Sunday, July 28, 2013

Should The Washington Redskins Change Their Name?

Consider this:  should the Washington Redskins change their name?

Or, better stated, should the Washington Redskins be forced by the language police to change their name?

We have all heard of the movement, proposed by a very small percentage of people, that when considered under the dark shroud of racism the word "Redskin" is offensive and degrading.

Racist?  Degrading?

History says that Boston, Massachusetts was first awarded a professional football team in 1932, under the ownership of one George Preston Marshall.  Originally the team simply took the name of the landlords of the stadium in which they played, the baseball team called the Boston Braves.  The team became the football Boston Braves.

But sliding across town to play in Fenway Park the following year Marshall decided to change the name to the Boston Redskins at the urging of the team's coach, Lone Star Dietz.  Coach Dietz claimed to be part Souix Indian, although that heritage has been challenged.

Nonetheless, it was Dietz who proposed the name and it was changed in his honor.

Moving to Washington DC in 1937 the name stuck.

The team became The Washington Redskins.

In light of current protests decrying "racism" as regards the Redskins name, why has nobody similarly protested the name of the state of Oklahoma?

The word Oklahoma is a compound word in the Choctaw Indian language.

It is composed of two Choctaw words:

okla - meaning "people"
humma - meaning "red."

Oklahoma means "red people."

How did it get that name?

In 1866, during negotiations with the federal government regarding the use of the Indian Territory, the Choctaw Chief Allen Wright suggested the name Oklahoma.  As chief his vision was an all-Indian state.  It would be controlled by the federal government, but it would be preserved and protected as an Indian entitlement.

The equivalent to the English word Indian is the Choctaw phrase okla humma, which Chief Allen Wright said described the whole Native American race "as a whole."  His wish was granted in 1890.  Later, he wanted the Choctaw capital seat to be called "Tuskahoma," meaning "red warrior."  That wish was granted too.

Oklahoma later became the name of the Oklahoma Territory when it was opened up to the "Sooners" in 1892 for white settlement.  Later, when the Territory became the 46th state in 1907, the name Oklahoma remained.

Chief Allen Wright wanted the name of the area to glorify the Red People as a whole.  He was not being racist!  He was feeling pride!

What is another word for Red People?  Might one suggestion be Redskin?

So, if an American Indian chief wants "red people" to glorify the Native American race of people, and has, at his request, a territory and then state named Oklahoma in that honor, the use of the word Redskin, essentially the same word, simply cannot be racist.

It is the opposite!  Chief Allen Wright would say it glorifies!  It is proud!

Come on over to my house, we'll sit on my deck and bite off a chaw of Red Man chewin' tobacky (shouldn't it be called Oklahoma Chewing Tobacco?), and chew on this NEW controversy of

why a state is named after a football team!

Says he, with a twinkle in his eye...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Made In America

"There is only one boss.  The customer.  He can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

Sam Walton (1918 - 1992)
From the book "Made In America"

More or less an autobiography, Sam Walton's book, Made In America, is also a treatise on his personal business philosophy.  That photo is from his high school yearbook.  His graduating class voted him "The Most Versatile Boy."

And he was!  In business he did it differently than the competition.

I can save you a lot of time.  One overriding thesis in the book is this - in every exchange in business, conversation, relationships, virtually every exchange, someone is selling and someone is buying.

That's it!  There, I saved you a lot of time!

I'd still recommend reading the book anyway!  But consider the thesis!

From the opening of his first small Walton's Five and Dime, he aimed to serve the customer with shelves always stocked with a variety of goods, and at the lowest prices possible.

He always wanted to buy directly from the manufacturer, feeling that it saved money.  It does.  He thought that when buying through a middleman, or from somewhere other than directly from the manufacturer, "you are buying inefficiency."

That probably explains why the WalMart system will buy goods from anywhere in the world today.  It's overall objective is to provide merchandise at great savings.  The customer is king.

Also from the beginning of his chain, he thought this, and this is where vision comes in:  post-war America was changing.  The car was coming into vogue for family use and travel, and highways were multiplying.  Traffic increased as people moved to the suburbs.  Often the small town was passed by in favor of the populated suburbs.  But, he knew, people would travel outside of suburbia for a bargain.

In defiance of the suburban mentality, and the retail thinking of the time, Sam Walton thought that selling a lot of things at a lower price to more people would be more profitable than selling expensive things to fewer people in the "big city."

His vision was, in a manner of speaking, THINKING SMALL!

Other theses you may get from the book:
  • Competition is a refining fire.  Welcome it, learn from it and compete with it!
  • Never pass up a market that looks too "small."
  • Growth depends on the creation of value where value did not previously exist.  Value increases by enriching others.
  • This is typically home spun, a wonderful Sam Walton trait -- speak to others before they speak to you.

WalMart is criticized by the less successful and less efficient for not "allowing" unions and not giving a lot to charities.

Walton himself, in his own defense, said that the aim of his business is to save customers money and raise the standard of living in the areas where his business is located.  Neither union pay demands or charitable donation does either of those things.

His "associates" can raise their own pay levels through their personal employment practices, getting promotions and pay increases by contributing more.  You earn more when you are more valuable to the company!


And in his company it works every time.  This might be different than some thinking in this era, but nonetheless, that is the company philosophy and they have a loyal, loyal, loyal group of employees and patrons.

This man, and his company, were truly Made In America.  Free enterprise and the employment of capital made both great.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Using Factors Of Production With Vision

"Capital isn't scarce; vision is."

Sam Walton (1918-1992)

In economics, the word "capital" can mean many things.

It does not necessarily mean money.  As a home inspector my capital includes my inspection experience and knowledge, coupled with useful tools.

But what did Mr. Walton mean when he used the word capital?

Long-term assets, or "fixed" assets - land, labor and capital, some of the factors of production?  Seed capital?  Investment capital?  How about venture capital?

I think he is probably referring to the whole ball of wax, everything it takes to start and maintain a business.

After all, he had experience doing that.

His well-rounded nature was forged by the time he was in 8th grade, becoming one of the youngest Eagle Scouts in Boy Scout history.  As an adult he continued to support the Boy Scout program becoming a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.  There are not many recipients of such an award.  This circumspect background got him voted the "Most Versatile Boy" by his high school graduating class.

Becoming the first in his family to go to college, and after earning a Bachelor's degree in Economics in 1940, he worked for a short while for the J.C. Penney Company.  He quit to join the war effort. 

After the war he invested a $20,000 loan from his father in law and his personal savings of $5,000 in a small Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas.

He kept the shelves stocked with a wide variety of goods and grew annual sales from $80 to $225,000 in the three years.

The building's landlord saw Walton's success and refused to renew the lease, wanting the location to open his own store in that same location.  Unknown to him, at the same time his father in law negotiated a deal for the shop next door to that first store even while Sam was looking to open another location in Bentonville, 220 miles away.  The Newport store next door was remodeled and opened immediately in 1950.  But the new far-away location was in the works as well.

Negotiating to buy that other small store and obtaining title to the building in Bentonville, Arkansas, it was opened.   He then had two locations not near each other.  He called his stores the "Walton Five & Dime."   That second location more than doubled sales in three years.  But he also had opportunity to employ some of his own ideas in the development of both stores.

With the help of family he owned and managed 16 Ben Franklin stores by 1962.  One new idea he tried was to encourage his store managers to invest as much as $1,000 in their stores and the next outlet to open.  Walton thought that would sharpen their managerial skills and objectives.  It gave them a stake in the business.  Entrepreneurism is another economic factor of production, something he no doubt learned in college.

It all worked.  By the time he opened the first WalMart in 1962 he was well versed in business management and how to operate a number of widespread locations. 

Interestingly he thought it important to find American manufacturers to give him a great volume discount price.  He wanted to compete against foreign competition.  And did.

At the same time, his philosophy was to open WalMarts in small towns, not large cities.  And each location was within one day's drive from a distribution center.  That way he could follow sales, and quickly market and restock the best-selling products.  Even today it is Walmart's exceptional marketing and distribution management system that sets it apart from other department stores.

This logistical management grew the chain to 800 stores by 1985.  At the time of his death in 1992, WalMart had $50 billion in annual sales from 1,735 stores, 212 Sam's Clubs and 13 Supercenters.  Continuing its growth, it is larger than that now.

WalMart survives today as it does because it continues to offer a variety of products, at exceptional prices.  Its size has not come by accident or through luck.  Yes, that makes it difficult for smaller entities to survive.  Yes, they have grown more international as the world has shrunken economically.  Their aim has been to focus on WalMart.

But, like the butcher, the baker and the beer maker, they are interested in providing their wares in the most efficient way possible, and to get their clientele to come back time and again.  They have a very loyal group of employees and clientele.  That is the essence of capitalism - employing the factors of production (land, labor, capital and entrepreneurs) in the most visionary ways possible.  Capitalism can be the vehicle for super growth just as it can do the opposite to crush the less visionary and efficient.

WalMart has employed its capital with vision.  And they seem to see pretty clearly.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Where Will We Go From Here?

"We have more than a century of experience to show that ever bigger, ever more expensive, ever more intrusive government simply doesn't work.  Big government has not eliminated or even significantly reduced poverty.  It has not made our health care or retirement systems better.  It has not improved education.  It has not solved any of the myriad problems out society faces.  Indeed, more often than not it has made those problems worse."

Michael D. Tanner
Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

So, answer please, why do we, and I say "we" as a citizenry, why do we continue to elect and/or desire "leaders" who are foisting such continuous gubment growth, continuous organizational and economic inefficiencies, continuous bad ideas onto us and our society as "remedies" and "fixes" for what ails us?

There are some huge, HUGE, gubment ideas in the last 50 years that have done little to solve their intended aims!

Does anyone remember the, shall we call it, AIM of the creation of the Department of Energy?  It came in response to an oil embargo and quadrupled oil prices.  It's AIM was to get us off foreign oil and make us foreign-dependency free!  Yes, yes, it was to lead us into the Promised Land of Energy Independence!

What was our dependency on foreign sources of energy then and what is it now?  How have they done and how are they doing?  Indeed, as the quote above says, it has made that problem worse.  And created new problems.

Does anyone remember the, shall we call it, AIM of the creation of the Department of Education?  It came in response to our perceived falling behind internationally in "test" scores and the creation of important people like engineers, scientists and mathematicians.  Yes, yes, it was to lead us into the Promised Land of Smart, creating a new generation, and subsequent generations, of kids, all our kids, better prepared for the future and ready to compete internationally.

What was our educational position in the world then and what is it now?  How have they done and how are they doing?  Indeed, as the quote above says, it has made that problem worse.  And created new problems. 

This could go on, and on. 

What have the past few years bequeathed us?  Larger bureaucracy, more gubment intrusion, the slice and dice of the Constitution to gain this or that part of the "agenda" that poll after poll after poll says Americans do not want.  We have debt beyond belief or even calculation.  Who will pay that?  We have organizational and economic inefficiencies most cannot understand.  And the plundering of sacred tax dollars used to enrich the gubment sector (departmentally and individually) gets revealed here and there in small ways, but is mostly hidden from view.

Elected and appointed "leaders" retire as multi-millionaires, with golden parachutes that include a lifetime of benefits provided by those they were to "serve" as "civil servants."  Then they continue to enrich themselves on this or that speaking circuit or as "consultants," advising the gubment on how to continue its plod into greater and greater control of those they "serve."

Truly, our Founding Fathers would not only be embarrassed by such a gubment, not recognizing it, but likely enraged!  They revolted against far less in the face of what they understood to be tyranny!
Complaining of that tyranny, and the dictator in charge of it, one of my favorite lines from the Declaration of Independence is this one:

"He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

Does that not describe, perfectly, our current situation?

Where will we go from here?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

There Is No Other Way

"The road to a higher wage level is through savings and investment in the tools of production.  There is no other."

W. M. Curtiss (1904-1979)

Where do wages come from?  A business or a job.

What's the only way out of poverty?  A business or a job.

What is the creator of most businesses or jobs?  The small businessman - the entrepreneur.

When Dr. Curtiss says "tools of production," he means what our economic textbooks would call the "factors of production."

The factors of production are what make up economies - land, labor, capital and entrepreneurs.

If a gubment wants to kick up the economy, Keynesian "fine tuning" won't help much as an economy is too complex for such decision making.  Bureaucrats can't stick enough pins at the right time and into the right places in the doll to make things happen.  As much as they try or as good as they think they can, bureaucrats are NEVER good at economic voodoo.  When those "fine-tuning" pins start getting stuck expect wild swings in economic activity, inflation, AND savings and investment.

What will kick up the economy is gubment policy, or consistent policies, that encourage entrepreneurs, and small businesses, to risk their savings and invest in themselves, or their ideas.

What encourages such risk taking?  Confidence in the future!  And the ability to reasonably predict the direction the gubment will be taking as regards that future!

Like the little train, if the entrepreneur thinks it can be done, the entrepreneur will eagerly climb the hill, confidently thinking he can get to the other side.

Profits will follow.  As the profits follow the entrepreneur will kick up the economy as jobs are produced, employees are hired, and wages are paid.  Wages are then spent on the STUFF that makes up economies, the goods and services of other entrepreneurs and businesses, all of whom have similarly climbed the hill to arrive at the other side.  The entrepreneurs are on the road to higher wages.  Those seeking jobs and a way out of poverty are the recipients of those higher wages.

THE OTHER SIDE of the hill is the desired goal - established, thriving, hiring and growing small businesses all KICKING BUTT.  

Look around the world at the thriving, kick-butt economies and you will find gubment policies that encourage savings and investment, and therefore the efficient use of land, labor, capital and the creation of entrepreneurs. 

Is there any other way?  As Dr. Curtiss suggests - there is no other way.