One of my key personal values is this: more can be accomplished and more people can be cared for when groups of people share common values and purpose rather than individuals going off on their own. This is why when we started a brewery in Sarnia, we started with ten people. Starting a business on your own is intimidating. Starting with ten friends is invigorating. Sometimes this group of people ends up being government, but it also is small communities, corporations, families, friends and non-profit organizations. When a group of likeminded people work towards a goal it will be accomplished quicker and better every time than if an individual worked towards the same goal. This is true for starting businesses, building roads and buildings, caring for a garden, raising children and every other thing that we do.
This approach has its downfalls. First, I think this kind of thinking leads to socialist political systems which end up forcing innovation and community into bureaucratic cycles that rob us of our humanity and starving us of creativity (ie. see most governments). Second, a group can eventually outlast it’s intended goal and become a relic concerned more with their existence than its vision (ie. see many non-profits). Third, the people involved can have a value shift where they start to care about different things than what the organization wants and it starts to become quite ineffective at their original task (ie. see many teachers and their unions).
These are the kinds of things I am thinking about when we hear in the news that the City of Sarnia is considering to take over the RBC Centre, or Bayside Mall, or the old Bluewater Health building. Theoretically having our tax dollars and city staff taking on projects like this would be amazing for our community. Realistically I see all sorts of challenges because our city has not proven that they can handle such tasks. So while I desperately want Sarnia to benefit (and not just some rich corporation whose shareholders haven’t even heard of Sarnia) from these projects, my fear is that they are too caught up in giving parking tickets, delaying business growth and trying to figure out who is going to cut the grass at Centennial Park.
The critical factor in all of this is organization. Group ownership, group responsibility and socialism is just a utopian pipedream unless there is significant intentional thought put behind how it is organized. Organization will depend on heavily on the values of those being organized. If you take a bunch of people who are simply happy to be employed and know they won’t get fired and then try to organize them to run a good business then all you will be doing is employing people. If you find a group of people who are in love with Sarnia and want to give back to the community and who are doing this already – then you are going to see significant growth and success.