Profiteering is the pursuit of gain at public expense. It may be by cheating the government, or it may be by robbing developing countries, or by over-charging consumers for medical, food and other necessities. It is particularly prevalent during times of social upheaval when opportunists in all sectors may take any opportunity to take advantage of the uncontrolled situation.
The more notorious profiteers are those who benefit financially from wars, black marketeers and armaments manufacturers. In some views, to these can be added the major oil and pharmaceutical companies, medical, legal, and accounting malpractitioners, some private hospitals, funeral directors and undertakers in rich countries, corrupt government officials, some banks, lending or investing institutions (local or international), landlords and capitalists of all kinds, centrally planned economies that exploit their citizenry, and labour unions who force excessively high wages or profit for workers.
Profiteering is a polemical term that reveals an ignorance of the economics of national and private wealth and the concept of value. The existence, movement, expansion, consumption and replenishment of wealth are essential to profit economies. It is not subject to artificial levellings or controls, as it depends more on nature and human behaviour, the greatest variables of all, than on rational programmes or plans. The excess profits of one period are offset by capital or research investments, or by losses in another period. Only high liquidity provides risk and venture capital and the opportunity for an expanded employment base.