American Exceptionalism, Business and Economy

American Exceptionalism #17: The American How-To Book

I’ll get to #’s 1 thru 16 later. We’ve talked about them before.

Note the book cover, which I only ran across a week or so ago. It was printed in 1908, in New York, Chicago, and London, but was in it’s 6th edition, putting its original publication back into the 1890s. Just 192 pages. Printed cardboard cover. Probably cost 50-cents.

What it is, is a How-to book for the small businessmen, from setting up the office, filing, training new employees, writing correspondence, bookkeeping, banking, and marketing. It’s basically what an MBA student of that era, into the early 50s, would study in a 2-year course at a university, but never to start his own business, but rather to get a position at an existing corporation, which, in the early 1900’s, were largely industrial.

Interestingly, this book assumes everyone is on the same page about business ethics. So it doesn’t moralize, as we seem to be compelled to do today.

This book is geared to the person, probably older than a college student, who 1) has an idea which he thinks is profitable, 2) likes being his own boss (more risk, more reward, but greater risk of failure), and 3) a willingness to work long hours, 6-7 days a week, and delay gratification for at least a couple of years, while his business clientele and reputation builds.

In cities all over America, small ones, big ones, even small towns where a hardware store owner actually had no competition, there are short chapters that they could use in enhancing their business.

In the 1990’s, as I’ve mentioned before, I taught college classes to mostly African-American women who needed an Associate Degree to get a job and get off AFDC. It was an exciting time. The school had a few young men in those classes, and they all took my Business Law course, where I taught them how to do a business plan, which not a one of them turned in, but from which two actually set up their own business, one a used car lot that was still there when I left the area in 2000.

City black kids had been taught they could not get ahead because the system denied them access to money. Political hucksters and schools told them it was the Jewish bankers.

I told them that not a new businessman ever went into a bank with a “good idea and a business plan” to get his first start-up loan. What they had to show a bank was at least two year’s tax returns showing profit. Then they’ll listen to you. But everybody, EVERYBODY, had to get thru those first two years by borrowing money from family and friends. Write out a note, and pay them back. The bank will be your friend for life once you’re a good risk.

The same with credit cards. Start with a $500-limit, and never make charges that you don’t pay in full each month. Once or twice a year, charge something, a plane ticket, that is over half the card limit then pay it off next month. Within two years, your limit will be at least $2500 and your credit history will be part of any new bank loans.

All the Indian and Chinese bodega-operators in their part of the city got their start this way. Successful Indian and Chinese businessmen pool their money to loan just for these kinds of start-ups.

Black people didn’t have these kinds of access, and for forty years were told it did even exist.

Nor were there books like this “Business Man’s Brain Partners”, written 90 years earlier.

I point to the American black community in Cincinnati, circa 1992, because the situation for that black community has been the status of the rest of the world since before the American Revolution.

When DeToqueville visited America in the 1830s, trying to impress the French nobility back home about this new thing called “democracy”, he mentioned that while Americans were not interested in classical literature or philosophy, but read every practical book they could fine, from home repair, to better ways to raise livestock or grow corn. We were obsessed with it.

But the French would have none of it, and his book flopped in France.

From time immemorial every country had its produce markets, where farmers brought in fruits and vegetables to sell. And going back to the French Revolution in Europe, in every neighborhood there was one butcher, one baker, one grocer, one tailor, one factor (notary), you know, all the things people who lived within walking distance would need. The French called this “petite bourgeoisie”, a kind of business class that could never grow beyond the radius of its neighborhood. They all lived hand-to-mouth, cash and carry.

This is why Europeans still have difficulty in dealing with defining it’s middle class, and is why the Obama regime wanted to turn America’s private middle class back to that old failed, European model.

They never had a way out for their lower economic class, as designed.

In America, ours, however, provided over half the jobs, and half the private wealth in America, but which no respectable country club would accept as a member.

I found most of the cities of Bulgaria to be arranged in the same way. But one German box store, like Lowe’s in America, set off an entrepreneurial building wave in the early 2000’s, that transformed the several small business economies of their cities. It was a Renaissance of entrepreneurship.

But Bulgaria never had this red book or anything like it. It came at a time when Bulgarian city government could not get out in front of the itch for unchained private enterprise. Sadly, this was not the case for Ukraine or Russia, where no such hunger for it ever existed. They all saw it “top down”, and replacing George HW Bush with Ron Brown in 1993 more or less closed their doors.

This book, “Business Man’s Brain Partner”, was aimed at aspiring businessmen who wanted to spread their income-earning opportunities to a broader audience than just the city block.  As far as I can tell it was always in Americans’ blood. People have come here from every country on the globe, from urban, rural, even tribal cultures, yet all within the allotted time, 2-3 generations, took to it like ducks to water.

Bottom line, what was available at an American book stall for around $.50 in 1908 was never made available to millions of people who wished they could get ahead in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, Helsinki, until the advent of the internet. At least legally. The new “democratic socialist” state apparatus had locked down private enterprise since the end of WWII.

I’ve had clients in Kenya who can never get ahead for the same reason, thanks to the colonial system that kept native peoples out of the economic free market mix; French Africa much worse than the English, .

One could not get ahead without the permission of the state, which is a classical definition of “a kinder, gentler, socialism” that only damns people to a slower kind of suffering.

In his 1960s comedy routine, “I used to be a Catholic, but now I’m an American”, George Carlin  (RIP) listed all the sins a Catholic teens in Bedford-Stuyvesant had to commit just to cop a feel with a girl named Joanie?


Starting any enterprise in virtually every modern European country, without the permission and guidance of the state, involves at least as many infractions and far worse sanctions than saying a Novena and three Hail, Mary’s.

Of all the gifts America can give the world, this is the one I would choose to be first.





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