We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“They’ll often talk about anything they do apart from making a profit, which is the central purpose of a business and which is what drives businesses forward.”

Liz Truss, UK Treasury minister, reflecting on how many business leaders today seem embarrassed and incapable of talking about building wealth, and would rather talk about how they want to give it away, or pander to environmental pressures, etc. It is refreshing to see a UK minister giving this mindset hard treatment. It would be good if this happened more often.

(I am writing these words from Singapore, which I am visiting for a business trip. The city-state that does not appear to have quite such a cringe about capitalist success.)

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Well, why wouldn’t they? Her own party – the so-called ‘Conservatives’ under Cameron and May – have trained them to do just that over the last 15-20 years.

  • Mr Ed

    I have long perceived Liz Truss as a Lib Dem in thin disguise, but in the last few months she appears to have been increasingly ‘Thatcherite’ for want of a better term, as this quote shows. I prefer actions to words, but words (and airing the ideas behind them in a logical and consistent manner, but I repeat myself) are a welcome start.

    To be honest, it seems that many businesses in the UK give the impression that they go into business to borrow money, not to make it. A hope presumably being that holding equity and selling it at the right stage of the pump and dump cycle will bring reward.

  • Stonyground

    It could be that the company exec is just telling the government bod what he thinks that she wants to hear.

  • pete

    I expect business leaders tell people what they want to hear and what will help sell more of the product.

    Maybe bragging about how much money you make out of customers is not the best way to endear your business to them.

  • The Pedant-General

    Pete

    “bragging about how much money you make out of customers ”

    That’s the problem right there. You have immediately associated “profit” with “rip off”. That’s the education problem. Profit is a vital signal:
    1) it tells you you’re doing something right and should continue. No-one should have to apologise for doing things that people want them to do.
    2) it tells everyone else you’re doing something right and that there’s money to be made.

    2 is the important effect in that it brings other players to the market and will have the effect of driving down that profit margin, to the benefit of consumers. 1 then comes back into play as you try to work out how to do it even better or faster or cheaper.

  • Paul Marks

    “A man is seldom more innocently engaged than when he is making money” – Dr Johnson.

    Dr Johnson was right – people will do things for love, or hate, for religion or for politics that most people would NOT do for money. The “cause” gives people a sort of green light to do terrible things that they would NOT do for money.

    The left claim that Milton Friedman invented the idea of a business (a corporation, a trust, whatever) being a long term profit maximising organisation for the owners – but actually (as Mr Ed could confirm) this is the basis of business law.

    Today we have “mission statements” and all the rest of it – “social objectives” rather than MAKING MONEY. Hence such things as CENSORSHIP campaigns.

    How is it the business (literally the BUSINESS) of Mastercard and other financial entities what my political opinions are?

    Say I happen to oppose unlimited immigration – how is that that any of the affair of the banks or of Martercard?

    The “Woke” Corporations even support policies that are DIRECTLY AGAINST their own interest.

    For example, what are the big Corporations doing to reduce the high taxes of California and other American States? NOTHING – they actually SUPPORT the politicians and activist judges who are pushing up taxes, and welfare spending, and turning the streets over to vagrants (who are NOT sweet and nice – they are mostly mentally ill or drug abusers).

    So it is NOT just “Woke” Corporations such as Gillette running demented advertising campaigns (a razor company running endless ads arguing that men-are-EVIL) – it is much more than that.

    Many of the Corporations and many of the INDIVIDUAL rich are supporting the left – the radical, hard-core left. The people who want to rob and MURDER them – such as “Antifa”.

    Lenin said “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them” – but Lenin never predicted that the capitalists would GIVE the left the rope, and then dance about chanting “Kill us! Kill us! Kill us! Kill our children as well! Kill our children!”.

    Even I never predicted that the brainwashing by the elite “education” system would have such radical effects.

  • Paul Marks

    We are moving towards a future of ever more leftist government – any anyone who dissents will have access to social media blocked, and will face much more than that….

    Access to financial services will be blocked, and (in the new “cashless society”), people who dissent from ever more leftism will not even be allowed to buy food.

    “And how will business resist this?” – business will NOT resist this, the “Woke” Corporations and the “Woke” individual rich SUPPORT this – even though it will mean ever higher taxes.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    “people who dissent from ever more leftism will not even be allowed to buy food.”

    And thanks to planning laws, most will find it difficult to get around this by ‘growing their own’ – consider the price, anywhere in the UK, of a very ordinary sort of house in the countryside with an acre or two of land, and reflect on the paradox that the average Briton effectively now has to be a millionaire before they can afford to live like a peasant.

  • Rob

    Companies that make hundreds of millions or even more a year can easily incubate useless parasites like these. Long term though they are a death cult, because their natural enemies are the sort of people who build great companies and keep them profitable.

  • Stonyground

    I have a book about the decline of the British motorcycle industry in the 1970s written by industry insider Bert Hopwood. The BSA Triumph group had a huge research and development facility. It was obvious at the time that the company’s products were hopelessly out of date and that what was needed was a range of motorcycles with reliable push button starting that didn’t leak oil, didn’t need constant maintenance and didn’t shake themselves to pieces if you thrashed them. Basically what their competitors were selling. Instead they imported hundreds of management consultants who ran around offices making graphs and charts. For some strange reason this strategy didn’t work.

  • neonsnake

    Instead they imported hundreds of management consultants who ran around offices making graphs and charts.

    That’s the old joke of “A consultant is someone who borrows your watch, tells you the time, and charges you £2000 for the privilege. And then keeps your watch.”

    Source: spent a few months consulting.

  • neonsnake

    Maybe bragging about how much money you make out of customers is not the best way to endear your business to them.

    Well said, that, pete.

  • Eric

    Companies that make hundreds of millions or even more a year can easily incubate useless parasites like these.

    That’s the real problem. The officers of large corporations deal with such large sums of money, the siphoning of some portion of those sums for their pet social causes seems to have no discernible effect. In that way they’re much like government functionaries.

    This is bad stewardship of other people’s money, and it’s refreshing to see someone in power remarking on it, even if she plans to do nothing concrete.

  • Paul Marks

    People often speak as if the “greed” of businessmen is the problem – but the real problem is that they have been taught that wanting to make a profit is evil, they are ASHAMED of themselves, and they want to be PUNISHED (so they support the left – who will punish them, savagely).

    “Capitalism” (for want of a better word) can only survive (contra David Hume and F.A. Hayek – who were just wrong on this, with their obsession with social evolution) if people understand and believe in the PRINCIPLES upon which it is based.

    Most (yes it is most) Big Business entities now even oppose Freedom of Speech – they are, in effect, cutting their own throats. For the left they enable will not stop at attacking a few naughty conservatives – the left will come after the “liberal” Big Business supporters of the left as well.

    In the “Fountainhead” Ayn Rand had a character who was the (very rich) head of the “League of Liberal Businessmen” – he is treated as somewhat of a joke figure. Now such a character is the NORM.

  • llamas

    Stonyground wrote (of the demise of the UK motorcycle industry)

    ‘ . . . Instead they imported hundreds of management consultants who ran around offices making graphs and charts.”

    I’ve read Hopwood’s book, too. The driving theme that I got out of it was that all would have been well if the industry could have just found itself a better sort of customer for its products. He seems to miss the cognitive dissonances when he tells of designs with appalling shortcomings, which were well-known to the makers, that were nevertheless put into production.

    The point about ‘hundreds of management consultants’ was also explored by Terry Darlington, the author of the ‘Narrow Dog’ series, who was one of those very consultants before his retirement. He presents the other side of the coin, albeit in the case of the UK auto industry, although the reasons for failure were very similar to those of the motorcycle industry. But what he describes are repeated accounts of careful and extensive analysis of markets and products, competitive comparisons and detailed data, expressly commissioned to show the best ways forward to success, which were more-or-less routinely dismissed as soon as they were completed.

    Hopwood also glosses over one of the most-significant management shortcomings of the UK motorcycle industry, quite unrelated to any technical shortcomings, namely, its glacial pace of activity. For example, the BSA/Triumph 3-cylinder 750 models (Trident/Rocket III) were developed and ready to move to production in late 1965/early 1966, but only ambled onto the showroom floors in 1969 – thus being completely overshadowed by the original Honda CB750, which was faster, handled better, had electric start, a 5-speed transmission, overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine with full filtration and disc brakes, Electrical systems that worked and stayed working, and didn’t leak oil – and which went from original design concepts to exhibition at the 1968 Tokyo Motor Show in just a whiff over a year.

    There’s no better way to see why the UK motorcycle industry failed than to watch the videos of the industry’s promotional films which are easily found on the Tubes of You. When you watch movies from the 60s and 70s showing men in brown shop coats and flat hats, putting together motorcycles by pounding parts together with lump hammers and driving screws with ratchet screwdrivers, or parts being manually loaded into decrepit machinery using fixtures and tooling which had obviously been in use for decades – and then compare that with similar movies of Japanese assembly plants – the thing speaks for itself. Making 30-year-old motorcycle designs on 50-year-old machinery about sums it up. They completely-failed to react to changing markets, stubbornly-resisted any and all advances in materials, processes and technologies, and carefully and inexorably drove themselves out of mass markets and into a niche corner of diehard enthusiasts and insufferable anoraks. “It’s easy to build a Triumph that doesn’t leak oil!” they would cry. “Just take it apart, polish all the joint faces flat, hand-assemble it with joint compound on all the gaskets, run it in, retighten everything a couple of times, and you’ll be good for 5 or 10 thousand miles, at least!” Meanwhile, Honda simply sold you a motorcycle which didn’t leak oil. Ever.

    I’m going to Bonneville with my buddy this summer, to watch Speed Week in person. He’s taking a 1960s Triumph Bonneville. In preparation, he’s putting in 6 months of work to get it ready. I’ll probably take my 1976 Honda. I may have to put a new rear tire on it. I’ll certainly change the oil and filter. But that’s all it will need. Maybe I’m not the customer that Bert Hopwood thought I should be, to be worthy of his antique ironmongery – but I’m the customer he got, and all the rest like me.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Lee Moore

    Eric : The officers of large corporations deal with such large sums of money, the siphoning of some portion of those sums for their pet social causes seems to have no discernible effect. In that way they’re much like government functionaries.

    No doubt that’s true in some cases, but I think Stonyground’s diagnosis is more on point. They are operating as profit seeking businessmen, but they are aware that among their operating costs is paying off the local protection racket.

  • The Pedant-General

    Lee

    “paying off the local protection racket”

    Heinlein I think is relevant here:

    “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as “bad luck.””

  • Gavin Longmuir

    llamas: “Making 30-year-old motorcycle designs on 50-year-old machinery about sums it up.”

    Thank you for that tale of the decline of the UK motorcycle industry. Sad! Even more sadly, analogous tales could be told of many other companies and industries — all examples of Prof. Handy’s ‘Sigmoid Curve’. It seems to be part of human nature — people and businesses which have been successful have great difficulty recognizing that the world is changing around them and they need to change or get left behind on the trash-heap of history.

    The strange aspect is businesses today are still falling into the same trap, despite there being so many prior examples of the syndrome and its unfortunate consequences. Those businesses which emphasize their wokeness are heading down a well-trod path.

  • Stonyground

    One aspect of Hopwood’s book is the numerous examples of unproffessionalism. In one case a modern, for the time, 250 was developed which was effectively half of the recently developed 500 twin. This was desperately needed as the existing 250 was an antiquated pre-war clunker. Because the design was based on an already existing model it could be put into production with a minimum of tooling. The BSA management decided not to go ahead because people are still buying the old one.

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