Jiffy Mix: capitalism does not HAVE TO be predatory or anti-family.

I don’t really know much about economics but I’ve been quietly following along and thinking about the discussion of usury* happening on various blogs I read.  I do know that materialism and lifestyle striving have replaced kinship and community, but the blame for some of this mess rests at the feet of the leaders of large corporations for their predatory form of capitalism that is always looking for a way to squeeze one more penny out of humanity.

Capitalism doesn’t have to look like that.  A very wealthy elite has rigged the game in their favor, but it could look differently.  Consider this story about a local Chelsea company whose products you might even have on your shelf: Jiffy Mix.

The factory is located right in downtown Chelsea, and it’s almost ridiculously pristine and wholesome-looking for a factory.  It’s always freshly painted and neat and tidy.  Yeah, their products are pretty cheap…I don’t often use them personally since I like to bake from scratch.  But read this article:

Michigan-based Jiffy Mix plans $35 Million dollar expansion

The owner is the fourth-generation of his family to own Chelsea Milling and…his name is Howdy.  How can you not like a president named Howdy? And I love the fact that they very purposefully do not advertise at all.  But here is the best part of the story:

The expansion of production capacity does not mean Holmes will be going on a big hiring spree. The machinery that will be installed in the new mixing tower will be much more automated than the mid-20th-century tools used to churn out the retail products.

“We’re probably going to go from about 315 employees to about 240, but we’ll be producing up to seven times as much product,” Holmes said.

“But we’re going to do that without doing any layoffs because we’ve been smart about it.”

Holmes said the reason these plans weren’t executed 20 years ago is that about half the workforce is now approaching retirement age.

“We could have done this and forced people out of their jobs, but that’s not how we wanted to do it,” he said. “So now we’re starting the process and as many of these people retire we simply won’t be hiring to fill their positions.”

So they could have modernized their factory and increased production and profits twenty years ago but purposefully didn’t do so just so that they wouldn’t have to lay off their workers who were probably too old to find new jobs.  Contrast that with most other corporations you know.

This story hits close to home for me because not only do I live in Chelsea, but when I was a kid, my father lost his factory job when the factory closed up shop suddenly and moved to a cheaper labor market.  Our family went from working class to desperately poor pretty quickly.  My dad found work on the dairy farms that existed in Caledonia back then, but it wasn’t enough to support a family by any means.  Anyone who has read me for a while has already heard the tales of my teenaged years – We had no heat!  The electricity kept getting shut off for non-payment!  The government cheese was yucky and gross! – so I won’t torture you with them again.

But hearing Howdy Holmes say that he could have squeezed more revenue out of his company but chose not to do so – chose to be content with the profits he was already making – so as not to throw older workers and their families into abject poverty – is touching enough to me that I suddenly have a yen for some cheap cornbread made from a box mix.

* A few places you can read about the ongoing conversation on usury are:

Zippy Catholic (lots of posts on usury, but start here: Usury FAQ, or money on The Pill)

The Thinking Housewife (see her post: On Debt Theft for starters)

Hawaiian Libertarian:( Identifying the Root So We May Strike It)

They don’t all agree with each other, but it is interesting to read their various perspectives, especially for someone like me who knows little about the subject.

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11 thoughts on “Jiffy Mix: capitalism does not HAVE TO be predatory or anti-family.

  1. This is good news! One of the things that wasn’t mentioned in the post is that for every primary job lost, two service jobs go by the wayside. This would have impacted 225 families. This business is a good neighbor to the community.
    You’ll need some honey for the cornbread. Better get extra. My friends may come around.

    Did you notice that the bear’s ears were back while he was being fed? That is a happy bear!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is nice (and refreshing) to see that the owner of the company has a heart and considers the welfare of the employees when implementing the expansion. He can do that since it’s a family-owned company. He wouldn’t have that option if it were publicly-traded, as it would be a violation of the duty to maximize profits to shareholders.

    What struck me about the quotes is that they will be substantially reducing the workforce, while increasing production seven-fold (i.e. fewer employees, more product). This kind of automation is sweeping the industrial world these days, leaving me wondering what the future holds for the “working classes.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. On the flip side, let’s take a look at the business case for doing this now versus doing it a long time ago. Thirty five million bucks in construction produces a LOT of jobs that, ahem, Michigan could have used at any point in the past 20 years, no? Plus, if you increase the amount of product that can be shipped, you can do what they do in the home of Malt-o-meal: make a huge portion of a wide range of generic cereals. Look closely at those bags and boxes, a lot of them are coming from Northfield, MN. MOM brands employs 1400 people around there. Used to be just Malt-o-meal, just like Chelsea used to be Jiffy.

    So this is good press, but is it reality? I think that if they’d played their cards well in the 1990s, they could have looked a lot more like the place that stopped Jesse James. Just sayin’.

    One note here is that “rich people arranging the rules for their benefit” is better termed “corporatism”, “mercantilism”, or even “fascism” than capitalism. Now we’ve never had truly free capitalism, and of course you want to limit some transactions because some of them (e.g. pimping) are not really of free will, but it would be refreshing if we’d all start correcting people when they mis-use the term capitalism. It has nothing to do with Kelo, local subsidies, and the like.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s nice to see a business expand while still doing right by its employees.

    The company I work for was bought by an investor last year who has slashed the staff to a skeleton crew. Everyone who remains has more work with no pay increase and our product is slowly going downhill despite our best efforts.

    After 10 years I’ve given my notice and will start nursing school next semester. Hopefully the growing need for health care workers will work in my favor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t know where you are, but retirements are opening up several thousand positions at our little clinic here in Rochester, MN. I would guess you’re going to see it nationwide as the last generation of women who didn’t have the chance to become doctors retires.

      Good luck!

      (btw, condolences on the old job…I’ve been in places like that and it’s no fun at all)

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    • Sorry to hear about your job. You always seemed to like being a reporter.

      If you have the temperament for it, nursing can be a very good career. The number of places you can work is astonishing, from doctor’s offices to retirement homes to hospitals. It can be very flexible and you can make a fair bit of money doing it if you’re willing to work weekends, nights, and holidays. Big hospitals can be stressful places to work but usually pay the best. And the work is fairly interesting.

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  5. Since reading some stuff from Othmar Spann (he taught Hayek in Austria, but had disagreements), I have become more critical of Capitalism in the truest sense of the word. It seems to have an inevitable consumerist effect on the populace and degrades them over time. I like free marketplaces, but on two fronts I think they should be phased out. The first is the media front, where all kinds of vile filth is allowed to be produced packaged and sold to the masses to kill their souls. The second is the labor front. I think hereditary caste labor divisions are best (i.e – if your father was an engineer, you will be an engineer). On things like energy, machines, household items, houses themselves, vehicles, etc. the less regulation the better.

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    • The first is the media front, where all kinds of vile filth is allowed to be produced packaged and sold to the masses to kill their souls.

      That’s true. I can’t argue with that point at all. Regulation is clearly needed, which of course raises issues about “free speech”. Of course, we don’t really have “free speech ” now (see: Hate Speech laws), but we can pretend like we do because, as Zippy has explained so well, liberalism is the system of authority which pretends like there is no such thing as authority. In truth, what speech is allowed is always regulated. How it is regulated simply depends upon who is in charge.

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      • Precisely, the same is true of the secular state argument. In effect, there can be no secular state. Always an occult motivator, a religion, will influence the expectations between members of a state. The only question is which cult, not whether to have one or not..

        We shouldn’t see the divide as being that we are principled and they are not. We are both principled. It’s just that we’re right and they are wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

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