Ughh. That's how I felt as I walked out of the Maryland Horse Council's all day Equine Business Seminar Monday.
As I crammed all the handouts into a folder at the end of the last session and wondered whether I would ever look at them again, I, for a brief moment, understood why so many small business people are seduced into voting for politicians who promise to shrink government. Why can't I just do what my business is about without complying with all these laws?
One of the lawyers who led one of the panels really impressed me. I told her how excellent I thought her presentation was, but that I didn't like hearing what she had to say. She suggested that I join the Chamber of Commerce to fight against the burdens put on small business.
Ughh, again. It's the Chamber of Commerce that wants to keep the minimum wage where it was decades ago. They don't want businesses to be regulated at all. They'd let them pollute, discriminate, evade taxes, and rip off the public. That's an exaggeration, I know. They also do good stuff.
I believe that businesses need to be regulated by our government. It's the only way that capitalism can exist within a democracy. The people must have a way to influence the economy. Otherwise it's a jungle out there and we end up eating each other.
I, however, don't want be regulated. I hate the law. Maybe it's because my father's a lawyer and I always rebelled. Come to think of it, he hates the law more than I do.
I think that legal contracts written in lawyerly words bring out the worst in people. The contract that addresses our selfish greed assumes that trust has no meaning. Without trust in our business dealings we feel empty and isolated.
Our business is subject to the forces of nature. Weather and strong-willed 1000-pound animals determine the ups and downs in our work every day. Our inability to completely control these things is what keeps us humble, honest, and happy. On bad days we have to trust that the sun will eventually shine and that the horse will eventually become a willing partner.
When we interact with other humans in our business we can either try to control all outcomes with contracts, rules, and threats, or we can offer trust. I find that people respond to my trust with kindness and gratitude. Horses are the same way at every stage of their training. I get accused of being naïve, but at least I am happy.
So, back to government versus business organizations. Why can't the government trust businesses to do the right thing and just back off with all the paperwork, taxes, and accounting? Wouldn't businesses respond with kindness and gratitude?
Well, there was a time in America when we had no labor laws, no social security, no health insurance, and no minimum wage. The most ambitious, smart, and greedy of the business owners got so rich that they took over whole industries. The plight for their workers was so bad that they resorted to violence and were often watched over by armed guards.
Most American workplaces are far from nature. People think that they can make up the rules and control everything in their little worlds. We are herd animals, but have figured out how to isolate ourselves. So yes, we need to be regulated.
So I will do my best to dot my i's and cross my t's for the IRS, the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, and all the other stallions and alpha mares of our great herd. But I will keep alive that spirit in me that thrives and grows only when I practice the arts of trust and humility.