Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Favorite German Billionaire

We've been talking about grocery shopping, economics, and ethics (or at least, I've been talking--you've just been reading and refusing to comment; I have clearly not been controversial enough; either that, or you're not really there and I'm shouting down the empty hallway; Should parentheses contain multiple clauses joined by semicolons? Discuss.).

As I mentioned in my last post on this topic, multinational corporations (somehow I feel the conspiracy-theory quotient is upped by calling them "multinational") continue to perpetuate the structures pioneered by colonial powers. Do they use the same methods? Well, they generally don't have standing armies and control the educational system--although I'm sure you can find such claims on the internet. Personally, I don't know what to do with the more extreme claims that you hear in anti-globalization circles, and the purpose of this post is not to evaluate them.

What I am more and more convinced of, however, is that the trend of the last half century or so is for corporations to have more and more freedom and autonomy across national boundaries. They are also driven by at least one major motivating factor that also motivated colonial empires: the twin desire for inexpensive sources of raw material and lucrative markets for finished goods. Given these desires and their autonomy, one can only expect corporations to actively seek to perpetuate the structures of colonialism, and the flow of money from "them" to "us." As for their methods, there is only one thing that would prevent them from imitating as many colonial methods as they can get away with:


Now, you may believe that people are basically good (a discussion thread for another time), but I don't generally expect to find vast pockets of virtue lying untapped in human institutions. I acknowledge the presence of virtue among us, and it's not as though by working for or patronizing a corporation, you are robbed of your virtue and conscience. However, I must not anchor my hope in the ubiquity of virtue, and assume that those with power and motivation to do otherwise are acting virtuously.

Now, to prove that I'm not a whacko (or maybe just to prove that I'm hopelessly hypocritical) I want you to know that I live the regular American life like anyone else. I delight in all the "bad guys": Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Coke, Halliburton--wait, not so much that one. It simply makes sense for me to patronize these places. When I act in the interests of my household and those near to me, I support them as well. One of the best resources for the poor in my area is the grocery chain Aldi, which my wife and I rely on to stay in our food budget.

So, should I be concerned that when I act with the best interests of my household in mind, I give more money to this man?

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