Long before credentialing became a recognized economic profit center (a non-productivity-based benefit for those who persuade government to license their own activity while preventing competition from the - ugh - unregulated) there were all sorts of activities which were profitable to their practitioners on the basis of supply and demand and value received.
Think back to our Ice Age ancestors, some of whom made a living by bringing home venison chunks or fish steaks, both of which activities are now practiced as much (or more) for expensive fun as for survival and profit, and, of course, are now permitted by government only when a credential is issued.
Over the years, taxi drivers and architects, hairdressers and attorneys, landscapers and doctors, have all used credentialing for their guild members' own economic benefit, while declaring piously, of course, that it's all for the public good. In the once-famous Bogart movie, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the remembered line comes from the bandits posing as State Police who, when asked to display their badges, replied with the "we don't need to show you no stinkin' badges" line while seeking to enforce their brand of taxation (profit-sharing, if you prefer) by pretension to governmental lethal force. Sixty-three years later, the prevalence of credentialing, badges, and regulation is a lot more accepted and visible, while the now-deemed-archaic-and-unworthy pursuit of profit (or payback, if you disdain the original P-word) is a lot less so.
Minor case in point: the new effort by Vermont's Golden-Domers to tax e-bookseller Amazon, not because it would raise government revenues noticeably (its sponsors concede that point), but because it would advance regulatory reach and the pursuit of "fairness." The notion of achieving re-distributive fairness by removing the sales tax on in-state book vendors wasn't even contemplated - maybe the Golden Domers aren't as dismissive of income as they pretend.
There's a pair of major cases-in-point as well, and they have a mutually shared (a little sensitivity lingo, there) commonality of interest: one is the environmentalist fascination with green roofs and energy conservation, and the other is the suburbanite fascination with grow-your-own and farmers' markets. The former is mostly advocated for large-scale, flat-roof big-box construction of retail, industrial, commercial, or academic purpose, and has long been argued on energy-cost-reduction (payback) grounds; the latter is mostly advocated for small-scale growers (indeed, in some circles it's called the lawns-to-gardens movement) and has long been argued on environmental-purity, product-quality and local-loyalty grounds. Indeed, its enthusiasts generally concede the economic profitability grounds (except for that barely 20 percent of the consumer market which cheerfully pays top price for organic green beans) to the more cost-effective large-scale growers and retailers.
Now, it turns out, the green-roofs argument is shifting away from payback in any economic sense of return-on-investment and towards the same sets of supposedly higher-morality objectives long identified by the local-vore argument. I heard the more polite version of "we don't need to show you no stinkin' payback" argument while attending a recent week-long series of engineering-related seminars at the Baltimore Convention Center, itself the marginally profitable municipal investment counterpart to the more expensive (but mostly federally-funded) harbor re-development, which has gentrified a one-time wharves-and-slums water-front with such esthetic attractions as the USS Constellation (historical and unprofitable) and the Hooters' restaurant concession (uplifting and profitable).
At the green-roofs/vertical-gardens classes, the instructor emphasis once aimed at payback-calculations based on energy-use reductions was now aimed at the intangibles of reducing the carbon footprint and using the architecture to convey a suitably enviro-sensitive owner image.
It was a long-awaited concession that green-roof construction is substantially more structural demanding (and therefore expensive) than non-green-roof construction, and that growing foodstuffs on a raised acre where hand-labor-replacing tractors and implements can't be used is going to be a lot more labor-intensive and therefore a lot lower on the output-productivity scale than growing them on - guess what - plain old farmland.
The productivity of such roofs and gardens (payback, if you prefer) question was never even raised by any of the instructors. In the brave new world beyond economic necessity, image and perception are scored more highly than profit and payback. A key element of that is the derisive rejection of any real-payback question with some variation on the old Oscar Wilde quote: "your question, sir, identifies you as one of those lesser beings who know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
Sort of like the Vermont-Progressive pleasure in the prospect of taxing Amazon: not because it would generate economic payback to government but because it would meet more noble, if more intangible, non-economic, goals. Maybe, like hunting for sport instead of survival, such objective changes reflect a more prosperous society, which, of course, was made that way by earlier generations which actually created tangible wealth, made a profit doing so, and - a little generational irony here - created the trust funds spinning off the monthly checks for which their non-wealth-creating grandchildren now farm their mailboxes (the really high-tech ones are on direct deposit via electronic transfer).