Capitalism isn’t a dirty word.

Marx believed that capitalism was purely negative and that it fed the bourgeoisie graciously at the hands of the proletariat. This made sense when he and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848. They had yet to see how capitalism would (and continues) to evolve into a driver for social change.

1.1% of United Airlines‘ stock (or $255 million) was lost today, because consumers demanded vengeance due to the Airline’s unacceptable behavior stemming from how they forcefully removed a customer when they overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville days before.

Had the government intervened, it would have taken years for this issue to be resolved. Millions would have been spent in lawyer’s fees, regulation changes, committee building, and analysis. However, only a very small percentage would have been paid by the airline in any type of “punitive”damages.

Instead, the company got flogged publicly on social media and lost millions in market cap overnight, which forced the major airline’s hand to “make things right” not just for the man forcefully ejected, but a new breed of consumer. One who demands fair trade coffee, responsibly sourced salmon, and their brethren to fly home without being bloodied by some corporate bully.

Modern day MBA courses spend a lot of time explaining the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility and this is why. Today, the business world moves too fast. One seemingly small error, or worse a hiccup in accepting responsibility and efficiently correcting the wrong, can quickly become a global phenom. And with markets just as fast, that word-of-mouth on crack will transform into social justice.

This is something that Engels and Marx didn’t have to deal with in the late 1800s and while there is still much room for improvement. The proletariat do have a weapon to knock the bourgeoisie off their high horse, which will continue to enhance the capitalist relationship amongst classes.

 

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