Casey Juanxi Li

April 29, 2021

A company does exist for its founders’ enjoyment

Context: This is a reflection on Breaking Camp, by Casey Newton at The Verge; and DHH's response. Atomic Twitter thread here.


We all use the tools at our disposal - our money, our attention, our words - to advance our interests in the world. A company is one such tool.

Now, unless you're going to build and run the whole thing yourself, and sell it to only one other person, you need to convince others to work with you. Alot of others. And that's when things get complicated.

One strategy is to go the McKinsey way: stand for nothing, and thus be able to serve everyone and hire everyone - Saudi Aramco and United States government alike. Observe when a social wave has crested from marginal to mainstream, and throw a banner up on your website - not because you particularly care for the cause, but because it is an economic necessity.

This works for many, and is deeply meaningless to many more.

Another strategy is to have opinions and to be outspoken about them. The position that we shouldn't bring politics to work is just that - an opinion, about the best way to utilize time and capital. A collection of such opinions is all that a company really is. Many people will disagree. Basecamp will lose customers and employees as a result of being outspoken. I don't see why this is an inherently bad thing. Why would we not want a world full of opinionated companies, living and dying by their judgements?

And DHH is right about one thing: it's not obvious that political discourse between parties without full trust batteries will actually lead to any good. Most of us learn not to start an emotionally thorny debate with our partner while they're speeding a 2-ton hunk of metal down the highway. He's not saying "don't discuss". He's saying, discuss when you're in the right mindset to do it in good faith, and don't let it distract from work.

A person who sets such boundaries in their personal life would be called wise. Why the change of tone when a company does it instead?