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08 February 2011

Beer and Profits

Because Netflix has seen fit to offer me another free month of access, I recently watched a documentary titled Beer Wars. It's written/produced/lead by a former executive from the malt beverage industry and tries to make a point about how big business (e.g. Anheuser-Busch) is stifling the American Dream and does it via the example of the history of breweries in the United States. It's a decent film and worth an hour and a half of your life if you're interested in this kind of stuff, but there was a bit of doubly ironic trivia nearly buried in the movie that has gotten me thinking about a larger point. The filmmaker/former-exec is oddly allergic to alcohol. (I didn't know there was such a condition either.) You got that right: a former executive in charge of an alcoholic beverage line (i.e. Mikes Hard Lemonade) was incapable of imbibing her own product. But, that's kind of my point. Only in a capitalistic economy is it OK to have a business leader who is so disconnected from her product. So long as our executives can run a business, it is irrelevant whether they know anything about their commodity--or for that matter have even experienced their commodity!

I find this very problematic because it is part of the larger alienation of people from their products. I want to buy stuff from people who care about that stuff, not just how to sell it to me for the most profit. Profit is not in and of itself the issue; disconnecting that profit from everything else is. Beers made by people who love beer are really good. Beers made by people who love profit are flavor neutral--at best. If it works for beer, imagine how it plays out in other industries? Cars? Houses? Food? If we were able to recouple passion and profit, our products would be better and our business practices would be more ethical.

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