March 2, 2011
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard conservative commentators on cable TV, radio and the print media vilify people who they accuse of attacking the means by which wealth is created in this country Their favorite retort goes something like this: “Why are people bashing these businesses? They are the job creators that have made our economy what it is today. Without them a lot of people would not have an income”.
These over simplistic remarks are often touted by right-wing corporate mouth pieces in the media who financially gain from spreading corporate propaganda. They attack people who have a legitimate beef about ethical violations of some businesses and how they use their acquired wealth. To imply though that they are attacking “job creators” is a straw man argument. This bogus accusation is intended to redirect legitimate complaints of citizens instead of rightfully informing the public about questionable practices that wealthy and sometimes self-serving executives within the corporate structure are pursuing.
So, before we all start feeling sorry about any negative sentiments expressed toward the new “corporate citizen”, let’s clarify some misunderstandings here. The free market system we have in place today is the best economic system that mankind has devised thus far in their history. It’s not perfect but compared to other systems it affords a lot of people the means to not only live a comfortable life but can be an opportunity to make some people very wealthy beyond their dreams. There has and will always be however the need for people to establish watchdog mechanisms that prevents human greed from destroying productive enterprises
For the most part the U.S. and European economies have advanced this system to a level that has elevated the average citizen to a lifestyle that is the envy of all others around the globe. Sure, Western capitalist nations have their share of poor people but not at the levels of 3rd world countries or even some of the up and coming developing nations like China and India.
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With this success however and with the creature comforts that have been derived from free-market economies also comes the responsibility to reward people fairly where the bounties that those free markets generate is not hoarded amongst a privileged few. All that we have is NOT solely the result of one man or one woman whose entrepreneurial spirit activated a sequence of events that led to job creation for many others.
Entrepreneurs who are credited with advancing an idea that generates wealth are themselves only a component by which an idea comes to fruition An “aha!” moment that sparks the beginning of some business venture derives from other factors they had no direct hand in. They are however gifted to put together and transform an idea into a means by which revenue can be generated. Some though are simply more shrewd than others by taking someone else’s stroke of genius and calling it their own. Do the names Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Bates come to mind with this thought?
To take it a step further, anyone who is familiar with the PBS’s ten-episode documentary series “Connections” back in the late 1970’s is aware that all ideas do not come from a single instance but are a cumulative effect from factors that preceded each idea. To say one person invented the telephone disregards all the genius and manpower that was put in to the telegraph which came before it, which itself developed as a result of the knowledge available about electrical currents. Without these cumulative, shared experiences no one person could have created much of the technology we enjoy today.
Secondly, once the idea is hatched, that entrepreneur, unless independently wealthy, must seek financing for their idea to take shape. In most cases it comes from another entrepreneur who takes other people’s money and loans it out; money from the savings of common citizens who in part allow it to be loaned to individuals with job creating ideas. So without the wealth that accumulates in such depositories, many businesses would likely not get started.
When the financing aspect has been achieved then it will require a labor force to construct the plant that a product will be developed and manufactured in, followed by another block of laborers who will work in that plant and produce the product that generates the income for their proprietor as well as for themselves. An idea by itself has no material value if it cannot be produced to generate wealth.
The legitimate argument of course can be made that the “idea person” is due a portion of the rewards it generates and for as long as it generates those rewards. Likewise that reward can and should elevate in proportion to the level the business that results from that idea is successful and grows. Conversely an equally legitimate argument can be made to what degree does that person have more right to the wealth their idea generated when they have no hand in making, marketing and distributing the goods and services of a business. They have to depend on others they find to make this a reality.
I think most people are intelligent enough to see where I am going with this. The value of a person’s contribution to a wealth generating effort is often arbitrary and becomes disproportionate when clever people convince less intelligent people who their worth is somehow set in stone somewhere by some unseen power who controls the universe.
When the light comes on for these less intelligent people they attempt to reason with the owners of the business that more of the wealth they helped generate should be distributed fairly to reflect the part they have in its creation and its growth. Both groups have an interest in seeing that a business is successful and should be willing to make sacrifices during lean economic periods to ensure its survival. These worker collectives are known to us as unions and the greedy efforts of owners and investors to keep the greatest part of the wealth to themselves is seen as union busting.
So, to return to the screed made by corporate mouth-pieces that attack those critics of corporate greed; is it a fair assessment to accuse some attacking these so-called “job creators” as they challenge the notion of who should get what from the collective efforts of many?
And what of those people who are not even employed by a business who go after corporations where their products are contributing to toxic wastes in the air we all breathe and the water systems we rely on for drinking? Or when people’s trust are violated and their meager resources are squandered to profit a few as was the case that required massive bailouts for financial institutions?
When are “job creators” really bad people? When violations of the public trust are spotted by workers and citizens who depend upon them for a paycheck and the wealth they create, are they really out to destroy them for some nefarious motive? You be the judge. As I see it, only a self-serving entrepreneur who makes their money off of distorting the facts would falsely present such a scenario.