My (Peaky) Blinding Moment

My (Peaky) Blinding Moment

“Do Not Pass – By Order of the Peaky F***ing Blinders”

I was rambling in a remote part of the Peak District recently when we saw what looked like a 1920s gypsy encampment. We were very puzzled until we came nearer, a load of people with walky-talkies came running towards us and asked us very politely if we’d stop where we were and not put our pictures on social media!

In fact, we’d stumbled across the first day of filming for the 5th series of Peaky Blinders.

The Scene from the Show (from a distance)

It’s a series based on the exploits of a family-run gang living in Birmingham, post-First World War.   It’s a compelling series and the main character, Tommy Shelby – the leader of the Peaky Blinders – is really an entrepreneur albeit more ruthless/violent than most.   He is an empire builder; constantly striving to extend his influence and control. Although the product/service differs – his include gambling & alcohol – his strength is his control of access and distribution in artificially distorted markets, aided by his influence with politicians & the police.

Taking Time Out to Talk

Al Capone was a real-life contemporary with liquor and protection his product/service during Prohibition.   He controlled his empire not only through a rein of fear but is also said to have built mutually profitable relationships with politicians and the city’s police force. Again prohibition and undue influence distort the market and provide super-normal profits to those providing access & distribution  

Joe Kennedy (father to John and Robert) profited hugely from the trade in alcohol during Prohibtion including investing in Scottish Distilleries ahead of its abolition . Despite being allegedly on the right side of the law, nobody could doubt his or the Kennedy family’s pursuit of influence and control. In more recent times, Mexican drug-lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, built his empire on controlling the trade routes and logistics surrounding the import of drugs into the United States.  The people who made money in the gold-rush were not those digging for gold but those who sold picks and spades, tents and jeans i.e. the access to dig.

In the UK, County Lines – the method used by city-based gangs to distribute drugs to small towns and outlying districts – has become the focus of control.  The ‘Lines’ in question are the mobile phone numbers used to make orders. Battles for control of ‘County Lines’ have been particularly bloody, with many law enforcement spokespeople citing them as a major contributory factor in the rise in knife crime.

Back in the legitimate economy, Amazon became the world’s most valuable listed company in January.  A business that started out as an online book-shop now provides logistics, storage, loans and a selling platform to hundreds of thousands of third-party merchants. Its profitable cloud computing division, which hosts huge swathes of the corporate world on its data servers, is the industry’s global leader.   It either provides the marketplace to deliver the goods we want to buy at the click of a button, or it hosts the eCommerce sites of the other firms we buy from. Again access and control.

In business – as in organised crime – the real money is made from controlling access and distribution especially in a distorted market.   What distinguishes the real players is their control and influence. We explore this further in our other article this month (Myths, Rackets & Distortions)

How apt that having talked about access and distribution, the scene being shot for Peaky Blinders – in the first photo above – involved a dispute about a trade route and was filmed on an old packhorse trail…slightly hidden by the fake snow!