Capitalism has undergone a mutation. It has become unrecognizable. When I see the 1987 Top 12 list, I can tell you what every one of those companies did. Today I'm utterly ignorant about what seven of the Top 12 companies really do. Not only am I confused by the purpose of these corporations, I'm also perplexed by how – and indeed, if – they make a measurable profit. Plus, I'm dumbfounded by the way they're priced on the stock market. Just look at the chart on the following page... Thirty years ago, it was simple... GM, Ford, and Chrysler made the cars. Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, and Chevron pumped the gas to make the cars go. Where the cars went was shopping. GE manufactured the things you went shopping for – washers, dryers, stoves, toaster ovens, locomotives, jet engines, etc. At work, you used IBM. They had typewriters you could pound on in a way that would send a modern touchscreen straight to the Mumbai e-waste disposal. They had real computers, too – not these flimsy silicon chip-dip kind, but big manly computers that took up whole rooms, spewed out punch cards, and helped put an American on the moon. While you were smoking a Marlboro cigarette, you called home on an AT&T phone that you never lost because it weighed as much as a boat anchor, and you couldn't accidently drop it in the toilet because the cord wouldn't reach that far. DuPont made the glue that held it all together and lots of other chemicals too, back when "Better Living Through Chemistry" was still
considered a good idea. Now... it's as if somebody took corporations and exposed them to atomic bomb test radiation in a cheap Japanese science-fiction movie and out sprang Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan – or, as investors call them: Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Thirty years is a brief period in terms of economic evolution. For example, there was no evolution from the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. until the increased crop yields and trade of the 1400s. Industrialization supposedly happened at blinding speed, but in fact took 200 years to reach the far corners of the globe. I am frightened of fast-changing mutant corporations like what we have today. They fall into four scary categories: The Bafflers As far as I’m concerned, what Apple, Google, and especially Facebook sell are annoyance, noise, and distraction. I’ve got kids and dogs. Annoyance, noise, and distraction are unlimited free goods at my house. I don’t want to see photos of the adorable grandchildren of everyone I’ve ever met and videos of the cute things their cats do. Even less do I want to hear about the world’s dullest experiences and most banal thoughts – which people save up for their Facebook postings. If Facebook wants to make money from me, I’ll pay the website handsomely to go the hell away.
American Consequences | 7
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