Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Evil Corporations?

What is it about (some) big corporations that makes us hate and fear them?

Most of us, I think, aren't against producing, buying and selling—against business per se. Are we? I mean, we support small farmers, locally-owned shops, craft businesses, small publishers, etc. Don't we? And each of us has to make a living somehow, without all going back to subsistence farming, right?

Is it a matter of behavior? Pushing dangerous products, brainwashing our children, destroying the environment, corrupting our political system? If so, are there also good corps? Ben and Jerry's, Working Assets, sustainable-technology manufacturers? Is it just a question of sorting the sheep from the goats, and boycotting the goats?

Or is it sheer size? Does any organization inevitably become inhuman and oppressive once it gets too big? If so, what happens if one of our friendly neighborhood small businesses becomes successful? What if national and international markets begin to take an interest in some nice environmentally-sound product and the business really starts to take off? Do we want to prevent... success? If so, where do we draw the line, and how do we go about it without discouraging people from developing new products, services and techniques in the first place?

Or is it the notion of limited liability? Investors risk only the amount of money they invest in a company, however heinous the company's misdeeds. Should we put people in jail for owning shares in companies that kill?

Or is it something else?

(This is a copy of a message I sent to the Alliance for Democracy mailing list five years ago. I received a few comments but no real answers.)

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