Corporate Patriotism in a Global Marketplace


DSCN1391 (Photo credit: sly06)

A remake of the film, Red Dawn opened this week. In the original, a group of teenagers fight against Soviet troops invading their American town. It has been updated to replace the Soviet invasion force with one from North Korea. North Korea? Are you kidding me? This new version was written and filmed with the enemy as China. It makes a lot more sense to an American audience to think of China invading than North Korea, but, alas, there were grumblings from China, and since they did spend an estimated $75 million to make the movie, they decided they need to digitally change the villains into a safer target, North Korea.

In an era of global markets, U.S. film companies have to play by a new set of rules. They could probably make a movie about a villainous U.S. army invading some other country, but they can’t make this movie about China invading the U.S.

When you are competing locally, then you can accommodate local tastes and ideals. Once you aspire to be a global player in your marketplace, then things get a lot more complicated. This example is about an American movie that had to degrade its plot (no one can convince me that American audiences consider North Korea to be a more viable invader than China) in order to appease a foreign audience/government. This is hardly outrageous; who cares about this silly movie anyway?

But it does illustrate a larger more serious issue. There is no such thing as corporate patriotism. As U.S. based corporations expand globally, they lose their local allegiance. Their goal is always about making money; it was never about serving a particular nation. A local business has a vested interest in the health and welfare of it’s locale, because they are dependent on it. But once a corporation manages to expand geographically, its dependency on any one location or society melts away.

A U.S. based, global corporation is going to make decisions in its own interests, and if the math shows that by doing something that hurts the U.S. it can improve its profit margin, it will do it. This is not a moral question; it is just business. We as a society need to recognize that corporate patriotism is a marketing myth to make us feel good about buying a particular product.

More importantly, we need to begin considering how dependent our society has become on global players who have no allegiance to support us in an hour of need. We take comfort in our history where the U.S. banded together after Pearl Harbor. Companies retooled for war, and raw materials were directed toward that effort. Would the same thing happen today? Would the BMW plant in America choose to support America over Germany?

Today is Black Friday. As I write this, there are mobs of people fighting each other at various retail outlets of global corporations in order to buy a scarce sale item. In the meantime, local retailers dwindle. Yet if the time ever comes when it is no longer in the interest of that big retailer to serve your community; it will be gone, and there may not be anything left in your marketplace to pick up the slack. Now try to imagine the behavior of those crowds when they find themselves fighting over something more important than the latest Christmas toy.

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