By Lana Turnbull
Is it too naïve to think that we can have a capitalism-driven economy and have a vibrant middle class and fewer families living in poverty? One look at the stock exchange will tell you things are going extremely well for corporations, but for Americans who don’t spend their workdays in the corporate suite, not so much. I understand the fiduciary responsibility of boards of directors to their stockholders, but does that have be at the expense of workers and the communities where they live?
I’m no economist, in fact I barely squeaked by Economics 101, but it seems to me a system where the vast majority of benefits are going to such a narrow slice of people at the top is unsustainable. There has to be some way to balance the pursuit of ever-higher corporate profits, with loyalty to and concern for the wellbeing of the very employees who have made surging profits possible. And what about the communities that have sacrificed tax revenues to incentivize corporate investments? If changes in the market result in a drop in projected revenues, does the corporation have no responsibility to stick with its people and its community? Should the bottom line be the sole determinant for whether a business will pick up stakes and move on to a more advantageous business environment? In many cases, it’s not a black and white situation of make or break it for corporations. It’s a matter of how much revenue growth is enough, and it seems enough is never enough.
I would like to think that when a corporation more generously shares its profits with its workers in the form of increased wages, better benefits and safer working conditions, it’s not just the corporate executives and stockholders who benefit, but whole communities flourish. More people can buy homes, small businesses in the area prosper, entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest, the tax base grows, there is more money for investments in education, infrastructure, and community services, etc., etc., etc. But that’s just me being silly I guess.
Naïve or not, I believe free market capitalism not only can continue to exist, but it can thrive if it is partnered with compassion. If corporations are people too, it’s about time they started acting like it.