Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why People Hate Corporations

An issue came up last week that I think is worth expanding upon. The question deals with corporations. The issue comes up most often when conservatives point out that Hollywood has an anti-corporate bias in its selection of villains. A number of conservatives think this has turned the public against corporations and that we need to fight this. In truth, however, corporations have been harmed by their own misdeeds, and conservatives need to get better at choosing whom to defend. Let’s discuss.

What spawned this was a debate that goes back several years to the first days at Big Hollywood. The number one complaint by conservatives against Hollywood seems to be that Hollywood always makes corporations the villains. They claim this has soured people on corporations and needs to be fought to protect capitalism. Here’s the thing though: corporations don’t really need any help making themselves into villains.

Consider this. Since the 1970s, corporations have been mistreating their employees. First, they fired all their middle managers and killed the idea of the corporate ladder while giving huge pay raises to the top. Suddenly, you were management, a peon, or terminated, and the top managers made a fortune for getting rid of you. Then they raided pension funds and slashed benefits... all during periods of record profits. So if you were a corporate lifer or a retiree, you’re probably none-too-happy with them.

Then they outsourced most of the peon positions, or they moved overseas to find cheaper labor. Even worse, to fill the jobs that stayed, they lobbied Washington to let in cheap foreign labor to undercut the unemployed American labor they claimed didn’t exist. Both Wall Street and Silicon Valley did this right after laying off tens of thousands of people... seriously, they claimed they couldn’t find Americans to do these jobs even as they were firing them.

Then they learned they could use the government to stifle competition. Suddenly, they started pushing for a massive regulatory surge to hamstring their competitors. Companies like GE lobbied for environmental regulations to make others buy their products, media companies sought to control the internet, Vegas casinos fought to stop internet gambling, car companies wanted taxpayers to pay the cost of “green” cars, green companies got massive direct loans, light bulb companies got the government to ban the light bulb so you would need to buy more modern versions with higher margins, banks, insurers, home builders and universities got the government to underwrite debt and give them interest free loans, health insurers got Uncle Sam to force everyone to buy their product, etc. Others lobbied to impose the same labor restrictions they had agreed to with their own unions, the Business Roundtable lobbied for Obamacare so they could foist their healthcare costs on the taxpayer, etc.

Every one of these companies used the power of government to strip you of your rights, to cripple a smaller competitor, or to take money out of your wallet.

Meanwhile, came the age of non-responsibility. A lot of these corporations are putting out dangerous or defective products, using predatory tactics (like forced arbitration with biased arbitrators or abusive debt collection tactics) and other dirty tricks. When they get caught, they first honed the legalistic apology: “to the extent anyone was hurt, we are sorry.” This morphed into the non-apology and the non-denial denial: “we didn’t do anything wrong and we’re sorry if you think we did.” By now, there’s a new strategy: lie and deny. When corporations do something wrong, they lie about it until they get sued and then they settle without admitting fault... after making you exhaust every last avenue of legal recourse and fighting until the bitter end. This minimized the harm the company suffers, but it has left a very bad taste in people's mouths.

These behaviors are those of villains. In fact, these are the behaviors of villains in melodramas and audiences would reject them as too extreme to be believable if you put them in a film. This is why people have come to hate corporations. Not because some Hollywood villains were corporations.

And while this certainly isn’t true of all corporations, these behaviors have become so common that the public no longer distinguishes between good and bad companies on these grounds.

And there’s more to consider.

As a conservative, we should always be concerned with concentrations of power and market distortions. Modern corporations represent both. On concentrations of power, there is nothing inherently wrong with corporations from this perspective... BUT the rise of the multinational mega-corporations is a different animal. These are companies who are large enough to push around governments and rich enough to buy government favors that would have been unthinkable in any age in the past outside the Gilded Age. It is no surprise that the corporations who do the most lobbying also tend to be the ones that are most hated.

The second point involves corporate governance. Economics tells us that there is a problem when ownership and responsibility are separated. This is why socialism fails, because when people aren’t responsible for their failures, there is no incentive to get things right. The modern corporate form is causing an extreme disconnect in this regard. Management teams run companies with little regard to the wishes of owners. They get paid whether they succeed or fail. They bear no responsibility for what happens. And owners are incapable of controlling or changing management.

These are not things conservatives should support. I’m not saying we should support banning corporation, like the idiots on the left want, but I am saying that conservatives need to become much more selective about what they choose to defend. Conservatives need to make it clear to their leaders that they want free-markets and fair and open competition, and that we know that “corporate desires” or “good for business” do not equate to free markets and open and fair competition. We need to stop defending subsidies and favors, stop protecting businesses just because they are big, and look for regulations that make management more responsive to owners, that protect the public form abusive practices, and that increase competition.



Kit said...

"Conservatives need to make it clear to their leaders that they want free-markets and fair and open competition, and that we know that “corporate desires” or “good for business” do not equate to free markets and open and fair competition."


AndrewPrice said...

:) Yep. I wish more people out there got this. Not every business is our friend.

Anonymous said...

So you're telling us that the otherwise forgettable 1985 Judge Reinhold film Head Office was actually a documentary? :-)

When it comes to Hollywood, conservatives, etc. THIS might be the most knee-jerked issue, even more so than any of the social stuff. Granted, most movies on the subject matter are, shall we say, less than subtle, but if a character so much as complains about their job, you have people screaming "Socialism!!"

AndrewPrice said...

Shoot, blogger ate my brilliance! :(

Anyhoo, Scott, it's not just Hollywood. Let someone propose some regulation meant to make the free market work better or even the ending of a subsidy and you'll find a cadre of useful idiots will Rush out and scream,"SOCIALISM!" even though the real socialism is to leave the system in place.

Conservatives need to get better at understanding what they believe so they stop letting themselves get used by opportunists who falsely wrap themselves in the flag of conservatism.

Free and fair competition between and among buyers and sellers will produce not only the best results, but also the most fair results... mega corporations abhor competition.

Critch said...

All very good points. Anytime I hear someone say that corporations are always more efficient than government I ask them if they have ever tried to get through to a person in an insurance company, a credit card compnay or other large corporation to solve a problem...a bureaucracy is a bureacracy...I used to work for American Express....when they screwed something up it was impossible to find who was in charge.

Anonymous said...

Damn, now I'm wondering what that brilliance was! (I always cut and paste before hitting "Publish".) :-)

I vaguely recall Rush talking about the BP oil spill and not to worry, etc. Well, if we shouldn't trust a movie star to talk about the environment, why should we trust him to do the same thing?

This is one area where the rise of the Internet has become a good thing. Yes, there are ways to abuse it (bogus Yelp reviews, for instance)... but any time a company does the wrong thing or screws someone, it'll hit the net in no time.

darski said...

I can remember a time when the general meme was that trans-national corporations were the greatest danger to liberty and sovereignty. They worked in their own little mindset and governments had no sway over them. The meme has gone away but I don't think the challenge has. I think this goes back decades. it is so long ago that I can't place it.

Haven't read the other comments yet - just wanted to say this before I forgot it.

BevfromNYC said...

The most entertaining part of this is that Hollywood studios that make these kinds of anti-corporation movies are themselves the same kind of corporations that foster the same "evil empire" ways. As in using cheap foreign labor, lobbying local/state governments for subsidies and tax break, using regulatory surge to hamstring competitors, using industry friendly arbitrators to force arbitration...all of the things that they find so abhorrent in other industries. Unions do the same thing.

Basically, you get two or more people together against two or more other people, and one of them will be "the evil empire".

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Critch! Exactly right! Bureaucracy is bureaucracy, whether it's in the government or in some corporation. And like you, I've dealt with my share of private sector bureaucracy... it's just as bad as government bureaucracy.

Once you start to take away the direct responsibility that free markets impose, you end up with bad decisions, bad service and bad players. And then those types of organizations seek to protect themselves by lobbying and government power rather than better offerings.

tryanmax said...

Nothing to add, just wanted to say how necessary this article is. I'll be passing this on.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sadly, never trust any reviews online.

I think the net had helped expose misconduct that otherwise would have been ignored by the media. That is certainly true. But companies have come to realize that it only rarely matters. They have discovered what criminals have long known -- if you just lie consistently, then no one can do anything to you.

Where the net has helped is with things like GM foods, where you see large numbers of people passing around information and exposing lies. The companies continue to lie for a long time, but eventually cave in once they become the focus of these groups.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, Absolutely correct. This goes way back.

First, the left attacked multinational corporations for exploiting the poor in Third World countries, exporting jobs, and killing the mom and pop shop.

The right then attacked multinational corporations for trying to weaken citizenship and sovereignty in the name of profits.

Both sides attacked corporate welfare, but mean different things by it -- the left means tax breaks, the right means subsidies.

Then the left came back with some crazy stuff. They accused companies of buying up inventions to suppress them, manipulating elections, and somehow undermining society. They also attacked specific companies for things like GM foods, bad chemicals, etc.

Lately, the official right has knee-jerk defended all corporations. But the Tea Party people have at times mentioned some of the items I mention above, though they haven't put this into a coherent theory yet.

I think this is something the right needs to get a grasp on right now because so many big companies are not our friends. Look at the Obamacare players who sold us out for $90 billion in subsidies for example. It's time to stop helping the enemy.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, In the world of irony, Hollywood is the richest man on Earth. They do EVERYTHING they attack others for doing and they do it in spades. Heck, they revel in it. Their hiring practices are sexist and racist. They have environmental footprints that are bigger than towns, not just people. They are the worst kinds of spoiled consumers. And they do all the business practices that they blast corporate America for doing.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Always happy to provide useful articles. :)

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

This might belong on the other site, but does that mean Hollywood can't or shouldn't be able to tell certain stories? Yes, it's totally hypocritical for them to tell the story of corporate misbehavior when... I mean, hey, look at them!

But should those things be off-limits for drama?

(I'm in class so I can't spend a lot of time on the question!) :-)

tryanmax said...

If you don't mind my jumping in, Scott, I don't think a meritorious case can be made that any subject should be off limits for drama as a medium. However, that doesn't preclude any particular producer of a message from undercutting their own message by contradicting it through their actions. Hollywood is an industry based on crafting illusions. It should be no surprise, then, that as an industry it would be particularly adept at projecting a false impression of its real self. Far from anything being off-limits for drama or Hollywood, they may enjoy the credulity of the public for so long as they can maintain the facade. If the veneer fails, then Hollywood loses the cachet to deliver those hypocritical messages. The limits establish themselves.

El Gordo said...

"But should those things be off-limits for drama?"

I don´t see how we could enforce that. Besides, it is possible that ten righteous filmmakers can be found in Hollywood, though perhaps not fifty.

El Gordo said...

"And they do all the business practices that they blast corporate America for doing."

Well, the MPAA is run by Chris Dodd so they must be honest.

El Gordo said...

Andrew, I very much agree with your post. You also make an important point in the comments: there is a lot of confusion because people are not using the same language.

When liberals attack big corporations, they mean to discredit free markets. The corporations are actually safe, being useful to them. When conservatives defend big corporations, they mean to defend free markets. But it makes them look naive or evil. The man in the street thinks government will "reign in" selfish corporations when in fact it often protects and subsidizes them.

A better conservative message would go something like: It is in the interest of The People to defend free markets and competition against both big government and big corporations.

Especially, let´s not be afraid to talk about "The People".

Another common mistake is to confuse the stock markets with the economy. Some conservatives did it during the Bush years, now liberals do the same (with even less justification).

It must also be said that big business could not behave like it does if politicians weren´t so eager to get into bed with them. Politicians are not the weaker part in this unholy marriage. Put yourself in their shoes: it is much more profitable to put on a show about "regulation" with a handful of CEOs than let 50,000 small businesses do their thing (even if these employ more people than GM, GE and Goldman Sachs put together).

More and more conservatives understand this because they see Obama doing it. I hope they draw the right conclusions.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm a conservative, so I don't believe in banning things I don't like. That said, I think Hollywood needs to be beaten over the head with their hypocrisy. People like Matt Damon needs to be mocked for claiming to speak for the poor or the environment despite hoarding wealth and mansions and flying private jets all over the world.

When Hollywood types lecture us about our supposed racism or sexism or ageism, we need to throw it right back in their faces that they are BY FAR worse than anything going on in the rest of the country. If they want to give themselves awards for their liberalism or attack us for a lack of liberalism, then we need to make it clear that they are full of crap.

Does that mean they can't tell stories about it? No, but we should use those stories to demand change in Hollywood.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I agree. The limits will create themselves if we keep pointing out the hypocrisy. If every time Matt Damon et al. go on a rampage about some bad something or other and we point out that Hollywood is worse, they will either learn to shut up or to put their money where their mouths are and live up to their words. Either result would be good for us.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, Christopher Dodd is a man beyond reproach. LOL! Wow, that felt stupid even writing that in jest!

Kit said...

"When Hollywood types lecture us about our supposed racism or sexism or ageism, we need to throw it right back in their faces that they are BY FAR worse than anything going on in the rest of the country."

re Racism, I give you...

Exhibit A: The lead cast The Last Airbender movie adaptation compared with the lead cast of the cartoon its based upon.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, Great! :)

I think you are absolutely right. I think conservatives are starting to get this. And I think what is bringing them around is seeing that Big Business loves Obama. That shouldn't be true if Big Business really represented capitalism. Yet, there it is. They've lobbied for everything he's done because it's involved big payouts to them, and a lot of conservatives are shocked by this.

Some are still in the "if it's business then it must be conservative" mindset, but a lot are breaking free. So hopefully, this will catch on and break the idea that business = free markets. We need to support free markets and competition.

And you are absolutely right about the stock market. The stock market is a proxy for business profits, it is not a proxy for the economy. Profits can come from a good economy, from cost cutting in a bad economy, or from subsidies from Uncle Sam or the Fed. Hopefully, people will stop looking to the market as a proxy for the economy and will instead look to employment and individual income growth... always focus on "the people."

In fact, that's been a point I've been making for months now, that we need to start focusing on the people. The public is what matters ultimately, and if we want to win them over, we need to make sure they benefit from our policies. That is where our focus should be. And not surprisingly, the very policies that help them will help small business and honest big business. It's a win-win.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, You've read my book, which I do need to just publish. Hollywood doesn't hire black or female directors, rarely casts them, and almost never casts women over 30. And when they do, they pay them less. They are one of the most environmentally destructive industries. They are anti-gun, but use gun violence to sell films. And so on.

Tennessee Jed said...

just a couple thoughts from my own experience. I am a friend of business, but not necessarily Wall Street. What happens is, corporate leaders become obsessed with the short term profit over long term strategic direction. I think anti-trust legislation was a good thing. It is very difficult, however, to effectively police Wall Street. It's the age old story of the crooks always keeping a step ahead of the cops {sic} "build a better burglar alarm, and the crook will learn how to defeat it." And while I am at it, "absolute power corrupts" is so true. Thus big corporation and big government are natural bed mates.

I worked for INA/CIGNA/ACE for my career. When I started, INA was a 200 year old company with a spotless reputation as a "White hat." It was like a family with great organizations and benefits. But companies like that became targets for takeovers. Up to a point, I am o.k. with that. A corporation's loyalty must be first to the stockholders. That doesn't mean cheating or breaking the law. It does mean always striving to operate efficiently. To an extent, some of the job losses were to technology. But when industries become mature (such as insurance) it became much harder to differentiate on things other than price. And by far the biggest factor in a corporation's expenses are the employees and their benefits. You can think of the higher end managers as greedy pricks, but really, they were driven by stock price. And, a lot of people sure enjoyed their 401K results.

None of this is meant to agree or disagree with your point of view, Andrew. Not all corporations are evil, but there is a system in place on Wall Street that breeds Gordon Gekko's.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That is true. There are definitely some great companies and there are some bad ones and the way the system is set up, it lends itself to a lot of Gekkos. But to me, they aren't even the real problem.

The real problem is that these big companies have come to learn that they can befriend the government and then use the government as a means to control consumers or competitors. The lightbulb industry is the perfect example of this. People were happy with regular bulbs, but those have weak margins. So the producers convinced Congress to ban those all in the name of some phony environmentalism, which would force people to buy the higher margin bulbs they don't want.

Obamacare is the same. The health insurers are using the force of law to make people buy their product. In exchange they give up some freedoms they didn't really want (because it made them look bad to exercise those... but they had to because their competitors could undercut them if they didn't), and in exchange they got direct subsidies. Thus, we get screwed and their formerly sagging profits are guaranteed.

This is becoming how big business works. On every issue from green cars to health care, they are using the government to control their customers and competitors.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I opened that can of worms. :-)

Re: Hollywood, the thing is, as always, balance. We get 100 "evil oil company" movies but where are the "green lobby cronyism" movies?

Re: discrimination, on one hand I find it hard to care (sometimes)... BUT what bothers me even more is when they cast an actor of a certain race because of the foreign market.

This is from an interview with actor/director Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard fame:

"THR: Is it just a matter of integrating more filmmakers of color into Hollywood?

Chandrasekhar:It's an endless discussion in the casting rooms, in studios and in television. Endlessly, like "we should get some color in this thing," and you're like, "okay." But it's rarely in the leads, because we're all trying to make money. If you could make money with non-white people in the leads, then that's the trick -- you'll have more and more people doing it. And it all gets back to like they always say this about foreign [audiences] – “don't put a black person on the poster because they won't sell in Germany.” And you're like, well what does that saying? Are we saying it's okay? We really want to sell in Germany so let's not put black people -- what does that mean? Are we just willing to make the buck and sell it to racists? Well yes, in fact, yes, that is what we are willing to do. And it's strange."

El Gordo said...

Hollywood has not exactly been leading when it comes to colorblindness. An example that drives me crazy is Collateral (2004). I like the movie but I can´t get over the fact that they cast Jada Pinkett as damsel in distress because the hero is black. It is hard enough to believe that an ambitious super-attractive female attorney would give her phone number to an underachieving cab driver she just met. It is a big coincidence that the next guy who gets into the cab will try to assassinate her. That they both have to be black ... that is where it gets ridiculous.

As for their hypocrisy on guns, consider this: in countless movies, they have to get rid of cellphones and guns because if the protagonists used either, there wouldn´t be a movie. Every time the heroine has "no signal" or no one in a small midwestern town has a gun, it just proves how useful guns and cellphones are. See also: cars that never start when a life is at stake.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't buy that actually and I'll tell you why. What he's really saying (and what Hollywood keeps saying) is: "Sigh... the world is so racist and not as noble as we are, so as a practical matter, we need to sink to their level."

That's self-serving BS. There are many minority actors who have shown repeatedly that they have huge appeal with white audiences. In other words, the problem isn't on our end... it's on the Hollywood end.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, That's true about guns and phones. But even more to the point, the same people who do ads saying that guns should be banned and sit on board of gun control groups think nothing of doing films in which they use guns to make themselves look cool and use gun violence to solve their problems. The fact is, Hollywood sells gun violence.

El Gordo said...

ScottDS, I don´t really care either but I have a hard time believing that guy. Will Smith or Eddie Murphy were extremely popular in Germany. Same in France. Django Unchained did very well. I know they had the Cosby show on tv all the time. Does he think European kids don´t listen to rap?

Maybe black stars don´t go over well in Asia and Chandrasekhar didn´t want to admit it. But even so - what does it mean? You can´t make a $40 or 70 million movie with blacks because it might be a problem in India or Japan? Pathetic. It is so much easier to fill the quota by casting blacks in unimportant roles playing authority figures. You know, cop, judge, doctor, scientist. Not entirely realistic but hey, we´ve done our part.

As for women directors, Kathryn Bigelow is not just better than most directors of genre movies, she is by now more interesting than her ex, James Cameron. There I said it!

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - that has been done since people have been meeting in the lobby of the Willard Hotel. Money and power are like hand and glove

Tennessee Jed said...

Gordo - good point. I was talking the other day about the unrealistic use of bootylicious actresses as ass kicking cops who are bosses of dullard male underlings as being unrealistic. I mentioned the same things with blacks, and reading your post registered the real reason that is being done.

BevfromNYC said...

"This might belong on the other site, but does that mean Hollywood can't or shouldn't be able to tell certain stories? Yes, it's totally hypocritical for them to tell the story of corporate misbehavior when... I mean, hey, look at them!

ScottDS - I am jumping in and this has probably been said already, BUT I like harassing you. ;-) Anyway, no, there is nothing wrong about them making movies about bad corporations,

What is hypocritical is that, as an industry, they lobby the government and campaign for candidates denouncing the very evil corporate empire issues that they themselves practice. For instance, tax subsidies and rebates/deferrals for companies to move into a state/locale. How many times have I heard the screaming hordes from Hollywood denounce this kind of "corporate welfare" and that "lowering taxes" will only take food out of the mouths of starving babies.

Yet, how do you think that the State of New York got The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to move from LA to NYC? One guess...tax incentives. Special tax cuts just for them. That's just one example of the many. California just gave a special tax break to film industry and related businesses because CA is hemorrhaging...because film production companies can film cheaper in other states.

That's what makes me angry - The "Do as I say, not as I do" mentality of the industry. Not so much the movies they make.

El Gordo said...

By the way, ScottDS, that POS After Earth made 75% of its $244 mil outside of the US. Django Unchained, 62% or $262mil abroad, of which 51 mil in Germany. We learn: 1. They have nothing against blacks. 2. They´ll watch anything.

Anonymous said...

Bev -

It's all old news to me - I was simply verbalizing a thought I had a while ago. But even my apolitical (or even left-leaning) friends notice when a movie is preachy, or manipulative. We saw the trailer for Promised Land and my friend - a Matt Damon fan - leaned over and said, "Yeah, looks a bit preachy."

So how's the polar vortex working out for you up there? ;-)

Anonymous said...

El Gordo -

It wasn't my quote! But it does prove that studio execs underestimate their audiences... but that fact is as old as the hills. :-)

Kit said...

To make Hollywood look worse, you do not need white leads for anti-black racists to see your movie. Author B.R. Myers mentioned that when he was in Apartheid South Africa you had these racist white college students in the 1980s who were saying things like "the blacks should all be fenced in so they could all rot and die" (lovely) but were huge fans of Reggae music.

BevfromNYC said...

ScottDS - other than the Polar Vortex being an unofficial Declaration of War by Canada ( in my opinion), it wasn't too terrible. I have decided that once the temp is in the single digits, it doesn't really matter. It's just cold.

But those Canadians better watch out, 'cause they won't know what hit 'em when Texas retaliates with the Equatorial Vortex in July!! ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I hadn't thought about that, but it is a good point. Perhaps this Polar Vortex is a declaration of war by those pesky Canadians? Let us know if you see a rise in moose sightings or hockey playing in the streets.

As for the Equatorial Vortex... uh, you can keep that one.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It is indeed an old story, but the level of corruption is unparalleled except for the Gilded Age. We should still fight back.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, In my experience, Germans will watch anything.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I don't follow.

Kit said...


I was saying that white racists will watch even occasionally at least a movie w/ black leads. Or listen to their music. So its one less excuse for Hollywood.

BevfromNYC said...

Speaking of ending racism in our lifetime, has anyone been following the news about SNL finally hiring a Black female for their comedy troupe? Apparently it is big news...yey,

darski said...

other than the Polar Vortex being an unofficial Declaration of War by Canada ( in my opinion),

aw shucks... you caught us :P

Kit said...


It took this long? I never realized they were whites and a few black guys. I would've thought they would have had at least one female black in their regular troupe.

Regardless, I wish her all the best.

Rustbelt said...

Andrew, this is a tough one. I've had difficulty defending the free market in the faces of outright libs because, as far as they (and most of the public) are concerned, corporations are the free market. Granted, these were the hard liners I worked with when I was in news. (After Newtowne, one of them actually delcared, "we need the government to get bigger and get those guns. We need more regulation because we have too much freedom in this country and that has to be reeled in." I think I know a few groups this individual could sign up with.)

Anyway...I think one of the problems we face is distinguishing between 'good' and 'bad' business practices. The problem is, people have a ridiculously short attention span and want quick and easy answers. This is where liberals have an advantage. All they have to do is say 'business is evil! Bring in socialism!' Simple, straight to the point- completely wrong- but it gets their point across. We, on the other hand, have to somehow show that dastardly corporations aren't the free market, but such an explanation could take time and the audience could quickly lose interest.

As an example...last week, I had a conversation with my brother that turned ugly. We were discussing late night TV and somehow we brought up the short-lived 'Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien.' My brother believes it's all Jay Leno's fault for not going away and that Conan was sabotaged by NBC execs. Now, I worked at a station through that fiasco. Needless to say, not only was my brother wrong, but the late night disaster was far more complicated than he realized. I tried to explain this, but after only a few sentences, he got bored, interrupted, shut me up as best he could, and the conversation basically died. (The fact that he's a Conan fanboy didn't help, either.)

Back to the subject at hand... if we're going to gain any advantage in this debate, we first need to recognize the problem (as you've said), and stop the knee-jerk defense of corporations. Then, I think we need to find words that can simplify what we're saying. Things like, "we don't want to interfere in business. We don't want to take over the economy. What we DO want to do is stop abusive corporations that ruin it for everyone else- businesspeople and consumers alike. Because if can stop the abusive corporations- like the ones supporting our opponents [insert names]- everyone will share in the rewards. And we won't make you pay for big government socialism in order to do it!"
Okay, so I'm not a speechwriter. I was just trying to come up with a rough and simple idea of what could be said. But make no mistake. We need to recognize the problem and figure out a better way to communicate before we completely lose this issue to the other side.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I had no idea they never had a black woman on the show. Of course, they've had very few women period.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, This is a difficult issue as you point out. Let me respond this way.

First, I'm not worried about liberals because we'll never reach them. The key is reaching the middle. The middle is practical, not ideological. They want problems solved.. that's it. So keep that in mind.

Now, the first problem we have is that most of our talking heads don't understand any of this. They take the simple approach that they will support anything liberals oppose. That's why they revel in embracing things like pollution. They basically adopt all the liberal boogeymen arguments as true and then claim that this is true capitalism. That's horribly destructive to the image of capitalism and to our own image... it drives away voters in droves and discredits everything else we argue.

Secondly, even beyond the idiots, you have the problem that few conservatives really understand how free markets work... "uh, something about tax cuts, right?" It's really hard to defend something when all you know are bumpersticker slogans.

Third, once we actually understand this stuff, it's actually very easy to explain in ways that come across as common sense to average people. But there is yet another catch that causes modern conservatives problems: to win people over, we need to address their needs and conservatives are very uncomfortable talking about people.

For example, people are concerned about dangerous products, about pollution, about predatory practices, about losing their jobs/healthcare/homes, about getting ripped off in the stock market. The conservative answer is usually to deny the problem through abstract big picture numbers ("not scientifically proven"), or to say that the people who are hurt deserved it, or they get ideological and start screaming socialism. Each of those answers loses the public.

We need to learn to speak to people in terms that have meaning to them and to address their concerns.

If we can get over all of that, then it's easy to explain you would rather have consumers telling companies what they want rather than the government deciding what you get. It becomes very easy to explain why regulation and taxes make people want to work less and make it more expensive to hire people. It becomes very easy to explain that most regulations exist for the purpose of forcing consumers to do what business wants, rather than controlling business as they are purported. It becomes simple to point out how Walmart's benefits package is vastly better than Obamacare, how McDonalds offers a genuine career path, how corporate America gives more to charity that the GDP of most countries, etc. It becomes easy to explain how corporations make everything that makes our lives so comfortable. How venture capital is what allows artists and inventors to turn their ideas into products. How business employs 140 million Americans and pays the taxes that lets the government exist.

Those are easy arguments... so long as we are seen as practical, rational and genuine addressing the fears of consumers.

El Gordo said...

The problem with short term thinking among CEOs is worrying me but I´m not sure what to do about it. In many areas - engineering and manufacturing perhaps most of all - you need to invest in the future all the time. That means people, not just machines. You need to maintain a skilled workforce and middle management and a lot of institutional knowledge.

Some modern CEOs hate all that, imho. They are not going to be there forever. They don´t like owning "bricks and mortar" and a workforce that they can´t replace. Their ideal company consists of HR, controlling, legal, marketing, purchasing and ... let´s outsource the rest. I´m exaggerating, but not as much as I´d like.

They idea that you can design stuff that you don´t know how to manufacture is wrong. Maybe it works for Apple, but there are no moving parts in an iPhone. Boeing is not the best (worst) example, but for the new 787 Boeing decided to outsource the production of entire assemblies (not just components) to foreign companies. Isn´t this their core competence? In any case it caused huge problems.

On the other hand, the idea that a nation (i.e. politicans) can ensure competitiveness by coddling a select group of huge companies ought to be dead since the British government killed their aviation and car industry. The French have "national champions" in almost every kind of industry. These are huge, international and often quite successful companies, although many had to be bailed out at some point. All are run by the same elite network who have been at the same schools. Does it help the economy? I guess. But they simply cannot create enough jobs and innovation that way to really benefit everyone. Most people are not employed by huge conglomerates. Without the companies that employ 20 or 200, you lose. And you can´t make them by decree. Even the big O can´t order them into being. His epitaph: "We couldn´t build that"

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, It is unfortunate that management tends to be short sighted. They know that nothing that happens after they have left office matters, so all they care about is the current value of the company. That's why so much innovation happens at small companies compared to large companies.

In terms of picking champions, that's never worked. It only works so long as the state bends the rules in their favor and periodically infuses them with cash. It also keeps out the competitors who make economies thrive. In other words, while the French champions may provide some employment and may seem profitable, the cost is that the French economy is rigged and that's why you never see companies like Microsoft or Apple or Amazon starting in France.

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