February 12, 2011

WE PITY THE REST OF YOU:

In global economy, rural New England rules still apply (AMITY SHLAES, 2/04/11, Union Leader)

Many writers, including myself, have detailed how irresponsible government actions slow economic recoveries. Similar behavior by individuals impedes growth, too. If you can't find someone reliable to do a deal with, you simply don't do the deal at all.

There was a time when most Americans knew this, as I've discovered while reading about Calvin Coolidge. After leaving the White House, Coolidge did what all presidents do: He negotiated lucrative writing contracts. One of these was a deal with Collier's magazine to write 10 articles for $2,000 apiece.

Coolidge delivered all 10, but the magazine published only six. Collier's publisher therefore must have felt a bit anxious when one day he got word that Coolidge wanted to see him.

During their meeting, Coolidge pointed out that Collier's ran only six of his articles. Yes, countered the publisher defensively, but the magazine had paid him the entire $20,000. If the articles weren't published, they must not have been good, Coolidge said. He then handed the publisher a check for $8,000.

It's not hard to figure out why Coolidge returned the money for the unpublished pieces. He came from intimate New England, where people did business over and over again with the same neighbors. He wanted that next deal.


We have neighbors who moved here from California. When the College built our neighborhood the quality of the contracting was uneven and the knuckleheads put in some random contractor grass seeds instead of lawn. So the husband, who wasn't working yet, got a rototiller and turned the whole yard over, but he needed to roll it. So he went to a local store--Dan & Whit's--to rent one. They sent him to a back room where an older gentleman asked his name, then proceeded to write "TOM" in one of those marbled black composition books and helped him put the roller in his truck.

But it rained for a few days so Tom didn't get to return the roller on time. He went to the back of the store and asked what he owed: "$3." The fella took the book, crossed out TOM and the deal was concluded.

Tom came home and said: "We're not in California anymore."

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2011 8:07 AM
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