20 December 2007

Why John Edwards Makes Me Nervous

John Edwards is on the cover of Newsweek. He focuses on issues grounded in the reality of everyday lives - issues like health care, stagnant incomes, and economic insecurity. He seems as honest as anyone about the fact that globalization has not just helped our economy but has in some ways set back the progress begun about a century ago, progress in product safety, rights of employees, and the social safety net that helps to mitigate the extremes of capitalism.

But there is one thing he does that makes me uneasy. He likes to blame "the corporation" for the ills of the modern world. This is a little bit like a teenager blaming his parents for what ails him. Anyone reading my blog with any regularity knows that I believe the corporation needs to be transformed - in part for many of the same reasons that Edwards points to. But the corporation is the dominant institution for a reason - it is the most important part of our modern economy.

The corporation provides most jobs and income, most investment income, and most product and services we enjoy as consumers. The teenager may be upset at how his parents treat him, but he's not exactly able to make it on the streets without parents. John Edwards may complain about the corporation, but this country is not exactly going to make it in the world economy without the corporation.

Edwards campaign - and this country - would benefit from him articulating a vision of what the next version of the corporation might look like. Attacks on the corporation, its policy, and leaders is not going to do much but create resistance in the very place we need change.


Anonymous said...

In the Darwinian form of capitalism favored by the United States, corporations have won. They survived, family owned businesses failed.

But that doesn't mean that corporations are the most moral way to go, or the best way to go, or the only way to go.

They are in vogue at the moment, but I don't think they have staying power. There's a small but growing minority that doesn't believe the benefits (cheap crap from China) are worth the price we have to pay (an entrenched poverty class and dramatic reductions in personal freedom).

LSD said...

Nicely put Ron.

Corporations make easy targets, but the fact is that they are made up of living breathing individuals. The system invites membership and you don't have to be a certain race or creed, or have a particular birthright to assume a portion of ownership. I don't think there has ever been a competing structure that is so open to entry by anyone who has a few dollars to invest.

To the degree that people actually care about irresponsible management practices, corporations can be made to suffer in the marketplace.

cce said...

There's no doubt about it, Edwards is a little too slick, too quick to whine about problems and too reluctant to mention solutions - he doesn't dare tie himself to anything substantial for fear of being anchored to a cause. This anchor would make it awfully hard to wiggle, politically speaking.