It has often been said that a society’s level of civilization can be gauged in three places: it’s prisons, it’s toilets, and it’s roads. If a society possesses a high trust culture which emphasizes justice and consideration, one would visibly notice those values at work in the aforementioned 3 places. I would like to add another domain to that list, the domain of business and commerce. It is within the realm of commerce where Western values of high trust and consideration truly shine. Let us examine how.
In 2013 I did some contract work for a massive Canadian corporation where I acted as a liaison between customers and the accounting department. The job was a logistics position that tracked the number of units that were shipped every month to various giant retailers across Canada. If customers had accidentally been shipped fewer units than ordered, my job was to prepare the paperwork and alert the accounting department so that the customer would receive a credit on their next purchase. Unsurprisingly, customers were quick to point out shortages as it no doubt impacted their operations. Surprisingly, they were just as quick to report additional units that were shipped to them by accident. In such a scenario I would once again prepare the necessary paperwork and forward it to the accounting department which would then bill the customers for the additional units.
I was told that there was no way to track additional units shipped by accident and thus the company was at the mercy of their customers. If the customer was honest, they would report the overage. If they weren’t, that was the company’s loss. It turned out that 90% of the customers were honest and I owed my contract job to their integrity. Just another day in a civilized high trust Western culture.
Contrast this to the manner in which non western people do business. A cousin of mine (now a millionaire several times over) once said this about Dubai’s real estate market: “Everybody’s corrupt, from the bottom to the very top.” Kickbacks are very common in the UAE, and possibly the only means to secure lucrative contracts. Building material suppliers often offer kickbacks to secure contracts for new development projects. This often leads to the use of inferior construction materials which in turn frequently leads to this.
India and China do not fare any better. My mother once mentioned her awful shopping experience at Dubai’s Dragon Mart, the emirate’s only major Chinese mall. Chinese shopkeepers often threaten to raise their prices at a moments notice to force your hand and discourage you from shopping around. The Indian’s atavistic need to price haggle is a symptom of a larger problem: a lack of trust between consumers and sellers. In the West, bargaining is frowned upon and customers generally trust sellers to quote them a fair price. This has historically been the case:
The sound merchant of the old school held the opinion that his duty was satisfactorily discharged, by satisfying the actual purchase-requirements of his customers. He allowed the latter to approach him of their own accord, and waited until they called upon him, believing that he had conformed in all respects to his business obligations, by procuring for the customer, at a suitable price, the goods which the latter required. He regarded it as beneath his dignity to run after customers, or to entice them, by all manner of tricks, to buy from him; in fact, in olden times, conduct of this kind was regarded as unbecoming
and quite unworthy of an honourable trader. Far less did it ever occur to him to talk a customer into buying some article, which the latter would not have bought of his own accord. Thus trade remained a peaceful, and not unduly exciting occupation, and still the customer got what he wanted. (Theodor Fritsch, The Riddle Of The Jew’s success, page 10, 1927)
Tribalism is bad for Capitalism
Traditional Capitalism ensures that Businesses actually satisfy consumer needs in order to remain profitable and hence continue operating. Businesses that do not satisfy consumer needs or implement poor business models are punished with losses and eventually swept off the board. In tribal societies however, even lousy businesses can expect to stay profitable because they can always count on the patronage of their ethnic communities. In the long run this is harmful to the economy as businesses have no need for self improvement.
I’ve seen several examples of this in Toronto where businesses (run by immigrants) that would have shut down (under ordinary circumstances) remain operational due to the support of their ethnic communities. These businesses provide sub-standard customer service and at times their owners outright insult their customers over the counter. This arrangement generally sabotages the free market’s ability to regulate quality. In the long run, an ethnically fragmented society produces an economic system that emphasizes ethnic networking over quality. Capitalism’s innovation inducing qualities are effectively muted in such an economic environment.
How a society does business speaks volumes about it’s values and worldview. Even my ultra religious uncle (a hardcore Muslim) was impressed with the integrity of Western businessmen. He often speaks highly about his British suppliers and how they would often issue full refunds without even verifying if the goods were genuinely defective, preferring instead to take their customer’s word for it. The prevailing ethos of the West is that trade ought to benefit society and that there is a higher purpose to wealth creation. This is why Ford paid his employees very high wages (for the time) and Carnegie built libraries. India’s business class give virtually nothing back to society and the Chinese are not much better.
I think the Alternative Right and Paleoconservatives have overall neglected to analyze and comment on the business culture of the West. I’ve merely presented the tip of the iceberg in this article and it is my view that this is an area that certainly merits further study and discussion.