Brave New World of Benign Corporate Oligarchy?
Here is something to think about from Sebstian Mallaby in the Washington Post. Some years ago I sat through a Market Lubbock presentation where one of the featured speakers asserted to the congregated businessmen that business should be setting the political agenda and not the other 'way round. At the time, it made my blood run cold. Mallaby's thoughts at least are less suspicious and gloomy than mine when it comes to corporate responsibility, which tend to government of, by and for, corporations . . .
If political accountability is reduced to brand accountability what happens to the rest of the human universe outside consumerism?
A New Brand of Power
By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, August 7, 2006; Page A15
"The rising power of brands has implications for public health, globalization and the environment. It may even be changing the political equation."
"As brands have grown bigger, they have also grown more vulnerable. . . . It almost doesn't matter how much America Online spends on advertising. A blogger recently recorded a company salesman refusing to cancel an account when asked repeatedly to do so. The Monty Pythonesque result is all over the Internet, ruining whatever might be left of AOL's brand."
"If brands are both valuable and vulnerable, political consequences follow. Mighty companies have so much riding on their corporate image that they quiver in the face of customer opinion. And if they are mass-market companies, customer opinion is the same as public opinion, so corporate bosses become as sensitive to political and social shifts as elected officials."
"The next stage may be for companies not merely to outpace government but to pull government along. Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks, broke the mold by offering comprehensive health benefits to part-time workers, but now he's even more ambitious: He's lobbying Congress to fix the health system. Meanwhile, companies such as BP and GE have enhanced their brands with enviro-friendly policies, and perhaps may now nudge governments to become greener as well."
"But whether or not we get to that, something big is going on. At a time when Washington seems incapable of tackling serious policy challenges, brands are creating a sort of shadow government. They cannot replace the real one, not by a long shot. But they are better than nothing."