Corporate Reality and Magic

According to one line of contemporary thinking, corporate greed is destroying America. Bankers are getting outrageous bonuses; health insurers are denying health care; Toyota is building death traps. Woe is us!

But before we get carried away, it’s helpful to remember how we got to this state. Our current structure, in which corporations are the principle agents of the economy, didn’t spring from the head of Zeus. Our society evolved to the current condition. As with all evolution, we got to this state because it works as well or better than all the alternatives so far tried.

How can we gauge this? We only have to look at our standard of living. Would anyone willingly trade places for a life with a 1970’s or 1980’s standard of living? Our corporate world is totally at the mercy of consumers, and consumers choose to make their lives better. Corporations respond or die. That’s how evolution works.

Our lives have been made better by the complex corporations. With huge economies of scale and complicated ever-shifting supply chains, they’ve provided consumers with lower costs and higher quality.

Of course, the world isn’t perfect. Some people are treated unfairly. Some are cheated. Some have to struggle too hard to get too little. The environment is sometimes damaged. People are harmed and sometimes killed. But all these things are true in the alternatives we’ve tried, only more so.

There are plenty of self-anointed magicians who claim to have some enchanted “solution”. Some of the “solutions” even sound attractive – until you throw them against the complex reality of modernity. But reality is no barrier to these folks – they’re all about tricks and illusion.

We’ve come to where we are because it’s better than the alternatives tried so far. We will continue to evolve and improve. What can slow us down is magicians. We’ll do OK if we can keep the magicians from using their sleight of hand.

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