A Shared Responsibility

Have you ever wanted to own an island? With 5.3 billion dollars you could buy a secluded spot just for you.  Or with that amount of money you could buy 10 of the world’s largest passenger planes. You could even buy three pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for every person in America. Or with 5.3 billion dollars, you could recall a line of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7s.

In the summer of 2016, Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. However, a small issue caused a few phone batteries to explode. Quickly, Samsung issued a product-wide recall. A group of 40 people formed an emergency task force to organize everything. They set up a research lab, staffed by 700 people, to figure out what caused the batteries to explode. They messaged customers to inform them of the hazards and recall. When the explosions became a flight concern the Note 7s were banned from air travel. So Samsung manned kiosks in airports to allow customers to exchange their phones. Then they sent the recalled phones by ship to be tested at their labs. Samsung even collaborated with service providers to create an update for the Note 7 that made charging the phone impossible, which forced customers to stop using them. For 120 days the team worked almost around the clock to manage everything, often not finishing work until 4am and starting again at 6am.
All in all, around 5.3 billion dollars was spent to manage the problems. But Samsung would have it no other way. They couldn’t. See, Samsung is made up of millions of part owners. And if those stock owners thought that Samsung was being negligent in handling the issue, the stock owners would sell their stock in the company. This would destabilize Samsung and make the stocks go further down in value, which would be worse than spending 5.3 billion dollars to get their phones back. The collective ownership of the company made them responsible to the people.
Democratic governments are also supposed to be accountable to us. But it’s a little different. Companies make products or services and give stockholders a margin of the profits. Governments take a margin of profits from taxpayers in exchange for services like national security, healthcare, legislation and infrastructure. Taxpayers have a share in the country and governments are responsible to them.
Wait, are they? Is our government responsible?
When taxpayers (stockholders) are unsatisfied with healthcare wait times, we still pay taxes. A company would be forced to look at their organization to make it more efficient. When taxpayers aren’t happy with legislation on issues such as gun control, abortion or doctor-assisted suicide, we can’t just sell our stocks. When taxpayers are frustrated by unfair equalization payments, we can’t use our share in the country as leverage to bring this injustice to the attention of the government. If a company cannibalized their own market, such as the government has done with the energy industry, the company’s stockholders would sell out and the company would either change or die. But with the government… we have no recourse.
The government is supposed to serve the people and be responsible to them. What happens when they aren’t? We can’t just stop paying taxes. We are told to write letters, to exercise our free speech. We write letters to our officials. We write letters to newspapers. We post articles showing this injustice. What happens when that doesn’t work? Is our government still responsible to us?


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