The holiday season is the time of year when capitalism and big business are critiqued even more roundly and harshly.
Not only are retailers slammed as being “anti-family” for opening on Thanksgiving, Black Friday is followed by Small Business Saturday, which touts itself as being a way to “support your neighbors.”
This is a particularly pernicious view of capitalism as it injects endemic merit into business by size and pits corporations against mom and pop businesses. Yes, big business is in competition with small business, but that is good for consumers. Choice is maximized. Consumers who just want a good deal on electronics or clothes and don’t necessarily care that the quality is not “artisan” have plenty of options. Consumers who like unique, hand made goods also have options. Only with competition are niche markets promoted.
But pitting big business as inherently bad and injurious to small business is dangerous. Ads for Small Business Saturday often talk about how shopping local supports neighbors, as if the franchisees and employees at local branches of chains like Target or McDonalds weren’t also local residents dependent upon the patronage of their neighbors.
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a celebration of what the gifts in our individual lives. For some, that is family and a reverential gathering of loved ones, full of reflection and laughter is the most fitting way to celebrate what they’ve been given. But Thanksgiving is a spirit; it has nothing to do with a particular Thursday in November, often marked more by gluttony than thoughtful contemplation.
Must business owners, large or small, whose own sense of gratefulness is tied up in the consumerism that has made America great be demonized for opening on one particular Thursday? Managers and store owners can hardly force their employees to work. And those who use employment as a threat will be demonized in the public sphere, rightfully so if that’s public opinion.
But what is the likelihood that those who paint big-box stores who open on Thanksgiving as against family or some other nonsensical platitude completely boycotted the deals available between Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
Are business owners responsible for the melees that break out or are individuals who allow themselves to become unhinged over low prices the ones responsible for violence and ill will?
It’s time to stop demonizing big business during the holidays. Capitalism is truly a blessing- it should have a place in the holidays. After all, capitalism is driven by value-for-value transactions between consumers and producers. Individual discretion is maximized in such a system, giving people maximum autonomy over their lives.
A failure to exercise discretion and recognize the role of merit in business interactions is the real travesty of this season. Principled business of all sort should be celebrated, not demonized, particularly during the time of year when people are most likely to reflect on the blessings of life. Discretion means recognizing that your individual system of valuation is just as valid as someone else’s. So, if Black Friday shopping is a part of your holiday, that’s great. If it’s not, that’s great two. The beauty of America is that these conflicting viewpoints can exist simultaneously, and neither is hurt by the other. And that, truly, is something for which to be thankful.