Capitalism: To Ruin or To Run

Brendan Frett

Capitalism is often thought of the best way to run a country. However, An Old Established Name, by Lao She, suggests that capitalism is the best way to ruin a county. It was through capitalism that all the old authentic traditions in China were lost. New traditions did replace the old, but the new traditions were soiled with cultureless duplication—every shop became the same, cheap moneymaker.

An Old Established Name was about a battle between the elitists and the masses. The elitists were represented by the culture of a shop called The Fortune Silk Store. This shop held firm prices, was honest, treated clients like family members, and had an authentic humane appeal to it. The masses were represented by the practice of a shop called The Heaven Silk Store. This shop was dishonest, screwed people over, viewed people as money, and was run like a circus.

Eventually, capitalistic society had no place for the authenticity of The Fortune Silk Store and ran it out of business. It is extremely ironic that the masses choose The Heaven Silk Shop. It was the winning side, yet it represented hell. This was a store where the customer was viewed only as money. There were no customer-client relations. People came there strictly to purchase cheap goods at a low price. Was money really that important to people? "Could they all be such asses that they [couldn't] see the advantage of doing business at the Fortune?"

On the other hand, The Fortune Silk Store had "traditions… so deeply rooted." If The Fortune Silk store was not so stubborn in keeping their traditions, maybe the store could have found some way to attract the masses but still keep the integrity of the shop.

When it comes to capitalism, the masses have the power. They do all the purchasing. The Heaven Silk Shop was able to attract the masses by having "GIANT SALES from one end of the year to the other," "playing phonograph[s] [in] full blast," and offering "sweet sesame cake."

The Fortune Silk Store constantly lost costumers to the lowbrow Heaven Silk Shop: "Occasionally someone would glance in from the outside as if he were about to enter, but then he would glance at the small golden plaque and head over in the direction of the Heaven Silk Store." The Fortune Silk Store stocked "honest-to-goodness materials," but at fixed prices: "Sometimes a customer would actually come in and look at materials, but upon discovering that one couldn't bargain over the price, would walk out again empty-handed."

This is just what capitalism creates—masses judging the quality of stores by how low their prices are and how much attention the store can attract. If the masses can pay less and get more, it must be a better deal than paying more and getting less.

The Fortune Silk Shop had rigid views on how a proper shop should be run. When the masses changed their minds about what they thought a proper store was, the Fortune Silk Shop should have changed its views also. Is capitalism the best way to run a county, or the best way to ruin a county? In an economic sense, capitalism is very beneficial. However, in a conservative traditional sense, capitalism straps stores of their unique cultures and customs.

Fierce Competition

Haley Jung

Competition between businesses is inevitable, but when capitalism comes into play in China, things get a lot more risky. It was a battle between the Fortune Silk Store and The Heaven Silk Shop, two stores that both sell silk and are located just across from each other, although their views differ greatly on whom they sell to and how they advertise their merchandise.

The Fortune Silk Store relies on honesty and strong customer bonds, making them like family to them; often, the storeowner would be invited to his customers' family events. Not only did they treat their customers like family: they always had firm reasonable prices, though a little higher than Heaven Silk Shops'. People still preferred Fortune because of the treatments they received at the store.

The Heaven Silk Shop let capitalism get the best of them. They had flashy advertising, year round sales and loud distracting music to attract customers. They often cheated their customers out of quality silk and prices: customers were just money to them. The owner of Fortune Silk Store, Mr. Qian, was slowly losing customers to his rival at Heaven Silk Shop; he was faced with such a hard question. Should he stop running his business like he has for as long as the store has been around just to make some money? Or remain true to his deep-set traditions and risk going out of business?

It now became a bigger battle, rather than a battle between the two stores; it was a battle between the masses and the elites. Those who chose cheaper prices for poorer quality silk, or those who got quality silk for a little bit more money. The owner of Fortune Silk Store remarks, "Could they all be such asses that they couldn't see the advantage of doing business at the Fortune? Could these people really want to save money that bad?"

They see that they can get "more for less" despite the quality, and of course they choose that over spending more money. This story can easily be related to modern times with stores such as the ever so controversial Wal-Mart, K-mart, Meijers, or Target. These stores sell everything you need: food, clothing, houseware and so much more, and they promise their best price. Of course people want good deals: that's why such stores are still in business, even if it does put thousands of honest, loyal hard working citizen out of jobs.

People who have had family business or self run stores lose their jobs because big name stores sell the exact same things for less. People no longer care about interacting with people, it is all about convenience and time. No one these days has enough time to stop and chat to someone, they need to get in a out fast. With huge busy stores there is no time to talk.

With times changing in China, people slowly started losing the traditional feel of things and just went for quantity rather than quality. Capitalism was meant to better the country, but in the case of the Fortune Silk Store, it did the exact opposite and ruined everything they had.