‘Natural Selection’ Should Always Dictate

Background Reading


Teens at the shop are trained in donated bikes, but then move on to work repairing client bikes. | Esther Castillejo/For the Sun-Times

Teens at the shop are trained in donated bikes, but then move on to work repairing client bikes. | Esther Castillejo/For the Sun-Times


The State should never be the one that makes decisions for things that are not of universal importance. We watched for decades as the Soviets tried to dictate what would or would not be supported by the State. This included what they farmed and how much of it was harvested. It never seemed to work very well.

Capitalism is a far better way to get things done. If a business is running with great efficiency and it can thus provide a better solution to your needs at lower price it wins! That is what should be happening.

Sometime we get the Socialist view of the world colliding with what we know to be the Capitalist view. This never works quite as well as one might hope. Our government subsidizes certain kinds of crops in the belief that what is being grown is essential. Some crops which probably do more harm than good are nevertheless subsidized. I will leave it to the reader to discover which crops that might be. But suffice it to say some of them in normal use are carcinogenic.

But KickStarter and other efforts have brought the benefits of Capitalism to the masses. We get to be the money men. And in exchange for our money we get a product that we hope will exceed our wildest expectations. What is not part of the deal is that we will be on the hook for the success of the business beyond the Venture Capital phase.

It made sense before KickStarter and other similar vehicles to rely on the government to provide seed money to groups to ‘get an idea off the ground‘. But that is no longer necessary and in fact should probably not again happen.

Taking Ownership

aldous-huxley-on-changing-the-worldIdealists are often fond of trying to fashion the world in their own image. But that is the ‘wrong way round‘. We should be all about getting to know ourselves and then shaping the world either by action or persuasion.

Groups like Bikes-n-Roses need both of these. They need to find a way to fund themselves and their idea. But then it becomes the responsibility of the community that gave it birth to act as if they were shareholders. What does that mean?

First it means that we need to use the service itself. These guys are not making a product for sale. So they are different than a startup bringing a new widget to market. In that instance the sales of the widget will determine the fate of the company. But in the case of a bike shop it means that we need to go out of our way to keep the doorbell ringing at these shops by taking our bike there to ensure that such shops develop a consistent revenue stream.

But beyond that we need to ‘talk up‘ the shops we love. Word of mouth never goes out of style.

I know that the cycling community can singlehandedly bring businesses closer to bottom line success and beyond. Revolution Brewing is doing just fine. And no tag days will have to be offered for them. Why? They have a product that is near and dear to the hearts of cyclists. But more than that we have groups that routinely have ‘bar nights‘ that bring in business to support the organization and the craft brewer. It’s a win-win situation.

Maybe the solution is for Bikes-n-Roses to get more business savvy? This is in fact the truth. There is no reason for inner city businesses to be any less successful than one in the suburbs or Downtown. All we need to do is stop being reliant on government and more self-sufficient in our thinking.

Sad to say, but the most business-savvy enterprises in any major city are drug cartels and the franchisers they support (street gangs). Like the brewpubs they have a product people want. And since both alcohol and heroin are addictive there is a certain urgency on the part of the customer base to buy their products.

So we need to ‘own the responsibility‘ for supporting what we need and must have. We need our bikes kept in running condition, since our standard line to the outside world is that we are ‘transportation cyclists‘. We have a responsibility to keep our main transport healthy and in working order. What better way to do that than to have kids in our community learn to service our bikes, make a little money and we get to save a bit as well, owing to the reduced rates of shops like these. It is a win-win.

But people in the bicycle community must band together to get such businesses the kinds of training and tools they need to wisely use the capital they earn and to act in a sustainable way. Not every shop keeper is a CPA. But there are business savvy persons who ride their bikes who can help.

Letting Go

The reality of it all is that not every business will be successful. And you soon have to realize that at some point it will fail. But not before you have done everything possible to give it a fighting chance. That is the other harsh lesson that Capitalism teaches us.

But like the shop owners in Cuba who are now their own bosses and learning how to plumb the depths of Capitalism the good ones will enjoy success if and only if the State gets out of the way.

So if you believe in the local bike shop and its mission, support it. If the only outdoor velodrome in Chicago is something you want to see succeed then deny yourself that second, third or fourth beer and dig deep. But in the event neither of these businesses can sustain themselves be prepared to smile through the tears.

We cannot save everything and neither should we want to. That would only stifle the creativity of the next individual who has both a dream and the savvy to bring it to fruition. It is a bit like raising children. You have the responsibility to give them a good education. What they do with things after that is on them. You expect to have to help them early on as they get started, but sooner or later they must take responsibility for themselves. You have done your job.