The Political Werewolf
If you know me, then you know I'm a big political nut. So, I've decided to add my own personal flavor to the realm of political discussion. We'll be talking about various issues - some of them having to do with current events, others perhaps more on a philosophical level. But in any case, you're free to respond to whatever you read here, either by E-mail or on the message board.
All righty, here we go.
Conservative Business 101
When i started discussing politics in earnest in other areas, one of the first things I wanted to convey is the fact that in many cases, the objectives of various entities are not nearly as veiled or as complicated as you may think. I mentioned this a little while back when I mentioned that many people think that any sort of action by a conservative government is done with the subtle objective of giving kickbacks to whatever industry groups gave them campaign contributions. Fact is, things tend to be much simpler than that.
So what better to talk about the simplicity of conservatism than the relam of commerce? After all, the only people who don't have anything to do with any sort of money exchange is likely living in a thatched hut wearing skins and hides, bludgeoning fish for food. In other words, everyone uses money, and like it or not, money is one of the biggest drives in today's society, and that's something that probably will never change.
When some people look at the realm of business, they tend to ascribe certain notions of what a business is supposed to do. For instance, a car company is supposed to manufacture safe, high-mileage vehicles while pursuing other forms of fuel besides gasoline. A television network should provide wholesome, family-friendly programming that is fair and even-handed in its portrayal of all people. Pharmaceutical companies are supposed to research their treatments and procedures, then gleefully offer it to anyone who needs them, whether or not they can pay for it.
Now, I'll admit: I didn't pay a whole lot of attention in my high school Economics class. But I do know that in the world we live in, the private sector abides by a certain number of tangible edicts that are readily visible. These rules of thumb aren't necessarily bad or good; they simply are the way things are done.
First of all, you have to understand that every business in the world exists for one reason and one reason only: to make money. Whether by manufacturing goods or performing a service, the primary objective in every industry is to turn a profit. Now, there are some out there who consider this pursuit in and of itself to be a bad thing that must be fought against. (We have a term for these people: Communists.) But when you understand that businesses are in business to make money, it makes things a little more clear.
For instance, if a drug company decides its going to donate a billion dollars worth of AIDS medicine to Africa, you might think that's fantastic. After all, here's this generous business graciously forfeiting the profits they might make from their treatments for the good of a suffering group of people who have no means to help themselves. Well, unfortunately, the company doesn't necessarily have this in mind - with this donation, now they have a compassionate side to themselves that they can put in their advertisements that will coax more people to buy stock in their company.
Take the media example, also. While certain minority groups might rail about the networks undercasting and undermining minorities in their prime time shows, their preference to the caucasian cast isn't necessarily a result of bigotry: it's a result of demographics. If they could find a show with a Hispanic or African-American cast that draws the same audience as Friends, no doubt they'd swarm all over it. But if the audience isn't there, the show won't survive. You have to remember: all businesses put out a product. And if their product doesn't sell, the nobility of the cause means nothing - they're still losing money.
Where am I going with all this? Well, from what you've read above you might think that the government needs to make sure that the private sector isn't just out to grab the almighty dollar, and that there ought to be a higher cause for each of these businesses. If that's what you think, you've almost got it. The fact of the matter is, none of this is the government's responsibility - it's the consumer's.
The best thing about living in a free market society is that there's a lot of competition out there. And you know what competition means? It means that all of these businesses, while striving for profits, will also strive to create as good a product as they can, for as low a price as they can, while keeping their image as clean as they can. If Honda came out with a new SUV that got 3 miles to the gallon on the highway, nobody would buy it. If they had another SUV that got 35 MPG, they'd practically have a monopoly on the market. The former isn't made because it wouldn't sell, and the latter would likely sell a whole bunch but is realistically unfeasible right now.
The other great thing about competition is that it means that you have the opportunity to pick the businesses you're dealing with. If you like the way a particular company runs their business, you have the opportunity to make that company stronger by giving them your attention. If you dislike a specific company's practices, you can spurn them. Don't like the fees your bank charges? Find a new one. Hate Bill Gates? Buy a Mac. Think WalMart is suffocating the retail business? Shop at Target. In fact, there's only one institution that we're required to give money to - surprise surprise, it's the government.
OK, so the question remains - where am I going with all this? Well, basically, the best way to keep this society flourishing and burgeoning is to make sure that we as consumers have as much power as is possible. Allow us to make our own decisions as to whom we give our money. Yes, there are some companies that do things in a less-than-kosher manner; they tend to collapse when people discover the hanky-panky going on. Look at Enron; its nosedive into obscurity was not just a result of them cooking the books; it was the result of the public finding out they had cooked the books. There should definitely be some regulations on the world of commerce, but that should really only encompass matters such as fraud and safety; the actual quality of product should be a standard that the consumers determine.
Remember - the more regulation exists in the private sector, the more difficult it is for companies to compete. It sounds a little obvious, but some people don't realize that sometimes it's better to let businesses find the most effective methods of operation than force them into something much less effective.
Previous columns:3/31/03: I'm a Celebrity - No War in Iraq!
3/24/03: Patriotism vs. Nationalism