|"On the Other Hand"
Emmett's Blog and Essays
|June 12, 2005
Slaying the Monster
by Emmett Chapman
The bittersweet truth is, most people fall in love when they're young, and never again with the same intensity. With that business concluded and the children in school, what's next?
It's enterprise, mainly participation in small and medium sized businesses, with a growing trend toward "cottage industry" and online offerings of goods and services, especially services.
We pursue enterprise with the same keen vigor of our earlier courtships, but the government "rides the willing horse to death", imposing taxes, regulations and all sorts of social legislation to make small business responsible for health care, education and other politically fashionable causes both local and national.
Neither political party represents medium and small business, yet we are the ones who produce most of the GNP and employ most of the work force. Both parties cater to huge (I call them "monster") enterprises including multi-national corporations whose allegiances are elsewhere, but who finance the US election campaigns. And it's a myth that Republican candidates are favored over Democrats by big business.
Free enterprise could indeed be workable to achieve utilitarian goals (the greatest good for the greatest number), but limitations must be imposed at the top, not piled on beleaguered small business. Now it's "king of the mountain" and once you get to the top, the incentive changes, that is, to spoil the trail of free enterprise for all the others. Lobbyists and legislators create "an uneven playing field" of laws, regulations and subsidies to keep down their potential competitors.
This pressure, felt as an incentive by managers of "monster" corporations, is beyond public comprehension, most of us merely following our adult human nature as entrepreneurs who enter the marketplace in good faith, our earlier business of courtship and child rearing now behind us. The secret is, these huge, profit driven corporations crave socialism! Cartels have always thrived there. A centralized, managed economy keeps power at the top, permanently entrenching already established businesses, and freezing opportunities for the rest of us.
And why do they act on this incentive? Because they can. They're big enough to parlay their wealth into power, the power to control legislation, to impose limitations on their up and coming competition, to command public attention and sympathy in the news, and to create an anarchy of laws through which only they can navigate with their unlimited legal resources. For the rest of us, the justice system is a mess, most disputes being settled in misery for all parties concerned as the courts grind us through the legal mill only to abandon us to imposed settlements as the trial date nears.
In a cold calculation of numbers and quantities, the cliched reasoning is that huge corporations and investors are solely committed to ever higher profits, but in truth it's not a game. What's the point of continually expanding wealth if it doesn't buy something else besides further riches? At a certain scale, wealth changes in kind, conferring power to create cultural change, to change the world. Those at the top of the heap buy up media to gain visibility, leverage, influence. We receive the news in our homes for free but it's no charitable institution. Instead of warning, enlightening, and generally serving public interests, it manipulates public opinion. Watch out for maps! When the presentations begin to focus on a certain region, national resources of blood and money are sure to follow.
I'm ready to believe that entrepreneurs who have achieved their greatest dreams and successes can be provided with further incentives to continue the pursuit of their constructive goals and not be diverted into an obsession for power, survival and expansion for its own sake. I feel there's a third possibility of adult metamorphosis after lover and entrepreneur, the higher economic activity of philanthropy where the successful entrepreneur begins to finance, endorse and support the dreams of younger innovators in the same field who share in the large vision. This "third stage" adult would respond to a different kind of incentive, that of legendary fame (not pop culture stardom), honor (a code within a group of like minded leaders), and reputation within the industry and market. Philanthropy thus becomes an ordinary part of the economy, fostered by way of non-profit foundations, trusts, institutes, endowments, grants and prizes, enabling a generation of advanced young innovators to take part in "the American dream".
I'm an active and motivated entrepreneur interacting with a small but world wide community, a market that I built up with the help of dedicated and talented musicians who play the instruments I design. I manufacture a line of bodiless fretboard instruments based on a novel two-handed string tapping method that I discovered and first taught 30 years ago. We have a world wide network of performing artists, ongoing concert and seminar events, on-line discussion groups, lesson books, CDs, DVDs and videos of many outstanding players, all revolving around The Stick fretboard tapping instrument.
I do this out of passion and obligation, turning a profit for survival of course, but reinvesting most proceeds back into manufacturing, promotion, advertising and sponsorship of cultural events associated with my instruments. I do this in spite of the laws and regulations that restrict my ability to expand my business, to defend its patents and trademarks, or to hire more employees. Without such empowerment, I must work long hours year around, as do most self employed entrepreneurs, with little time left over to look up and direct the course of my business.
People like me are the ones who generate the celebrated high productivity and full employment in the US, yet it's "monster" enterprise that dominates our news and gets taxpayer dollars. Even small governmental favors add up over time, ensuring the survival and prosperity of entities that receive preferential tax exemptions and regulatory exclusions.
So, how do we regain our natural birthright and bring enterprise back to human proportions? We must do what the factory workers did in the '30s, that is, to organize, even unionize, and to speak through a cohesive group with actual political representation. We are the work force of this age, more dedicated to long hours and close supervision than the factory workers ever were. As slaves or as masters, we "live" our businesses in our homes, on our computers, for our community, and sometimes for the world.
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