Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Freddie's Rib House
5361 Mayfield Rd
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
by Beau Cadiyo
Since picking up the Fukuyama book of the same name, I’ve been consumed by the idea of how important trust is in our society. Fukuyama makes the compelling argument that the degree of trust that exists between people and people, or people and institutions, determines the economic position and power that the society as a whole can hold, and the economic output that that society can produce. On the surface, it is a deceptively simple argument, but I’m surprised that nobody has apparently made it so eloquently before – and seemingly few people have paid attention to it since it was first published in 1995.
Trust, Fukuyama argues, determines the size of companies in an economy. Why? Because without some level of trust between strangers, companies cannot grow larger than one’s family and immediate associates, which automatically limits the ability of each entity to grow. Take the example of a family business in Italy, for example. Father starts the business. The children grow up in the business and, later, are expected to work in the business. When they want to expand their production, they turn to their family members first, because they can trust them. Then, they might incorporate their friends into the business, and then maybe their friends’ family members. Trust between strangers there is low, for a variety of reasons. The consequences, though, are staggering: very few businesses in a low-trust society will grow into world-changing behemoths.
There are more dire consequences as well. For example, if the family decides not to participate in the business, it will eventually die because there won’t be any workers. If the family is small, it can’t do more business than its individual members can do. If these individuals are lazy, stupid or incompetent, or simply ignore the business for their own personal pursuits – prostitutes, strip clubs, drinking – then the business will rest on the shoulders of others, or go down with the scions, taking advantage of the unearned, undeserved support of the kin. Similarly, if a generation leaves the business, or the old guard dies out, then the knowledge of how to run that business leaves or dies with them; anyone who purchases a business in these circumstances must know about it, because they can’t trust that the old guard will stay on to help teach them how to work.
Compare this to how most of America works. Frank has a business. He wants to expand it. What does he do? He puts out a job posting. People send in their resumes; the company trusts that these people are truthful and can do the work. They interview and hire the best candidate or candidates for the position and, if the work is done well, they prosper. Then, they hire more people. And more. And more.
Most of America.
The place where this doesn’t seem to work, strangely enough, is in government, and there are predictably dire consequences. Think about the disgusting things that Republicans have done over the last few years. Strike that – think of the things that the Republicans have done for much of their party’s history, but lets focus on the last ten years. They started unnecessary, unjust wars based on fabricated evidence (remember Colin Powell’s nice drawings in front of the UN?) and then hand juicy, no-bid contracts to their Halliburton and Blackwater, reaping millions while the country sunk deeper into debt. Here in Ohio, right now, Kasich is trying to figure out a way to give state assets like the toll roads to his business buddies, who will re-vamp the labor contracts and reap billions for taking these out of state hands.
What happens when this occurs? People naturally turn against politicians and political institutions. They accuse them of corruption, and this all leads to a breakdown of – you got it – trust. They don’t put any faith in the government because they know it can be – and constantly is – corrupted; the government of laws, not of men, is actually a government of men making up laws.
So, really, what record to the Democrats have in Cuyahoga County, and do they deserve to be voted in again, time after time?
Cleveland’s Democratic party seems to have some sort of party policy that it’s OK for people to hire their family members and friends; nepotism is smiled upon, because people have to look out for their own. They seem to feel that it’s OK for political figures to hand out juicy government contracts to their friends while denouncing the hypocrisy of Republicans (the hypocrisy that Albert Pike described long ago). Democratic party leaders and politicians look the other way when there is rampant corruption and systemic abuse; then they feign surprise and incredulity when their closest friends and workmates are hauled away, say a quick prayer that the bleeding stops there, and then continue on with business as usual. Again, this destroys peoples’ trust in local government. Citizens and voters don’t trust government because government has done everything to destroy that trust; politicians are viewed as being out for each other and themselves. In the instances – perhaps not rare – when politicians are on the square, they are also not whistleblowers to the misdeeds of their peers, doing nothing to divest people of the notion that they are all complicit in corruption. Why did it take the FBI to come in and arrest Dimora, et al? Why didn’t their peers stand up to question their behavior?
Why should we trust them?
What is needed, always, is transparency and accountability. Short-term, there must be rules against hiring kin; a mayor’s parents should not be on the mayor’s payroll, and neither party – nay, no party – should tolerate nepotism of any kind. Long-term, our political culture must fundamentally change; government must be run so that it avoids even the appearance of impropriety. Any hint of corruption or unfair dealing must be dealt with swiftly, harshly and publicly. It is like a garden with weeds; if you want to grow vegetables, fruit and pretty flowers, you absolutely must destroy the weeds as soon as they appear.
You must also keep them from popping up again.
I was checking on some fruit trees on my estate when I spotted some trash caught among the hostas. I became annoyed as soon as I recognized it as a flier – “these people, leaving trash in my yard just to try to sell something,” I thought. A phrase caught my eye just as I was about to crush it. That flier had been dropped, as if by the will of God, on my doorstep, and only a handful of others in the area would have recognized its significance.
Freddie’s was back.
Also, it was less than a mile away.
The next day, Frank Brown and I played nine holes at Manakiki and then drove over in a two-car caravan. We walked in to a small space with four tables and, in the back, a massive kitchen – easily five times as large as the dining area. A girl walked to the counter to greet us.
“Is this the same Freddie’s that was downtown?”
“Yep – the very same exact one,” she said.
Frank looked at the menu; I didn’t have to.
The assembly took a long time. When they did come out, I started getting nervous again. She could have been lying and just said that it was the same restaurant without expecting us to know. Maybe they just stole the name. Maybe the recipe changed. A million things could have happened. Now it was like meeting up with the good ex after twenty years, not having seen them in that time, with the express purpose of getting back together again - but not knowing how that might play out.
There wasn't any problem - they were still the same. And they were amazing.
The sausage was what set them apart. First, it’s huge – the “large” is twice the size of the regular, and $1 more. It is still almost black on the outside and, 1/3 of a millimeter under the skin, it’s a bright, uniform sausage-red. Frank thought that the sauce was the best of any Polish Boy he’d ever had. The coleslaw was fresh, crispy and creamy and the fries were soft and a little limp, but still good. The bun was perfect; it soaked up juices and its sponginess contrasted perfectly with the solidity of the sausage. I started matching each bite of sausage with some bread or a French fry just to make sure there was a contrast. It made me remember the first time I’d had a Polish Boy, and something inside of me – a memory of my youth, perhaps – was rekindled. Maybe it was simply love that worked out after all. I thought that, perhaps, I might not be able to go back to any of the other places I'd tried out since that first (and last) fateful day.
The old Freddie’s was dirty. I think that it was the dirtiest restaurant I’ve ever been in. The new one is clean and sparkling, and the food is the same. I was back in there two days later, and I'll be back again tomorrow. Politics, though, is, and always will be, a filthy, disgusting game; no matter who the Executive is, no matter who the Legislators are, and no matter where you're talking about, it'll always be the same, and the few good people who participate in it – well, they’re touching pitch.