that keeps me from experiencing the negative health consequences associated with an elevated red blood cell count. 

In my case, donating blood is not a “selfless” act. Rather, it’s a “selfish” act that helps me in both body and spirit while also helping my fellow man. And that is the best possible outcome for everyone. 

Your editor engaged in the “selfish” act of doing good for society and for himself.

Think of the converse of this situation. Would the act of donating blood only be “good” if I were to suffer negative health consequences as a result of my donation? Put in philosophic terms, would my donation only be moral if it also was self-sacrificial

My answer is “no,” yet in the history of moral philosophy, I hold a minority opinion. 

Now, back to my acquaintance’s comments on the Ammo, Inc. donation to the Ukrainian people of 1 million rounds of ammunition as being “just a PR stunt,” here we see that he also suffers from what I think is misguided ethics. The philosophic subtext of his commentary suggests that the Ammo, Inc. donation would only be “moral” if the company hadn’t announced to the world that they were doing so. 

Yet the fact that Ammo, Inc. got a PR boost from its donation in no way negates the goodness of the act. In fact, in my opinion, the positive PR generated by the company’s generous and well-placed gift in support of freedom is not only intelligent, but in its own rational self-interest as an entity. It’s also to the benefit of everyone, because the more news of corporate donations to the Ukrainian cause, the more other companies are likely to act in kind. So yes, I consider it a “selfish” act, as it is in Ammo, Inc.’s rational self-interest, as well as in the rest of the world’s self-interest, to combat the forces of an invading army intent on occupying and subjugating free people. 

I think what the world needs more of is people and companies to step up and do “selfish” acts that are in the rational self-interest of us all. By their doing so, everyone wins — and what can be more morally perfect than that? 


On Petals and Blooms 

“Public-relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms.” 

— Alan Harrington

Like good PR agents, we all should be trying to photograph ourselves in the best possible light. That doesn’t mean you should hide reality, but it does mean that you should accentuate your virtues so that the world can see the best within you, and not the less luminous aspects of your character. 

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

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