“They remain forever. They are like the land itself… You are like the wind — blowing over the land and passing on.”
And the three surviving gunmen in the final scene of the western classic The Magnificent Seven ride off into the sunset.
They turn to gaze at the village they’ve just helped to defend — at great personal loss — against marauding bandits.
The final words of the movie, pregnant with metaphoric meaning, are uttered by the main character, hired gun Chris Adams:
“The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”
Thirty-three years before The Magnificent Seven was released, American architect and social critic Ralph Adams Cram said it more plainly:
“Today here in the United States there is a class of men and women, perhaps the majority, that is unfree.
“I mean all those who subsist on a wage…that is paid to them by those who are, in actuality, their masters; a wage that may be withdrawn at any time and for any reason, leaving them to go on the dole, or to starve, if they can find no new job…
“These are not free men in any rational and exact sense of the word.”
So what constitutes being “free”? Cram answers:
“…he only is a free man who owns and administers his own land, craft, trade, art or profession and is able, at necessity, to maintain himself and his family himself and his family therefrom.”
The Distributist League Manifesto, as mentioned in the mind-expanding book Beyond Capitalism and Socialism, adds:
“The independent farmer is secure. He cannot be sacked. He cannot be evicted. He cannot be bullied by landlord or employer. What he produces is his own: the means of production are his own.
“Similarly the independent craftsman is secure, and the independent shopkeeper.
“No agreements, no laws, no mechanism of commerce, trade, or State, can give the security which ownership affords.
“A nation of peasants and craftsmen whose wealth is their tools and skill and materials can laugh at employers, money merchants, and politicians. It is a nation free and fearless.
“The wage-earner, however sound and skillful his work, is at the mercy of the usurers who own that by which he lives…”
Beyond economics, there are much deeper reasons why owners always win.
Ownership is far more than having material possessions. It is a mindset, a worldview, a way of life, which can be cultivated whether you’re a farmer, an entrepreneur, or an employee.
First and foremost, owners own their lives and their choices. They take ultimate responsibility for their results. No whining, no blaming, no justifying or excusing.
When staring up from the bottom of the pit of failure, resolute owners declare, “I own this. And I will fix this and succeed if it kills me.”
The owner has something worth fighting and dying for. He is deeply, soulfully married to his work. His purpose is clear, his commitment firm. The fruits of his labors taste sweeter than any wage-earner can imagine. Beware the man who dares deprive him of them.
Time clocks are utterly foreign, incomprehensible devices to the owner. He toils day and night, grinds through holidays, sweats over weekends to manifest his vision as reality. When he’s not performing his work, he’s dreaming and scheming about it.
The owner is an artist, never content with a final product, ever yearning for perfection.
The owner does not cut corners. He does it right the first time, every time — no matter who else will know. He strives for excellence not to receive praise, but because he couldn’t live with himself otherwise.
The owner sacrifices immediate gratification for long-term freedom. He lives in a car and chokes down rice and beans to save money while his friends call him crazy.
The owner thinks generationally. He connects his daily choices with the impact they will have on his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond.
Yes, the old man was right: You can be a hired hand who blows through life like the wind, running from your true purpose, never sinking roots. Or you can be an owner whose roots and fruits remain forever…