Good morning, everyone. I’m happy to welcome you here this morning to our 34th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures. It’s my pleasure to introduce our first speaker, Matt Stinchcomb. Matt is vice-president of values and impact at Etsy, where he’s worked since the company was just beginning in 2006. His job description, he says, is to give Etsy employees the means and desire to minimize harm and maximize benefit for people and the planet. That’s a cool job if I’ve ever heard of one but also a big task. Matt’s work is dedicated to one of the trickiest aspects of the new economy, and that is scale.
As we frequently remind ourselves at the Schumacher Center, E. F. Schumacher used to say, “If everyone were for small, I’d be for big.” What he meant was that it’s not a question of all big or all small but instead, as Wendell Berry put it, “a recognition of human limits and a recognition of the necessity of human scale.” Matt is involved in the issue of scale probably more than most of us. He’s been with Etsy as it has grown from a four-person business to a 600-employee business, and in fact when I came to New York in October to attend an Etsy meeting called “Reimagining Manufacturing,” Matt pulled out Kirkpatrick Sale’s book Human Scale from his bookbag.
I’d like to read what Wendell Berry has to say about the effort to create human-scale economies. This is from his 2012 Jefferson Lecture called “It All Turns on Affection”:
Its purpose, to the extent possible, is to bring producers and consumers, causes and effects back within the bounds of neighborhood, which is to say the effective reach of imagination, sympathy, affection, and all else that neighborhood implies.” He goes on to say: “I do not believe . . . that morality . . . is an adequate motive for good care of the land-community [he’s talking about land specifically]. The primary motive for good care and good use is always going to be affection. . . Without this informed, practical, and practiced affection, the nation and its economy will conquer and destroy the country.
Matt, as we know, is not working with farming communities or food systems; he’s working in a company that provides an online marketplace for selling handmade goods. His task, which is to foster that affection which will allow for good use to give people “the means and desire” to do good, is a difficult one. I think that in his lecture he’ll probably tell us how he’s doing this.
I want to recognize the courage and the creativity that Matt brings to his work and to the new economy movement. Wendell Berry has described corporate industrialism as practicing a very effective type of creative destruction. Matt seems to me to be a leader by example of the kind of creative construction that we need to build a new economy.
I happen to know that his secret dream is to own a sandwich shop in Great Barrington that serves roast-beef sandwiches and whose slogan is “the beast steak sandwich you’ve ever had.” I think we can all count ourselves lucky that he’s decided to stick to New York and stick with Etsy—and that he’s here with us today.
Please welcome Matt Stinchcomb.