Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Burden of Community

The last post (IT and Community) makes it sound like I believe that evil corporate America is conspiring to destroy the community.

I see the relation between the community and the organizations and people in the community as extremely complex. Community, after all, is both a blessing and curse. Business is not simply a process of manufacturing material goods. It is a process of interfacing with the community. I do not know of a single successful company that seeks to isolated itself from the community. The very idea is absurd because business is primarily about defining one's position in the world.

Since business is about one's relationship with the community. Businesses are guilty of spending a great deal of time trying to define and control their relation with the community.

An IT company might participate less in the local community than the corner drug store because the IT company sees itself in a different community. They might see themselves as part of a virtual world community focusing on a particular technology or problem. Forcing a researcher, whose every fiber is focussed on curing cancer, to clean plates at the civid center is absurd.

Businesses are sometimes at fault for Machiavellian games where they try to dominate a community. One can argue that the big box stores business model is an effort to dominate a community.

Since the primary concern of a business is defining a position in the community, I discard the accusation that corporate American has a primary aim of tearing apart the local communities.

While suburban office towers have the effect of isolating workers in a remote location. I do not believe that businesses are specifically sitting down trying to figure out how to worsen the quality of life experienced by the employers.

No, the drive to suburban towers is not driven simply by a desire to isolate workers from the community. A better description is that companies are seeking greater control over their presence in a community. The company wants control over the way they appear to the world.

Throughout my life, I have paid a fair amount of attention to the burdens placed on businesses. Since the 60s, our communities have systematically increased the burdens on stores and businesses operating in central cultural districts. The benefits of this increased burden gets distributed to the politically powerful in the community. This system of magnifying the burdens on small busineses is called progressive politics.

It is not simply that companies are withdrawing from urban centers. Many urban areas like Salt Lake City aggressively increase the burdens on small firms in their communities ... driving them away.

We look at the tendency of modern companies to shove their employees into office towers and other edifaces that are isolated from the community at large. It is clear that there are forces that are weakening the local community. I do not believe that we can find a single force to explain the trend. It seems to me that some communities like Rocky Anderson's Salt Lake City are hostile to small business, other areas like South Jordan are much more friendly to small business. Within a few years, South Jordan's population will equal Salt Lake. I don't think we can peg this trend entirely on the business.

It is something that we should try to understand.

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