The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
The Dalai Lama and I have something in common. Neither one of us attended the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. The difference between his situation and mine is that I might have been granted a visa to travel to South Africa for the service if I had applied for one. The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, was told in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome. Why? Because the South African government was and is afraid of offending China.
Back in 2011 Chinese leaders squawked when the Dalai Lama visited the White House. Even though he used a side entrance and was captured on film walking by a pile of trash bags, Beijing was not amused. The Chinese strongly protested President Obama’s hosting a Tibetan holy man who had objected to his nation’s being overrun and occupied by Chinese invaders. It was apparently considered rude on the part of the Dalai Lama not to acquiesce quietly in the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and the imprisonment of monks and nuns, many of whom were forced into hard labor, tortured and executed along with other political prisoners.
For South Africa, and for much of the world, the benefits of doing business in China are far too important to jeopardize over something as trivial as genocide in Tibet. It’s far easier to ban a religious leader who preaches non-violence and tolerance than to risk offending an important business partner. For the record, Schlafly does not brew or sell beer in China and has no plans for doing so.
Declining to do business in China isn’t the only thing that distinguishes Schlafly from multinational conglomerates. Our finances are also much simpler. Unlike General Motors we didn’t get a multi-billion dollar bailout from American taxpayers. Nor did we benefit from any federal programs like “Cash for Clunkers.” The government never considered helping brewers by buying billions of dollars’ worth of beer to be poured down the drain. We don’t qualify for billions of dollars in farm aid, one consequence of which is raising the cost of our raw materials…a cost that must be passed on to our customers. And, unlike Boeing, we don’t have state and local governments all over the country offering us billions of dollars in incentives to relocate. Unlike some large financial institutions, we’ve neither been bailed out nor fined by the federal government. Unlike Bernie Madoff, I’ve never promised unrealistically high returns to gullible investors.
It is in this context that I want to thank the dozen or so Schlafly employees who recently invested in our business. In some cases these were new investments. In some cases they were additions to earlier investments. Out of respect for their personal privacy, I won’t identify them by name. I can, however, say that they include individuals who prepare and serve food at Bottleworks and The Tap Room; people who brew, serve, sell and package beer; people who welcome customers; and individuals who work behind the scenes in the office. As I looked at the personal checks with which employees bought shares of stock from me, I was mindful of the vote of confidence each check represented. I know these funds represent hard-earned savings and am gratified that our employees have chosen to invest them in the company they helped build and will continue to build. I also want to acknowledge the dozens of employees who had previously invested some of their savings in the company. The cumulative share of the business owned by employees other than Dan Kopman and me is now between five and ten percent; and no one would be happier than I to see this percentage grow.
Because our employees have chosen to invest in the brewery where they work, as opposed to one in South Africa or China, I’m sure they’d be happy to welcome the Dalai Lama with open arms. Perhaps the DL would like to spend Chinese New Year with us on January 31st, the start of the year 4712 in the Chinese Calendar, aka the Year of the Horse. As the leader of Tibetan Buddhism he is undoubtedly aware that the new year begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice; and that the name was bestowed by Buddha many years ago when he invited all the animals to celebrate New Year with him and named a year for each of the twelve who showed up: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the hare, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig.
It’s somewhat ironic, as The Growler is going to press, that the town of Gallatin, Missouri is poised to welcome the Year of the Horse by opening a plant devoted to slaughtering horses. In case the Dalai Lama happens to be reading this column, I want to assure him that we won’t be serving horsemeat when and if he decides to visit either of our restaurants. We’ll also allow him to use the front entrance; and he won’t have to walk by a pile of trash bags.