Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Lack Of Choices in A Monopolist Utopia

I spend a large portion of my week submerged in commerce. On the surface our retail and grocery stores appear to be filled with a plethora of choices, but when you look closely at the labels and investigate you see that our choices are rather narrow. Monopolistic capitalism has morphed into a two-sided coin with the winner always being the large multinationals.

Recently, I had a customer ask me a series of questions concerning the sale of Smithfield to the Chinese conglomerate (Shuanghui). The most telling aspect of the conversation was her underlying concern for our country. Almost everyday a new company either sells or ships its manufacturing base off our shores. We have an economy driven by corporate interest that no longer respects the dignity or well-being of labor or consumers.

If you go down the soft drink aisle you'll see bottled water in a variety of different labels, but the truth is Dasani and Evian are Coca-Cola products, Nestle owns Poland Springs, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ozarka, and Ice Mountain. All of these choices funnel money into the pockets of the two companies. Monopolies have killed the small businesses politicians profess to support. As companies grow bigger the influence they have over our lives also grows.

Smithfield handles one-third of all the pork slaughtered and processed in this country. One company having that much control also has the ability to affect pricing for the whole market. When you put this in the context of the "too big to fail" paradigm, it's easy to see how this could end badly. 

Many of our good, God fearing patriots profess their love for America, but will sell her (and her people) out to the highest bidder. The Neocons beat their chests to show their American pride, but worship at the alter of the almighty dollar. The third way offered by the Neo-liberals is a less offensive version of this economic policy, different on the surface, but with similar results.

Whether it's toothpaste (which Colgate-Palmolive and Proctor and Gamble control over 80% of the market for), or bottled water eventually we are given a wide variety of the same choice. I don't know how the Smithfield deal will workout in the long run, but I've gotten use to the reality that American hallmarks are being sold to the highest bidders.