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Re: A moral question

  • Subject: Re: A moral question
  • From: "Andrew Lietzow" <alietzow@myfamily.com>
  • Date: 17 Mar 2004 13:52:42 -0700

Bill, Chic, Glen, Dan, Lu, Narda, Mary, et. al., 

This has been an intriguing discussion.  And, as long as we can keep it from getting too personal, I think it could be very productive.  I'd prefer to steer clear of name calling or adjectives that imply intelligence levels greater than mine, or even Chic's, for that matter... :-) 

I am not implying that anyone is becoming too emotional, I'm just stating that we need to keep the emotional rhetoric and use of personally descriptive adjectives to a minimum while we explore what are the tangible facts.   Make sense?

Bill mentioned Martha Stewart.  Here is an excellent example of "greed" run amuck.  From my 20 years experience in installing multi-user accounting systems in businesses that ranged from the very small to fairly large, I can assure you that only the greedy survive.  I, therefore, accept Brian Tracy's analysis of the word greed--"greed is neither good nor bad but just is".  It is when greed runs amuck that others rights are infringed upon.   

Maslow also explored this innate tendency in man/woman to protect oneself through "greed".  It is my belief that some foundational level of greed is necessary for success in business.  Without greed, one has very little motivation to achieve profits and profit is job numero uno--even not-for-profits have to make ends meet.  Martha will now pay the penalty for letting her personal goals for financial freedom step on others needs for honesty in financial transactions.  On this, I'm sure most of us, including Bill, agree. 

When I was installing systems, most of the time I was "consulting" with the business owner about the areas of their business they hoped, or needed, to improve.  During the course of those 20 years, I became familiar with many different types of businesses and their owners.  I mention this solely because I learned that those most successful are those LEAST NAIVE about business practices and the requirements to survive in a free market economy.

The arguments Bill advances clearly point to a need among serious hybridizers to form an association, or to join an existing one (alas, to the best of my knowledge, no hybridizers have formed such a group).  I'll assume the reader understands a good deal about associations, but what the typical person who is in a "commodity market" doesn't understand is that without cooperative efforts, a producer is only a price-taker.  Unfortunately from the business person's perspective, about 95% of Hostas are now a commodity.  Consumers, however, love it!   And, I agree with Chic that if a hybridizer requires too many hoops to be jumped through to do business, there are plenty of other Hosta varieties to choose from.  

If a hybridizer sees their work more like the work of an artist than a grower of new plant varieties who is simply assisting mother nature, the emotional involvement with the product may be very high.  This is a form of greed yet once again, this is neither good nor bad.  It's what makes us go out and do it again and again, hoping for some improvement.  

Laborers form unions; business people form associations and WE THE PEOPLE need associations inspite of the notion that such are "special interest groups".  The notion that nursery people are somehow "immoral" in their desire to not have the government, religious clerics, or hybridizers, dictate what should be, in their perception, moral, is intriguing.  However, to base this discussion on "morality" condemns it to perpetual dialogue with no practical solution being attainable, ever. 

Because I believe the interests of all parties involved in this discussion have merit and may even be valid, I am attempting dialogue, yet it is clear that we all see the world through different colored glasses.  This is where the power of an "association of ones peers" could actually get something accomplished.  Unfortunately, if we focus on the "moral" aspects of this discussion rather than what it takes to successfully accomplish a goal of "Hybridizing Hosta for fun and profit", we will consume vast resources yet have little or nothing to show for the effort.  

Hostas reproduces themselves, so making a copy is as easy as sticking it in a medium and waiting for a natural process to occur--vegetative reproduction.  Micropropagation is simply vegatative propagation on a smaller scale.  We can dance around this issue in anyway you'd like, Bill, but the reality is that a purchaser's investment in plant material INCLUDES the rights of ownership in progeny unless those rights are expressly prohibited.  Photographs and art do not reproduce themselves, without human assistance, but plants do.  What do hybridizers expect nursery people to do with these offspring if not sell them?  And who gets to specify how much propagation is too much?  

A producer/hybridizer/creator/manufacturer can limit distribution of the progeny through patents or through agreements, either written or oral.  I think you already know which makes the most sense for a savvy business person--reduce all agreements to writing.  In his last message, Chic made a good case that this should not be all that difficult.  Agree on something with your distributors or retailers, reduce it to writing, and voila--protection.  And, as Glen has stated, if the hybridizer provided tags with each plant s/he produces for a nursery which could put on the plant, some nursery owners might agree to do so, if it did not involve too much work. But for many, this would be out of the question.  There are costs associated with bureacracy and don't kid yourself into thinking that nursery people would be anxious to add more work to their day, especially without compensation.  

If you, and other hybridizers more accomplished than I, would like to advance your cause, working with some horticulturally savvy industry association seems prudent.  Developing a document which protects/controls the propagation rights of hybridizers to their original work could be an early agenda item.  Maybe the Michigan group would take this on?  If not, I know of an association management firm that works with seed and patents in Iowa and they might consider representation. 

An attorney's input in this process is a good idea and should not be all that expensive.  Within the agreement there could certainly be a provision for a royalty to be paid and the levels of payment could be bilateral and unique to each, though standards might prove helpful. 

Would such agreements be 100% enforceable?  Of course not, but in a large percentage of the cases, a written agreement would be all that would be needed and it would be honored.  In the United States, we may not all agree on what is "moral" in business, but we very often do agree on what is "honorable".  Practices that are MUTUALLY beneficial are considered honorable.  Against such, there is no law (unless it's illegal! :-)

As for "morality", let us allow GWB continue to believe he has a corner on the market for understanding that term... 

Andrew -- still in Colorado where it's too nice to be on a computer!    
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