What struck me first is just how commonplace the building was. One of the Google offices, renowned for futuristic working spaces, was a red brick building just a few stories high with one elevator and a five-minute wait to get on. Once up, I understood the reputation: a coffee shop inside, a buffet reminiscent of an all-inclusive resort, private buses with WiFi and refreshments that shuttled employees to and from the office, and an overall aesthetic that was antithetical to the stereotypical cubicle maze.
Many other companies look to the tech industry to emulate their working environment. A company in my college had slides going between floors, movie-themed buildings, and a lunch buffet with a professional chef. These companies are supposedly what corporations look like when they put employees over profit. And yet the opposite reality sits behind Google’s decisions. Where many consider the profit motive as the selfishness of company execs trampliing over employees, it is in reality the reason for Google’s famous benefits.
Beginning with the shuttle, San Francisco is not known for cheap housing prices. On average, a simple, empty acre of land can cost well over a million dollars. As such, a simple flat parking lot with just a few hundred parking spaces would cost millions with each parking spot coming in at tens of thousands of dollars. In reality, it is simply cheaper for Google to shuttle their employees to and from work free of charge. Throw WiFi onto the bus and not only does Google save money in place of parking spots but it can eke out some productive work in the process. It’s a monetary win-win.
Regarding the buffet, similar calculations are at work. Their food is exquisite so let’s over-assume a high value of $40 a person—a fine meal considering a decent sandwich at some local cafe might be $10. Conversely, an entry-level software engineer at Google can make up to $189,000 a year; that makes for approximately $95 an hour. If they can keep most of their employees in the building during lunch, thereby naturally shrinking time spent on break, the company again saves inordinate amounts of money, despite seemingly spending it on their employees.
I won’t go so far as Ayn Rand to say that selfishness is the only moral basis for decisions but the polar opposite, that a selfishly motivated choice inherently harms others, is equally as naive. In many cases, a selfish drive like the profit motive works to both the consumer’s and producer’s benefit. If a company wants to make money, it is incumbent upon them to provide the consumer with the best product possible. It might benefit them to provide luxurious working conditions to their employees. They will give large salaries to attract the best workers. In each of these cases, a desire for profit creates positive results despite the admittedly selfish basis.
The profit motive isn’t an inherent good but it doesn’t deserve the negative connotation it currently has. It got me a plate of professionally prepared food, a top-notch cup of coffee, and a beautiful view of the bay. If that makes Google money, please let them make more.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.