middle brow | citizen how

we men and women of the silhouettes. 

you heard we're opening a brewpub? it's true. and we want to talk about the equipment we're buying for it.

but first... when you come to our communities. you see beyond the periphery. behind the shadow. we're here with our children. and our warped frying pan. and our dog-eared books. and our hand-me-down bicycles. and our messy heads. and we work hard. and search for and find a place in our community. 

and it's not that you rich men don't do all those things. or, at least, that last thing. it's just that the consequences of many of your actions make it harder for us to do those things. they make you and your communities richer. but they make us poorer. and you claim to know that. and to have a quick-and-easy solution to it, but you always find a way to avoid implementing that solution. because rich men become rich as a result of their loss aversion. ... they hold on, hold on to what they have. desperately. and despite any negative result for their former communities.

what the fuck am i talking about?

it's sorta like this. ever hear of a needle exchange program? i don't think there's a strong one in this city, but just you wayt. needle exchange programs provide clean needles to drug addicts. they're an almost obviously positive thing. but it takes some work to get fully on board with them. to come to terms with the fact that you're supporting drug addicts. but it's ok! you should support drug addicts! because before they were "drug addicts", they were people. and after they were "drug addicts", they were people. and while they were "drug addicts", they were people. and they're gonna shoot up, whether you like it or not.

now, should they shoot HIV into their veins in addition to heroin? let's say no. let's just accept the fact that drug addicts exist. and they'll find their fix either way. and let's give them a place to acquire clean needles. let's not ignore reality.

and what about the term *sponsored content*? you see it everywhere these days. on your favorite news sites. on the most devilish social media platform going. everywhere, really. the term just means: "hey. we're trying to get you to buy something. and the old way to advertise it don't work no more. so we're just gonna pretend that a writer from this seemingly independent newspaper wrote an article about the thing. touting its pros and ignoring its cons. and after you read the "article", you'll be compelled to buy the thing."

can you imagine if this sort of thing was happening in secret? it'd be a massive scandal. nobody would ever trust the washington post, say, again. but because they add the phrase "sponsored content" to the top of the article, and a little two-line disclosure at the bottom of the article in italics, we let them off the hook. we're meant to understand that the associated article is a sort of advertisement.

that's bull shit, though. right? we know damn well that humans generally ignore smaller text. and italicized sentences. and formulaic text. and boilerplate disclosures. we know that! and that's why the *sponsors* of the content are fine with adding these types of disclosures. because they know that for tons of folks who read those articles or tweets, the *sponsored* nature of the content won't ever register. and they'll just walk around thinking they stumbled upon some new truth. let's not ignore reality.

which brings me back to our equipment. our dear leader imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum last week. but what in the hell are tariffs? they're quite simple, actually. a tariff is just a *tax* on an import.

so, if you imagine cars as whole products, conjured up all at once. and you were standing in detroit, talking to two car salesmen. and both were trying to sell you the exact same chevrolet, one housed in windsor, canada, and one in detroit. if there was tariffs on cars, the car from detroit would cost less than the car from windsor. so you'd buy the car from detroit, right?! and then you'd take your savings and go buy some pogs to add to your collection.

you can imagine the effect this would have on the car industry in the US. tariffs *protect* domestic industries by making their products cheaper than similar products made in foreign markets. but *protection* is a good thing, right? wrong. protectionism often leads to trade wars. which can lead to real wars. like, ahem, world war i, say.

and so to avoid trade wars. and real wars. FDR started liberalizing US trade rules. and convinced much of the developed world to do the same. and we entered an era of free trade among countries that culminated over the last two decades in massive multilateral trade deals like NAFTA, the FTAA, the WTO, and the EU. 

but all this free trade meant that the domestic industries that were inefficient relative to foreign industries were at risk of deteriorating. if chinese steel firms could make steel more cheaply than US firms could, then US steel firms would slowly shut down, the story went. but wait! the free traders argued. if steel and aluminum and meat and precious metals are cheaper for other countries to produce, we'll get richer! and the products made with those raw materials will be cheaper for all of you to buy! and there'll be all this extra money! and we can use that extra money to *retrain* workers from dying industries. and we can give them free healthcare while they're undergoing this retraining. and they'll come out way more skilled than they ever were! and prepared for a twenty-first century economy! and on top of that, we'll still have extra money. with which to create more companies and more jobs.

but then those same free traders voted time and again to cut the shit out of taxes. such that there was no money available for healthcare. and for giving new skills to unemployed sheet metal workers. and communities were torn asunder. and tribalism and racism reemerged. and donald trump was elected.

whoops! back to trade. 

the point is: let's not ignore reality. free trade might be great for lots of reasons! it might have been the rising tide that lifted all our boats! but then it wasn't. because the people in charge of our boats were also in charge of their own boats. and they made sure their boat was standing on a tower of water before even remembering there were other boats around them.

so back to tariffs: while i'm opposed to broad-based tariffs. unthought out tariffs. the kind donald trump would impose. of course. not all tariffs are bad. targeted tariffs that punish bad actors. or that protect dying or newly-budding industries make sense. as long as their phased out over time. and as long as we're addressing the needs of all the people affected by those industries. but let's not ignore reality. currently, we don't care about those people.


what's this got to do with our equipment? the vast majority of the equipment we purchased for our brewpub is made from US steel and oak by US manufacturers. because we believe in the workers in these communities. we don't want to add to the pile. we want to support them where our government and business leaders have not. and we're excited to share the stories of our purchases in the coming weeks.

for now, the belief that guides all of our decision-making:

we believe the financial ethic that has defined corporate behavior for the past 30 years must be countered with an experiential and stakeholder ethic. and since this experiential and stakeholder wealth depends on strong communities, we work to strengthen our communities through beer and labor. drink good. do better.