November 26, 2018
An article about Ron Shaich, the founder of Panera Bread, and his slow growth philosophy that treats customers like...well, customers....instead of commodities in The New Yorker magazine also has Mr. Shaich explaining why Donald Trump won the Presidency. For a magazine that often has a snarky front cover illustration mocking President Trump this article is an incredible reconnection to the reality of life in America beyond the confines of Manhatan
Here below is a significant quote from the article. I suggest you read the whole piece here.
I In the summer of 2017, Lynn Paine and Joseph Bower, two Harvard Business School professors, published a piece in the Harvard Business Review arguing that the idea that profits are all that should matter to a companyâ€™s leadership is a relatively new one.
They trace it to an essay by the free-market economist Milton Friedman, which ran in the Times Magazine in 1970. In the piece, Friedman outlined what he called the â€œFriedman business doctrine,â€ which holds that ideas of corporate social responsibility, which had become popular in the business world, were undermining the American way of life. â€œThe businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned ˜merely" with profit but also with promoting desirable "social" ends; that business has a ˜social conscience" and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers,â€ he wrote. Instead, he went on,
:They are preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these last decades." The article caused a sensation, and Friedman's idea that managers of companies were nothing more than â€œagentsâ€ of shareholders was taken up by economists and business school professors, who helped build it into the dominant attitude in the United States and beyond. In their article, Paine and Bower argue that this theory is â€œrife with moral hazard.â€ Stock owners have no public accountability for what the company does, and no responsibility, as executives do, to place the companyâ€™s interests above their own. The costs of prioritizing shareholders interests are borne by the company, and by society as a whole, which is robbed of innovations, jobs, and tax revenue.
The tension between long-term and short-term economic interests has become a favorite topic in policy circles in recent years, but the election of Donald Trump, in 2016, brought the implications into clearer focus. Much of Trumpâ€™s base is made up of white, rural voters; many of them have seen jobs disappear from their communities, while wages have stagnated for those still working. In the midterm elections, Democrats won at least thirty-eight additional seats in the House of Representatives
The tension between long-term and short-term economic interests has become a favorite topic in policy circles in recent years, but the election of Donald Trump, in 2016, brought the implications into clearer focus. Much of Trumpâ€™s base is made up of white, rural voters; many of them have seen jobs disappear from their communities, while wages have stagnated for those still working. In the midterm elections, Democrats won at least thirty-eight additional seats in the House of Representatives (as of Wednesday), gaining a majority, but Republicans performed better than many people expected; high-school-educated voters came out, once again, strongly in favor of the party of Trump. According to Shaich, the resentment that these voters feel is a direct result of the quick-profits-over-all ethos that dominates economic thinking. When we live in a world where we view value creation as the end, and not as a by-product, which is what short-term thinking lends itself to, we end up doing great damage to every other constituency, and that's what ultimately drives back to the kind of â€˜let's rip down the establishment" nihilism that in my view is at the core of Trumpism, he said. Trump is, ˜Hey, this isn't serving me. Iâ€™ve been sitting here in Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio, I thought Iâ€™d have a middle-class life if I went to work, and my kids canâ€™t pay their student debt. I lost my manufacturing job and I'm making twelve dollars an hour in a service job. And these guys are closing every plant and squeezing every nickel out of the thing, and Wall Street gets rich. And I'm still living a tough life." He added, "Trump is a human hand grenade to blow up a society that isn;t working for big swatches of America."
Last year, when Shaich took Panera private, he also stepped down as the C.E.O. (he is still the chairman of the board), to focus on a pet cause: warning the world about the dangers of short-term thinking. He has been travelling the country, giving speeches and talking to business leaders and policymakers, about the urgent need to return to the tradition of investing for the future. Some people are starting to listen. Tech titans including Reid Hoffman and Marc Andreessen have financially backed the creation of a new investment framework called the Long-Term Stock Exchange, which would give shareholders greater influence over a company the longer they hold shares. "We all believe the system is bigger than us, and we can't fix it," Shaich said. "But, if we don't take control of that system, it's misserving us in powerful ways" He also founded an investment fund called Act III Holdings, which offers capital, with fewer time constraints, to entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry. (The Mediterranean chain CAVA is one of his investments.) "We've ended up in a situation, to the detriment of all of us, where our public companies are not able to do the things we want in the economy" he said. "We say we want G.D.P. growth, but G.D.P. doesn't come simply from a sugar high of tax cuts. G.D.P. growth only comes from innovation and productivity increases. And innovation and productivity increases occur because people make commitments and they make transformative events." He added, "This system doesn't serve the American people. There is an opportunity to ask ourselves, is this what we want?"
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