During the 2012 election cycle, Mitt Romney was widely mocked for his “corporations are people” quote. But he was right. Corporations are people. What is a corporation if not a group of people banding together for a common purpose? Sure, that common purpose might be to make as much money as possible, but it’s not like some faceless corporate logo is out there, pounding pavement, making calls, doing research in the lab, or selling stuff. People are doing it.
The reason why Romney was crucified in the press for that quote is because he refused to countenance the rampant anti-corporate ideology that plagues the American public. We live in a culture that denounces corporations while simultaneously fantasizing about the goods and services they sell. How many times have you gone online to stare at things that you wanted to buy?
And how many times have you left a snide remark about this or that corporation that received some negative press in the news? How many times have you railed against Wal-Mart for its perceived labor abuses or Comcast for its shitty customer service or Apple for employing vast sweatshops in China and Malaysia? Oh wait. You never railed against Apple? Why is that? Because they make something that you really like? As long as child labor produces something cool like iPhones and iPads, it’s all good, right?
At its basest level, economics is the study of how people reconcile unlimited wants against a world of limited resources. If I could afford a Ferrari, a penthouse condo in the heart of Manhattan, and my own personal Boeing 747 with a complement flight crew, I would definitely get all of those things. But I can’t, because I’m just a young IT worker, and the modern economy has decreed that young IT workers shouldn’t be able to afford all that stuff.
If I wrote an article with the title “Why can’t I afford a Ferrari and a Manhattan penthouse condo?” the comments section would pile up with a bunch of people mocking me for my naiveté. But what do the complaints against corporations sound like?
“This is bullshit! EA shouldn’t be charging us 60 dollars for a copy of Titanfall!”
“Comcast shouldn’t be able to throttle my internet connection!”
“Amazon is raising the price for its Prime service by 20 dollars? I’M CANCELLING IT RIGHT NOW.”
The fundamental conceit behind these kind of complaints is “this corporation is not giving me the product/service I want in a manner I deem acceptable and at a price I’m willing to pay”. To which I’ll respond: “too fucking bad. Don’t buy it then.” The arrogance and entitlement behind that kind of whining just boggles my mind.
If you were dictator of the world 100 years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to assemble 1 Blackberry phone if your life depended on it. It would have been impossible. And Blackberry sucks. Now think of a company that sells something that people actually want to buy. Like Ford and its bestselling F-150. It takes hundreds of thousands of full time hires and tens of billions of dollars to build the infrastructure capable of selling 1 current generation F-150 truck to person for ~30,000 dollars at a profit.
The thing is, our modern economy would be incomprehensibly wealthy to a person who lived just two hundred years ago. The complaints we have would seem pointless and alien to somebody who lived in an era where 90 out of 100 people lived on farms. Where the average life expectancy was 40 years. A luxury to them was doubling the grain ration during a bumper crop harvest.
In comparison, the modern economy is the fucking shit. We have so much stuff that we waste half the food we buy. It’s cheaper to work for 1 hour at the average job and buy a t-shirt instead of taking 5 hours to knit one after 5 hours of shearing the wool from the sheep on your family’s farm. Long live the modern economy, and all of the things we have available to us that would have been unavailable to kings and emperors living just 100 years ago.
We have all these things because humanity discovered, through centuries of trial and error, that we are capable of producing the most shit when we organize into entities called “corporations”. The world we live in is a miracle, and it’s because of the fine folk who create and work at companies like Microsoft, General Motors, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, and Goldman Sachs (yes, even those guys). And every day we just hurl a proverbial shit pie at them.
So cut them some slack, will ya?