Large corporations help those of modest incomes by selling low-cost goods to the many. They help employees by providing relatively stable jobs, by offering a discipline that many workers cannot impose on themselves, and providing career opportunities that small businesses frequently do not. Walmart to me is the paradigm example. It has been partially responsible for the happy fact that the cost of living has been going up more slowly for the those lower on the income scale than those higher. It has employed over a million people and not generally those who have backgrounds in prestigious education or other evidence of high human capital endowment.
But some commentators have doubted whether such large corporations are good for our republic and our civic culture generally. This concern has deep roots in American history, harking back to the Jeffersonian vision of a nation of sturdy and independent yeoman farmers. Before the modern era some even thought to make the antitrust law the legal means to sustain an economic world of “small dealers and worthy men.”
Nevertheless, on balance large corporations are good for our civic culture, at least given the kind of modern government we have. First, these corporations do indeed still promote a work ethic, particularly in a culture where government schools do such a bad job of this. Even modest jobs at companies socialize people into work and get them started on productive life.
Second, large corporations offer the closet approximation many people will have to civic associations of the kind Tocqueville celebrated.