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Quotes from The Dream Deferred Phillip Slater, 1991

"The private citizen mask is the one that corporations like best and employ most often, especially when the public expresses concern over some potentially nefarious activity,or one with a destructive social or enviromental impact: corporate leaders react as if the police were peering in their bedroom windows and talk of their privacy being invaded. They want to "get government of 'our' backs"--as if they, the corporations, and we, the people, were all in the same boat.

Yet let one of these giant "individuals" begin to lose money and the Private Citizen mask is whisked away faster than you can say "bailout" to be immediately replaced with the Public Institution mask. Suddenly the corporation is not private at all, but a noble service organization providing the community with employment and a product which has long been part of the American tradition and should be treated with all the respect due an endangered species. As a "public Institution," it obviously deserves a handout from the government: the failure of a badly managed bank would threaten the stability of the entire community: and if a badly run manufacturing company were allowed to collapse, what would happen to all the workers? The success of this mask is apparent: small businesses may rise and fall by the thousands, but above a certain size no major corporation is allowed to collapse,no matter how badly it performs.

But suppose we were to take them up on this pose and say, "Yessiree, you surely do employ a lot of workers, and maybe you ought to give us sixty days notice before you suddenly pull up stakes and transfer your whole operation to Mexico or Taiwan where the labor's so much cheaper." Whisk! The Public Institution mask is gone faster than you can say "profit margin," and we find ourselves contemplating a brand new face: the struggling-small-business-that's-gotta-do-what-it's-gotta-do-to-make-a-buck. If they have to bother about the welfare of their labor force, they protest, it's good-bye to profits. They are a private business, and they shouldn't have to be forced to contend with all these rules and regulations.

Whenever they have to deal with federal regulatory agencies, corporations like to dress up in short pants and beanies and masquerade as the little-guy-fighting-against-big-government. This is a hard one to carry off, given the that the corporation has a squadron of expensive lawyers and accountants to stare down a handful of underpaid functionaries who represent--however inadequately--the will of the public.

When all else fails, corporations will pull out the Avuncular-Institution-For-Widows-And-Orphans mask. They will plead for all the "little people" who have entrusted their hard-earned pennies to the corporation and deserve a return on investment. (Such people, of course, are a tiny minority of the stockholders, and have little or no impact on its policies.)

Large corporations shuffle these disguises with consummate skill, and given their extraordinary wealth and power (and the highly paid lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, public relations experts, and advertising firms they retain), it isn't surprising that they are so often able to frustrate and negate the will of the people by their ability to manipulate legislatures, public officials, the media, and the courts."
end Slater

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