The Common Good
February 2004

Step Away from the Cash Register

by Thomas Harvey | February 2004

Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s use (in "False Gods and the Power of Love," November-December 2003) of the word "corporation" reminds me of the 1960s catchall phrase "the Establishment." It doesn’t mean anything. What company are you talking about and what specific offense are you referring to? The corporation’s mission is to survive through making a profit by providing goods and services to the marketplace at the lowest possible cost. While some of corporate America’s products may have questionable moral value—for example, oversized SUVs and expensive athletic shoes—don’t forget that many companies also engage in health research or provide products that make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable. Also, corporations are a major source of employment and have been local community benefactors for decades.

If Christians want to combat corporate dominance, they had better find out just who is the real enemy. I suggest we all take a good long look in the mirror. The facts are that the United States is overwhelmingly Christian and overwhelmingly the world’s largest consumer. Who is buying all this stuff that generates corporate wealth and power? Christians! Furthermore, who is at fault when a company relocates a manufacturing plant to the Third World or influences a government policy? You can blame greedy corporate executives, but the move is being made to please the owner’s demand for greater earnings. The fact is that the corporations and their Third World slave labor exist to feed our consumer addiction and our demand for increased unearned wealth. Well-meaning protesters may rage against the machine, but corporate power starts at the cash register and there is where it can be fought most effectively. As long as Christians fall for the world’s trap that happiness can be bought, we will continue the debt and purchase cycle that fuels corporate power.

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