Sunday, May 1, 2011

Starbucks Socialism

Pres. Obama has been accused of being a socialist. Now socialism appears to be invading corporate front offices. Listen to this story about Starbucks:

The founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, retired in 2000 a billionaire. In 2008 he returned to the front office because Starbucks was having serious problems.

As part of his effort to restore the company to its former luster, Schultz flew all of the 10,000 managers of Starbucks coffee shops to New Orleans. There each had to do five hours of community service in the devastated and neglected Ninth Ward and then they had a one hour meeting. That meeting was “about rekindling and reminding people about the values of our company and the core purpose, which is not always about making money.” (Boston Globe 4/24/11; my italics) Having just done five hours of community service, the managers were, we suppose, to understand to that community service was as important a value of Starbucks as making money.

Capitalism is all about making as much money as possible. Once you start saying that making money is not always that important, and that it may well be less important than serving the community, you are suggesting that, maybe, capitalism is not so desirable. You are beginning to think that, maybe, service to the people and to the common good is more important than private profit. Having said that, you have set foot on the road towards socialism. It rejects making money as the primary purpose of our economic activity suggesting that, instead, we should work to make life as good for as many people as we can.

Is the CEO of Starbucks considering socialism? That's pretty amazing. Fortunately, when we come to the end of the article, we find that Mr. Schultz recovered his capitalist good sense just in time. After the meeting in New Orleans that was to remind all of the managers of the importance of public service and the relative unimportance of making money, Starbucks closed stores that weren't making any profit and – the article did not mention that of course – laid off a bunch of managers who had just been told that making money was not their primary purpose.

But that just turned out to be so much talk. The bottom line was, after all, the bottom line.

What a relief! We don't really have to worry about Starbucks going socialist. Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about Pres. Obama's socialism either.