Friday, July 15, 2005

Acting all corporationally

In the Bleat today, James Lileks had occasion to do some Googling about the founders of Sears, Roebuck, and Company.

Since I don't work with Paul Harvey, it was up to me to get the rest of the story, so I followed his link and checked out the other founders of Sears, and
learned about an extraordinary man:

After World War I, Sears was in dire financial shape and Rosenwald brought Sears back from the brink of bankruptcy by pledging some $21 million of his personal fortune, in cash, stock and other assets to rescue the company.
And what did Julius Rosenwald do after helping to save the livelihood of all of the employees?

After Rosenwald stepped down as Sears president in 1924, he devoted most of his time to philanthropy. Over the course of his life, he donated millions of dollars to public schools, colleges and universities, museums, Jewish charities and black institutions. Of all his philanthropic efforts, Rosenwald was most famous for the more than 5,000 "Rosenwald schools" he established throughout the South for poor, rural black youth, and the 4,000 libraries he added to existing schools. The network of new public schools subsequently employed more than 14,000 teachers.

And he just kept going. The Foundation he formed was designed to exhaust its funding, and paid off the last of its assets in 1948. The company itself, as of last year, employed 247,000. Even if Mr. Rosenwald had done nothing else, those quarter-million people owe him.

Contrast that with, say, Live 8. The big thing about Live 8 was to get the First World to forgive the debt of the Third World - by raising awareness, but not by actually allowing anyone to
raise actual money. (Bob Geldof went from "So let's start giving" to "Don't give me that do goody-good bs.") The connection from Pink Floyd performing live to Robert Mugabe is unclear, although I can think of a connection from Mugabe to Rosenwald - the first gorged himself on stolen riches from his own people, and the second poured out his fortune to enrich others. The solution to Africa's problems is raise up more Rosenwalds and fewer Mugabes.

(Musically, Live 8 was somewhat of a dud as well. Floyd looked old - not aged, but old, stale, a museum piece. In one sense, however, they were a leg up on the Who, in that Floyd's bassist and drummer aren't dead. Watching Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend, I had the thought that surely, they knew how to get in touch with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and play a bunch of arenas - the Whootles World Tour! I'm totally getting a t-shirt, man...)


Anonymous said...

Unrelated- saw Bryan Adams and Def Leppard last week- and I'm totally lovin' my t-shirt... ok, it's my kid's t-shirt, but she's sharing the cap and mug with me...


Muley said...

Did Spinal Tap play Live 8? They would have been the perfect band, since they are about as contrived as the concert's rationale (and most of their drummers, as you probably know, are dead as well).