08 January 2007

McDonalds Doesn't Love You

James Lileks writes today about the closing of "his" Target.

Daily Quirk: Can you have a relationship with a Target store? (James Lileks, Startribune.com, 1/8/07)
It's hard to say goodbye, unless of course someone just punched you and is walking away. But I must say goodbye to something that's been a part of my life since I moved back to Minneapolis in 1994: the Southdale Target store. It's closing today. Child took the news hard; this was Our Target, and we'd made weekly trips our entire life. I shared her distress: What will we do if I need a TV set, socks and milk at 8 p.m.? Wal-Mart? What do I look like, Pa Kettle? I need a store whose merchandise is finely tuned to confirm my membership in a particular economic stratum! When Wal-Mart carries toilet brushes whose handles were approved by the architect of the Children's Theatre addition, we'll talk.


This was fortunate for me, because I've been looking for a hook for a post, or maybe an informal series of posts, about corporate issues.

Every once in a while at BrothersJudd, a commenter would go off on a rant about corporations, and how they're controlling the world, and shouldn't be treated like people, and need to be fought. The most interesting thing about these attacks is that they are equally likely to come from left or right. Whichever side they came from, they would be astonished when we pointed out that corporations don't actually exist. The idea of the corporation is just a legal fiction that allows large groups of people, even strangers, to own property and do business together. As owning property and doing business was traditionally something done by "people," corporations are considered people to the extent that they do business or own property. That is, they don't have the right to free speech or the right against self-incrimination, but they do have the right not to have their property taken by the government without just compensation -- just like any other property owner. The point being made to the corporation haters was that, to the extent they wanted to silence corporations or punish corporations, all they were doing was silencing and punishing people.

As important as not hating corporations, though, is not loving them. Corporations don't exist and can't love you back. To the extent that you think that Coke is America personified, or Chevy's are tough, or carrying a Smith & Wesson connects you to the cowboys, you've fallen prey to marketing. McDonalds will happily stuff you full of as much food as you willing buy and, simply by offering "supersized" portions is trying -- that is, the people who make up McDonalds are trying -- to convince you that such portions are reasonable.

Now, many of you think this is absurd: who could love a corporation? The Boston Red Sox are a corporation. Manchester United is a corporation. Your church or synagogue, your local diocese, are all most likely corporations. Coke and McDonalds and Disney are all corporations. Except corporations don't exist. All there is is people.

10 comments:

Brit said...

Rest assured: there is no conceivable way that I could ever, ever love Manchester United.

Susan's Husband said...

What about Universities? I have been involved in a few big arguments about "loyalty" to one's "alma mater", which I completely lacked. The reason is exactly what you outline here because to me, the University was a corporation. Yet this view made me the crazy one. My observations of American culture lead to me believe that affection for this type of corporation is wide spread, not just anecdotal.

joe shropshire said...

The Boston Red Sox are a corporation

Anybody willing to say that, and live in Massachusetts, is officially the bravest man we know. On the other hand, we hope Salman Rushdie has a spare bedroom you can use.

M Ali said...

Aren't corporations entitled to free speech? I assume that's why media companies are allowed to print what they want.

David said...

SH: Universities are a particularly annoying form of corporation because no one can decide who actually owns them. My property law professor argued that the faculty owned the university, but that's clearly wrong.

David said...

Ali: There's a long answer to that, which boils down to no, people have the right to free speech. Even then, commercial speech enjoys much less protection than other speech.

Duck said...

I've been to that Target store. It's a little out of place, because Southdale Mall and the whole Edina/France Ave shopping strip is one of the most upscale, fru-fru shopping districts in Minnesota.

The problem is that it was just a Target, and Target doesn't build those anymore, it only builds Super Targets now, which is a Target with a grocery store and a Starbucks attached. And build them it does. Within the last 10 years they've put in at least 3 within a 10 mile radius of my house, and I'm in one of the outlying exurbs of Minneapolis.

A store is not just a corporation, it's a place. Love of place is a very strong thing.

David said...

But the Target store doesn't love you back.

Duck said...

It's people!!! Target Corp is people!! Damn you all to Hell!!

Anonymous said...

if target loved you, then they would not offshore your job India.