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More On the Evil Corporate Plot To Get You Addicted to Potato Chips

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So, let’s clear up something first.

What I clearly said is that “I described  NO strategies for avoiding cravings.”

I then did describe something else I don’t  keep in the house because I tend to pick at it without thinking–peanuts in the shell.  No oil.  No salt.  No grand corporate design.

Last night, after I read Mike F’s post, I asked my younger son to give me a list of everything he’s not supposed to bring home from the store. 

The list certainly included some evil corporate food, including Wheat Thins and Goldfish crackers.

But the list ALSO included the following:  kiwi fruit; cauliflower florets;  sliced cheese of any kind; strawberries.

Now, I suppose I can be in deep denial about my desperate cravings for corporate food, but to me that list looks like just what I said it was:  the list of a woman who tends to pick at ANYTHING, thoughtlessly and absentmindedly, that happens to be around and easy to get to.

If I’m “craving” all this food, lusting after it like an alcoholic after Scotch, then I’ve got bigger problems than worrying about whether corporations are trying to get me addicted to potato chips. 

To have cravings for all that, and to have them virtually all the time, every day, would mean that I had some kind of severe nutritional deficit, or maybe a disease that makes it impossible for me to absorb nutrients.

But I’m not aware of any cravings.  What I AM aware of is that need to pace back and forth to think and then to have something to do with my hands.  I flip pens.  I tear at papers that happen to come to hand on a desk or table. 

I once took apart and put back together, alphabetized, an entire bookcase full of DVD cases–without realizing I’d done it until, several hours later, when it was discovered by my younger son. 

It is, of course, possible that I was secretly craving corporate food during all this, but it seems more sensible to me–since I’ve done this kind of thing all my life–that it was all part of the process of trying to figure out how the suspect got the will out of the wall safe without being caught by the security cameras.

And why is it that when I go to the gas station and see a pile of potato chip bags and just don’t care, I’m exhibiting a “strategy” instead of what it is I think I’m doing–not caring? 

And how is not caring evidence that I have a deepseated, alcohlic like craving for the stuff I’m not caring about?

I didn’t fail to acquire potato chips over the last few days because I was exercising a “strategy” to avoid them.  I failed to acquire potato chips because I forgot about them.  Is that also evidence of  how I’m “addicted” to potato chips and must manage my encounters with them with “strategies?”

This is an infinite loop–EVERYTHING seems to be evidence of an addiction.  Any behavior of mine that seems to be evidence to the contrary is simply explained away (you’re in denial, you don’t see your own desperation) or ignored (unoiled, unsalted peanuts? weren’t ever there).

The minor aspect is the poisoning of the well thing.  You’re not just eating food, you’re desperately craving empty calories.  You’re not drinking a soft drink, you’re guzzling sugary drinks!

The point of poisoning the well is to delegitimize the choice (or the point of view) without discussion. 

The major aspect, though, is to reconceptualize human beings as helpless, willless victims caught in the play of forces over which they have no control–thereby legitimizing the process by which experts have every right to curtail and manipulate their choices, since those aren’t REAL choices anyway.

They just can’t help themselves!  We’ll have to make those choices for them.

Mike F also asks what I want for evidence–the people involved have already said they’re doing this!

One of the things I’d want is evidence that the project is actually WORKING–not that they’re producing products that are “highly palatable,” but that these products are actually “addicting” the majority of people who use them.

It is certainly the case that food that tastes really good is food you’re likely to eat a lot of and not to want to stop eating.  That’s true whether the food was designed by the corporation or by your mother.

And I also think it is certainly the case that MOST human beings really like things high in fat and salt and carbohydrates–but I think that this is true of all people, everywhere, and I think it’s BEEN true since the dawn of time.

This is not the result of corporate conspiracy.  It’s the result of thousands of years of human evolution, and not just human evolution. 

Cats like the same kind of stuff.

I DO get cravings for salt and fat and carbs, but I’d get those even if no corporation ever existed.  I get them especially when  I’m sick, and I think that’s also  most likely the result of thousands of years of evolution.

But THOSE kinds of cravings can be solved with lots of things, including (as mentioned before) my home made corn chowder. It’s a recipe over 300 years old, I never had it made for me as a child. I found it with a little stack of recipes and letters when Bill was still alive and gave it a shot.

It’s got salt pork, and butter, and heavy cream, and potatoes and–well, you get the picture.   

If I’d had some sitting around in the refridgerator this week end, it would have done much better than potato chips. 

Like Mique, and Cheryl, I see nothing wrong with a company studying what makes food taste good to people and makes them want to eat more.

I do NOT see this as an attempt to–never mind a successfully accomplished attempt to–turn human beings into helpless addicts unable to resist their compulsion for “empty calories.”

There are only two ways that corporations can make me helpless to resist their products.

1) get the government to require me, by law, on pain of penalty, to purchase their products (wouldn’t have said that was possible before recently, but here we are)


2) drive all their competitors out of business so that I am forced to deal with them for a product that I literally can’t live without (food).

For option (2) to work, the corporation MUST have the cooperation of the government to squash competition–it must have a regulatory state where the enforcement and interpretation of regulations is left up to individuals who can be bribed, corrupted or co-opted, and it must include regulatory burdens so significant that it discourages new competitors coming into the field, or just knocks them out altogether.

Since fixing (2) is NEVER the recommendation of people who rail against Evil Corporations, I’ve naturally come away with the impression that ranting about the corporations is not meant to rein in the corporations, but to redefine citizens as being neither capable of nor entitled to make their own decisions about their own lives.


Written by janeh

June 26th, 2013 at 8:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

21 Responses to 'More On the Evil Corporate Plot To Get You Addicted to Potato Chips'

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  1. This is a really interesting debate. Michael, I’m afraid I have to side with Jane on this one. Bodies crave things – different things at different times. Sometimes salt, sometimes sugar, sometimes fat, sometimes potassium. Perhaps if we all were able to eat perfectly balanced meals all the time we might not crave things, but I even doubt that. In the summer I crave iced tea with lemon. Lots of it. In the winter, it’s coffee. With cream. And during the winter with my coffee and cream, I eat chocolate. Every morning. (And most of it is decaf, so we can’t even say it’s the caffeine that I crave.)

    At a certain point in my life, at a certain time in a monthly cycle, I craved dairy. I could, and often would, eat dairy 3 meals a day for 3 days running. And I mean nothing but dairy. Yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese and milk. And ice cream for dessert. Nothing green, nothing meat based. Just dairy. After those 3 days, dairy was something that didn’t really even cross my mind. And while I usually always have yogurt or cheese in the fridge now – it’s because there is absolutely no prep involved. If you’re in a rush and need a meal, grab a yogurt.

    I assume that corporations try to make their food taste good. And I say, Yay!! Eating is something we HAVE to do – why not make it enjoyable? (And as long as we’re all pitching potato chips – I vote for Old Dutch Crunch – Salt and Vinegar or Mesquite Barbeque. Also a Midwest thing, Lymaree. And did you HAVE to tell us about Trader Joe’s? Sheesh!)


    26 Jun 13 at 10:27 am

  2. Heh. I’m secretly a shill for Trader Joe’s Food Addiction Posse. “You crave ’em, we wave ’em…in your face.” ;)

    I’ve been dealing with this alleged “addiction” to all kinds of food for years, due to the apparent determination of my body to become sensitive to an ever-increasing list of items. I’ve always had problems with bell peppers (but not chilis, go figure). As I age though, the list grows…onions, then lactose, and now I find out I’m sensitive to wheat and/or gluten. Suddenly a whole range of foods are completely out of bounds. Not that I have celiac disease or anything, but I found out something remarkable.

    I’ve had arthritis in my knees for years, no cartilage left at all. The pain was constant and unremitting, even with constant doses of pretty heavy painkillers. Then my doctor tells me I’m borderline diabetic, so we went hard-core low carb for several weeks. Suddenly I realize my knees are feeling much better than they have in years. The painkillers are controlling the pain. I can even reduce the dose! Yay!

    Over the next few weeks I experiment with re-introducing various carbs…rice, corn, potatoes, and then wheat. Pain comes back with more than a miniscule amount of wheat.

    Now I’ve been a big-time “addict” (as described by the “food as pathology” folks) of wheat in all forms for 58 years. Breads, bagels, pasta, pastries, crackers, cereal, that crap is everywhere, and I love it all. But pain is a powerful motivator. I haven’t had more than a mouthful of wheat in months.

    But what I also haven’t had, other than a few relatively mild cravings, are any of the signs of withdrawal from the allegedly addictive substance. I haven’t had shakes, I haven’t had uncontrollable urges, I haven’t gone on bingeing relapses. I’ve seen people addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or drugs who relapse repeatedly, even though they KNOW it will hurt them, sometimes with immediate pain, like my knees if I ate a whole slice of bread.

    To me, “keep coming back to it, and sometimes think about it or crave it when you haven’t had it for a while” is not the definition of addiction. That’s “can’t refuse it, seek it out even when it is detrimental to your life, functioning, or health, when it destroys relationships or ability to work, and when you can’t afford it. Also causes unpleasant physical effects when withdrawn.”

    There’s no doubt in my mind food scientists working for the food corps study human appetite dynamics and design their foods to be maximally appealing. So? No matter how appealing, they haven’t succeeded in creating a food that fits the definition of addiction above.

    Food deserts and providing access for poor people to affordable nutritious foods are another issue entirely. It’s not addiction that leads them to choose poorly. It’s lack of availability of cheap, nutritious food that’s easy to prepare & eat.


    26 Jun 13 at 12:47 pm

  3. I think I can pretty well prove that donating to National Public Radio is an addiction, using the potato chip standard. People do it regularly, which is of course proof they’re addicted. (Probably gives them an endomorphin boost,) When they stop giving, they stop altogether–which of course is MORE proof of addiction. And it’s even got Evil Corporate Sponsors in the form of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and many others. Since doing something and not doing something are both proof of addiction, the only way I can see to free us is to close NPR down altogether. I’ll miss Car Talk, but there’s no other way to end the addiction.

    Detail point. Since it’s wrong of major corporations to make food taste better so they make more money, and it’s obviously virtuous of small farmers to sell better-tasting local produce in the farmers’ market–the locavores make a big thing about this–so THEY make more money, does anyone know the precise income level at which virtue becomes vice? And the formula used for the inflation adjustment? Think how embarrassing it could be at year-end if you thought you were a virtuous small farmer and you discovered that you’d been an evil scheming corporation since April!

    Lymaree, I semi-agree. Yeah, there’s a serious lack of grocery stores in some places, and people are to some extend at the mercy of their communities. But the brutal truth is, if the bulk of the community wanted baby carrots instead of chilled beer, and dried apples instead of taco chips, they’d get them. It’s the basic problem with freedom and democracy: you get what you want instead of what you need. I prefer freedom and democracy to the alternatives, but it remains a problem.


    26 Jun 13 at 3:01 pm

  4. “hey just can’t help themselves! We’ll have to make those choices for them.”

    Working on a more detailed response, but for now — making it more difficult for sociopathic predators to take advantage of people is, one would think, one of the “legitimate functions of government”.

    And all corporations are sociopaths.

  5. And all corporations are sociopaths.

    Sez who, Mike?

    It frightens the bejasus out of me that these days it is actually considered perfectly fine by many in our western societies that “experts” ought to be able to make us behave as they, rather than we, think fit. 60-odd years ago we’d just finished fighting a war against that sort of fascism.


    27 Jun 13 at 12:54 pm

  6. The idea that corporations resemble sociopaths in some ways (in spite of not being human beings) was mildly amusing the first time I heard the comparison. It’s hardly something I’d base a policy or a philosophy on.

    And since I don’t expect my government to protect me from real sociopaths – not even real, as opposed to imagined, ones – that old joke has even less relevance to this issue.

    I do want my government to maintain a certain level of law and order, but I don’t really care whether the thieves and murderers they remove from society for longer or shorter periods of time are sociopaths or not. I’m more interested in the government reducing the freqency of theft and murder than the number of people in some psychological category.

    And I don’t see how I’m being protected by the government stopping anyone, a corporation or not, from selling me food I enjoy. I could see it if they were stopping them from putting sawdust in the flour or speading disease by making their soft drinks with contaminated flour. But selling me food that might make me fat? It would be a joke if so many people weren’t taking it seriously.

    And please don’t quote that recent definition of obesity as a ‘disease’ at me. Even the experts sometimes lower themselves to try to get their way by manipulating language rather than using reason.


    27 Jun 13 at 1:31 pm

  7. Interesting, Mike F. If I were looking for sociopathic predators, government is the first place I’d look. Where else but in modern government can they get that intoxicating combination of arbitrary power and immunity from consequences?

    If a company makes shelter no one will live in, a transportation system no one will use, and food no one will eat, the company will go bust, the CEO be fired or both. If the government creates Cabrini-Green style “public housing” bridges to nowhere and equally useless high-speed rail lines, and tops it off with school lunches which are immediately binned, it’s proof the “investment” was insufficient, or that the government needs more power. Don’t get me started on the war and security state.

    Why do the parts of my life where I actually have choices obsess you, and the parts where I have no choice at all bother you not in the least?


    27 Jun 13 at 1:34 pm

  8. “And all corporations are sociopaths.
    Sez who, Mike?”

    By definition.
    I found a convenient little list courtesy of the internet. Let’s run down it (I’ll skip the ones that can only apply to a natural person like “Promiscuous Sexual Behavior”) and I’ll intersperse a few comments:

    Profile of the Sociopath
    This website summarizes some of the common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.

    • Glibness and Superficial Charm
    o Every CEO, ever. Also, paid spokes persons for said corproations
    • Manipulative and Cunning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
    o Listen to any government hearing or otherwise observe the public behaviors of any corporation. Let’s us note (you may substitute Aussie equivalents” such “organizatons” as “The Council for Dental Theraputics” – a front organization for Crest, who manufactures, that’s right, dental products including toothpaste and tooth brushes.
    • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
    o Pay any attention to the news at all lately Mique?
    • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
    o Again, every congressional (parliamentary) hearing, ever. Every public statement anytime egg appears on the corporate face. Heard the slimly prevarications from , e.g., the Texas fertilizer plant explosion?
    • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
    o See above
    • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
    o Obviously, a corporate entity is incapable of feeling emotions, lacking an endocrine system.
    • Incapacity for Love
    o See above. Not possible
    • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
    o Again, follow the news? See any remorse coming from Wall Street after they nearly crashed the entire world? Notice the behaviors of the mortgage companies, such as forclosing on homes they never even held the paper for?
    • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
    o See all the above.
    • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
    o See all the above.
    • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.
    o See all the above
    We allow corporations for various and assorted very good economic reasons.
    That does not mean that they are not essentially ravenous wolves that must be closely watched lest they eat us all alive.
    Because they will, and they are trying mightily.

  9. You can’t apply a term developed to describe human behaviour to groups or organizations except in a figurative sense. It’s a confusion of categories and doesn’t convey any useful information about the organization or group at all. You might as well say that bridge in Calgary is suffering from epilepsy because it gave way unexpectedly due to some kind of structural problem. You get an image of something falling down, but nothing really useful about why.


    27 Jun 13 at 2:42 pm

  10. “You can’t apply a term developed to describe human behaviour to groups or organizations except in a figurative sense”

    It’s an analogy. A model if you will. Something like the thing that is not exactly the thing described, but may be useful.

    And as analogies/models go, it is one of the better, more useful ones simply because it is not just a device to colorfully describe what has happened in the past, it *can* and *does* PREDICT corporate behavior under/in response to a variety of situations.

    Contrast that with your description of the bridge which can only ever be a colorful retrospective description of a past event.

    So, yes, I will stand by the statement that corporations are sociopaths.

    And in regard to your earlier comment about not expecting your government to protect you from “real” sociopaths, well, “real” sociopaths are “real” (“natural”) persons who don’t need to file articles of incorporation or dba’s or business licenses and possibly other documentation with government to exist at all.

    The only reason a corporation even exists at al is because with the advent of the industrial age it became legally necessary to allow an entity to exist that could outlast any single natural person, and to be able form a binding contract.

    Before corporations, all contracts were personal contracts between natural persons, so if the natural person died, or left for other parts, or didn’t live within the jurisdiction of a particular court the contract was void or moot.

    That was an impossible situation for building railroads.

    But enough of the legal history.

    The bottom line, the gist, the point, is that a corporation exists only by the leave of the government, can only make such contracts as the government legally allows that corporation to make, and– before our conservative justices started smoking crack — a corporation had no constitutional rights.

    It has only the rights the state allows it to have. It can conduct only the business it is allowed under its charter.

    Which means the state has much more power over a corporation than a natural person. A corporation cannot go into hiding. A corporation has to maintain whatever records the state decides to require for it to do business.

    So the possibility of the state overseeing a corporation to monitor its activities, to regulate its activities, to keep it in check.

    So, yes, since the corporation exists at all only by the pleasure and at the leave of the state, the state can control it.

    So it is not at all, in those respects, like a natural person and the state CAN protect us from what corporations CAN become.

    And the Great Recession was a stunning example of what unfettered corporate greed and sociopathy can lead to.

  11. “And the Great Recession was a stunning example of what unfettered corporate greed and sociopathy can lead to.”

    Actually, I think it’s more accurate to say that it was the Clinton Administration’s deliberate interference in the marketplace with its cynical blackmailing of the banks into providing housing loans to uncreditworthy people that ultimately led to the situation where unscrupulous individuals, not corporations as such, exploited the banks’ need to lay off their “toxic” paper. Corporations provided the cover, but it was crooked individuals who rorted the system.

    Had the government left the banks to manage their own businesses without trying to force them to fund the government’s political objectives, I doubt if the crash would have occurred. It’s certainly an important function of government to regulate the banks to protect people’s property and investments, but it is no part of a government’s function to tell banks or other non-government corporations how to run their businesses.

    It doesn’t follow that because governments pretty much world wide have given corporations the legal status of individuals that they are any more inherently corrupt than the individuals that run them. Nor does it follow that individuals, eg CEOs, are – by definition – sociopaths because some of them, or even all of them, share some of the attributes of sociopaths.

    Corporations aren’t perfect, but they can do things that governments, or even government businesses, cannot do. The main difference, and their main strength, is that and their management have their own skin the game, something no government organisation or civil serpent ever has.


    27 Jun 13 at 4:09 pm

  12. And which of those descriptions of a sociopath wouldn’t apply to–oh, two presidents out of three and four elected representatives out of five over the past 80 years? But those are the people whose increased power will–they claim–protect us from the corporations. Does that sound even remotely plausible?


    27 Jun 13 at 4:20 pm

  13. “..Clinton Administration’s deliberate interference in the marketplace with its cynical blackmailing of the banks into providing housing loans to uncreditworthy…”

    Oh jumping jesus christ on a pogo stick. You’ve bought the far right wing nut case insanity hook, line and sinker.

    Here’s a link to the Wiki article on the CRA:


    Go throught that and please point me to the part where it’s describing the blackmail Clinton single handedly or even with the collusion of his Rethuglican congress managed to “blackmail” any bank with any provision of he act into doing anything the greedy bastards didn’t want to do.

    And no, repealing part of Glass Steagall is most certainly NOT “black mail” — although, as per my argument, it DID turn the sociopaths loose to wreck their damage on the world.

    I’ll check back so you can show me the part that was the part that was the blackmail and not the blank check.

  14. “And which of those descriptions of a sociopath . . .”

    Irrelevant. Utterly and completely misses the point.

    A corporation is composed of up to thousands and down to fewer than a dozen people.

    NONE of whom have to be socio/psychopaths (although psychopathic personalities can hide and succeed quite well inside many a corporate culture where anyplace else they’d end up in jail or dead).

    Got that? The socipathy of the corporation arises out of the structure and limitations and ultimate purpose of the corporation. Each and every individual in a corporation could be a near saint in their personal lives, and the corporation could, almost certainly will, as an institution have the traits of a sociopath.

    A corporation exists for one purpose and one purpose only – to make money for it’s owners. [the corporate form allowed non-profits which are organized for other purposes to the contrary].

    That’s it. GM doesn’t exist to make cars. It exists to make money for its stockholders. Because it has chosen the automobile manufacturing market to make that money, it’s tangible product is automobiles, and since there is competition in that market place it has to pay attention to the desires of its customers from the color schemes of trim to ride characteristics to build quality because if it doesn’t do a reasonably good job at that, its auto manufacturing business will cease to generate money for the owners as its competitors suck away all the customers and their cash.

    But the internal structures and rewards of the corporation are all about making money. Reducing expenses, improving margins.

    And that’s fine so long as structures are in place to keep that internal logic from eating itself.

    Employees are an expense. Expenses need to be minimized. The corporation has every and massively so advantage over any individual employee. Hence, at least when everything was working (as well as it ever works) labor laws and unions to keep the corporations from — as happens still in third world nations — extracting maximum work for the absolute minimum pay that will keep an employee barely able to feed themselves and still get to work, for however many hours a day however many days a week the corporation demands they work.

    Because the corporation is a sociopath and has no empathy for the factors of production which add to its expenses. Which is what led to the Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire which killed so many women in Bangladesh. Oh, no wait, THAT fire happened in the U.S., and led to some of those labor laws corporations are now trying so hard to get repealed. Because corporations are still sociopaths.

  15. “That’s it. GM doesn’t exist to make cars. It exists to make money for its stockholders.”


    GM exists to to provide pension and health insurance for its workforce.


    27 Jun 13 at 9:47 pm

  16. Mike F, one more try. We ALL understand that some heads of corporations will do anything they think they can get away with to make money–including, of course, bribing or flattering government officials to give them advantages they couldn’t get without a government to back them up. Why are YOU the only one unable to grasp that giving even more power to government is not a check on the unscrupulous corporations, but an opportunity for them?


    27 Jun 13 at 9:51 pm

  17. All this from a bag of potato chips!

    Mike F, the labor laws had nothing to do with the Bangladash fires. The problem was the enforcement of building codes. Which was the responsibility of the government.

    One reason we don’t trust governments is that they are staffed and run by human beings. Who are just as corrupt and power hungry as the human beings who staff corporations.


    27 Jun 13 at 10:42 pm

  18. Speaking AS the president of a corporation, I want to point out the vast majority (by number) of corporations are formed by small businesspeople for a few specific purposes, none of which are to grind the sweating masses under our feet while we laugh all the way to the bank and light our cigars with babies. Or was that puppies? I forget, I’ve lost the Evil Corporation Handbook they gave us when we signed up.

    What we get from incorporation is reasonable though not complete cover from some of the more onerous self-employment taxes, and protection of our personal assets in the case of a lawsuit against our business. That’s it. It costs us every year in fees to the State of CA, and fees to our accountant to file the necessary payroll tax forms. It saves us several thousand dollars a year in taxes. Yay! A net plus, but by no means a foothold anywhere near world domination.

    Employees are way beyond an expense, which is why we don’t have any. Indeed, for the last 2.5 years, we haven’t paid ourselves a salary, with the biz barely keeping it’s head above water. MOST small businesses run on pretty much the same basis, adding employees only when profits are available or when they anticipate (sometimes poorly) a big jump in demand for whatever they do.

    And while most businesses are indeed run for profit, that’s not the only reason people work. Without profit, one can generally not continue to do it while supporting the business from outside. But many people try to do good with their product or service, and they do it under the umbrella of a corporation.

    I pay about twice what I need to for housecleaning services. Why? Because the owner of that small corporation pays his employees good salaries and benefits including vacations and sick days. He doesn’t need to do that, and could probably make more money if he didn’t. But he wouldn’t give such good service by keeping staff for the long term. Some of the women who clean my house have been working for him for the entire 10 years I’ve been his client.

    Giant corporations are another kettle of fish, though. They become effectively too big to manage. The owners or officers are barely capable of steering the ship, as each smaller division or internal organization fights to keep it’s own structure, purview and budget from year to year. In fact, I’d say that a corporation or nonprofit becomes TOO big when the employees turn from participating in the original mission (to make money by making cars, for instance) to each person being more concerned about their own job, benefits, pension, etc. When there are too many people who have nothing to do with the core purpose of the business, who have never seen, touched or even cared about the product or service they provide.

    In much the same way education descends into mediocrity when the ratio of administrators to teachers reaches a certain point, corporations whose structure is mostly management, or non-productive administrators, are promulgators of most of the Evil Corporate Behavior we see.

    But give us little guys a break, dude!


    27 Jun 13 at 10:43 pm

  19. “Mike F, one more try. We ALL understand that some heads of corporations will do anything they think they can get away with to make money . . .”

    Irrelevant. You haven’t been paying attention.

    With nods to Lymaree that smaller business, even while taking advantage of limited liability incorporation laws, may well closely reflect the values of their leader/owners – by that very reason *they* are not the problem.

    Now, I’m not silly enough to pick some magic number out of the air regarding the size of the organization where sociopath starts becoming a problem, the problem nevertheless arises as the organization grows in size.

    Let’s take as an tiny seed of an example, however, a single division within Bigcorp. This division can be “infrastructure support” or “production” or “sales” or “marketing” or whatever.

    But the manager’s salary, and especially her yearly incentive bonus depends on him coming in under some targeted budget for that year.

    Now there may be all kinds of ways to shave expenses at first – but if she can set work hours, one of the biggest things she can do is to start cutting peoples work hours.

    And here let’s take a look at how this has happened in practice. Assume these are computer workers of some kind. Let say she reads a study, or notices that Bill, who’s cobbled together a dual monitor setup on his desk, since doing so gets more work done in a day. Does Bill get a raise? No. What our clever manager does is do a little arithematic and deduce that if this year she invests in dual monitors for everyone a quarter at a time, that if productivity follows the expected curve — she can start sending her hourly people home early. Maybe eliminating entire shifts. And of course the next fiscal year she makes a killing on her bonus.

    Of course,verbody else makes less, and maybe she even lets one or more people go completely. They now get to go try and find jobs.

    But she makes more money, and the corporation makes more money, and maybe she even gets a promotion. And one underling gets promoted to her position, and no one replaces him in the cubical he moves out of.

    Oh, and the incentive levels get adjusted so he now makes less than the manager whose position he just took did when she had it.

    Just business. Just everyone trying to do their job.

    Without a union (or at least the threat of a union, not everyone needs to be unionized for unions to work their particular magic) there to say wait a minute – we can’t stop you from making your business more competitive, that would be long term suicidal — but if you’re going to get more work out of our people you keep – you need to share some of that money with them.

    Without that, the worker bees end up doing more work, getting more produced – for no increase in pay.

    That’s what has happened in America ever since Ronnie was president.

    Because dammit, that keeps expenses from dropping as far as they could, and thus ultimately putting more money in the pockets of the owning class, so the damned unions have to go.

    And sorry, but I need to get to bed. Oh, one more thing:

    ““That’s it. GM doesn’t exist to make cars. It exists to make money for its stockholders.”


    GM exists to to provide pension and health insurance for its workforce.”

    That is so silly and tendentious I’ll not say any more than that about it.

    Good night.

  20. It was a slight exaggeration, but for all practical purposes, GM’s current situation is pretty much as I described it.



    28 Jun 13 at 1:05 am

  21. Mike F. You keep saying “that’s irrelevant” as though you’d made a point. Power is zero-sum. If I don’t get to decide what I eat, who does? You say corporations, unless the government intervenes. But if the government gets to decide what I eat, I’d say the nature of politicians and of political power were about as relevant to the discussion as anything could be.

    On the power of the corporation, you strike me as a man who read John Kenneth Galbraith and Vance Packard and was deeply impressed. To get a little perspective, you might want at some point to read the history of the Edsel or the Beta-Max. For that matter, talk to people who owned stock in GM, Chrysler or “little steel” in, say, 1990. In their ability to make us buy things we don’t want and hand them money, major corporations look about as powerful as government looks well-informed and benevolent.


    28 Jun 13 at 10:21 am

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