Jennifer Hancock is the author of several books, and founder of Humanist Learning Systems. Jennifer is unique in that she was raised as a freethinker and is one of the top speakers and writers in the world of humanism today… Read more
Is Big Business Bad?
I am pretty progressive, meaning – I think positive progress is possible and that we should be working towards making the world a better place. As a Humanist – I define better compassionately – if it helps people flourish – it’s good. If it harms people – it’s bad.
So … how do I feel about big business. Answer? Well – it depends.
I try not to have a knee jerk reaction to anything and I consider each moral situation – independently.
Big businesses can be good or bad or both – good and bad – depending on the company and what metrics we are using to determine what we mean by “good” and “bad.”
There was a really great article in The Atlantic on this:
The subtitle is: Large corporations are vilified in a way that obscures the innovation they spur and the steady jobs they produce.
This doesn’t mean that big business doesn’t have legitimate problems. It totally does. It means we should be designing solutions to those problems in a way that doesn’t cause – additional problems.
For instance – living wages? Yeah – don’t shut down the big businesses paying good wages and force everyone into smaller business that historically – don’t have the resources to pay as well. You get the idea.
To me – the debate over whether or not business is good or bad – is not about size. It’s about morality. Specifically – what model of business are we going to use.
Exploitative vs. Cooperative Capitalism.
I swear I am a capitalist. I’ve actually read Marx’s book and understood it. I think capitalism offers a good mix of innovation and security and freedom as compared to other more restrictive systems. That doesn’t mean I think laissez faire capitalism is good. Or that all forms of capitalism are good. I don’t.
I only really like humanistic capitalism. Cooperative capitalism. And I’ve felt this way my whole life. I remember in high school – I was supposed to write an essay about our capitalistic system and I instead wrote about how we have a hybrid system that combines elements of both capitalism and socialism and I argued it was precisely because we have a hybrid system – that America – at the time – was flourishing. (Not to date myself – but I’m clearly now in 2019 – dating myself with that statement).
Exploitative forms of capitalism and business – are evil.
This should not have to be said – but it does- exploitation is evil. It is harmful and any system built upon exploitation is evil because it actively harms people as part of the system. I am a Humanist. Harm is bad. Exploitation causes harm and is therefore bad. Socialists and communists are correct to state – that the exploitation of labor is evil. Because it is.
We should not and do not need to tolerate exploitation in our businesses or in capitalism. It is not a necessary condition of the system and there are other models of capitalism and business that are built upon cooperation that are way more effective and it is those models we should be both pursuing and insisting on.
Let me give you an idea of what these differences are.
In my community – historically – we’ve had 2 basic capitalist economic systems in operation. One was exploitative (slavery) the other was literally – cooperative.
I live on land that was once “home” to over 200 enslaved people working at a sugar mill. This business required government support in the form of military assistance to keep the enslaved people enslaved and to kill Indians who were helping enslaved people – escape slavery. In Florida – the United States government fought 3 costly wars to prop up this exploitative economic system before the rest of the country said no more. At which point – the civil war happened.
Down the way – was a cooperatively own fishing camp. This camp was run by white people with Spanish Indians who traded with Spanish colonies around the Caribbean. It was self sufficient and productive and profitable. It did not require government support and military assistance to operate. However, the military did shut it down because the local slaver was insistent that the cooperative business operating – basically next door – was hurting his business.
When you consider these 2 business models that literally operated side by side: it’s pretty easy to see that the cooperative one – was the better one. The exploitative one – wasn’t just morally reprehensible, it was economically unsustainable without the additional stealing of public wealth to prop the system up.
We don’t have to accept the status quo if the status quo sucks.
People who advocate for exploitative capitalism need to be seen for what they are. They are not good business men. And no good business is run in such a way. Good business pay living wages and share the prosperity they create.
When exploitative evil people insist that sharing wealth is socialist and evil – understand they are lying to protect themselves. the only people taking welfare are the exploitative capitalist. They are stealing all our wealth for themselves while hurting the rest of us through exploitation. We don’t have to accept it and we should not tolerate it. What they are doing – isn’t capitalism (the creation and distribution of capital). It’s exploitative and criminal.
I just finished reading, Applied Humanism. I loved its clarity and straightforwardness. In many ways the writing is deceptively simple: the concepts and their applications are universal in appeal yet subtle in their implications for living and working in today’s world. – Chris Lazlo, Professor of Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio…