Willy Wonka - Predator or producer?


(Source: Getty)
Speaking at the Google Big Tent today, Ed Miliband will label Willy Wonka as an example of a capitalist while discussing what he considers "irresponsible capitalism" versus "responsible capitalism".
Miliband considers "responsible capitalism" to be about "equal society, power is in the hands of the many and where we recognise our responsibilities to each other".
Now while Miliband won't pin down which category Wonka falls into, it seems pretty clear that he wouldn't meet these criteria. Forbes puts the net wealth of the fictional candy producer at around $1.9bn while his staff of Oompa-Loompas are paid in relatively inexpensive cacao beans.
But despite that, Wonka has empowered his staff (at least if you buy into his account of how the Oompa-Loompas came to work at the factory). In their homeland, Loompaland, they were attacked by Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers and Snozzwangers. Whangdooles reportedly ate ten Oompa-Loompas for breakfast.
At the factory, staff were free of these dangers, paid in the cacao beans they highly prized (and which were scarce in Loompaland) while being able to engage in the mischievous practical jokes and singing routines they so enjoyed.
The riches gained by Wonka as a result of the work of these staff does not make the Oompa-Loompas worse off. Their quality of life has been greatly improved as a result. They voluntarily went with Wonka, knowing it would be to their benefit, and both parties have benefitted.
That mutual exchange makes both parties better off is fairly obvious. There is no reason to give up your labour to another unless you feel that your labour is worth less than what you receive in return, and vice versa.
As Adam Smith said, "it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest". We don't need Willy Wonka to care about Miliband's values to make workers better off.
In order to make real-life workers better off, we should ignore the cries of politicians like Miliband who want to re-engineer the functions of business. We should value entrepreneurs because they provide goods and services that we can enjoy and the jobs they create, not for the tax that they pay.