Monday, April 13, 2009

Capitalist Paintbrush

On my commute to work this morning I saw it again. The Sherwin Williams truck. It always gets my dander up. It features the disgusting image of a can of paint turned upside down covering the entire planet, with the slogan "Cover The Earth."

Short of using racial or minority epithets, I can't think of a more offensive way to advertise your product.

"Hey," it says, "We're Sherwin Williams Paint, and we want to cover the entire world with our product! Wouldn't that be awesome?!"

No, it wouldn't. Seriously, what's more depressing than the prospect of the entire world covered in paint? Trees, rocks, flowers, beaches, mountains, pizza, mushrooms, kittens, your mother-- let's paint it all!!

Just who exactly is this logo for? I could totally see executives of the company sitting in their underground lair and getting off on the image of the entire world covered in their paint. It will all be ours! Bwahahahahaaaaa!! But is that the message you want to convey to the general public? Maybe you want to keep your goal of world domination under your hat there, fellas.

Because of their stupid, extremely offensive logo, I will never, ever buy SWP. The good thing about capitalism (when it works, anyway) is that I can vote with my wallet. If a company pisses me off, I will never give them any of my business, if I can help it.

I had to add that disclaimer, if I can help it, because capitalism does have a fundamental flaw.

I love capitalism. It's not perfect, but it's the best, most realistic economic system that we've been able to implement so far. The thing that makes it great is that it's driven by competition. (Something about "harnessing greed" too.) I do think that competition is one of the best human motivators. Without it, people get complacent and lazy. The best companies survive because they are good at what they do (for the most part.)

But ultimately, each company's goal is to eliminate the competition. That's where capitalism's huge flaw comes in. If left to their own devices, every company that gains an advantage would grow so big as to squeeze out all the competition. No competition = no more capitalism. If left unchecked, capitalism would eat itself.

People love to think of corporations as evil. I do it myself. But corporations are neither good nor evil. They're just entities that exist to make money. Calling a corporation evil because it tries to maximize profits or eliminate the competition is like calling an owl evil because it eats cute little marmosets.

The only way we can prevent the marmoset from getting eaten is to contain the owl. It's the same way with companies. We need government regulations in place to contain them, to make sure they don't eat all the cute marmosets or poop on our homes. (This applies to both owls and corporations.)

I'm no economist, so I'm mostly talking out of my ass here. I like to throw around words like competition and regulation and monopoly and marmoset, but I don't have all the answers. I know that Sherwin Williams isn't unique in their wet dream to cover the world in their sticky colorful paint. (Are we really talking about paint here?) I'm sure the folks at McDonald's have a similar dream that one day their food will be the only thing that feeds the world. I'm sure Wal-Mart has a dream of being the only shopping option for thousands of small towns. (Oops, I guess that one came true.)

But SWP does have the audacity to put a truly tasteless idea on all their goddam trucks. And for that, I will exercise my capitalist option to avoid their product. At least until they get their paint all over my marmoset-skin wallet.


Dan S said...

Coming from another non-economist who talks out of his butt, I think this is a great analysis.

I think we get caught too often in the trap of "capitalism should have all the power" vs "government should have all the power" when obviously, you want them to balance power.

David Wright said...

how does marmoset taste if you, say, sautee it with garlic and eat it in a freshly painted kitchen?