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When most people think of “corporations” I am pretty sure they have in mind places like Exxon and Disney and Merck and the like. At the same time, when most people think of corporations they get somewhat of an icky feeling – either because of the bureaucratic corporate nonsense that they imagine when sitting in a cube, or mostly because of the idea that corporations are somehow evil or run the world. That view is especially popular on campus. Indeed, my newly entering freshmen seem to uniformly believe, as a matter of faith, that corporations rule the country and are evil.

But stop for a moment and think about this.

Most corporations that these folks would name for you, absent the horrible likes of Charlie and David K., are publicly traded. This means that every single American has an equal chance of being an owner of a corporation. Indeed, many Americans own pieces of lots and lots of corporations and are not much aware of it. You are, by ANY way you define it, a capitalist. Most anti-capitalists are in fact capitalists. And you only need a few bucks, a bank account and web access to become one. In these corporations, the shareholders all have equal say (mostly) in voting for boards of directors and thereby directing corporate policy. It is truly democracy in action (oh, you say, but some people have more shares than others – this does not prevent groups of you, say, in the form of socially conscious mutual funds, from buying enough shares) – and if folks wish to say corporations are running the country and are influencing the country and “we need to take our country back” from the corporations and return it to the people, what, exactly could this mean?

Take the country back FROM ourselves and give it TO ourselves? It can mean no other.

And even in the case where you think “the people” DON”T have a “democratic influence” on the corporations they own, you’d be wrong to suggest that it’s still not “the People” that run the show. Even the most greedy capitalistic privately held corporation is at the mercy of consumers. Consumers small and large, with all kinds of preferences, drive the bus – the corporations are merely figuring out how to get you where you want to go. Soda companies are rich because “the people” love fizzy caffeine drinks. Apple is rich because “the people” love snazzy electronic devices. Walmart is rich because “YOU, the people” want inexpensive necessities. And so on. So even if you want to “take back America” from the corporations, I can’t really understand that this can mean anything other than, “take back America from the people and give it to the people.”

Astute readers of course know this, and will also understand that when you hear something like, “give it to the people” you should really insert “give it to SOME people whom we happen to like better than ALL or SOME other people.” But that’s not polite to utter publicly. Have a nice weekend, I’ll be seeing the stars on Wright Peak, then over to Algonquin, Iroquois, a long drop down to Lake Colden then up and over Colden. And if any energy is left after that, hopefully a run up Mt. Jo to get a picture of the entire span of that jaunt.

2 Responses to “Weekend Thought: Capitalist Corporations Edition”

  1. Harry says:


    Many profitable small corporations offer matching contributions to employees’ 401K plans. (Talk about how our tax code affects investment decisions, but let’s put that one aside, another can of worms.) These benefits, should one decide to save, offer an instant guaranteed return of 100 percent per annum, and then provide an opportunity to wallow in the excessively high returns to capital that Picketty describes as morally excessive. As WC points out, one item on the menu usually is a socially acceptable fund, like Domini, that does not invest in tobacco companies and retailers who buy textiles from non-communist manufacturers, if that is your bag. But the money is still yours, as opposed to somebody else, like the feudal prince, or Harry Reid.

  2. Harry says:

    We expect pictures of the Adirondacks, WC.

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