Corporations Are Not Evil

Short version, cause my ranting mood is not occurring in all its glory presently:

America exists as a delicate balance of two forces (and I’m taking this from Tocqueville here): equality and liberty. The trick is the even application of equality for all people (socialism) and the safeguarding of fundamental freedoms (libertarianism, capitalism) that we hold dear. Either one by itself is morally wrong – socialism with its restrictions on freedom and unbridled greed with its decimation of the fabric of society (eg, our living environment).

But can we blame the massive corporations for the ills of our markets? I used to say yes, and say it strongly, but now my opinion is changing. Seeing AOL/Time Warner in financial trouble, seeing Microsoft struggle to gain staying power in diverse markets, watching Enron collapse, I realize that corporations are not the pure evil. Yes, what they do for the sake of profit is often morally bankrupt according to my set of morals, but it is certainly not bad according to theirs. Corporations rise and fall based on profit. Based on crushing competition. Based on advantage, mostly short-term, sometimes long-term. We have created these beasts. We, as a society, have made them, and we are responsible for them.

Having to take Microsoft to federal court to stop their stifling of innovation is sad. Why? Because we are applying laws of trusts that were put on the books 100 years ago. We’re trying to shoehorn odd, outdated legislation into new arenas of global business. We, as a society, have to legislate, through our government bodies, to make it clear when consolidation and monopolization is good and when it is bad. I often see it as bad, but not always. I think it makes more sense, if managed correctly, to have only one set of water pipes going to my house, not three, from three different companies. So the water company is a state-run monopoly. We make these decisions all the time, or at least we used to. Now it is the businesses that make the decisions for us, because we have created a system in which they are given the most power over our supposed democracy. But again, is it their fault for embracing any competitive advantage they can? No. It is the system we’ve made.

The reason for my talking about this now is because I’ve been given the opportunity to potentially do some kind of internship for Vivendi/Universal, one of the big media companies for which I have in the past stated my disgust. Could I justify a job with an evil, anti-choice corporation? Is this any way to justify it? I still lead towards “no.” Even believing that corporations and expansion and consolidation and monopolization are tactics that are not in and of themselves bad, can I morally support a company that I consider morally bankrupt? What if I am working in a role that has no relation to the ongoing legal disputes over online music content? What about the fact that most of that war has been fought, and won, by the Big 5, and the independents on the web are dead anyway? Because my logic could be similar to that of, which eventually, seeing that it had lost, did what any good business would do – found an exit strategy; sold out to Vivendi, keeping the company alive, even if it meant that its independent (greedy, money-grubbing, corporate) spirit would die off, absorbed into a larger corporation.

When you think about it, any major corporation could by these standards be considered “evil.” Any company that exports labor to cheap lesser-developed nations is doing something morally wrong. But something that is keeping it in business. Everyone who works today must acknowledge that they are but one cog, one tooth in one cog, of one wheel, in one vast machine. And if everyone else can work understanding that some part of their company or a company it works with, owns, supports, subsidizes, lobbies, controls, or does business with, is evil, then why can’t I?

3 replies on “Corporations Are Not Evil”

  1. Okay, so that wasn’t quite as short as I had planned. But it was written in 15 minutes, so short WRT time. šŸ™‚

  2. Me, I just wait around for corporate incompetence to cause my own employer to melt down – given the sheer quantity of such, it’s just a matter of time – at which point I will stifle a few guffaws, and then go find somewhere else of dubious rectitude to earn my meager keep.

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