Why Guinness Has Been Good For You
I just finished an interesting and flattering history of the Guinness brewery and family by Stephen Mansfield. Throughout the account he reiterates that Arthur Guinness and his successors were people of faith who grew their business for the common good. He highlights the company's philanthropic endeavors in Dublin and its high-esteemed medical care for employees, but also posits that their product, West India Porter (later developed as Foreign Extra Stout), has legitimately made the world better, and increased the happiness of millions (if not billions) of people.
Given today's suspicion of big business, big wealth and big influence, the narrative is surprisingly positive. The only negative entity in the narrative appears to be big government. In one passage, Mansfield describes a Dublin regulator approaching young Arthur to chastise him for increasing his water supply without permission. Guinness, in an act of true cooperation, takes up a pickaxe and claims he'll reopen the waterway with or without their blessing. Is this another act of corporate arrogance and greed? According to Mansfield's telling, definitely not. He attributes Arthur's fire to a belief in his mission, that building a brewery (with ample water) was part of his calling from God and had to be defended against the inept government of his day.
As proponents of free markets look for examples of morality, entrepreneurship and citizenship, "The Search for God and Guinness" may be a good place to start. It by no means tackles the business ethics most leaders face today, but it tells a simple story of one family's financial success—and how that has benefited brewing, banking, housing, medicine and the community of faith around the world. In a culture where big business has a reputation for big evil, we shouldn't let the Guinness story go to waste. It's too good for you.
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