Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Trojan Horse Capitalism
Sit down here on my knee, little boy, and let me tell you a story. Don't worry, I'm not a priest--you have nothing to fear.
That's a good boy...now where was I...oh, yeah:
Once upon a time, there was a successful family company that got a bit too big for its britches, was bursting at the seams, shall we say, and one of the owner's sons, the greedy one, decided this company had a great opportunity to balloon into a massive money machine. After much in-fighting, and maybe even the death of the old man, the greedy son got his way and sought the advice of a greedy banker, who was more experienced in this sort of thing.
In exchange for a large sum of money, the banker advised the company to seek outside capital in order to expand at an unreasonable rate, undercut competition, corner the market, and raise prices. Once the company went public, there was no turning back and everything went according to plan. The stock became increasingly valuable, the family grew wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, the wolfiest wolves in the wolf business acquired as much stock as they could get their hands on, and they quickly began hounding the executives for increasingly outlandish profits to satisfy their bottomless appetites.
Manufacturing was streamlined, raw materials were either bargained down to extortionate deals or vertically integrated right into the monster, labor unions were fought tooth and nail, pennies were pinched, and still it was not enough.
Over time, the family and its loyalists were either phased out, neutered, or converted. Hired guns were brought in, unsympathetic to the needs of other humans, and the successful business was rewired from the ground up.
Manufacturing was outsourced to China, customer service inquiries were fed to call centers in India, benefits were reduced for every employee not in the executive ranks, millions of dollars were spent in order to avoid responsibility for environmental damage, taxes were dodged, and lawyers and lobbyists were hired by the dozen to insulate the new company from all responsibility, to protect it from all restrictions.
Millions more were funneled to media conglomerates through Madison Avenue, in order to make this cold behemoth appear friendly. A revisionist vintage logo was drawn up, folksy commercials were produced, corporate practices were greenwashed, the truth was buried, and what had once been a profitable family company with visible virtues and flaws, with a sense of community, a (relative) sense of decency, is now little more than a cuddly, helpful, responsible wooden horse with a perverted profit monster inside, lying in wait for the best opportunity to murder the entire world in their sleep, as soon as there is a buck in it.
Now, who wants a fucking Twinkie?