Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Size Matters or
The Ultimate James Bond Villains

I was at coffee shop recently (there is no need to mention the name), and as I was waiting for my cup of sweet mocha goodness, I decided to read the plaques on the wall, which contained the establishment's mission statement. The statement read that the mission of the company was to establish themselves as "the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world..." This disturbed me slightly at the time, and as I thought about it, I realized that most big businesses probably have a similar phrase in their mission statement somewhere. The whole idea that you should want your company to be the biggest and most prolific in the whole world smacks a bit of megalomania and a slightly warped perspective on life. I imagine James Bond in Dr. No responding to the mission statement of the titular villain: "World domination," says Bond. "The same old dream. Our asylums are full of people who think they're Naploeon. Or God."

But, you may ask, what's wrong with wanting to succeed in business? Is there something inherently villainous about enterprise or ambition? Of course there's nothing wrong with wanting to be successful. But before we take that and run with it, we need to ask ourselves just what we mean by success. In today's world success in business can be measured by how many stores you own or where you end up at the end of the day in the stock market, or how many countries you infest with your branded logo.

But what if we had a very different view of business? What if instead of exerting all our efforts to run our neighbor out of business, we simply minded our own business (perhaps an application fo the golden rule)? I would like to propose as a measure of success in business that you have a home with food and enough to provide for your family; your employees have the same; and the people that come to you for your goods/services go away pleased.

The aforementioned coffee shop also had a sign proclaiming that they offered the same genuinely local experience in all of their shops. My answer is that if the experience is the same in every shop, then it's not a local experience at all; it is a universal experience. If you really are patriotic about your town, why not open a coffee shop to serve the people in your area, and try to be the "the premier purveyor of the finest coffee on 5th street," or "the best food in the Fort Hill District"? You can spend your time providing for yourself and family, providing for your employees, and serving the same local people that you come to know and see everyday. If you're well provided for and your employees are as well, what more can you want? Size does matter, but not in the way we think it does. A wise man *coughgkchestertoncough* once said that a true patriot never boasts about how large his country is but how small.

In summary, I'll quote Chesterton once more as he reminisces in his autobiography about the way his father did business, which incidentally is also the way he thinks business should be done:

"Anyhow, what I mean here is that my people belonged to that rather old-fashioned English middle class; in which a business man was still permitted to mind his own business. They had been granted no glimpse of our later and loftier vision, of that more advanced and adventurous conception of commerce, in which a business man is supposed to rival, ruin, destroy, absorb and swallow up everybody else's business. My father...took it for granted that all sane people believed in private property; but he did not trouble to translate it into private enterprise. His people were of the sort that were always sufficiently successful; but hardly, in the modern sense, enterprising. My father was the head of a hereditary business of house agents and surveyors, which had already been established for some three generations in Kensington; and I remember that there was a sort of local patriotism about it and a little reluctance in the elder members, when the younger first proposed that it should have branches outside Kensington."


Erica said…
I certainly hope you were not in The Most Vile of Coffee Shops, or The Coffee Shop That Will Not Be Named. Because it's evil.
Oh and Dale says although he hasn't read it, you're wrong. ;-P
M.B. said…
*coughChester-Bellocdistributismistheanswertoeverythingcough* ;)