Taking the dare

A comment to A.J.’s post, “Realistically, they can’t compete”, contained a dare that I accept.

The dare for a response followed the comment: “This corporate logic you use to make your decisions is depleting your local economy financially at the same time it is creating a social desert by minimizing locality based exchange.”

My wife had a good friend who was a lawyer. He specialized in cases in which individuals or small groups of individuals were wronged by large corporations. Most people thought he took these cases because they held the best potential for large settlements. But he had a much higher purpose. He felt that the corporation was an inherently evil entity.

Now that might be a bit over the top. But there can be no doubt that these “mega- businesses” are not a great benefit to the overall wellbeing of the human race or the planet we inhabit.

By its nature, a corporation’s primary concern must be profits. They have stockholders who demand returns on their investments. If there are none, the corporation will die. A corporation cannot tread water. Instead of reaching a comfortable and sustainable plateau as a small local business can, the corporation must continually grow to survive. In order to sustain this growth, corporations employ armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Their job is to apply pressure on government with the intention of getting the laws and regulations rewritten in a manner that is more favorable to the corporation.

A great example of this is the current definition of the word “natural” as used in food labeling.

A corporation cannot benefit local economies. It must manufacture in large volume and that means large plants located in places where regulation and control are at a minimum. So most of the work needed to generate the product is performed in other countries where governments are more willing and able to capitulate to the needs and requirements of the corporation. Most of the local jobs offered by large corporations are in low level “burger flipper” or sales positions.

The scariest thing about corporations is the fact that there is no one person who is responsible for its actions. In a small business, if you get a bad apple or your cabinet hinge breaks, you know just where to go to seek compensation. But with a corporation, who ya’ gonna call? Usually it’s an 800 number. I always laugh when I hear it said that corporations are people. Just try to get one to answer the phone!



  • Paul Miller says:

    David DeChristoforo’s comments about corporations is very simplistic and really out of touch with world economics. He paints a very one sided picture of mega corporations. I disagree with his view.

    Large corporations have greater resources and generally are able to do things on a much greater scale and produce products at a much lower price. This lower price increases the standard of living for all of us. Think about manufacturing an automobile. We are able to purchase cars with unbelievable features at prices that even someone making a relatively low wage can afford.

    Food is produced at such a low cost that obesity is our number one health problem in America. In parts of the world where large corporations do not do business there is starvation. Communistic countries like North Korea cannot feed themselves.

    To say “Corporations are people” simply means that corporations are given the same legal status as a “person” before the court of law. To imply otherwise is to display ignorance. Corporations allow people to pool their resources together without having to risk all of their assets.

    Paul Miller

  • rgh says:

    Large corporations exist because consumers want what they offer. Sometimes it is “low cost” and sometimes it is “Consistent premium service” or even “depth and breadth of knowledge”. They are not inherently evil, or even a little bit that way. People make up businesses, large or small, and they yield to pressures from shareholders and customers regardless of size. (Shareholders for a small company may be an investor, bank, or other entity that provides the cash flow to keep the doors open during the not-so great times)

    Large corporations that are managed well, will usually be able to tread water longer than smaller counterparts, and will sometime behave aggressively toward them to maintain market share. Unfortunately, we live in a society that votes on our survival with their pocket book, so it can be difficult to compete with the supply chain and efficiency engine they have.

    The thing small business has is the ability to be nimble and wow the their customers with service. They can adapt more quickly and tend to be closer to their customers so it is easier to build loyalty. This is where the small business owner should focus. There is no winning the other battle as long as consumers make choices without considering the big picture.

  • Mark Slafkes says:

    I realize you are trying to expand the discussion but I think you have still simplified it a bit too much. In my experience, living in a town of a bit more than 5,000 people, the owners of the local businesses are often worse than the large corporations in their arrogance. They know they are the only game in town and they act like it, too. Other local businesses are the opposite. In either case, a business must make a profit to sustain itself, whether it be tiny or huge. And just because you can find the owner of a small business to discuss your problems with, it never ensures that they have any interest in listening to you.

    Corporations can and do benefit local economies. I think the issue is more about the culture of the business and all that means.

    I, for one, hate the crummy quality of so many products from China. I also don’t like to pay for the superb products from a country like Germany. China isn’t bad and Germany isn’t good. It’s the specifics of each situation that is important and not the generalities.

    With all of this in mind, I still deplore the massive amounts of resources being used by business and religion to change this society into their own distorted vision. How to deal with this? I’m not sure. Maybe if we spent more money on the education of ourselves, the quality of the arts, and the general aspects of our country that don’t directly result in $$$, we might find the heart that seems to be missing.

  • pete says:

    Are you not incorporated ?

  • Doug Darter says:

    David, I agree with you that this is how most large corporations operate today. I do not agree that this is how they have to operate however. I will use Walmart as an example. When Walmart first came to our town in the late 70’s I remember their TV ads. Sam Walton was in them telling how he wanted US made products for his stores and was having trouble finding what he needed. His response was to help reopen US textile manufacturing plants so Walmart could buy US textiles to sell in their stores. At that time you could buy quality goods at a decent price in a Walmart store. There were made in the US signs all over those stores. Mr Walton is gone now and his children operate differently. Today the stores are full of Chinese junk and I don’t shop there anymore. I believe this is simply greed not a requirement for a corporation to do business.

  • Peter specht says:

    Had wages or profits maintained the same over time I would agree with much of what is said in comments. We all know they have not. The lower cost mentioned are often due to an affordability problem with consumers and very often bring with them a lessening of quality.

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