Publications / Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture

Good Morning, Beautiful Business

Introduction by Susan Witt
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SCHUMACHER CENTER FOR A NEW ECONOMICS

Judy Wicks is one of my heroes. She is a single woman who built and runs a financially successful business, which at the same time is socially responsible and ecologically accountable. The White Dog Cafe not only serves regionally grown organic food but actively supports the network of farmers who grow that food. Staff share in profits and decision-making. The White Dog Cafe hosts community discussions around global issues of peace, renewable energy, rights of workers in countries around the world, habitat loss, and other topics of common concern and serves as a place where Philadelphia residents can gather to find solutions to local problems. Its vitality has become a catalyst for neighborhood pride.

Judy Wicks’s achievements with her restaurant have brought her national recognition in the growing network of social businesses. She is a respected leader and popular spokesperson for the movement. But it is not these accomplishments alone that won my admiration.

Several years ago Judy Wicks was challenged by two pivotal events. Ben and Jerry’s, the popular Vermont maker of quality ice cream and poster child for socially responsible business, was sold to Unilever International Corporation. At the same time Stonyfield Farm, producer of fine yogurt, sold out to Danone Group. The Moosletter had introduced us to Stonyfield cows with names like Betsy or Mary Beth and described the way Sam and Louise Kaymen (the original farmers) had invented new flavors. How could we reconcile ourselves to Stonyfield yogurt being owned by a multi-national corporation?

Judy Wicks might have justified these sales as examples of good businesses earning well-deserved financial rewards, as others had done. But she had more consistency of purpose than that. She hadn’t worked for twenty years in her Philadelphia neighborhood–cultivating relations with customers, businesses, and community–just to cash out. She wasn’t a spokesperson for socially responsible businesses in order to increase the profile and stock value of a relatively few enterprises so that they could cash out.

It is not just recycled packaging or open hiring practices or good benefits or green sourcing that make a sustainable business. All of these issues are, of course, important, but something was missing in the definition of the kind of business that truly builds community in a new way, and that missing element was the word “local.” It takes a deep commitment to a particular place and substantial effort to weave together all the threads of that place–people, land, and community–to create new economies that can counteract the devastating effects of the global economy.

Out of this understanding Judy Wicks launched a new initiative, “Business Alliance for Local Living Economies,” not without a struggle and criticism from old allies. But BALLE has proven itself and has quickly risen to become the business voice for “going local.” It is this integrity of vision, this courage not to take the easy road, and her community-grounded entrepreneurship that make her a hero in my eyes.

Please join me in welcoming Judy Wicks.

Thank you, Susan, for that wonderful introduction, and thank you for inviting me here today. I have always admired this lecture series and have wanted to attend, but I never thought I would come as a speaker. And here I am! It’s such an honor to share this day with Chief Lyons, whose lecture inspired me, and with Stephanie Mills, whom I’m looking forward to hearing. But I am most proud that I’m here with my daughter Grace, who is now a member of the board of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics.

When I open my closet door in the morning, I see a sign that says, “Good morning, beautiful business.” It’s a reminder to me of just how beautiful business can be when we put all our creativity, energy, and care into producing one product or service in exchange for another. When we think about it, economic exchange can be one of the most meaningful and beautiful interactions among human beings. When I see that sign in the morning, I think about the farmers who are out in the countryside picking organic fruits and vegetables to bring to the White Dog Cafe that day. And I think about the cows and pigs and chickens that are out on pasture in fresh air and sunshine with freedom to move around. I think of our goat herder, Douggie Newbold, who says that when she kisses her goats’ ears, it makes the cheese better, and I think that’s true! I also think about the bakers coming in to the White Dog and putting into the oven the rolls and pies and cakes that the customers will enjoy that day. And I think about the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, who grow the coffee for the cup I’ll have that morning. Business is about relationships with all the people we work with and buy from and sell to. My business is the way I express my love for the world, and that is what makes it a thing of beauty.

Over the past twenty-one years since I started the White Dog Cafe, my business has not only provided me a way of making a living and a way of serving others but has also been my teacher. In reading Small Is Beautiful I realized that so much of what my business has taught me can be found in the great lessons of E. F. Schumacher: the benefits of keeping your business a small human-scale enterprise, focusing on the needs of workers rather than only on what they produce, using a management style that balances freedom with order, building sustainable local economies, and respecting the land and nature. The effects of industrialization that worried Schumacher decades ago have gotten even worse: namely, wealth inequality and the growing degradation of our environment.

Today much of what I care about—nature and animals, community, family farms, family businesses, indigenous cultures, the character of our towns and cities, even our children’s future—is being threatened by corporate globalization. In order to protect all that I care deeply about, I needed to step out of my own company, out of the White Dog Cafe, and start to work together with other businesses to build an alternative to corporate globalization. I started my journey with the simple premise that a sustainable global economy must be comprised of sustainable local economies. Rather than a global economy controlled by large multinational corporations, our movement envisions a global economy with a decentralized network of local economies made up of what we call living enterprises: small, independent, locally owned businesses of human scale. These living enterprises create community wealth and vitality while working in harmony with natural systems.

Today I want to tell you the story of my own living enterprise, the White Dog Cafe, and about BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which is a vehicle by which we “pursue small on a large scale,” as Schumacher would say, by building throughout North America local economies where small is beautiful and where people and all of life matter more than material gain and profits.

I opened the White Dog Cafe in 1983 on the first floor of my house in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is a house I have lived in for thirty-two years. A Pennsylvanian all my life, I grew up in western Pennsylvania, but I have lived in Philadelphia since 1970. I have a strong sense of place and of history. My foodshed includes the rich farmland in Lancaster County, where my ancestors settled three hundred years ago. They were French Huguenots, a widow and her five children, who were driven out of Europe by violence. They came to Pennsylvania because they had met William Penn in London and heard that he was looking for people who were fleeing religious persecution. Penn, a Quaker, had a vision of creating a haven of peace and brotherhood where European settlers would live in harmony with Native Americans. He signed a treaty with Chief Tawana, who then welcomed my ancestors when they arrived in 1712 and provided them with a wigwam, where they lived for the first year. Today much of the food I serve at the White Dog Cafe comes from the same land, the same area where my ancestors once lived and farmed.

Every year we hold a Native American Thanksgiving dinner. We give thanks to the Indians of North America for all the many foods they cultivated, which make up the majority of our diet today–among them corn, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peppers, and melons. Each year we also have a speaker, such as John Mohawk, who brought us his Iroquois white corn, a native variety, which we have used in our cooking. And this year Lenape Indians will speak about their project to regenerate the land in our area. There will be drumming and dancing, a real celebration of Thanksgiving.

When I opened the Cafe twenty-one years ago, it was a simple coffee and muffin take-out shop catering to students who lived nearby at the University of Pennsylvania. When it was time to expand the menu and start serving hot food, I couldn’t afford to put the exhaust fans up through our three-level Victorian brownstone house, so I put a charcoal grill in the backyard, and we grilled the food out there. That was my appropriate technology! The first advertising we did was when my daughter Grace, who was four years old, and my son Lawrence, who was two, would go with me to the University campus and hand out flyers telling about our restaurant. When we got home, they would run to the backyard, where we had put lawn furniture and picnic tables around the grill, to see if any customers had come yet. In the winter we enclosed the grill in plastic and put a chimney up through it. The waiters would have to go through the basement and out the back door. The three-bowl dishwashing sink was in the dining room, and the customers would hand their plates over to the dishwasher. If you had to go to the bathroom, you would go upstairs and maybe wave to Grace and Lawrence, who might be playing on the floor as you made your way to the family bathroom. At the end of the evening the last server would put the money under my pillow, which was the only safe place to keep it.

Over the years we have expanded our menu, grown to occupy five consecutive brownstone row houses, and added our retail store, the Black Cat. We now employ more than one hundred people, can seat more than two hundred customers, and gross over $5 million a year, which is more than can fit under my pillow any longer! I attribute our success to staying one small, very special restaurant as well as to making decisions not for the sake of maximizing profits but instead maximizing relationships with our customers and staff, with our community, with our suppliers and our natural environment.

I still live above the shop, the old-fashioned way of doing business—the way it was in the old days with the family farm, the family inn, the corner store, the tailor shop. For most families there was a real integration of family life and work life. Then, with the Industrial Revolution adults went off to the factories, their children to the schools. Eventually families moved to suburbs, with the result that work and family became compartmentalized, which in turn led to the compartmentalization of values—a different set of values at home and at work. Many business schools teach their students to leave their values at home when they go to work. We teach our children the Golden Rule at home, but in the workplace gold rules. I believe this has caused a lot of unhappiness because most of our waking hours during our working years are spent in the workplace, and when our values at work aren’t aligned with our personal values, we lead unsatisfied lives.

Living and working in the same community has given me a stronger sense of place and a different business outlook. When I make a business decision, it comes naturally for my decision to be in the common interest of all involved because every day I see the people affected by my decisions—my neighbors, my customers, and my employees as well as the natural world. There is a short distance between the business decision-maker and those affected by the decision. One of the goals of our local-living-economy movement is to keep that distance short. In large companies the CEOs often make decisions without ever seeing their effects. Publicly traded companies are actually required by law to make decisions in the best financial interest of their stockholders as opposed to the interest of the other stakeholders. I believe that when we are surrounded by those affected by our decisions, we are more likely to make a decision from the heart as opposed to the head.

I’ve found that many of the decisions in my life involving change have come from the heart. For instance, paying what is called a living wage. This means a voluntary commitment on the part of business owners to pay their employees not just the disgracefully low federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour but rather to pay them what it actually costs to live in their community. When I first heard about the idea of paying a living wage around six years ago, I thought, “Well, no one is going to tell me how much to pay my people.” My first reaction was that I couldn’t do it because I’m a restaurateur. Restaurants are labor intensive. How could I pay dishwashers and prep people $8 an hour, which was the living wage in Philadelphia at the time? But then I was in the kitchen one day, getting a piece of pie out of the refrigerator, and I happened to look over at the three young entry-level workers lined up prepping vegetables. They all looked up at me at once, and I had a sudden realization, saying to myself: “What are you thinking? Of course you want the people who work in your restaurant full time to be able to make a living, to be able to pay their rent and buy their food and buy their clothing.” There really weren’t that many who weren’t earning $8 an hour anyway. We never paid that pitiful $5.15; people were making $6.50 or $7 as entry-level dishwashers. I gathered together those not earning $8, along with their supervisors, and I talked about what a living wage is and told them we wanted to pay that. We went through a process by which they were given incremental raises, and by the end of the year everyone was making $8 an hour.

Another example of a decision made from the heart had to do with the environment. I had heard about alternative energy and how important it was. I had read a little about it and knew about it intellectually, but I didn’t give it serious thought until we had a drought five or six years ago. I was driving up to my little cabin in the woods in early August, and on the way I could see that all the corn in the fields was brown. Where farmers had lost their whole crop, it was being plowed under. When I reached my little piece of paradise, I saw the effects of the drought. My favorite creek was just dust on the rocks. I walked up Fern Hill, a place I love, only to find that all the ferns, which usually were tall, green, and waving in the breeze, were crumpled up like brown tissue paper. Except for the crackling of breaking stems and crushed leaves as I walked, the woods were silent; I couldn’t even hear the birds chirping. The danger of fire was all around me. Suddenly it came to me—it was almost like the woods speaking—that the environment was under great stress. I thought: “This is what it’s going to be like with global warming. Parts of the world are going to perish by drought and fire, other parts by storms and floods.” And then I went over to a big oak tree and literally hugged that tree. I made a promise to do something about this. I had become a tree hugger, and when I drove back to Philadelphia, I went to the office and said: “You know, we’ve got to find out about alternative energy. How can we help in this problem of global warming?” Well, we became the first business in Pennsylvania to buy 100 per cent of our electricity from wind power, and I was one of the first to buy a hybrid car.

Business schools teach “grow or die,” the idea that we measure success in our economy and society by constant growth, by growing bigger and bigger. Even in a socially responsible business community, people will say, “Well, how much more did your business grow last year?” Or, “Do you have another unit yet?” And when people hear that I’m a successful restaurateur, they will say, “You mean you have only one restaurant?” But I made a conscious decision to stay a small business because I realized that when we grow in physical size, we give up something very important–authentic relationships with the people around us and those we do business with. I came to realize that we can measure our success in other ways besides just growing our size, sales, and profit: we can measure our success by growing our knowledge and expanding our consciousness, by deepening our relationships, increasing our happiness, and having more fun. This way we don’t give up what’s really most important and authentic–relationships that increase the quality of our lives.

I like this quote by Wendell Berry: “One of the primary results—and one of the primary needs—of industrialism is the separation of people, places and products from their histories. To the extent that we participate in the industrial economy, we do not know the histories of our families or habitats or of our meals. This is an economy, and in fact a culture, of the one-night stand.” I think it’s important that we cut out these one-night stands and quickies and rebuild our relationships with the land and with one another. We need to know who grows our food and bakes our bread and makes our ice cream, know who brews our beer, know who makes our clothing, and know who builds our house. These economic relationships form the traditional foundations of healthy and happy community life.

In the local-living-economy movement we spread our models rather than our brands. When I speak about the White Dog Cafe, I’m not trying to start a White Dog here in Stockbridge. I’m trying to teach a model, to pass on what I have learned instead of spreading our brands and ownership across the country. We believe in regional brands that have a sense of place and a uniqueness to that place. Rather than competing for shelf space in the national marketplace, we work cooperatively and share our ideas and our best practices with other businesses in our industry. National brands oftentimes eliminate local companies; they grow bigger and bigger until they reach the point where they’re too big to be sold to a neighbor, a local businessperson, or a family member. So then they’re sold to an even larger company. When we expand businesses in the local-living-economy movement, we do not create a cookie-cutter industrial model of development for a chain of the same thing; we look to see what the needs of our own community are and then use our creativity and entrepreneurship to meet them.

We’ve identified the building blocks of a local living economy: a local food system, locally made and designed clothing, local sources of energy, recycling, independent media, local arts and culture, local sources of capital, and so on. We look to see what is missing and then start a business that helps to fill that gap in the local economy. We don’t build a chain of the same thing that may end up competing with locally owned business in other communities. There’s an example near here. Do you know Bart’s ice cream? It’s a successful company, I think in the Pioneer Valley, in the Northampton area. Instead of starting a national Bart’s Ice Cream Company, as a second business it joined with local dairy farmers to start a dairy because that’s what was needed in the local economic system. In my case, instead of opening another White Dog Cafe I started the Black Cat, our store next door that sells local and fair-traded crafts and products. We’re about to build an addition onto the back where we’ll start a clothing store because there’s not one in our area where you can buy clothes that are locally made from sustainably produced fabrics.
One of the most important experiences in my life was as a Vista volunteer in 1969. I had the opportunity to live in an indigenous culture—an Eskimo village in Alaska. That really changed my life. Just as an example: I heard a knocking on my door one morning. It was one of the Eskimo women saying, “Seal party!” So I went to the seal party and learned the tradition that after a long hard winter when a man catches his first seal, his wife has a seal party and invites all the women from the village to her house to divide the meat among all the families. After the meat is distributed, anything else the family has accumulated during the year that isn’t needed to survive—such as fabrics, buttons, thread, and canned goods—is handed out to the other families. In modern times, as part of the festivities they also throw little candies and bubble gum up into the air, and the women catch them in their skirts. I was right out there with them, hoping for my favorite root-beer barrels. I realized that this was really a form of wealth redistribution—in food, buttons, and bubble gum!

The Eskimos have no sense of envy. If I said to you, “I love that bead necklace you’re wearing,” if you were an Eskimo, you would take it off and give it to me. You have to be careful; if you admire something overtly, it’s yours. This made me look at our society, at our economic system, in a new way. We actually create envy through advertising. We have ads that make girls and women feel they have to go and buy another dress. They have to buy another shade of lipstick in order to be attractive at the party. Men have to get a new car because their neighbor has a new one. We make people feel inadequate and create a sense of envy of others for their material goods. In this society we actually reward people who are greedy, and we admire the most those who hoard the most. Those who use up natural resources by having the biggest houses and the biggest cars or SUVs, which use all that gasoline—those are the people this society actually admires the most, which is just the opposite of the way it should be.

Preparing for this talk I re-read Small Is Beautiful, and I found quotes that are so relevant. Schumacher said, “The chance of mitigating the rate of resource depletion or bringing harmony into the relationships between those in possession of wealth and power and those without is non-existent as long as there is no idea anywhere of enough being good and more-than-enough being evil.” Certainly the Eskimo people I lived among understood this. The idea of hoarding or having more than you need wasn’t even in their consciousness. I learned from the Eskimos that a successful economy can be based on sharing and cooperation rather than on competition and hoarding.

When Thomas Berry was once asked what the purpose of life is, he answered that the purpose of all life and the whole Universe is simply existence—existence and self-delight in simply being present in the world. The Eskimos were the happiest people I ever met, I believe because their self-worth was not connected to money. They were happy just to be alive in this beautiful world. They felt a connection to the land and to nature and to one another. Like most indigenous people they had faith in the abundance of the Universe, believing that there is enough if we all share. This is the underlying principle for the local-living-economy movement: all life is interconnected, and so we need to build an economy that reflects our environmental and our spiritual interconnectedness, a system based on caring and sharing and cooperation that builds community and protects the environment rather than destroying them. This was an economy experienced by arriving settlers when Native Americans shared their bounty at the first Thanksgiving and traded in good faith with William Penn.

I’ve begun to see that there are two worldviews that represent opposing forces in the world. One is the worldview of interconnectedness that the Eskimos have, of understanding that all life is sacred, that all people and nature are interconnected; wealth is shared, actions are love-based and creative, nonviolence is the path toward peace, and survival depends on partnership with others and with nature. The other worldview is one of separation: life is separated into them and us, good and evil, with survival depending on competition and domination over other people and over nature rather than on partnership and cooperation. Actions are fear-based and conformist, wealth is hoarded, and war is inevitable.

On February 15 of 2003 millions of people around the world came out into the streets protesting the coming invasion of Iraq and calling for nonviolence. I saw this as a hopeful sign that the worldview of interconnectedness is growing. I believe that this outpouring of resistance to the war was a manifestation of the global collective consciousness, which understands that we are one planet and one people.

The worldview of separation is exemplified for me by religious fundamentalism—whether Christian, Jewish, or Islamic–and by the political leaders who cater to it. The global leaders who have this worldview are a threat to world peace because they represent a black and white worldview of good and evil, of kill or be killed, believing God is on their side. They take little interest in dialogue or understanding because for them might is right; they will win through violence and domination.

I believe capitalism has perpetuated this worldview of separation because it teaches individualism and competition, leads us to think our self-worth is based on material wealth, and gives us the false feeling that only money, rather than community, brings security; thus, we live in fear that we don’t have enough for ourselves or that what we have is going to be taken away. Hoarding and violence, I believe, come from a lack of faith—faith in the Universe, faith that the Universe is abundant and can provide for everyone if we’re willing to share and cooperate and live in harmony with all of life.

Conservative business people often use Adam Smith’s concept of the “invisible hand” of the marketplace to demonstrate that if business people make business decisions in their narrow self-interest, the “free” market will solve all the problems, and everybody will be served. Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, calls this market fundamentalism–the belief that the corporate global marketplace can solve all the world’s problems. I do believe in the concept of an invisible hand, but I don’t think the way it has been interpreted is what Adam Smith had in mind at all. He never meant to suggest that a successful economy is created by people making decisions in their narrow self-interest, removed from their own community. On the contrary, Smith, a moral philosopher, based his theory on the existence of a moral community, where business decisions were made with enlightened self-interest by business owners who understood that their well-being was tied to the well-being of their community. I see the invisible hand as representing the collective consciousness that all life is interconnected. If everyone were to make economic decisions based on enlightened self-interest, I believe we could in fact create a world in which the needs of all are met.
At the White Dog Cafe we have many programs to further the idea of our interconnectedness and our sense of community. We have dialogues on issues of public concern, which—like the local-living-economy movement—encourage local civic engagement and involvement in the issues of the day. Table Talks have featured Helen Caldicott, Jim Hightower, Patch Adams, Amy Goodman, Eric Schlosser (the author of Fast Food Nation), and Jeremy Rifkin, who wrote The Hydrogen Economy. Our storytelling program often gives voice to underrepresented people: “Tales from Jail,” for example, are told by ex-offenders. We’ve had gay and lesbian couples telling their stories, recent immigrants telling theirs. Special dinners, such as Farmers’ Sunday Supper, and the Dance of the Ripe Tomato celebrate sustainable agriculture. For the past eighteen years we’ve had a Martin Luther King dinner on his birthday to remember his work and its importance today. We have a Gandhi breakfast on his birthday in October.

Among our community tours the eco-tour focuses each year on a different environmental theme to give us a greater sense of place. Where does our water come from in Philadelphia? Where does our energy come from? Where does our waste go? We have community-garden tours in the inner city and affordable housing tours; we do a Child Watch tour, a concept started by Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund. That’s where the slogan, “No child left behind,” came from, but she really means it! We have different themes—such as juvenile-justice, education, health care, or recreation—for our trips to the inner city to see what programs are succeeding and what needs of inner-city children are still unmet. There are community service days, many run by my daughter Grace. She also runs our film series. We’ve recently shown “Outfoxed” about the Fox News channel and “Life and Death,” which describes how the global economy has affected Jamaica. We just showed “End of Suburbia” about the rising cost of oil. Sometimes people say that I’m not really in the restaurant business, that what I actually do is use good food to lure innocent customers into social activism! Yes, we did organize buses to go to Washington to protest the war in Iraq. We had several buses for that and more recently for the pro-choice march.

Fun is also a big part of the business, and we celebrate the joy of community. When you come to the restaurant, you don’t have to think about all the problems in the world. You can eat, drink, and be merry. We have many events that are just for fun. We celebrate diversity on the street with our Rum and Reggae festival or Noche Latina nights with dancing and live bands. On New Year’s Day we have our annual Pajama-Party Brunch, which we’ve been doing for twenty years. As people arrive in their pajamas and robes, I take pictures, which we post on the wall each year. A college student came in this year with his girlfriend and pointed to a picture of him in his pajamas, holding his teddy bear, taken when he was four. That builds a real sense of community.

On the Fourth of July eve we have the Liberty and Justice for All ball, and I put on a skit called The Birth of the Nation. First comes a Revolutionary War soldier with his drum, then a midwife with her lantern, and then I come out dressed as a pregnant colonial woman, with a clown face, a little colonial cap, and a sign on my back that says, “George Washington slept here.” I get into a big bed in the street, and my midwife delivers twins, a white woman and a black woman dressed in red, white, and blue, holding signs saying “Justice” and “Liberty.” They hop onto the stage and do a tap dance to “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Then we wheel out the Statue of Liberty. Grace, all in green, has been the statue several times because she’s tall. We light our sparklers and sing “God Bless America.” It’s very patriotic!

Once I had a dream of walking into a restaurant. Instead of asking for a table for two or for four, I said, “I’d like a table for six billion, please,” envisioning a world where there was no hunger and where everyone had a place at the table, both politically and economically. At the time, the United States was supporting the Contras in Nicaragua. President Reagan said the Sandinistas were communists. In my younger days I had been tricked in the case of Vietnam, so I decided to go down there and find out for myself what was happening. That visit led to our first sister restaurant in Nicaragua. The idea is to take our customers and our staff to countries that are at odds with the United States, to find out how U.S. foreign policy is actually affecting the lives of people in different countries, and to show that it’s through dialogue and understanding and communication that we achieve world peace rather than through economic and military domination. Our travels have taken us to Cuba, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, El Salvador, Mexico, and the Middle East. We’ve eaten with the Zapatistas, the Sandinistas, the Viet Cong, and the Soviets, so our nickname is “Eating with the Enemy.”

We try to develop economic ties wherever we go, to use the power of economic exchange to help others. In 1997 I was very upset by the Acteal massacre of indigenous people in Mexico and wanted to figure out what more I could do to be of help rather than simply taking our customers to Chiapas to learn about the Zapatista pro-democracy movement. I decided to take a delegation of business people who source coffee or textiles from Mexico to observe and to witness how the violence was affecting the economy of the indigenous people. We held a press conference in Mexico City, and many reporters showed up because we were business people instead of peace activists. We talked about the need for peace and for autonomy for the indigenous people. The headline in the paper the next day said, “U.S. Firms Call for Peace in Chiapas.” That showed me first hand the power of the voice of progressive business people. I returned every year for five years, always bringing other business people to support the Zapatista economy. We succeeded in financing the first shipment of coffee from the Zapatista autonomous zone to the United States market, coffee we serve at the White Dog Cafe.

I believe that the purpose of business is to serve, and so the White Dog mission is, very simply, to be fully of service in four areas: serving our customers, serving one another as fellow employees, serving our community, and serving the earth. There are many different ways we do this. One of the most important ways of serving the earth and our community and our customers all at once is for us to buy locally from organic farmers, at the same time educating people around the issues surrounding sustainable agriculture and letting them know that we’re poisoning ourselves and poisoning the land and our water and our air with chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Education has become a product of the White Dog along with food and service. I once heard Willis Harmon say he believes that eventually all businesses will have education as product. I think that’s true; it has certainly happened for us.
For a long time I’ve known about free-range chickens and eggs. I’ve known the importance of making sure the veal we serve is raised naturally, with its mother. But I had no idea about how pork was being raised in this country until I read John Robbins’s book Diet for a New America a while back and learned about the atrocious way sows are kept on factory farms, locked in tiny metal crates where they can’t move at all, forward or backward. They stand on cement their whole lives, their excrement drained into a lagoon that then pollutes the water table. They never feel sunshine or a breeze coming through, they never feel what it’s like to breathe fresh air. Highly intelligent and very social creatures, these pigs never have the opportunity to socialize with other animals, to raise and care for piglets, to do anything that gives them delight in being a pig or in existing as part of the Universe, as nature intended. The cruel way they are treated is such a perversion, a violation of nature. It is an example of the industrial system gone amok when living creatures are treated as though they’re machines. To me, this is sacrilegious; it’s a breach of our duty to be good stewards of farm animals and to respect life. I was outraged, so I went to the kitchen and said, “Take all the pork off the menu,” because I realized that the pork we were serving came from those barbaric conditions. Most of the pork in this country does, unless you seek an alternative. I said, “Take off the bacon, the ham, and the pork chops—until we can find a humane source for our pork.” We asked the farmer who was bringing in free-range chicken and eggs from Lancaster County if he knew a place that raised pigs in the traditional way, and he did. He started bringing in a pig every week, and now we get two pigs a week, the whole pig. This means you have to find a way to use all the parts, which is actually quite a good thing environmentally and a creative challenge for our chefs.

In the meantime I found out about the atrocities in the beef industry and the importance of buying pastured beef for the health of both the animal and the consumer. Eventually I was able to find sources for all of our meat products—our beef, pigs, lamb, and chickens—from small farms in our own area where we know how the animals are being raised. When I finally got all that taken care of, I thought, well, I’m finished now; we have a cruelty-free menu. We’re the only restaurant in town that can say it, so this can be our market niche. But then I said to myself: Judy, if you really care about those pigs that are treated so cruelly, if you really care about the small farmers who are being driven out of business by large factory farms, if you care about the environment that’s being polluted by the system, if you care about the rural community that’s changing so drastically because of those horrible factory farms in their neighborhoods, if you care about the consumers who eat meat that’s full of antibiotics and hormones, then you would teach your competitors to do what you’re doing. That was the next step for me, and it was a huge one because as business people we’re taught to be competitive and to want our restaurant to be the best restaurant. It shouldn’t even occur to me to share what I know with competitors, but I realized that this was my challenge.

It’s not enough to attain the best business practices within our own business; we need to work outside our own companies and share our knowledge with others, including our competitors, if we want to bring real change. So I started a nonprofit, the White Dog Cafe Foundation, and I put 20 per cent of our profits into the foundation and other nonprofits. We run programs through our nonprofit as well as giving small grants. We started with pigs. I asked the farmer who was bringing in two pigs a week if he would like to expand his business. When he said yes, I asked what was holding him back. He said he needed $30,000 to buy a refrigerated truck. I loaned him the $30,000, and he bought the truck.

The job of the foundation’s first director was to provide free consulting to our competitors—the chefs and restaurant owners in Philadelphia—to teach them the importance of buying humanely raised pork and other products from local family farms. Eventually she started the Fair Food Farm Stand in the Reading Terminal; 100 per cent of our products come from local farms and small food processors in our area rather than from the industrial system. Our other project is the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, which supports and connects locally owned independent businesses that measure success by the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Personally, it’s a vehicle for me to teach what I’ve learned in business to other entrepreneurs and spread the White Dog model. The Foundation now has four full-time employees. Its many events and programs have the mission of helping to build a local living economy in our region.

Two events took place in the fall of 1999 that caused me to direct my full attention to building a movement and co-founding the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). The first one was the massive protest against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999. I was so impressed by the young people who actually became knowledgeable about what the WTO is all about. I myself didn’t know what was happening in Seattle, but my daughter Grace went. She brought back with her the shirt she wore while she was at the protest. She couldn’t get to her hotel room because of all the street blockades, so she wore the same shirt for three or four days. I have it in a box in the china cupboard along with the other family heirlooms. It reminded me of when I was a little girl, going up to my grandmother’s attic and opening up a creaky old trunk. Inside was my father’s naval uniform from World War II, and I knew that my grandmother really cherished it the way I cherish Grace’s dirty shirt from Seattle. To me, her shirt represents the simple, humble uniform of the nonviolent revolution against corporate tyranny. When I looked at what was happening in Seattle, I saw environmentalists, labor union leaders, farmers, students, and so on, but absent was the voice of progressive business. The protest was against everything we don’t like about business, but no one was articulating a new vision of what business should and could be. I asked myself, How can we direct the energy of young people toward building a positive alternative?

Only days after Seattle, the second event happened: Ben and Jerry’s was sold to Unilever. It wasn’t by choice. The company fought it, but because it is publicly traded, by law it must sell to the highest bidder if that is favorable to the financial interests of their stockholders. When it finally sank in, I sat up in bed in the middle of the night and said to myself, “My God, they’ve got Ben and Jerry’s!” I just couldn’t believe it. That company was the leader of our movement and had taught us so much. I learned about the living wage from Ben and Jerry’s. It was Ben and Jerry’s that came up with the idea of measuring success by a multiple bottom line. With the sale of Ben and Jerry’s to Unilever as well as Odwalla to Coca Cola, Cascadian Farms to General Mills, and most of Stonyfield Farm’s yogurt to Groupe Danone (the parent company of Dannon Yogurt), I realized that our movement for socially responsible business needed to rethink itself. We had never dealt, for instance, with the issues of ownership, size, and place. Though the movement for responsible business has grown, it is still the case that the environment has gotten worse, wealth inequality has gotten worse, and we have a social crisis because of family farms being forced out by factory farms, family businesses being forced out by Wal-Marts.

Recently I spoke in Indiana in the little town of Greencastle. As I was being driven into town, I asked the driver about this community. He pointed out the empty storefront where the locally owned video store used to be. Now there is a Blockbusters. At the dinner that night I met a woman whose husband had started a hardware store. He had it for eighteen years until he was forced to close its doors because a Home Depot had opened nearby. The young man who introduced me that night had been given a scholarship by a Greencastle department store that gave scholarships to local college students. Now that store is out of business too because of competition from chains and big-box stores.

We also are faced with a political crisis in which multinational corporations are increasingly dominating our lives—the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the news we see and hear—and controlling our government. Politicians and government administrators, who are frequently former CEOs and lobbyists, often owe their jobs to the corporations that fund political campaigns. The merger of corporate interests with government is defined as fascism. We need to bring power and freedom back to “we the people.” We can do that by transforming our economy.

I see now that there are two fronts in the movement for responsible business. One front is trying to reform large corporations; the other front is working to create an alternative to corporate globalization that will build economic power in our communities through local business ownership. That is why, three years ago, I co-founded BALLE. Our purpose is to catalyze, strengthen, and connect local business networks across the country, and we have about twenty-five networks we’re working with now, including one near here in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, which is called the Valley BALLE. As I was reading Small Is Beautiful, I realized that we are organizing BALLE according to a concept similar to what Schumacher suggested when he said: “We always need both freedom and order. We need the freedom of lots and lots of small, autonomous units, and at the same time the orderliness of large-scale, possibly global, unity and coordination.” That is something we honor in BALLE. We provide a vehicle for unity and coordination, but our members are autonomous local business networks that make their own decisions. Being in BALLE helps these local networks to share best practices, develop shared values, and articulate a new vision for the role of business in our lives.

This movement is essentially about decentralization and the freedom that comes with it:

  • decentralizing the economy by spreading ownership more broadly to bring economic control back to communities;
  • decentralizing our source of energy so that we’re not dependent on oil from far-away places and every community has energy security that’s sustainable;
  • decentralizing our food system so that we have food security–as Chief Lyons said earlier, in order to have freedom we must have access to food;
  • decentralizing communications, which promotes independent media (the internet has been helpful in decentralizing the media);
  • decentralizing culture in order to protect local cultures because corporate globalization has created a mono-culture, bringing Western culture to the rest of the world.

This is not a sustainable culture. It’s a violent culture and one that doesn’t take proper care of the elderly, our children, and the animals. We’re a culture that consumes more than our share of the earth’s resources and pollutes more than the earth can absorb. It is not a culture that should be exported; instead, it should be reformed and made more like the indigenous cultures we’re destroying.

The lifeblood of corporate globalization is global transport. Though we talk about global warming, we continue to ship things all around the world unnecessarily. Why should we in Philadelphia buy yogurt that comes from New England? We should be buying yogurt from our own yogurt companies that buy from our local dairies. Why should we buy beer from Europe when we have breweries in our own towns? Every town should have its own brewery, bakery, and creamery. Our vision is that our communities should be self-reliant, that we shouldn’t depend on large corporations for our basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and energy.

In the process of building local economies, many small businesses will be created, businesses that grow, distribute, and process food—making preserves, sauces, and soups from local farm products—as well as businesses that design and make clothing from locally grown fiber crops. When a product is not available locally, consumers should buy in a way that helps and supports the local community where the product, such as coffee or chocolate, originated. It’s important to know where your purchase comes from, to know that through fair trade other communities in other parts of the country or the world are the beneficiaries of the purchase.

BALLE directs consumers to locally owned businesses through Local First campaigns in cities, using one another’s best results as models; it distributes to our members Local First how-to kits based on successful campaigns. Our Local First in Philadelphia will be launched next year. The most successful one so far is in Bellingham, Washington. It has put together a kit that we’re distributing to all the members of BALLE.

Through BALLE we are setting up an on-line marketplace. Each network member of BALLE will enter the names of its community’s products. When you are looking for a product, the marketplace will search within fifty miles first, then one hundred miles, and if it doesn’t find that product, it will go into the national database so that you can identify small businesses in different parts of the country. In this way we are beginning to build an economy of small to small around the world.

The role of investors is crucial. We must start directing money toward our communities. Putting money in the stock market is a mistake that a lot of progressive people make. They think that by investing in socially screened funds they are doing the right thing. Well, after I put money into screened stocks, I saw that Wal-Mart was listed among them! So five years ago I took all my money out of stocks and put every cent into The Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia, where my money is loaned out to small businesses and nonprofits in my own community. The Fund even provided the money to build the windmills in central Pennsylvania that I now get my energy from. An important part of the local-living-economy movement is to invest capital locally.

One of the most dangerous aspects of corporate globalization is that large corporations have historically used force and militaries to protect their access to cheap natural resources, cheap labor, and the development of new markets. Thomas Friedman, who has a column in The New York Times, said you can’t have McDonald’s without McDonnell Douglas, the weapons defense contractor. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the local-living-economy movement is that by creating self-reliance we are creating the foundations for world peace. If all communities had food security, water security, and energy security, if they appreciated diversity of culture rather than a monoculture, that would be the foundation for world peace. Schumacher said “People who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.” There you go!

Let me capsulize the local-living-economy movement for you by contrasting what it is and what it is not, what it does and what it does not do:

  • maximization of relationships, not of profits;
  • growth of consciousness and creativity, not brands and market share;
  • democracy and decentralized ownership, not concentrated wealth;
  • a living return, not the highest return;
  • a living wage, not the minimum wage;
  • a fair price, not the lowest price;
  • sharing, not hoarding;
  • simplicity, not luxury;
  • life-serving, not self-serving;
  • partnership, not domination;
  • cooperation, not competition;
  • win-win exchange, not win-lose exploitation;
  • family farms, not factory farms;
  • biodiversity, not monocrops;
  • cultural diversity, not monoculture;
  • creativity, not conformity;
  • slow food, not fast food;
  • our bucks, not Starbucks;
  • our mart, not Wal-Mart;
  • a love of life, not a love of money.

In our revolution against corporate tyranny BALLE is adopting a strategy that Gandhi used in his nonviolent revolution against British tyranny. When India was colonialized, the fields were planted in export crops, with the result that the Indian people lost their food security and millions starved to death. Gandhi said to the people, Plant community gardens so that you will have food security. He said, Take all the clothes made in Britain, put them in a big pile, and burn them. That’s why you often see him pictured at the spinning wheel, teaching people to spin the flax and cotton that is grown in India instead of shipping it to London to be made into fancy clothes and then sent back to India. The Salt March was really a march against privatization: the salt should belong to everyone. We could use more salt marches today.

When I walked into the kitchen that day and said, “Take all the pork off the menu,” I realized that I was following a strategy of Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s called the tactic of non-cooperation. When you refuse to cooperate with an evil system, that is the crucial first step. Whether it’s the Montgomery bus boycott or the refusal to go along with factory farming, once you say no to the evil system, you are in the position of having to create an alternative, which is what I did when I stopped buying factory meat. We each can find our entry point into this movement by resisting something we see as an evil system: if it’s sweatshop clothing, you can make a commitment to knowing who made your clothes; if it’s industrial agriculture, you can buy food from local farmers by going to farm markets or becoming a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm; if it’s the stock market, you can disinvest in stocks and invest locally. There are many ways to participate.

We are taught that we’re losers if we don’t pay the lowest price as consumers, earn the highest profit as business people, and make the highest return as investors. We need a revolution in values so that we will value life more than money and so that we can make decisions as consumers and business owners and government leaders in our enlightened self-interest, at the same time benefiting all of life. This is really a battle of the small against the big. We used to think that the global battle was between communism and capitalism, between big government and big business. But nowadays I realize that it’s a battle between the small companies and the big ones. We need to choose between a system that’s controlled by Wal-Mart and Monsanto or a system that’s built around family businesses and family farms. We need to choose between corporations driven by profit and beautiful businesses that are run with love and care. I’d like to end by imagining that table for six billion–all the world’s people sitting down at life’s great banquet. Joining hands around the table, we might offer this grace:

Mother Earth, heavenly Father, Universal Spirit who dwells in all life,
Forgive us for the harm we have done to our planet and the plants and animals who live here with us,
Forgive us for the harm we have caused each other.
Thank you for giving us the courage to put aside our fears of not having enough for ourselves
So that we could make room for every one of us around this table of great abundance and nourishment,
Thank you for the creativity it has taken to find ways for each of us to participate in the making of this great feast
So that we may all join in the satisfaction of our work well done.
As we gather now in Beloved Community,
We offer our gratitude for this food we share with the greatest joy,
Knowing that you are present in the pleasure of every bite
And the love that shines all around us from each and every smiling face.
Amen. 

Question & Answer Period

(Questions were inaudible; only the answers follow.)

Obviously, we cannot get all of our produce locally in the winter. One of the problems in Pennsylvania, as I’m sure is the case here in New England, is that the cost of fuel is so great that it’s hard to raise much in greenhouses in the wintertime. But we have a farmer who has been collecting oil from restaurant fryers and using that fry oil to heat his greenhouses. He’s been able to grow cucumbers and a few other things that you never could afford to grow in greenhouses because of the cost of the fuel. Our foundation is helping him get a grant to expand his business, and on our block we’re starting a model recycling center with a tank that holds fry oil from the surrounding restaurants. We’re hoping that we can help him revolutionize farming in Lancaster Country by having more and more greenhouses that can be heated inexpensively when it’s cold. We try not to order food from California, but we have to. Right now we’re looking into ways of getting to know some of the farmers in Florida. We were getting tropical fruits from Puerto Rico in the wintertime from an organic farm that would ship directly to Philadelphia. We bought there because we actually knew the farmer. Now we’re trying to find an organic citrus grove in Florida, a small one that we could have a direct relationship with.

We’re not against global trade. What we’re saying is, be conscious of whom you’re trading with. Do as little long-distance trading as possible because of the transport costs, but if you have to do it, then buy in a way that supports the local community you’re buying from. Even if we buy from far-away places like Florida and California, we’re trying to identify small farms rather than going through a corporate system.

*

Right now our ratio of the highest paid to the lowest paid is four to one. Someday I may have to pay a chef more, and that will change the ratio. I don’t know many companies that have a ratio like that. As for employee participation in deciding how we give our money away, we do encourage them to let us know about nonprofits they’re involved with that they’d like us to contribute to. If they need trays of food for the opening of a theater production, for example, we do that for our employees. At our annual All Dogs meeting we talk to our staff about our policies and what they can come to for free. But we don’t have a system where there’s a vote. In fact, I think if a vote was taken on what to do with our profits, some of them would vote to raise their salaries instead of giving the money away!

I try to balance the needs of everyone—the employees, the community, the earth, and our customers—which is sometimes hard to do. When we have money to give away, is it more important to give it to the employees—raise their salaries or give bonuses—or is it more important to give it to the community for its needs? Is it more important to buy organic ingredients, which are more expensive but help the farmers and are better for our customers? There are so many choices. But no, we don’t have a democratic system whereby all employees are equal in making that kind of decision.

*

We have had Tom Linzey come to speak. He’s an attorney in Pennsylvania who talks about corporate personhood, which gives a corporation the same rights as a person. That has caused a lot of problems because a corporation is not a person and should not be treated like one. At the BALLE annual national conference we address this subject; the third one will be held in June of 2005 in Vancouver. At the two conferences we’ve had, someone has spoken to that issue. It’s an important one.

*

Human scale is difficult to define. We don’t have a measuring stick for it. We know multinational corporations are gigantic, whereas I have one hundred employees, which makes it possible for me to know the people in my company. Perhaps that could be used as a measuring stick: How many people can you know personally in your company? In smaller businesses the leader knows everyone. But I can’t say at what point big becomes too big.

It has been said by people more expert than I that even airplane and auto industries could be run on a much smaller scale in smaller communities so that products become known for the place they come from. There could be a car manufacturing company in every state and a specific type of car that would be known for that place. Even though you might trade outside of your region, most people would buy the car that’s made where they live. Having a local character can be an element of a company’s success. In Europe, for instance, there are regions that are known for a certain cheese or wine. It’s part of that local quality and character that has made their products more interesting to people in other parts of the world. As I said, we are not against trading globally; it’s that we don’t want to be part of the corporate monoculture imposed by large multinationals. By building instead on local differences and local character and local culture you can come up with products that are distinctive because they use local ingredients, local wood, or whatever it is, to make the products unique. They become more valuable because they are traded with other parts of the country. It’s a matter of moving gradually from a system that’s controlled by huge multinationals to one that’s controlled by locally owned businesses. It’s going to take time because there’s such a vast gulf between the two.

*

Something we’re looking at in the Philadelphia region is how to use the less expensive parts of meats in less expensive restaurants. The more expensive restaurants tend to take the prime cuts and have less use for other parts of the animal. We’re trying to figure out how we can make a distribution system work so that the less expensive parts of the animal are sold to less expensive restaurants for less expensive dishes, yet the farmer can still make what he needs by selling the fine parts to the up-scale restaurants. The White Dog is moderately priced, yet it still is out of some people’s price range. We have two menus, one in our bar and grill that is lower priced and one in the main dining room, where the entrees are from $15 to $22.

I think clothing is an area where we could really make a difference by just buying less. We have so much used clothing in this country because it’s so cheap to buy clothes that we buy more than we need. Probably all of you have clothes in your closet that you never wear. I certainly do. The reason they’re so cheap is because they’re made in sweatshops. Of course, clothes that are locally made are going to cost more, especially if they are organic cotton or made by hand or produced in small workshops. Yet if we spent the same amount on clothing but bought fewer things that are better made and made locally, then we could support the higher cost of the clothing.

We eat too much, but we could cut down on the amount and eat better for the same cost. It is difficult, however, for people in low-income areas to get affordable organic produce in their neighborhoods. But the more you buy from local farmers, the better they do, and the more you develop a distribution system. A problem for farmers is the time it takes to drive into town with their organic goods. We’re working on how to develop a distribution system, cooperatively run, by which the produce is picked up and brought into town. Then the farmer doesn’t have to come in as often and therefore needs less money. But the distributor needs a little cut, so it’s hard to figure out how to make it work.

One answer to this is the inner-city gardens in Philadelphia. A model is being provided by a group that has taken over brownfields, which can’t be used for anything else. The soil was destroyed by a factory, so they are building raised beds above the soil and are also growing hydroponics. They are producing organic lettuces and vegetables right in the inner city on reclaimed land and making it available to CSAs and the low-income community around them.

*

One of the things our Foundation is looking into now is building a community kitchen. There’s a lot of waste, even with the organic farmers, because at certain times of the year they have more tomatoes or squash than they can sell, and it just goes to waste. We want to create a community kitchen where we could take those tomatoes and make tomato sauce. We would help inner-city folks start businesses in the food-processing area to create links between the farm and the consumer rather than buy from large corporations. Value-added products, such as chutneys and soups could be made year round. A good model is a French restaurant in Michigan, I think it is, where the woman actually raises vegetables year round in little plastic tents she’s made. Her whole focus is on using seasonal foods even though it limits her menu. She has a root cellar, so she can make her parsnip soups during the middle of the winter.

*

In some communities the local BALLE networks are working with the Chamber of Commerce. It depends on the community; sometimes the Chamber of Commerce sees BALLE as a threat. The Chamber of Commerce will be against raising the minimum wage, and the BALLE network will be for increasing it. Right now the Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia is opposed to the banning of smoking in restaurants, but I’m in favor of that. We don’t have smoking in our dining rooms. In most situations the traditional Chamber of Commerce is in opposition to the local BALLE networks in terms of legislation and platforms. Sometimes in smaller towns there can be cooperation because the Chambers of Commerce are the locally owned businesses to a large extent. When Sustainable Connections, the BALLE network in Bellingham, Washington, initiated a “buy local” campaign, the Chamber of Commerce did cooperate with the local businesses.

*

Our employees are invited to come for free to any of the events we hold, such as our table talks, to hear a speaker or storyteller or see a film. We also pay half of their way to go to other countries. One of our dishwashers went to Cuba, and our head busboy went to Vietnam. I just went to Palestine and Israel—we now have an Israeli sister restaurant in Tel Aviv and a Palestinian sister restaurant outside of Bethlehem—and a salesgirl from the Black Cat went with me, along with someone from the office and a cook from the kitchen. We’re about to go to Chiapas in a couple of weeks, and we’re bringing eight people, including our chef, who’s going to be cooking in our Mexican sister restaurant; our beverage manager, who’s new so I want her to see where the coffee she orders comes from; the manager of our store, who’s going to see where the crafts come from that we buy for our store from the Zapatista community; our receptionist, who hasn’t been on any of our trips yet; and one of our organic farmers, who wants to see how organic farming is done in Mexico. So we do try to include our staff as much as possible. Even though we invite them to go for free, often they choose not to go with us.

There are certainly employees who come to a lot of our events, but a lot of the waiters and waitresses and bartenders are in school or have other things they’re interested in. They come in and do their job and then run home to their families or to their night class, so we don’t have as much involvement as we would like. I think it’s because of the nature of restaurants, though, more than anything else.

We do have workplace giving, with a mechanism for contributing—say, a dollar from an employee’s paycheck each week—to a range of nonprofits, and then we match that with a dollar. We have dishwashers who are philanthropists because they put in a dollar a week, which is doubled, so that they contribute $104 to a charity for the year. We have a sunshine fund that employees can voluntarily put money into. If someone breaks a leg and can’t work or has a long illness, then we pay for their rent and help them out.

*

We provide $125 a month toward health-care insurance, but then the employee has to cover the rest. Something like seventy-five people of the hundred are signed up for health care. I wish I could afford to pay 100 percent, but there’s no way I would have the money for that. I actually know a restaurant owner who tried to do it, and of course he went out of business as a result. I hear that even the larger corporations are no longer paying 100 percent because the costs have become so high.

I have been active on this issue. When the Clinton administration introduced its health-care plan, I was a spokesperson for it. I even went to the store and bought a book that outlined the plan. I took the formulas and applied them to my own business and found that we would be able to better serve our employees with the Clinton plan, and so I became kind of a poster child for small-business support of the plan. It was astonishing to me to see how duped both small businesses and consumers were by the propaganda against the plan, making it sound as though it were socialism. I debated the head of the National Restaurant Association on the McNeill Lehrer Report on this issue. When he said restaurants would go out of business, I asked him whether he had read the plan. He had not! The plan gave restaurants that traditionally do not have the money to pay for health insurance an equal playing field by enabling them, with government help, to provide health care for all their employees. It intentionally was going to help labor-intensive businesses like restaurants to be able to offer those benefits that the larger companies can.

Concluding remarks

As I was trying to find some similarities among the three talks, I remembered Chief Lyons telling about being a truant when he was a boy—although he didn’t know what the word meant—and Stephanie talking about Bob Swann going to prison for opposing the draft. I thought about their rebelliousness in opposing systems they objected to, and I asked myself if there was anything similar in my life. I remembered that when I was five, on the first day of kindergarten I was upset. I had gotten into trouble because I ate my cookie before grace was said. When my mother brought me to kindergarten the second day, I decided I wasn’t going there anymore, and I ran away. I hid in the bushes up the hill, and I amused myself for a while, digging up worms. I can still remember picking them up and hanging them on the branches of the bushes. After a few hours, I got bored, and I went back down the hill and snuck up to the kindergarten, which was at ground level. I peeked in the window and saw that all the kids were playing musical chairs, which was my favorite game. When the teacher saw me through the window, she came out to get me. She took me in with her, and I joined in the game.

I don’t know why that story stuck in my mind, but I think that in a way it is symbolic of the balance between freedom on the one hand, discipline and control on the other. We need both in our lives, and living in community requires imposing certain controls that we need in order to live together. There is always this balance. I was struck that Schumacher talked so much about the balance between control and freedom. Whether you’re starting intentional communities or you’re building a democratic system of governance among Native people or you’re running a business, so much of it involves this balance between freedom as opposed to control or between individuality and creativity as opposed to discipline and structure.

The idea is to give as much freedom as possible within the confines of the amount of control needed to organize a community or business. And this is a good way to think about how to raise children and even animals. It’s certainly how I raised Grace. I probably gave her too much freedom as compared to discipline! I’m thinking now in terms of what’s needed. Sometimes our freedom is won by restricting ourselves and disciplining ourselves. Right now, in order to save the world that we love we need to have more discipline. We really need to look at our way of life, regardless of George Bush the First saying at the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Conference in 1992 that any discussion of changing the standard of living in the United States was basically off the table. A change in our standard of living is exactly what needs to happen, and we must have the discipline to cure our addictions–eating too much, buying too much, having too much, and our addiction to oil.

I was trying to think of some way to sum everything up, and I remembered reading that Confucius said all of his teachings could be wrapped up into one word, which is “reciprocity,” giving back what we take. Yet where nature is concerned, we are taking more than we are giving back. We need to look at our own lives and see in what ways we can give more and take less, including in our relationships with animals. Animals serve us in so many ways, and yet what are we doing to them? Many of them have become extinct, farm animals are being brutalized, animals are used in experiments, and so on. We don’t have a reciprocal relationship with animals, we don’t have a reciprocal relationship with nature, and we don’t have a reciprocal relationship with other people. In business we need to have fair trade. Whether it’s our relationship with employees or with other businesses or other peoples, we need to give as much as we take, and that’s what sustainability is based on. If we are going to survive as a people, we need to stop taking more than we’re giving.

Publication By

Judy Wicks

Judy Wicks is a leader, writer, and speaker in the localization movement. She began buying from local farmers in 1986 for her restaurant, White Dog Café, which she started on the first floor of her Philadelphia row house in 1983. Realizing that helping other restaurants connect with local farmers would strengthen the regional food system, … Continued

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