David and Goliath by Robert Temple Ayres
You hate big corporations? Why don’t you tweet that on your IPhone. – Anonymous
Rooting for the Underdog
We are conditioned to root for the underdog. Consider the ancient story of David and Goliath. It is inspiring to hear a tale where the weak summon their courage and persevere to defeat a better placed opponent. There is nothing wrong with that. But that story line has been hijacked by those that would use your better instincts for political gain.
Karl Marx is Not David
In “The Communist Manifesto” Marx describes a struggle between the powerful Bourgeoisie and the underdogs, the Proletariat. The powerful and greedy are only self-interested, preying on the weaker common man to exploit them. As with David and Goliath, the more virtuous the underdog and more evil the strong, the more appealing the story where the little guy gets to take on the big bad monster. I’ve read of evidence David and Goliath was an actual historical event corroborated outside of Biblical text, unlike the fairy tale of Marx.
Enter the Corporation
In our society the means of production, owned by the Bourgeoisie in the world of Marx, are seen to be in the hands of the powerful corporations. Corporations are described as greedy and bad, taking advantage of people’s needs to make money. What can the little guy do? It’s a popular story line heard said by Republicans and Democrats alike. It’s also the same story told by the Communist. The names have just been changed to advance a political agenda in the middle of the confusion over semantics.
Corporation are Indeed People
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the Citizen’s United case that corporations, being an assemblage of individuals, are entitled to the same protections of their speech as individuals themselves. And in fact corporations as a legal entity are an assemblage of individuals. A public corporation, one selling stock on Wall street, is in fact owned by people. Many of those people have their retirement moneys dependent on the success of that corporation. When a corporation fails, people get hurt. The employees get hurt, including the many people with money invested in that company, many of those without much to lose, such as retired teachers and firemen.
Profit is Not Evil
While they come together for the purpose of their collective gain and profit, that does not make them greedy. It does not make them bad. A group of people may be a church congregation operating a soup kitchen or it may be a lynch mob. Both groups may be operating in what they see as their own self interest, yet we do not hesitate to call one bad and the other good. Wanting to make money does not make an endeavor, a person, or a corporation bad. Otherwise people who get up to go to work in the morning are bad people. Don’t be silly. Yet we are.
Capitalism is Just
For a corporation to survive and prosper it has to provide a product or service in excess of what it consumes. It has to sell something. It may make hamburgers. It may fashion plastic into toothbrushes. If I give you a hamburger or toothbrush without extracting from those who get them enough in exchange to keep providing hamburgers and toothbrushes then I will no longer be able to serve my customers. Taking that money is not greed; in fact if I am greedy and charge too much another will replace me in the marketplace and I will suffer. If I don’t take enough, I will no longer be able to provide hamburgers or toothbrushes. There are winners if I take money. There are losers besides myself if I don’t.
Service is Good
People getting hamburgers and toothbrushes for their money are happy to make the exchange. They feel like they are “getting their money’s worth” or they would not keep buying those things from the people they do. They are being served by the corporation. And didn’t God teach us that serving one another was good? That’s right. I just called corporations an instrument of God’s goodness.
God placed everything we needed on this earth but designed it so that we would have to work together to prosper. Corporations are a mechanism of working together. Remember that next time you feel like engaging in the class warfare of Karl Marx with the “Us vs. Them” rhetoric bad mouthing the big nasty greedy corporations. Without that corporation you might not be able to buy a toothbrush. And that big nasty greedy corporation, by providing toothbrushes, may have served more of God’s people that you have today.