Something exciting just happened in San Francisco. And it should pose an intellectual challenge for those who call themselves “progressives.”
Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee beverage giant, announced that they will soon allow mobile telephone purchases in their stores. Get the new app from San Francisco-based Square, Inc. on your smart phone, order your drinks in the store, and – presto! - pay the bill with your iPhone or Android.
Along with this new approach to sales, Starbucks is also investing $25 million in Square Inc., and Starbucks C.E.O. Howard Schultz (a bona fide “food and beverage revolutionary”) will soon join Square’s Board of Directors. This was all quite surprising news- especially the part about a coffee company buying into a tech company -but it was nonetheless a cause for celebration in the City by the Bay. Yet another local “tech start-up” appears to be on its way to big things – and this one will likely make mobile retail a mainstream phenomenon.
In the world of business and technology this is certainly progress – consumers will soon be given more choices and convenience, while retailers will have more opportunity to sell their products and generate revenues. And those who choose to invest their money in either of these companies (both the private equity partners of Square, Inc., and the Starbucks stockholders) will likely reap financial benefits as well. But despite all this additional progress – for consumers, retailers, investors, and for San Francisco’s private sector economy - one nonetheless has to ask: can we really call this development “progressive?”
Along with being an epicenter for business development and economic progress (think Apple, Twitter, Cisco Systems, Facebook – and in a bygone era, Levi Strauss and Co.), the San Francisco Bay Area is also an epicenter of political and cultural “progressivism.” And while “progressivism” began in the U.S. as a humanitarian reaction to the social ills accompanying industrialization, today it has become an anathema to human achievement and private enterprise. The result of this bizarre confluence is simply this: there are lots of self-described “progressives” in the United States who enjoy the benefits of private enterprise and human progress, but who nonetheless support some of the most regressive ideas and attitudes that exist in our society.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.