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What Are You Really Criticizing When You Complain About Business Practices?

A lot of people don’t like it when they hear you complain about business practices. You say businesses should pay their fair share of taxes or should limit their waste and emissions, they hear you saying that business is evil. How do you get people to hear what you’re really saying when you criticize a business?

It isn’t easy at times. Some people treat any criticism as an inappropriate attack on business, even when you see your statement or complaint as a reasonable thing to expect of businesses.

I’ve seen people claim, for example, that environmental regulations are too hard on businesses, and that regulations should be done away with or decreased so that businesses can earn more. Some of them truly believe the free market will take care of those messes without government oversight, completely forgetting the disasters and messes that encouraged lawmakers to create the regulations in the first place.

Sure, a business can say that it could save a lot of money if it didn’t have to obey so many environmental regulations. The problem is that the rest of us would pay the cost in terms of health and a sometimes seriously damaged environment. Look at what happened at Love Canal, for example.  Then consider that the economic benefits of environmental regulations are believed to significantly outweigh the costs.

I’ve seen too much of what happens when greed outweighs sense for a corporation. I worked at Home Depot when I was in college, at a time when they weren’t hiring so many retired contractors to work there, so the employees weren’t as knowledgeable as the company’s reputation made many customers think. Sure, the company saved money because they could pay less experienced people less, which looked good on the bottom line for a time, but they lost a lot of business because customers got frustrated with employees who had no idea how to help them. I suspect that’s a part of what allowed Lowe’s to get so bug.

Obviously, that’s not an environmental example, just something I saw personally and my own interpretation of it. I could be way off base, but I doubt I am.

That kind of situation had an impact much faster than can be seen with most environmental impacts. Some come about quickly, sure, but they don’t usually impact the company’s bottom line so directly or right away. That makes it easier to ignore, and that’s why I believe in environmental regulation. These costs shouldn’t be external to the company that created them.

I believe that there are significant problems with the way many modern corporations are run. For what it’s worth, I don’t consider them “people” either. The problem I have is that corporations consider the benefits to shareholders above all things, above the employees, above the community, above the environment, above the nation. I don’t think that’s a good thing at all.

I believe that businesses have a responsibility to the society they are in. That means paying taxes. That means considering the overall impact they’re having, not just the money they pay out to employees, executives and stockholders, but paying reasonable taxes and not creating a mess of the area they’re in. I really don’t think that’s unreasonable to ask.

Corporations aren’t people, but it’s about time we quit treating them as spoiled children, allowing them to have their way, and start expecting them to act more as responsible adults. They need to clean up their messes without complaint and pay their share of the expenses of the country that is their home.

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