The Hol­ly­wood anti-busi­ness bias

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Thomas Sow­ell

It is not re­ally news that Hol­ly­wood is still pro­duc­ing an­tibusi­ness movies, but there is a cer­tain irony in it nev­er­the­less. Al­though th­ese movies tap a cer­tain envy and re­sent­ment of cor­po­rate wealth, that large cor­po­rate wealth comes from far more mod­est in­di­vid­ual amounts of money from about half the pop­u­la­tion of the United States, which owns stocks and bonds — ei­ther di­rectly or be­cause money paid into pen­sion funds or other fi­nan­cial in­ter­me­di­aries are used to buy stocks and bonds.

The irony is that the av­er­age Hol­ly­wood star mak­ing an­tibusi­ness movies is far wealth­ier than the av­er­age own­ers of those busi­nesses, who are half the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try.

The Los An­ge­les Times refers to doc­u­men­tary “films” that are “crit­i­cal of cor­po­rate power.” But just what does this vague word “power” mean when it comes to busi­nesses? Wal-Mart is the big buga­boo th­ese days but what “power” does Wal-Mart have? I lived three-quar­ters of a cen­tury with­out set­ting foot in a WalMart store and there is noth­ing they can do about it.

It so hap­pened that this past sum­mer in Page, Ariz., I needed to buy some toi­letries, which caused me to go into a nearby Wal-Mart for the first time. Inside, it looked more like a small city than a large store. But the prices were no­tice­ably lower than in most other places. Is that the much­dreaded “power”?

Ap­par­ently, Wal-Mart does not pay its em­ploy­ees as much as third-party ob­servers would like. But ob­vi­ously it is not pay­ing them less than their work is worth to other em­ploy­ers or they prob­a­bly would not work at WalMart. More­over, in­dig­nant third par­ties are pay­ing them noth­ing.

One of the morally in­dig­nant “films” (more high-toned than “movies”) com­ing out of Hol­ly­wood makes the same com­plaint against Star­bucks, de­pict­ing poverty-stricken Ethiopian cof­fee grow­ers pro­vid­ing beans for the big-bucks cof­fee store chain.

Are Ethiopian cof­fee grow­ers worse off now that Star­bucks is buy­ing their beans? Sup­ply and de­mand sug­gest oth­er­wise. But moral cru­saders sel­dom have time for eco­nomics.

If those who claim to be con­cerned about the Ethiopi­ans’ poverty re­ally are, why is not re­liev­ing that poverty just as much some­thing for them to do with their own money as for Star­bucks to do us­ing money in­vested by other peo­ple — in­clud­ing nurses, me­chan­ics, teach­ers, and oth­ers who pay into pen­sion funds to pro­vide for their own old age?

The tragic fact is that pro­duc­tiv­ity is far lower in poor coun­tries. That is the fun­da­men­tal rea­son they are poor in the first place. You can­not pay Amer­i­can wages to work­ers whose av­er­age pro­duc­tiv­ity is a frac­tion of that of Amer­i­can work­ers with­out driv­ing up the cost of pro­duc­tion to the point where busi­nesses will take their jobs to some other coun­try.

The real com­par­i­son is not be- tween what peo­ple are paid in Third World coun­tries com­pared to what peo­ple are paid in the United States. The com­par­i­son that af­fects out­comes is what Third World peo­ple are paid by multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions com­pared to what they can earn oth­er­wise. By and large, multina- tional cor­po­ra­tions pay about dou­ble the lo­cal pay in Third World coun­tries.

Third World work­ers line up for th­ese jobs and even bribe in­sid­ers to get them. If eco­nom­i­cally il­lit­er­ate Hol­ly­wood busy­bod­ies and other mind­less cru­saders es­tab­lish more costly pay scales with­out re­gard to pro­duc­tiv­ity, that will un­doubt­edly lead to fewer jobs, just as sim­i­lar poli­cies do in other coun­tries. There is no free lunch in the Third World, any more than there is else­where.

The net re­sult will be peo­ple feel­ing good about them­selves in Hol­ly­wood, academia and the me­dia, while leav­ing havoc among the Third World peo­ple they claim to care about.

What the Third World needs are more multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions, not less. As more multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions move into a poorer coun­try, its peo­ple not only get ad­di­tional eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, they ac­quire skills and job ex­pe­ri­ence that raise their pro­duc­tiv­ity and earn­ings po­ten­tial, even if that out­rages the eco­nom­i­cally il­lit­er­ate in Hol­ly­wood.

Thomas Sow­ell is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.