This idea of being controlled by corporations has come up several times in recent online conversations. It’s usually in the context of the government regulating something to protect us form the evil corporations. This puzzles and worries me on several different levels. What strikes me the most is this idea that we are slaves to various companies, that we have no choice in certain things and we are therefore controlled by these companies. Following that line of logic, we are in need of a protector, and most people want the government to play that role. With just a little thought you can see how backwards this really is.
Companies depend on us buying their products and services to survive. It is in their best interest to provide us with what we want. We are the ones that control of the corporations! This is easily shown by the fact that companies regularly go out of business. As long as there is competition between companies for our dollars, we are the ones in control. We always have options, we can buy from a company, not buy from them, buy from their competition, etc. If we do not like their price, their business practices, owners, or whatever, we can choose to do something else.
When we involve the government, our range of choices always decreases. Government ownership being the worst case scenario. Lets use a ridiculous example to make a point. Let’s say that the local power plant decides to start burning babies to provide power. There are people that applaud this decision since babies are messy and loud. Plus, they burn much cleaner than the traditional fossil fuels. You are outraged of course, but what to do, you need power! Well, you have options. You can use some sort of alternative energy source, maybe buy your own generator or install solar panels. In the worst case scenario, you could move somewhere else and use some other power source. The key is that you do not have to use their power and you no longer support what you don’t like. Now imagine that the government owns the power plant. You could choose not to use the power, but you’d still be paying for it. If you decided to make a stand and not pay for it (as you should), you would be thrown in jail, or at least fined. Sounds silly, right? Well, just substitute your least favorite war, educational policy, political junket, or least favorite bit of bureaucratic red tape to see how relevant it really is. When the government is involved, you have to pay no matter what you think of the policies. That’s quite a bit more control than any business could ever have over you.
OK sure, but the government doesn’t own most things, and besides the poor need some sort of protection. They don’t have the same kind of options that you and I have. It’s true that the US government doesn’t own most things (thank God!) but that’s not the case in many countries. The government here may not own as much, but they certainly regulate quite a bit. Regulations have a similar consequence, they cause us to have fewer options. How? By forcing expenses on companies, it raises the cost of entry and operation. his prevents some companies from starting and can cause others to close. By stifling competition, we have fewer choices and pay higher prices. This gets us back to the protection of the poor. The poor wouldn’t need protection if they had adequate choices. In fact, they may choose an option that you wouldn’t because it would save them some money. I’d like to think that everyone, regardless of income bracket, would choose the nuclear power plant over the baby burning one. But not everyone would choose the nuclear plant over a coal burning one. Some would prefer the lower operating expenses of coal, some people just don’t trust nuclear power. Some people wouldn’t choose either, they’d rather pay the extra money and use wind or solar power. The key is that the more choices companies can offer us, the better off we are. They have no control over us, we control them. The government is the one you have to watch out for, it can either limit your choices or control you directly by threat of incarceration (or worse).
The same principles apply to ANY product or service that you can think of. If you let businesses pursue profits, you will have the most extensive range of options, including the lowest possible price. Regulations passed, no matter how well intentioned, will always interfere with someone’s choices. This limits them to them paying more and/or eliminating a service that they would rather have. Granted, environmental, educational, and national defense issues are complicated, but the fact remains that the government is the only one that can “control” us, the corporations of the world can only ask us for our money.