Writers: Making language work for the reader

January 15, 2009


“That nasty man who did so much good.”

Paul Valéry

Is it because Voltaire wasn’t afraid to be nasty that he did so much good? Almost certainly. There is no convincing evidence that writers can do their job by being nice.

And why should they be nice? To be asked to dinner? To be part of a corporation of writers, which like all corporate groups rewards discretion? To be rewarded with money, prizes and titles?

Nice writers are usually working for someone or senile or in the wrong business. Those who have done the most good, as Voltaire pointed out, have “mostly been persecuted.” The nasty sort continue to be persecuted in most countries. In the West they have to deal with more sophisticated assaults such as bankrupting lawsuits and job loss. Worst of all – in this society of expensive communication systems – they are threatened with irrelevance.

What about their messy lives, their greed, their jealousies, their hypocrisy? Who cares? Voltaire himself had a more than average number of flaws and contradictions. He still created the language which ended a regime…

Their only job is to make language work for the reader. That is the basis for free speech. Whatever the vested interests of the day may be, they invariably favour an obscure language of insider’s dialects and received wisdom. So the writer turns nasty. It’s a public service.

— excerpt from The Doubtger’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, John Ralston Saul

The franchise industry has made me a writer. For better or worse, I am that: I can do nothing other than type. And no one is more surprised than me.

I consider what I do to be a public service. I have created an index method for a U.S. $1 trillion per year industry, created an institutional memory of any published article and broken the back of those that enable this modern tyranny.

By any measure I have paid the price and more. I am indebted to no one. I am a free man and choose to associate with others who value freedom.

The time of reckoning coming quickly.


Franchisees have a Right to Exist

December 5, 2008

Franchisees and franchisors are separate peoples.


They are nations within nations. Each have natural rights as every citizen in the world has rights.

These obligations exit above mere commercial contract law.

Franchisees: While they may come from different countries, speak different languages in different geographic settings, they more alike than they are dissimilar. They become more and more alike the longer they remain as franchisees.

Franchisee leaders are often singled out for sanctions from franchisors and the industry. It is not just the personal humiliation and shunning. That’s corrosive enough.

  • It gets personal. It really can be seen as one side believing the opposition does not deserve to work: Does not deserve to actually live.

Franchisee leaders being called scum in U.S. congressional hearings. AUS SLAPP lawsuits are used to bankrupt dissent. Media articles are planted to pressure employers to fire advocates. I’ve had corporate head hunters laugh in my face when they find out I am “that” Les Stewart.

  • If there is any hope for retail franchising, this colonial attitude, which is an expression of a totalitarian regimes, must stop.
  • And it must stop immediately.

It is impossible to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement between different but equally-important peoples when one side engages in economic, career and reputational genocide.

In ancient Greece, hubris referred to actions which, intentionally or not, shamed and humiliated the victim, and frequently the perpetrator as well. In modern English, it indicates overweening pride, self-confidence, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution.

The Greeks considered hubris as not ONLY the most serious personal sin but a criminal offence.

  • Their caution is communicated in the story of the winged Icarus and his remarkably skilled father Daedalus.

It is easy to enslave a people when the only alternative is a monopolized Court and political system. Internet-based information sharing of archived, indexed and free industry behavior records shifts the power balance. Forever.

  • Almost universally, indigenous peoples are much more generous with bully conquerors than their behavior ever justified.

Franchise’s best practices get much worse: Gresham’s Law

November 20, 2008

greshamtSir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579) was a British merchant and financier. He is best known (in a very backhanded way) for something called Gresham’s Law which is commonly stated as “good money is driven out by bad money”.

He had urged Queen Elizabeth to act to restore the debased pound sterling. The value of all money is weakened by allowing low quality species to circulate within the economy.

One application: second hand automobiles.

lemon automobiles (analogous to bad currency) will drive out the good cars. The problem is one of asymmetry of information. Sellers have a strong financial incentive to pass all cars off as “good” cars, especially lemons. This makes it chancy to buy a good car at a fair price, as the buyer risks overpaying for a lemon. The result is that buyers will only pay the fair price of a lemon, so at least they won’t be ripped off.

High quality cars tend to be pushed out of the market, because there is no good way to establish that they really are worth more. The Market for Lemons is a work that examines this problem in more detail.

Franchising is just like selling used cars.

  • There are heavy incentives for franchise offerings to be of much lower quality than advertised. Over time, this trend continues: The highest quality offerings achieve the same (or lower) rate of return than does the lowest quality.
  • The highest quality franchisors leave and the lowest quality ones multiply, based on information asymmetries, made worse by confidentiality agreements and SLAPP lawsuits.
  • The insurmountable costs involved in accessing justice or remedy for fraud accelerate this race to the bottom.
  • There is no use of quality improvement methods such as ISO.

The franchise industry’s practice becomes worse (not better) over time.

YouTube says Franchising is slavery

October 28, 2008

YouTube will become a very effective means of information sharing for franchise investors.

This is the first general franchise message [ie. it’s not this brand or that brand that is acting in a predatory fashion] to hit YouTube. It reflects the reality that all franchise relationships have the same characteristics, the same tools or potential; everywhere, all around the world.

What makes franchising different than independent business is its ability to ransom your life savings. This is done because, at the moment you sign, your investment instantly changes from 100% liquidity to next to zero [transforms into a sunk cost]. You imagine yourself in control but have lost 100% control of your assets.

New franchisees come to realize quite quickly that they go along with the franchisor or they will be punished. Many franchisees kid themselves; hoping upon hope that their masters will allow them to exit by selling to the next sucker. That rarely happens because the franchisor makes more money the less you make at re-sale.

Over years and after signing a confidentiality agreement, investors realize that it was always this way: the moment you signed, 90% of what they put in was always at the franchisor’s absolute use. The sunk cost nature is the source of a franchisor exercising their discretion in a one-sided manner (opportunism).

  • The franchisee’s near total net worth is tied to the whims of a party that has next-to no penalties if they choose to act in a dictatorial manner.

Soon I think we will have a franchising channel with dozens of trademark correspondents bringing back information that is not constrained by government decisions, coerced confidentiality provisions or SLAPPs.

That is very good news for good systems and not so good for opportunistic ones.

  • And this should be applauded by all stakeholders that want to improve quality, in what we perceive to be a free market economy.

Shouldn’t it?

Thanks to the folks at BakersDelightLies.com for bringing this out.

Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, SLAPP

October 19, 2008

Franchisees tend to get SLAPP-ed around a lot

Yes it is a cheap and easy win that sends a message primarily to discourage future troublemakers. But it destroys any chance for dialogue or trust between the bully, the bullied, and the bystander.

This is the main reason you see a lowering quality of behavior by the stakeholders: franchisors, lawyers, franchisees, media, politicians, etc. There are no innocent bystanders in this life: you knew or should have been expected to know. A failure to act is an action.

Definition of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, SLAPP is:

a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP.

The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism.

The last bit is very important as it relates to the franchise industry:

A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. [Wikipedia]

Each trademark franchise system is a complex, long-standing group that has a well developed institutuional memory:

a collective of facts, concepts, experiences and know-how held by a group of people. As it transcends the individual, it requires the ongoing transmission of these memories between members of this group. Elements of institutional memory may be found in corporations, professional groups, government bodies, religious groups, academic collaborations and by extension in entire cultures.

Business format franchising, in general, has its own ideology [beliefs, norms, philosophy].

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