Monday, 16 September 2013

The poor, the rich, the entrepreneur

I managed to avoid Warsaw for most of last week (Wrocław, Opole, Radom) while crowds of trade unionists came to protest. They protested in an unfocused way - "What do we want?" "Shorter working hours, higher minimum pay, greater legal protection against redundancy!" When do we wish to realise all of these rather abstract postulates?" "NOW!"

The economically illiterate, bless them, driven by the union organisers whose salaries depend on stirring up vague discontent and a sense of entitlement. "Mnie się więcej należy!" I'm entitled to more. Yes of course. We all deserve more. But at whose expense? Society's? Or the person who really pays the bills?

The entrepreneur, the man or woman with the dream, the drive, the courage, the capacity for endless hard work to make that dream real, has a finite pot out of which his or her workforce can be paid; the size of that pot is determined by the amount of orders for goods or services sold.

If demand for those goods or services shrinks, so the pool of money that the entrepreneur can pay the workforce diminishes. It cannot be enlarged by State raising the minimum wage.

But then on the other hand, if the entrepreneur is a greedy person, exploiting the situation in a small town where his or her business is the only significant local employer, and the entrepreneur treats the workforce with derision, bending the rules wherever possible to ensure the maximum possible profit for him or herself - then that entrepreneur deserves a hard time.

For hard work is only part of the equation. Being born with brains and courage, being smart enough to take the risks that others shun, being born at the right place at the right time - the entrepreneur should be humble enough to recognise that.

I believe the entrepreneur who can make game-changing vision happen, who brings society some real and measurable improvement in the quality of the goods or services that people buy, should be lauded as a hero. It is the percentage of people like this in a given nation that determine how rapidly its economy will flourish.

But the entrepreneur who uses people instrumentally, who cuts corners when it comes to paying the workforce on time, who avoids paying taxes, who takes a slap-dash attitude to health and safety at work, is focused on extracting as much money out of the business as possible in the short term to spend on showing off - that entrepreneur deserves our opprobrium.

Question is - what percentage of Polish entrepreneurs fall into the first category, and what percentage into the latter? My guess is the number in both categories is actually quite small. There's a large grey area in between, entrepreneurs who display both good and bad characteristics at the same time. But in the final analysis, the fact that the entrepreneurs are there, that they create jobs and create wealth, is good for the economy. Yes, they need to be regulated. But that regulation should come from within, not be left to the legislator (elected by the majority, employees rather than employers) to determine.

The wise entrepreneur - taking a long-term view, treating his or her workforce decently, communicating with them - will not drive trade unionists out onto the streets. They will work together in partnership to help the business grow for everybody's good. Win-win-win-win (employer, employee, customer, supplier) rather than an adversarial approach to business.

This time last year:
Food: where's the best place to shop in Poland?

This time two years ago:

This time three years ago:
Commuting made easy

This time four years ago:
Work starts on the S79/S2 'Elka' (it will be finished very soon now)

This time five years ago:
Warsaw's accident-filled streets (same as it ever was)

This time six years ago:
ul. Poloneza's pot holes rip off my car's exhaust (the middle section's fixed at least)


Bob said...

As usual - good post. Too bead people on both sides don't get it.

Alexander said...

Dear sir,
I think you got it all wrong this time.
People, even farmers are now against this government, with a prime minister that is not trusted at all. The government is moving Poland towards Euro entry, and has been cutting costs, raising taxes, and making life much more expensive.
Also people are against, what Brussels calls “reforms” , meaning trash contracts and more competition with German workers who do not get a minimum wage. Growing by austerity like the Euro zone is doing, has been proven not the only way, by the famous mistakes by Harvard professors, and the Polish people have seen the euro countries fail, and now know how much they risk, as with the bank robbery of Cyprus, and Brussels taking more and more powers.
People have seen Poland turn from exporters of for example, meat and sugar to importers thanks to EU rulings. They have seen polish brands and companies like STAR dissapear into German hands. EU rulings will shut down the coal industrie, keep them buying gas from Russia, and expect a ruling against shale gas next month. And this are just a few of the subjects.
The demonstartions have been a long time comming, Polish have been waiting untill the holidays to minimize the impact on Polish people and Polish businesses.
I am surprised you did not notice the Polish people having enough of Tusk, his government and swing in their opinion of the EU.
Best regards,