Visible Hands: Business as Usual?
“[The rich] consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity…they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.”
— Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Business as Usual…?
Since the publication of The Wealth of Nations in 1776, corporations have focused on their respective bottom lines with the idea that some invisible force would ensure that the rest of society would be fine. Under the guidance of this Invisible Hand, we continued business as usual for two hundred odd years…
Yet, fast forward to 2020, it seems fair to question whether the Invisible Hand is really benefiting our society. From presidential candidates wanting to abolish billionaires to students in the streets protesting climate change inaction, we seem to be waking up to the idea that the current system (and whatever invisible forces) just might not be enough.
We have been told that we can “vote with our time and dollars” to create change, but it’s not always so easy, especially when the corporations hold substantial economic and political influence. Take for example, the labor controversy around Amazon. There have been multiple news stories about the poor treatment of Amazon warehouse employees. John Oliver’s pre-Prime Day takedown of the company has 7.7M views alone (as of this post)! Yet, work conditions did not change, as evidenced by the December 2019 employee walkout. And Amazon announced that its 2019 Prime Day surpassed Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined. Did these viewers not get the message or did they just not care? Or was the call to action seemingly untenable?
It seems that current media coverage on corporations and society follows the notion of “business as usual.” In our view, most articles lack substantive critical analysis or just repeat the same perspective.
It is our belief that a more viable, longer-term call to action must include all aspects of our role in society: consumer, investor, employee, and citizen. For change to occur, we not only need more transparency, but also a clearer next step that encompasses our multiple stakeholder roles. First, how can we better align our values with our financial decisions? Then, if our individual choices as consumers, investors, and employees are not enough to change the system, how can we help policymakers, regulators, and our local community better protect our interests?
Visible Hands grew out of our impatience with the sentiment of “business as usual.” We are a team of young professionals with experience in finance, media, corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and journalism, who recognize that there is a gap in the way everyday Americans understand the implications of modern corporations.
We strive to share bite-sized, relevant information on corporations and their impact on society alongside information on how to get involved with policy and non-profit stakeholders.
Our mission statement is simple. Be informed, become empowered. We want to shift power away from the so-called Invisible Hand and enable all of you — the Visible Hands — to be a part of much-needed change.
So I have to read more emails…?
Why the weekly email newsletter? We noticed that there seems to only be scrutiny when a big corporate scandal emerge. We ask, why don’t these discussions happen earlier or persist longer?
We are not here to just “sound an alarm” on controversial business practices; we want to empower you to understand the multiple stakeholder perspectives and ultimately take meaningful action. Visible Hands will give you a spark every week — inspiration for your commute, fodder for water cooler conversation, or ideas for dinner table debates. Together, we hope to redefine what “business as usual” means for American corporations and citizens.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
— Frederick Douglass
OK, I’m in! How can I get involved?
We are just starting out and your input is hugely helpful! We are thrilled to be launching our pilot test in January 2020. If you would like to help, please contact us at email@example.com. Any ideas or questions are welcome!