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Bidness As Unusual

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I don't feel like a citizen of the Springfield Business Journal.

The changing winds of history, however, gauged by the unreliable wetted finger of the present, indicate corporate identity is growing in primacy.

Consider this from the front page of The Wall Street Journal: "In the culture that leaders of global businesses inhabit, where shared values of open markets, hard money and standardized technology increasingly take precedence over old-fashioned nationalism, such transnational combinations (as the proposed merger between Chrysler and Daimler-Benz) are logical, and they are becoming more commonplace every day."

Oh, really. The anecdotal evidence is certainly there to support such a statement. But when presented that starkly, do you want to agree?

These heady days of corporate ascendency are fueled by the full realization that Socialism is dead. It seems as if everyone has looked around and noticed that the Berlin Wall really did crumble, the Soviet version of Socialism really did collapse, and Che Guevera is nothing more than a hip T-shirt, if he was ever anything more than that to begin with.

A British publisher has put out an arty little edition of "Das Kapital," available for $9.95 from displays at the finest corporate superstore booksellers. The manifesto can sit beside Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet" on the living-room shelf as the new unread book displayed as a statement. The Marx and Engels work, however, would be shown off in the most millennial of sensibilities: irony.

Each corporation gives dividends according to its ability and takes labor according to its need. Corporations of the world, unite.

More than seven years of rosy corporate performance, almost immediately subsequent to the fall of the aforementioned Wall, plays its part, too.

When consecutive quarters of record earnings pile up like so much cord wood, it's easy to conclude that Microsoft or NationsBank or General Motors are greater than the sums of their financials: They become entities unto their own world, with importance greater than a business. Once this gravity is bestowed, the satellites of nations must protect their orbits lest they fly off into space untethered.

Charles Wilson, then chairman of General Motors, testified before Congress in the 1950s that what was good for GM was good for the country. The comment gained a certain infamy for truth-telling in the guise of grandiosity. But it was seen as uncouth to say such a thing out loud.

When Bill Gates testified before Congress last week to say that regulatory delay of the release of his company's Windows 98 would cripple the economy, the huzzahs of agreement were, if not entirely unanimous, certainly loud. Nonetheless, the message is broader now: What's good for Microsoft is good for the world, and the nation had best understand that it should not stand in the way.

This is bigger than a debate over whether government regulation, in relative terms, is good or bad. The debate is whether government is valid at all.

Many of us identify ourselves even now as Ozarkians it's in our region's cultural nature to be isolationist. And this global trend of corporatism may not seem of immediate concern to us little folks here.

But despite the feeling that historic changes in the world are immutable, such shifts must happen first on the level of the individual. Is this what the world should look like?

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