Several years ago I took a class on philosophy. The professor asked the class, “If everyone acted this way, what would be the results? Would the results be good for society or bad?” He asked this question as a framework for determining right and wrong. This question has stayed with me over the years and often times I try to step back and put myself on the “balcony” to look at the situation and determine what is right. I have been accused of having a binary way of thinking, and I probably do because most situations, I believe there is a right and wrong.
Recently I have been reading Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein. I recommend and have really enjoyed reading. A repetitive theme in the book is how economical Buffet lived. This is a lesson more Americans should heed. I never understood profligate spending and see something inherently dishonest about living above one’s means. Another repetitive theme in the book is on Buffet’s focus on profitability of a business. Again, another lesson to remember. A business that isn’t profitable will not remain in business.
One of the chapters discusses Buffet’s acquisition of a newspaper in Buffalo, NY. The other paper in town closes which results in a big win for Buffet. The employees of the paper want a profit share. The paragraph on this ends with, “The owners of the Buffalo Evening News had run very great risks. Employees had not come forward during the dark years to share in the losses. Nor, now, would they share in the gains” (Lowenstein 221).
I’m investing a significant portion of my life savings into the cafe. I don’t really have a safety net if I fail. I’m estimating that worse case scenario will be around a $300K loss. I don’t see anyone being there to pick me up. However, I do believe there is a high probability that starting the cafe will open doors to new opportunities. I could just be out $300K when I start the new opportunity.
Best case scenario, we make an IPO or get acquired for a big buyout. I can see the mentality behind the owners taking all the profit. The owners are the ones taking all the risks while the employees are receiving a guaranteed paycheck. This seems somewhat cynical.
I want to find great employees that will grow the business and I want those employees to be rewarded. The lesson I took from Atlas Shrugged is production needs to be rewarded. I understand business does not succeed without the efforts of the employees. I really hope that we will get to our best case scenario and I will reward the employees that made it possible.
Unfortunately it seems like too many people that make it turn into Scrooge McDuck and swim around in pool of gold coins. My take away from Scrooge McDuck, he was by himself. I don’t see honor in acquiring wealth from the backs of others. More so, I don’t see how these actions are good for society.
I like this below TED Talk. I have concern over the wealth gap in America. I am skeptical of how raising the minimum wage will affect. The cynical side of me sees a further widening of the wealth gap and wealth being consolidated at the top as unemployment increases from: (1) large corporations automating and laying off employees, (2) mom and pops going out of business.