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Posts Tagged ‘social contract’

Alas, despite my new diet, some memes are unavoidable. This new one, with POTUS supposedly dissing businesses, has come at me from all angles. News, Facebook, emails, workplace chitchat…this argument has been carried into my personal sphere by almost every vector available.

Whenever I am faced with a diatribe, I first like to look into the source a little more. Then I like to give it a little think.

By looking into the source, the first thing I found was that, true to form, the anti-POTUS rank has snipped and clipped the video like an Elizabethan coin. They’ve taken the 5 seconds they want, the 5-second sound-bite they could really give a good spin, and tossed the rest. POTUS says: If you have a business…you didn’t build that.

Well, first, that’s not the exact quote, and second, if you back the clip up by just 2-3 seconds, you see that he’s talking about something else. Watch the whole clip and see if you don’t agree. What POTUS is saying is that hey, all these roads and bridges, if you own a business, all that infrastructure? You didn’t build that. But, of course, that doesn’t take a right-hand spin as well, so it was dropped.

So, all the arguments you hear are not about something POTUS meant, but about a segment of the idea he was presenting. Typical.

Second, by listening to the arguments that were made and giving it all a think, it was clear that what all the furor boils down to is a difference in how we perceive the individual.

Some people see individuals as an island, a rock standing up against the world. For these folks, a person who starts a business is solely responsible for its success or failure. Devil take the man who says otherwise, and to Hell with him who tries to chisel away at the financial gains because they sure as hell don’t share in the financial ruin. For these folks, it’s about the money, and that’s an end to it. They put up the money, therefore they get all the glory or all the notoriety. The math is simple.

Others (like myself), see individuals as part of a larger whole, a member of a society. For me, a person who starts a business is the impetus, but shares responsibility for success and failure with employees, regulatory bodies, and whatever customer base the business targets. And there is a different calculus that separates financial gain/loss with social gain/loss. A good business builds both financial gain and social benefit, grows with the help of the relationships it makes, and succeeds or fails depending on the value it provides. The math is complex.

I used to work for a man who, at the beginning of the “mission statement” era, said to us, “Our mission, our purpose here, is to be in business next year. Our goal is to keep us all employed.” He understood that, despite being the man who had the idea, the man who put up the money, we were all part of a team, a team that included his employees and his customers. We were a small society, providing mutual benefit. He recognized that though his financial risk was higher, we all shared in it. Employees trusted that their paychecks would clear, that the benefits would come through when needed, and that the pension funds wouldn’t be raided. He, in turn, trusted in us to do a good job, to work hard, and to give him value for our exchange. We all worked for the combined benefit. For his entrepreneurship, and for his higher risk, he got more of the gains, and none of us begrudged him that gain.

His goal wasn’t to make a pile of money and bail out with a golden parachute. His goal wasn’t to build his portfolio, or do whatever it took to ensure the dividends his investors demanded, even if it meant stripping companies or firing his domestic workforce. His goal was, simply, to provide income for himself and his family, to provide employment for others, and to provide a marketable service for his customers.

He was not working for himself. He was the owner, but he was not working for himself. We were all working together.

He was my Mr. Fezziwig, and I haven’t seen his like since.

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