Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Big Business and the myth of the bottom line


One of the most important recent news items, the full significance of which is likely to be missed by most people, concerns Starbucks’ support for homosexual marriage. The key ingredient of this story is the statement by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz that, “it is not an economic decision to me.” Schultz doesn’t care if the decision COSTS Starbucks money.

There is one core belief that has historically united both the Left and the Right and that is the belief that Big Business cares about nothing but the bottom line. To the Old Left it was the proof that capitalism is wicked and evil. To neocons on the other hand that is the great virtue of capitalism - it’s what makes capitalism so efficient. To most conservatives it’s just an unquestioned assumption.

The problem is that it simply isn’t true, and never was. The bottom line is certainly a considerable motivation but there are other motivations as well. Most notably, power and fear. Money is attractive but once you’ve made your first billion money ceases to be a motivation in and of itself. Money becomes a means of gaining power. You don’t want to increase your fortune from one billion to ten billion because you want the money - you want the money because it will buy power. You are quite happy to sacrifice a few billion to increase your power and influence.

If you doubt this just take a look at Hollywood. Does anyone believe that movies like Selma get made because they will be guaranteed money-spinners? Hardly. In fact Hollywood has always been motivated as much by the desire for the approval of the elites as by profit. In the 40s the studios churned out “prestige pictures” which made little money (or even lost money). They did so as a way of gaining respectability. Hollywood today is obsessed by political correctness. The movie-makers believe in such nonsense. The studio chiefs do not. What they believe is that it’s in their interests to placate powerful lobby groups (homosexuals, greens, etc) and to curry favour with other members of the elite. The media in general is more about power than money. You don’t run a newspaper to make money. You know it will lose money. You run a newspaper to gain power.

Fear is a major factor. When corporations give millions of dollars to leftist political parties, extremist green groups or campaigns for homosexual “marriage” that does not imply that those corporations support those interests. What it does imply that is that those corporations are afraid of those groups. In many cases it’s a desperate (one might even say pathetic) attempt to ingratiate themselves with people they fear.

And then of course there are cultural marxist CEOs like Howard Schultz whose motivations are overtly  
ideological, in which cases advancing the ideology becomes much more important than making money. Even if he eventually drives the company to ruin it’s not as if he’s going to end up living on the streets. He’s made his pile. If the company goes down the toilet the employees will suffer but you can be sure that Howard Schultz won’t do any suffering.

Conservatives, and especially social conservatives and traditional conservatives, need to understand that Big Business is not their friend. Big Business is much more likely to be a bitter enemy.

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