Holmes Report Blog

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

America's Most-Hated Companies: The Economist (sub req'd) seeks to provide an alternative to those pervasive "most-admired" lists with a look at the most villified corporations that provides an amusing history of the troubled relationship between big business and ordinary citizens. Historical claimaints to the title of most-hated company in America include the First Bank of the United States, Standard Oil, Dow Chemical, and "big tobacco." Modern candidates include Enron, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart.

"A straw poll by Fred Bateman, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, brings us to the present. He asked three classes in economics, about 100 students in all, which company they thought was the most hated in America. They almost all said Wal-Mart."

But as the article points out, "Wal-Mart is loved at least as much as it is hated, often by the same people. You can hate its market power while loving its low prices, though these are two sides of the same coin."

The conclusion:

"Americans are generally accepting of big business, but only so long as they feel in control of it, as citizens or as consumers. They lose that sense when a company wins a monopoly for its products, or when it comes busting into a community and displacing local commerce, or when its officers break the law. When that happens, they are disproportionately shocked and hostile, because they see it as a violation both of the natural order of things, and of their trust. But so long as that does not happen, business can get on with its job of making and selling things, almost whatever they may be."


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