January 13, 2016

Imagine a restaurant that "believes in hamburgers" and just wants to "persuade you to eat them."

If you can do that, you're ready for Jonathan Chait's analogy, quoted in "The New Republic Is for Sale Again":
A business is something that is trying to make money. If you’re in a town and you’re trying to sell hamburgers, and everyone wants pizza, you’d switch to pizza. But The New Republic believes in hamburgers. We think you need hamburgers, and we will continue to make hamburgers and try and persuade you to eat them.
Maybe I could imagine a restaurant that believes in vegetables — believes to such a degree that just getting you to eat them is all they want. They? A restaurant is an "it." The "it" doesn't believe. There's a "they" there for any belief to be going on. And there can be people working through a corporation who intend to stick to their beliefs. It's hard to imagine people caring so much about other people eating hamburgers — thinking "you need hamburgers" — that they'd invest and work in a restaurant that only lost money. You know, maybe Chait's writing would be more persuasive if he made good analogies.

But let's upgrade the analogy to a restaurant that serves locally grown organic vegetables and refuses to switch to cheaper, commercially grown stuff. Now, that we've got something we can imagine, we're empowered to see what's really wrong with Chait's analogy. The people running that restaurant would still want to make money, and they sure wouldn't want to lose money. And it would be a business.

It's bizarrely anti-business to think that if something is a business, making money is its only value. This is the same problem we saw in the context of the Hobby Lobby case, where some people thought that a for-profit corporation could not be protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If it was for profit, they argued, how could the people working through it have any religious values worth protecting? The corporation should have to be not for profit to merit any protection.

42 comments:

Mike Sylwester said...

These restaurant analogies do not help to understand the situation.

William said...

What if your business is the business of selling ownership.of the magazine for prestige purposes--like selling opera boxes or membership on a museum's board of trustees.

lgv said...

Your analogy is much better. First, it is a restaurant owner and not a restaurant that believes. But, this is minor error.

A restaurant serves organic, local, vegan, gluten-free food only. All the vegan, PETA members that work there love the place. Business is sparse and doesn't support the costs of the establishment. What's the owner supposed to do? The workers get all pissy and high and mighty and suggest an owner sustain losses while keeping the restaurant open and keeping the workers employed. In the meantime, no matter how much both customers love the wonderful meal prepared for them, the place can't make money. The solution the workers want is to find a new owner that wants to continue losing money.

The only system that works that way is the federal government. We keep dishing up school food that kids throw in the trash. Just ignore market forces.

Maybe TNR should add some hamburgers and pizza to the menu The tofu isn't doing making them any money.

My valuation model is a max of 4x cash flow or .5x liquidation value of the assets. That's what the TNR is worth, between $0 and some piddling amount.

Dan Hossley said...

If they believed in hamburgers so much would they be willing to work without pay while they test the public's appetite for their hamburgers?

Maybe it isn't about believing in hamburgers at all. It could be they simply don't know how to make pizza.

traditionalguy said...

Now I see. The New Republic is a subset of Omaha Steaks. Every issue comes in a Dry Ice Styrofoam Box complete with a selection of steaks and hamburgers. The aged bone in Ribeyes are worth the sunbscription price alone. And don't forget the caramel apple tarts.

Laslo Spatula said...

The Key to Successful Pimping is Knowing What You Sell, while also Knowing what you Don't Sell.

Some people, they come to a Pimp and think that -- because you're a Pimp -- that you can sell them Drugs, too. Bullshit, boy.

I sell Girls to Guys who want Girls, and when they get what they Paid for from the Girls they then Get the Fuck Out. No hanging around like you be Coolin' with the Pimp, no asking for Drugs: Once I'm Paid I have no use for you. That's my Business, and I am a Business Man.

Now, I have a Problem. I got a Girl, Monique, who it Turns Out is a Man, got the Man Cock and Everything. Customer was NOT happy. Wanted his money back. Didn't give it to him since he already got his cock sucked, but I understand his reasoning.

Now, it seems some guys want that shit, but that is NOT what I sell. No Child Sex, No Animal Sex, No Gay Sex unless it's a Lady wanting to get down with one of my Ladies: That's OK. But Girls who are actually Dudes: That's Not My Brand, you feel me?

Now, I don't Pass Judgement unless a Beat-Down is needed -- Live and Let Live and all that Shit -- so if a Chick with a Dick wants to work in the Biz, I ain't gonna stop her: she just ain't working for ME.

So I sell Monique to a Pimp who specializes in the Crazy Shit: that's HIS Brand. Dude, if you want a Lady to fuck you in the Ass with her Cock see Lawrence, not Me. I keep it Old School, and that is what my Clientele wants. Like I said: I am a Business man.

I am Laslo.

Original Mike said...

"Imagine a restaurant that "believes in hamburgers" and just wants to "persuade you to eat them.""

"Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger."

rehajm said...

I'm not persuaded Chiat knows much about economics or the function of business but I think there's merit to his argument that it was ignorant of Chris Hughes to believe he could scale the content into a profitable platform. He should have known the arrangement writers and artists prefer is that of patron. Hooker/John analogies come to mind. Grumpy hookers.

rehajm said...

I see Laslo beat me to it. Well done, Laslo.

eric said...

This is why the left hates for profit enterprise and thinks them evil. Because capitalism and for profit means providing the people what they want.

But, what the people want isn't good for them. Chait knows better. And the people need to be treated like children and told what's best for them. For profit can't afford to do that. It'll lose money.

Therefore. Socialism.

Skeptical Voter said...

The restaurant analogy doesn't work for The New Republic. They're more in the business of shoveling horse manure, and old school like, they want to keep on doing it that way. And since that's all they know, they'll keep on doing it after the market dies.

Nothing wrong with that--there's still a small market of sorts for it. Being retired, I've got time to take two or three mile walks each day. In certain neighborhoods in my suburb of Los Angeles the preference for lawn fertilizer is cow manure. The typical time of year to apply it is in the fall or early winter. It does leave a distinct aroma as you walk by the houses. In other parts of town, they use other fertilizers that don't stink so much.

Let's just say that I've never fertilized my mailbox with a subscription to The New Republic.

Henry said...

Headline: The New Republic to open hamburger stand in Palermo. Or something.

garage mahal said...

This is why the left hates for profit enterprise and thinks them evil. Because capitalism and for profit means providing the people what they want.

The National Review has never turned a profit. Breitbart isn't profitable either. Why can't cons run a successful business?

AJ Lynch said...

In even bigger media news, the Philadelphia Inquirer and affiliated companies is now a non-profit that will solicit big donations to fund its current money-losing "journalism". So if you think the MSM is far left now, wait til you see what is is like when the big far left foundations are funding it.

Big Mike said...

Just. Let. It. Die.

wendybar said...

Why would anybody open a business at all, if it weren't for the profits??? might as well become communist, and let the government own everything and they can dole it out to whom they want...????

Hagar said...

"Not for profit" only means you cannot issue stock and pay dividends, but you certainly can make a lot of money and pay yourself (and friends and relatives) a nice salary with perks like free housing, etc., which looks alot like "profiting" to me.

Rocco said...

garage mahal said:
"The National Review has never turned a profit. Breitbart isn't profitable either. Why can't cons run a successful business?"

Why don't you ask the Koch brothers that question? Or Fox News? Or...

Hagar said...

If the magazine does not make a profit selling it, find a sugardaddy sucker to support it, or apply for a government grant, and make your profits that way.

damikesc said...

Yeah, nothing says "sound business model" like having to convince people that what they want isn't what they really want.

His analogy is like church. When churches liberalize their views on sex, the church's attendance craters. Because the people who didn't attend church still don't and the ones who did will stop because of the changes. It simply kills its own congregation.

The National Review has never turned a profit. Breitbart isn't profitable either. Why can't cons run a successful business?

When was the last time anybody involved with TNR did anything that got TNR positive coverage? Breitbart has turned into a solid news service and NR is a fairly low-cost repository of intellectual conservative writing from a wide array of schools of conservatism. I'd also like to see info about Breitbart not being profitable. A quick Google search didn't pull up much, but I'm always interested.

TNR is a shitshow.

Hagar said...

Or tell your legislator you will give him x dollars if he will support a law to make it mandatory for some class of people to eat lunch in your restaurant.

Dr Weevil said...

Demonstrating his usual reasoning abilities, GM concludes from the fact that conservatives don't hate private enterprise that they must therefore hate non-profits. He doesn't even seem capable of suspecting that some might find both acceptable. Why can't he see that? I suppose if you find non-profits good and for-profits bad, it's easier to understand others who simply reverse your preferences than to realize that there are other, more tolerant, possibilities.

garage mahal said...

"Why don't you ask the Koch brothers that question?"

The Koch family made a ton of money doing business with Stalin and the Nazis. Not sure that's the example you want to highlight.

Hagar said...

A successful businessman is like a succesfull politician in that they find something the public wants and provide that.
A prophet tells the people what they should want (in his opinion) and, if they still resist, will try to find a way to coerce them.

William said...

I think the analogy should be to the Kirov Ballet. Kirov was a high level Bolshevik who founded a ballet company. He was visionary enough to see that ballet was more than just a bourgeoise art form. He recognized that the ballet company was a way of providing beauty and grace to the masses. He also found that the ballet company was a reliable source of supple and grateful young women. Eat your heart out, Charley Sheen........Perhaps Chris Hughes should look to restoring Playboy to its former glories, or maybe the writers at TNR could use their literary gifts to print the occasional article or profile detailing the wit and visionary thinking of Chris Hughes. There are many amazing parallels between Chris Hughes and the young Orson Welles that the average TNR reader would love to read about.

damikesc said...

The Koch family made a ton of money doing business with Stalin and the Nazis

Since when has a Progressive had an issue of somebody working with Stalin? Hell, the NYT had reporters who got Pulitzers for less. Democrats employed Stalin's spies in the government. Do you REALLY want to play this game?

And the Koch's father did something with Germany in 1933. If you're going back 83 years for a zinger, you're failing hard.

And why are the Kochs responsible for their father's actions, but Obama palling around with terrorists and racist preachers is "old news"?

And I'm sure the reporting of a New Yorker seeking to trace "the rise of conservatism through dark money" is going to be unimpeachable.

Funny, I never noticed any actual debunking of the Clinton Cash book, which spelled out the corruption in their "charity". Wonder why.

damikesc said...

Hey, garage, since you're so concerned about how rich people made their money, any opinions on George Soros?

Qwerty Smith said...

The point of free enterprise isn't necessarily to turn a profit. The point of free enterprise is to do as we please so long as we do not harm others.

It may be that when people are free to engage in enterprise, they generally seek to make a profit. But it doesn't stop being free enterprise when entrepreneurs seek to serve other values, whether by sacrificing some business for the sake of their religious values, or by giving away fortunes for humanitarian reasons.

Likewise, the point of socialism isn't necessarily to serve the common good. The point is to force people to do things that they do not wish to do.

It may be that a socialist state will force people to do things that benefit them. But it doesn't stop being socialism when government seek to harm one group on behalf of another group, or to harm all of its subjects for the benefit of the rulers.

We would surely avoid a lot of costly (and sometimes deadly) errors if we stopped assuming that private enterprise=selfish, while government=altruistic.

As for non-profits, the profit motive does not disappear merely because there are no shareholders. I know a lot of non-profit employees who sneer at the idea of for-profit business, and yet not a single one of them is working for free.

mikee said...

I for one love getting calls from political survey takers. I ask them the percentage of refusals to answer. They never tell me. So I hang up.

As to TNR, maybe it can alternate publishing each week with Newsweek, and gain some of that extremely valuable "I thought they quit publishing in the 1990s" vibe with the public.

Brando said...

Maybe it's time to accept that certain types of publishing will never turn a profit--at best you can limit the bleeding, but there's just not enough advertising or subscription revenue to run in the black for a lot of these institutions. If they're "culturally valuable" then maybe some big donor can turn it into a charity project, like a museum, and keep it afloat without the fiction of trying to make the numbers work out. That's essentially where we are anyway, but by lamenting the state of journalism (or even regular book publishing) it's like we're wondering why soccer isn't the moneymaker that football is.

Gahrie said...

The Koch family made a ton of money doing business with Stalin and the Nazis. Not sure that's the example you want to highlight.

And at the time Stalin and Hitler were heroes of the American Left.

garage mahal said...

"And at the time Stalin and Hitler were heroes of the American Left."

Uh huh.

Brando said...

"And at the time Stalin and Hitler were heroes of the American Left."

Hitler wasn't, but Stalin certainly was, and the early version of Mussolini (after he launched fascism, but before his alliance with Hitler) was as well.

But pointing out that someone "did business with Hitler" is mindless when we're talking about pre-1939 Germany--it was one of the largest economies in the world even then, and if you did any sort of trade with them (or with another country that was also trading with them, for the international economy has long been integrated) it would have been impossible to not "do business with Hitler". It's not the same thing as manufacturing gas for the death camps.

Static Ping said...

There was a restaurant somewhere, sometime that felt morally obligated to serve hamburgers. The proprietor probably felt it was the healthiest food available, or it was key to German and/or American pride, or some such, and would rather go bankrupt than give it up. I would bet money on it. Probably not a common occurrence, as you suggest, but it happened. It may still be happening somewhere.

I'm also certain that there were many tobacconists that thought smoking was legitimately good for you and considered their business to be a public service and a moral good.

Michael said...

Koch's father did business in Germany in the early 1930s. The Wiki article on the topic notes that the refinery was "approved by Hitler" but that should be checked because Hitler did not come into power until a bit later. Koch also did business in the Soviet and regretted it and said so long before his fellow travelers considered recanting their love affair with communism. He was in it for the money.

Static Ping said...

On the Hitler thing, many on the American Left approved of him as long as he was allied with Stalin. When Hitler turned on Stalin, they turned on Hitler. The "we have always been at war with East Asia" idea did not come from nowhere. However, not everyone was fooled by either/or.

For a more extreme example, the French communists were collaborating with their German occupiers until Stalin told them to stop, which was pretty much right after the tanks started rolling into the Soviet Union.

eric said...

Blogger garage mahal said...
"Why don't you ask the Koch brothers that question?"

The Koch family made a ton of money doing business with Stalin and the Nazis. Not sure that's the example you want to highlight.


So did coca cola, General Motors, IBM, Ford.....

What's your point?

Oh, and ton of money? Exactly how much money do you think the Kochs made off of Hitler and Stalin? I bet you've got no clue.

Temujin said...

It's always interesting and often amusing when someone on the left who clearly has never started up a business, employed anybody, or just simply put their own money where their mouth is, talks up business analogies.

There is an almost infinite number of small businesses (and large) who have failed all the while their owners telling you how passionate they are/were about their product. And if only their customers got it (those darn stupid customers) they would have been successful. TNR is not the first, and won't be the last. They got lucky to be around as long as they were (very limited market for that, just as there is a very limited market for The National Review). One of the keys to successful business is to listen to your customers. If you shut up long enough, and just listen- your customers will usually tell you what they want. Then it's up to you to give them what they want, or produce The New Republic.

John Constantius said...

Firstly, Laslo's post was awesome. Secondly, I miss Laslo's posts about his Nazi nymphomaniac girlfriend. She sounded really hot, although also racist and (just guessing) probably kind of anti-Semitic too. Thirdly, Brando, soccer makes tons of money...just not in the US. Fourthly - uh, what was the question?

Laslo Spatula said...

John Constantius said...

"..Secondly, I miss Laslo's posts about his Nazi nymphomaniac girlfriend. She sounded really hot, although also racist and (just guessing) probably kind of anti-Semitic too."

She is the Lead Female in the 'I Am Laslo' movie.

Script done. Scrounging cash. Low-budget filming beginning this Spring.

Have had four women reject the role, despite 'no nudity'". It actually is the sweetest, smartest character in the script.

It is Tough being Laslo.

I am Laslo.

John Constantius said...

"No nudity"? Dude.

Michael K said...

"Blogger garage mahal said...
"And at the time Stalin and Hitler were heroes of the American Left."

Uh huh."

garage doesn't remember the Nazi-Soviet pact that set off World War II. The communists were parading and singing "The Yanks aren't coming" when Hitler invaded France. They turned on a dime when he invaded the Soviets.

Life is simpler when history began yesterday. Right, garage ?