The Moral Case for Small Business
Starting, running, and supporting our way to a better world
I believe everyone with the will and the resources has a moral imperative to start, run, and support small businesses.
We all live in this abstract thing called “the economy.” I once heard someone say, “you’re not sitting in a car in traffic, you are traffic.” In the same way, any time you spend or receive money, you are the economy. There are a lot of ways to define what the economy is, but it boils down to two things: what we think is important and what we think the future holds–as measured by money.
We spend our money on the things that we think are important, and how quickly and where we spend that money is based on what we think of the future. This scales up or down no matter what size the economic decision is. We value looking better in the near future so we order clothes on Amazon. We value feeling better in the immediate future so we buy coffee. We value security and are wary of changes in the far future so we buy index funds. We value relief and don’t think of the future at all so we smoke cigarettes. For better or worse, all of our decisions come down to this kind of value analysis–whether it’s explicit or not.
However, these decisions do not exist in a vacuum. In our little ships, we navigate the waters of the economy, passing between Scylla and Charybdis. On one side is centralization. Money is accelerating into fewer and fewer hands faster and faster than ever before in our lifetimes. On the other side is entropy. Everything is being financialized due to centralization, and money is being siphoned out of our communities all over the world through dividends and stock buybacks, only to make its way into the pockets of the stupid rich.
This causes problems for our communities, our families, our passions, our loves, our hopes, our dreams, our present, and our future. Underneath many of these problems is a sickness. It wears a lot of masks: all the industries that start with “big,” money in politics, social polarization, economic inequality, and others. At its core, the problem is that we have been hoodwinked into inadvertently outsourcing our agency as human beings. Even though our problems are clearer than ever, our will is at an all-time low, and our locus of control has all but evaporated.
At the restaurants you drive by every day, who decides what’s on the menu? Who decides what the speed limit is on your roads? Who decides how the apps on your phone are configured? Think about how many things that you touch and use every single day, that your life depends on, that you have absolutely zero control over. And it’s not just that you don’t have control, it’s that you cannot even communicate with the person who does have control–even if there is one.
While elusive, control is not impossible. I want to advance the idea that the way to fight these twin evils of centralization and entropy is to start, run, and support small businesses. Most of the biggest problems facing us–including this double attack–seem huge, straightforward, and intractable. What if I told you that the solution was small, subtle, and manageable?
Remember that the economy is the measure–using money–of what we value and what we think about the future. By choosing small businesses, you send a clear message to the economy that you value having a say in solving the problems affecting you, and you believe that your influence over these solutions will only grow in the future.
Every real-life person or small business you give money to will then circulate that money with other real-life people and small businesses. It does not evaporate into the coffers of a financier who would sell you out twenty times over for a quarter of a percentage point return. And supporting small businesses doesn’t have to be your whole life; it doesn’t have to be your personality. But if every third dollar or every tenth swipe went to a small business, that’s a small whisper out into the economy: I value solving the problems that affect me, and I believe that my ability to solve my problems will be even greater in the future than it is now. And if spending a dollar at a small business is whispering, then starting or growing a small business is planting your feet and shouting it from your chest.
Starting a small business is the pinnacle of self-actualization. It is an unrivaled exercise in taking initiative, showing vision, and making an impact on others’ lives. And although I’m a fan of innovation, I’m not talking about growth-at-all-costs location-agnostic tech companies. I am talking about individuals and small businesses. I am talking about painting curbs to beautify your neighborhood, starting a restaurant serving your favorite food, becoming a contractor, selling your art, and even providing your neighbors with the boring services nobody thinks about but we all need: laundry, waste management, cleaning, etc.
When you zoom out, and start to think about the power that you actually have, it becomes clear that supporting small businesses is not just a personal choice, but a moral imperative for those with the will and the resources. And it isn’t just about changing our individual habits. It is about coalescing from a group of disjointed consumers into a community. It is about being deliberate with our time, attention, and money. Because starting, running, and supporting small businesses is a small, straightforward opportunity to reclaim some sanity and control over this crazy world, and to bet on your community and your future.
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I hate to be annoying but the answer exists and it is called socialism.
Preach Charlie, preach!
The closer you get the your commerce the further you get from supporting the shart lords in the world still using slave labor (https://www.thenation.com/article/society/prison-workers-exploitation/)...know and support thine neighbor!