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.