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After doing some reading at Sohodojo.com

After reading Longitude - What It Means to be an Entrepreneur: The Remarkable Story of John Harrison at Sohodojo.com, I have a few thoughts on how the content of this blogging relates to our Local Food Economy Game project

"John Harrison stood up to, and held his ground in earnest opposition of, the Powers That Be. In the Big Is Good World, the Powers That Be define the rules of the game and are its referees. It is unbelievably difficult to 'reinvent the game' when competing against those who have that much control over Life As We Know It."

John Harrison

John Harrison - Repro ID PU2851 © NMM London

In our modern economy, institutions like Wal-Mart define the rules of the game and are the referees. By setting the rules – the prices for which their goods will be sold – they make competition from others, who are less concerned with price, difficult. With their ability to undercut the prices of other firms while maintaining their enormous profits, they eliminate many competitors from the game. It is a goal of this project to bring to the forefront other goals of the game of consumerism: those that introduce decision-making factors aside from price; those that allow sustainable producers to have a shot.

"But the reality is that it is how you behave as an entrepreneur and how you practice capitalism that gives the domain of business a positive or negative value basis."

Whatever the outcome of our Local Food Economy Game, even if we are successful in increasing the use of local foods in our economies, these networks will continue to be based on capitalism. As I see it, one of our goals is to show that capitalism can take many forms. It does not have to be the ruthless pursuit of profits at the expense of all other concerns. It is possible to maintain an economy based on capitalism – and capitalist values are so well-entrenched in our society that I believe that capitalism will always exist here – while also valuing other, non-monetary factors, in our buying decisions. Capitalism is not a matter of black and white: there are shades of gray in which we can introduce our personal values to make the world a better and more sustainable place.

And a general thought in the nature of the entire post

I think that much of what needs to be changed is the mentality of consumers. When I buy something, my only two considerations are cost and quality of the good or service that I am looking for. You can say that this is a result of my tight budget, but my parents, who are not financially bound to the same extent I am, operate in a similar manner. If the same product is available at a cheaper price, buy it there, without even thinking about other factors. I know that a goal of Sohodojo is to introduce other factors into the mindset of consumers, and I think this is an entirely appropriate and important goal. If we can find a way to "change the rules of the game" so that other, non-price factors become important in our buying decision, than I believe a market will open up in front of our eyes.

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Comments

What a great post, Jelal! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is interesting that you zeroed in on John Harrison. Both Timlynn and I believe that Harrison is one of the most inspiring role models that any of us could try to emulate. A self-educated, rural cabinetmaker, Harrison's creativity and entrepreneurial vigor was unbounded. These characteristics helped him to quite literally change the world forever. His maritime clocks revolutionized global navigation.

In his day, there was no more important problem than computing longitude. Without accurate global navigation, the world could not be opened up to trade and travel. Everyone around him – especially the Inner Circle of the Royal Society (of Science) – all were sure that the problem of determining longitude would be found in a celestial measurement solution. Harrison had the vision and relentless focus to insist that there was an alternative solution. With a sufficiently accurate clock, a mechanical not a celestial solution, longitude could be accurately determined.

He was ridiculed. His work was intentionally sabotaged by his competitors. But he never wavered in his belief that his innovative ideas would work.

This is exactly the kind of relentless focus and tenacity that folks will need to envision, prototype, test, and evolve alternative consumer markets that are not optimized around price and distribution (channel control). Ironically, just like those of the Inner Circle of the Royal Society in Harrison's day, many of the mainstream experts in business, marketing, economics, and related subjects are too sure that there is One Right Way that markets behave. Price, quality, and distribution are the Three Kings of all markets.

But let's not forget that markets are not a thing of Nature. They are not pure and precise, obeying absolute laws immutable. Markets are, afterall, the domain of us. And we human beings are whimsical and unpredicable. We can make up new rules of the Game. Our Free Will gives us an opportunity to imagine, then make it so.

That, as you say Jelal, is what we are chipping away at with the Local Food Economy Game project. First we study, learn, and imagine. Next we envision and explore the possibilities. Then we invite others into our new playground (our new alternative markets). And bit by bit, we help to change the world.

This mission is not impossible. We're not trying to replace all markets with a new One Right Way. We just want there to be effective and competive alternatives... to balance the "How Much and Where" with "Who, How, and Why."