profit motive

the desire for profit that motivates one to engage in business ventures.

1930–35 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

profit motive definition

The ability to earn profits as the reason for producers to make and sell goods.

Note: The profit motive is often called a great good or a great evil in society. On the one hand, it is said to represent selfishness; on the other, it is said to drive the free market system. (See invisible hand.)
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
If that profit motive didn't exist, we'd have to rely entirely on government
  lawyers, especially in consumer protection suits.
Pharma studies can't be trusted because they have a profit motive.
Our medical system and its profit motive are without empathy.
The short-term profit motive is too strong compared to the long-term view that
  is highly discouraged in private industry nowadays.
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