How Sweet It Was

June 25, 2019

by Lynn J Edmunds

The passing of a family member is a sad occasion, sometimes leaving us to speculate why when it’s premature or untimely. On the other hand the reason for the passing of a family business while sad may be easier to discern.

CHECK OUT THIS RELATED VIDEO

I came across a letter recently that explained such a closing written by Carol Handy owner of The Vermonter Candy of Putney Vermont. She told the story of how her family founded the business in 1950 in Dorset Vermont and then moved to Putney where it has operated until its closing shortly after writing her letter in 2017.

Taking over the company in 2004 she joined the Vermont Specialty Food Association to help stay abreast of state and federal legislation and new government regulations. However the process of making her candy being labor intensive, combined with the ever rising minimum wage increases caused the price of her product to rise resulting in fewer and fewer sales to where it was no longer profitable to continue.

At the time of closing she employed five part-time workers who now have no income from this family business small though it may have been and the product they produced is no longer in production.

While Carol admits there are other factors that contributed to making a box of candy more costly she believes the minimum wage was the most daunting.

It‘s sad to think many of the reasons for the demise of this small family business has roots in the decisions made by what our current form of governance has become, but while most of us were busy with life toiling to make a living for our families, we neglected to pay attention to the purpose of our governing or to connect the dots when it deviated from its true mission of protection rather than intrusion.

Looking back 50 years some of us remember the can do attitude that existed at a time when anything seemed possible, but perhaps more importantly there was less government restriction and a more predictable pathway for entrepreneurs to create jobs that could be filled leaving compensation to the discretion of workers and employers. Now a more rigid minimum wage structure simply ignores the circumstance of both worker and employer by dictating a mandated outcome that may put them both out of business.

Remember, the Vermonter Candy was founded in 1950, but could Carol start that same candy company today and if she could how much bureaucracy would she have to negotiate and would the cost of startup prevent her from even trying?

 

 

 

Many of us didn’t notice how government began to change 50 years ago but hind sight has a way of becoming 20/20 and having been there at the start I can tell you we are now neglecting to protect key elements of our founding principles and free market economic system to our detriment and perhaps our demise if this trend continues.

It was in the late 1960’s when central planning came to our state with the establishment of regional planning commissions. Participation by towns was voluntary then, however half a century later most communities in Vermont are now members of a regional planning commission that insists it’s here to help. But perhaps the irony is we still voluntarily participate in this ritual of planning as if it were mandatory even after exhausting years of time and energy with seemingly little recognition of accomplishment.

As we continue to plan and revitalize, nothing seems to change our trajectory but we are told more programs to create economic development are a must, so we resume planning with the help of government planners, government grants and government subsidies, plus a little help from so called non government organizations (NGO’s) who perhaps have unknown agendas.

The question is, will all this planning and control help reverse the trend of our 50 year decline or merely continue perpetuating it?

And is it only a coincidence this decline started around the same time we began to experiment with central planning throughout our state?

Today laws and regulations enacted shortly after state planning began have evolved or morphed into a convenient excuse to stifle growth while giving the illusion of government protection. They can also discourage by uncertainty, exhaust investment capital and function as a pay to play thus eliminating competition from even occurring in a market that is presumed free for all to enter.

However these punitive laws and regulations have only been addressed by the creation of benevolent programs designed to compensate for what planners have so far been unable to revitalize. Programs are now created at an alarming rate and with good intensions, but we should understand these programs only consume wealth, they do not produce it.

Similar to a minimum wage increase programs raise the bar of the livable wage for everyone, much the same as a forced wage increase lowers the standard of living for the entire economy by increasing prices. There is also a cumulative affect with program creation that may result in more programs being needed to remedy the cost or damage caused by each previous one created. So it is important we realize the mere gesture of helping one group of people becomes a multiplier of negative impact for others when outcomes are substituted for opportunity.

We should not confuse equal outcomes with equal opportunity!

Policy and regulation that advocate for equal outcomes are damaging to our economy and standard of living and are prevalent when too much program creation exists.

We are perhaps currently in a state of planning paralysis brought on by attempts to create prosperity artificially and heal an ailing economy, but the medications of program creation and Micro Management seem only to make the disease worse causing us to wonder if a less toxic treatment regiment might be in order. Maybe if we just went back to doing things like we were before we became ill that might help?

Vermont can be a prosperous and affordable state again if we follow our founding principles and protect the rights of all individuals equally, however we must create products not programs, as producing creates prosperity while programs consume it. Each of us has an obligation and a responsibility to be productive but sometimes that is difficult to achieve when government dictates otherwise.

Too much planning creates the need for too many programs, followed by too many policies and too many regulations, but can our problems be remedied by artificially manipulating outcomes to an arbitrary and punitive conclusion?

It is perhaps human nature to want to control but our founders recognized the freedom to own property created the incentive to produce and while some will produce more than others it is organic and natural to seek one’s own comfort level of success. This philosophy serves us well until we engage in manipulating outcomes that discourage the incentive to produce!

Perhaps getting back a little closer to that sweet spot before central planning was employed would reacquaint us with more free market opportunities.

Just maybe then we might realize Government Manipulation and Oversight (GMO’s) aren’t really that good for maintaining our prosperity or affordability!

Is it possible a little dose of individual incentive from the past just might work wonders?

Lynn J Edmunds

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Izzy Simons June 26, 2019 at 12:34 am

The highest the minimum wage ever was, was in 1968, and it was $1.60/hour. In today’s dollars it would be more than what the state minimum wage ever was. How did they survive then?

Reply

Lynn Edmunds June 26, 2019 at 3:26 am

In those days there were far fewer programs to support with the dollars we produced. Fifty years later we are consuming our wealth faster than we are creating it, property taxes are just one example of a higher cost of living derived from too much government manipulation and oversight.

Reply

Marc Laurencelle June 26, 2019 at 2:36 pm

$1.60 in 1968 dollars is $11.77 today. In the 1960s there was a sharp increase in imports. Notably Japanese goods (motorcycles, cars etc). The US workers were then having to directly compete with foreign workers. The Japanese workers were able to produce goods at a quality level as good or better at a lower cost than US workers could. Today US workers have to compete on a global scale. US companies can’t stay in business competing while paying high wages when the foreign competition pays a fraction of the wages.

Reply

John Mahaffy June 26, 2019 at 2:25 pm

It’s impossible for us to imagine what our progressive legislators envision their jobs to be. If, indeed, any of them bother to ask themselves such a question. There is, however, a consensus just beneath the level of conscious thought that, if “we” perceive a problem, it can be removed by the application of stricter control. It would never — never! — occur to the progressive mind that more control could possibly be negatively beneficial, so long as they are the solution’s authors.
America — perhaps the world — is infected by the cultural insanity that defined Russia following World War II, when the solution to any problem was to try the previous solution again, but bigger, this time: Bigger is Better. The restrictive government control was total and unrelenting, magnified and remagnified by the crazy spiderweb of overlapping and opposing bureaucratic areas of authority, each of whose ultimate purpose was to perpetuate and extend its own area of authority.
The similarities between 1950s’ Russia and today’s Vermont are incredibly striking.

Reply

Steve Hearne June 29, 2019 at 11:28 am

It is good to know there is still a small fire of freedom burning in Putney. I liked your letter very much Carol Handy. Perhaps it is time to put your thinking to work in the statehouse, run for office and put at least one of the progressives out too pasture. May I suggest a run against any of our transplanted legislators here in Windham county. Not much difference between them. It would be refreshing to have at least one native Vermonter representing us.

Reply

Jim June 29, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Minimum wage @$15/hour? Try to get handyman work done or someone to shovel snow or mow your lawn for the minimum” wage. ROTSA RUCK. Can’t be done.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

Constitution Day 2019 

September 17, 2019 by John McClaughry It has probably escaped most people’s attention, but today, September 17,  is Constitution Day. The Founders strongly believed that of all the...

Cannibalism and Climate Catastrophe

September 13, 2019 By David Flemming Vermont has been exploring less traditional means of taking care of our dead for years. Now, some climate alarmists are suggesting that...

“Did It Work?” A Theme Emerges

September 9, 2019 by Rob Roper Henry Epp of VPR has been working on a terrific series of articles under the umbrella theme of “Did It Work?” It...

Biden Illustrates the Idiocy of Green New Deal Policies

September 6, 2019 by Rob Roper During the seven hour CNN marathon town hall on Climate Change with the democratic candidates, Joe Biden hit on the true scientific...

Green Tyranny and the Tragedy of the Eco-Commons

September 4, 2019 by John Klar “The tragedy of the commons” is a phrase that describes the societal loss of resources through individual selfishness.  In agrarian cultures, sheep,...

Video