Bernie Sanders came to my town of Lexington, Kentucky, earlier this month. Thousands of supporters showed up, and in this week's state Democratic primary, a mere couple thousand votes separated him from the frontrunner. The self-described "democratic socialist" has apparently timed his presidential run perfectly: Frustration over government, big banks and the "billionaire class" runs high and deep. Sanders' call for a political revolution has an alluring ring, especially to voters who might not realize what that revolution would require.
According to Merriam-Webster, socialism was the most looked-up word in 2015. Several recent polls show its increasing popularity among those under 30--one survey found 43 percent viewed it positively, compared to 32 percent who endorsed capitalism. What all this says to me is not just that a lot of people don't know the meaning (or history) of socialism, but that they don't understand capitalism, either--certainly not the form of capitalism we strive for at Big Ass Fans.
To anyone unfamiliar with our company, I could declare that we pride ourselves on cleaving to the Golden Rule because we believe in its ethical superiority. But that would be misleading. The fact is, we treat employees, vendors and customers as we'd like to be treated not because we're nice people. We do it because we're good capitalists, or like to think we are. That's why we pay more than 20 percent above the national average, provide good bonuses and benefits, and offer a host of employee perks. That's why we don't try to nickel and dime our suppliers into the ground, and why we do reach out to every single customer to make sure they're satisfied.
Good capitalists assume certain responsibilities toward society and want to make it better. They make quality products and don't build in obsolescence. Good capitalists want to see everyone rowing in the same direction but nobody confined to the galley, and they don't put profits before people. At Big Ass Fans, we see the relationship between profits and people as one of mutualism: We're not in business to make money, we want to make money to stay in business and expand. That allows us to share the money we make with greater numbers by employing more people and supporting more charities.
Certainly there is no shortage of bad capitalists out there. They're on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and everywhere in between. But it is examples of government mismanagement, abuses and disagreements that dominate the history books, and most socialist states haven't fared too well either.
Maybe capitalism's current low poll numbers are partly the Pope Francis effect. On a list of most beloved pontiffs, that guy is quickly rising to the top, so when he rails against the profit motive and says unfettered capitalism is "the dung of the devil," it gets people's attention. But just last week at the Vatican, Francis spoke out in favor of an initiative on fighting poverty through entrepreneurism, so even he recognizes that not all forms of capitalism do Beelzebub's bidding.
At Big Ass Fans, we don't see our endeavors as the least bit demonic. That's why we're always looking up, if not to the Heavens, at least to the ceiling. And we plan to be practicing our kind of capitalism long after the current presidential race is one for the history books.