Custom «Take-Home Final Exam: The Growth of American Business» Sample Essay
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Throughout the most part of the modern history, there have been numerous individuals who attempted to understand how America has managed to become the foremost industrial and business center of the world. Scholars, economists, and even politicians have speculated on the reason for the development of American business. The factors cited have been taken from the Protestant work ethic theory borrowed from the work of German social scientist Webber, who emphasized the role of individuals with distinct personal characteristics. However, an analysis of American business from the broad perspective reveals that it grew due to largely impersonal forces rather than the distinct features of various business people.
The first impersonal force responsible for the growth of American business was increasingly better technology. The period following the American Revolution was the beginning of the industrial era. This led to the development of some of the machines that would drive American and also world business for a long time. The industrial behemoths eventually replaced the cottage industries with mass production, and distribution enabled by better technology took root ((Porter, 2006, p. 9). Examples are cotton ginneries, large steel plants, and communication and transport means such as telegraph and railroad, and better ships for overseas trade. It is apparent that without the development of these technologies even the most distinctive individual would not be able to develop American trade to such a high level.
The aspect of the growth of American technology is closely associated with the issue of transport and communications. Business has always thriven on quick transport so that raw materials can get transported to the factories, and the finished goods reach the markets in the shortest time possible (Porter, 2006, p. 8). Communication is also an essential aspect of any trade as it enables quicker transactions to take place (Porter, 2006, p. 8, 22). In the pioneering time of the American nation, the fastest form of transport was by horse and communication was carried out by ordinary mail. This was convenient for short distances, but it was ineffective over large distances, especially on dry land as the number of goods that a horse or a horse-drawn carriage could draw was limited. With the advent of railroads, raw materials like cotton could be transported from the farms in the south to the garment factories in the north. They could also be easily transported to the East Coast for transportation to export markets. The new steamships provided faster access to far off markets as well. This trend continued with the advent of airplanes. Telegraph made communication much faster, and it was also safer for business purposes than the ordinary mail. The introduction of the Trans-Atlantic telegraph strengthened trade relations between the US and Europe exponentially (Porter, 2006, p. 45). Much later, the phone would serve the same purpose as well as the Internet and email at the end of the 20th century.
Labor is one of the essential resources in any trade and industry. In the first place, without labor, goods and services that help drive trade cannot be produced. However, for labor to succeed in driving business, first of all, it has to be cheap enough for it to be affordable for business to keep the cost of production low, and, second, it has to be skilled in some of jobs (Porter, 2006, p. 3) The story of American labor begins with one of the saddest episodes of American history, that of slavery. It drove the agricultural economy of the Southern states. At one time, slavery accounted for about a half of the nation’s economic output. Furthermore, the immigration from Europe brought to the US cheap labor. The fact that the country housed some of the best educational institutions in the world also assisted in having well-trained labor.
Moreover, the US transformed into a consumer society and thus consumed most of the goods produced in the country. It is doubtful if the culture of trade could have developed to the extent it did without the change in the American consumption patterns, even with the presence of exceptional business (Porter, 2006, p. 3-4, 7, and 146). The large US market is combined with the shift to a consumerist type of society played a great role in the development of American business.
The American government has also played a significant role in the development of business in the US. Right after the American Revolution, the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, decided to make the government pro-business (April 5th, 2016 Slide 15). The Constitution gave the government via the Federal Congress the right to regulate interest and foreign commerce in section 1 of Article 8 (Porter, 2006, p.59). The protection of contracts was also necessary for the development of business. The Constitution gave this power to the national government under Section of 10 of Article 1 (April 5th, 2016 Slide 11). This ensured that across the US territory, there would be uniformity in commerce thus encouraging the progress of business.
In conclusion, the development of American business was possible due to impersonal forces rather than the exceptional characteristics of various business people. These aspects include the increase in technology and technological innovations, faster transportation and communications, cheap and available labor, change in the consumer behavior and government encouragement. Without these forces, American business would not have grown as it did even in the presence of the exceptional business leaders.
The need for management theory became a necessity in American business as it was developing. One of the earliest management theorists was Fredrick W. Taylor. His greatest contribution to the development of business was his theory of scientific management of workers. Taylor’s ideas managed to bring control and cooperation into an era where chaos and conflict had thrived. However, while his theories benefited a lot of people, they also had their demerits and thus cannot be said to have been universally beneficial.
There is little doubt that the ideas developed by Taylor had a huge impact on the nature of American labor and management. His observations that workers worked harder, more diligently and thus were more productive when they had an incentive to do so was a boon for the employers (Taylor, 2010). Paying for the output per hour was thus a successful idea in management. It led to an increase in production as workers felt that there was a reason to work harder.
Taylor also supported the idea of the scientific management of workers. He called for bosses to take away control of the process of the work from laborers. According to the scientist, workers ought to be forced to do work the scientific way (Taylor, 2010). Taylor had an obsession for what he considered a correct way of doing things, which he called the “one best way” rather than a myriad of ineffective ways of doing things (Taylor, 2010). Thus, his ideas emphasized on experimenting until management could find the best way of doing something. After this, workers would have had their way of working set out by the management. This included standardization of the work process. There was no doubt that this standardization of the work process would have led to an increase in productivity.
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The ideas of Taylor seemed to enhance teamwork between laborers and management. He observed that when applying scientific management in the perfect workplace, the interest of workers and their managers aligned. Taylor noted that in the long-term, the prosperity of the employer is not sustainable unless the employee prospers. Thus, in his theory, the scientist advocated incentives for laborers to work harder and more diligently so as to assure that their productivity increases. While many question Taylor’s apparent overemphasis placed on monetary incentives as opposed to other means of incentivizing workers, it had a positive impact on work productivity.
However, the scientific method Taylor promoted seemed to have several problems. It is clear that the approach was beneficial for employers and capitalists who wanted to increase their production dramatically. However, it was met by workers with a mixture of fear, trepidation and resistance. There were several reasons for this. First of all, this theory called for the separation of planning from implementation. Taylor considered the supervision carried out by poorly educated workers as an impediment to the success of his method and, according to him, these people with low education backgrounds were not qualified to plan how work should be done. His solution was to distinguish planning from the execution of the plans. This had the effect of making the workplace inconsistent.
While the separation of planning from implementation, and thus the management from the worker, is an area critics have focused on, the main criticism of the theory comes from what many consider reductionism in Taylor’s work. His ideas promoted what is often called machination of workplace, where workers would have become nothing better than just production robots. For instance, Taylor’s statement that in the allocation of work, the amendment should specify not only the work but also the time and the way to do it, had the effect of dehumanizing the worker in many people’s eyes.
Furthermore, it seems that in Taylor’s world, workers were always wrong, uneducated or lazy. He made an assumption that laborers seemed to have little incentive to work hard. This informed most of the theory. It is apparent that Taylor formulated the concept for uneducated and possibly unskilled employees. Thus, its application to skilled and educated personnel would not have the desired effect. In some types of jobs, it is in the interest of workers to not only work hard but also have the autonomy that the discussed theory wants to reduce so much. For instance, in the scientific sector where a lot of experimentations take place it would be not only inappropriate but also potentially dangerous and ineffective to deny employees any freedom in the workplace.
In conclusion, it seems apparent that the theory of Taylor benefited many people, however, they also had their disadvantages and thus cannot be said to have been comprehensively beneficial. Firstly, this approach led to the incentivization of the work the employee had to do which led to the increase in productivity. Secondly, the scientific management resulted in a more predictable work and management process. Furthermore, it led to the development of teamwork in the workplace. However, it also had its disadvantages. The theory’s reductionist approach resulted in the dehumanization of workers and inconsistence in the workplace. Moreover, it did not work in some instances as it implied the worst of the workers. Thus, Taylor’s ideas were only partly successful.
Wal-Mart has been one of the most profitable companies in the world. The corporation has grown from its humble origins to its present status as one of the most profitable multinationals in the world. However, in spite of its growth and longevity, the company has also faced a number of challenges and criticisms regarding its policies in its conduct of business. This essay seeks to explore the criticisms of Wal-Mart that relate to globalization and relations with people outside the US, its labor policies and practices, and its role in local communities.
Many people have accused the company of promotion of globalization in some areas. In some instances, the firm has been blamed for being more powerful than the nations it trades in (Lichtenstein, 2006). Thus, there have been numerous assertions that the corporation can influence the national politics in those nations for the sake of its global objectives. For instance, the company has larger sales that GDP of some countries even developed western ones like Belgium. Furthermore, its powerful nature has even made some states send ambassadors to the headquarters of the corporation. This is not good for the international legal order as it leads to the weakening of international legal and political mechanisms. Furthermore, it has a negative effect on local traditions and markets as it dumps international goods in local communities.
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Moreover, Wal-Mart experienced criticism for its labor policies and practices. The company’s aim is to ensure efficiency and lower prices. This, however, sometimes means that the outcomes of its practices do not benefit but are contrary to the rights of its employees (Lichtenstein, 2006, p.271). For instance, the issue of unionization of workers can illustrate this criticism very well. The company has been vehemently anti-union for a very long time. Thus, the workers cannot organize to ask for higher wages or better working conditions for themselves and their colleagues (Lichtenstein, 2006., p. 271). This essentially means that a single employee could be subject to a censure if he/she acts in a manner suggesting that he/she will organize other workers in a union. Furthermore, the personnel find it hard to complain about wage law violations, exploitation, and other issues on an individual basis (Lichtenstein, 2006, p. 271). The fact that Wal-Mart has labeled its workers as associates rather than employees does not make a difference for the common laborers who undergo a lot of problems in the company.
The role the firm plays in local communities is closely related to the issue of globalization. This has also been an aspect of criticism of the company as many people assert that Wal-Mart has a negative impact on local populations in the regions in which it operates (Lichtenstein, 2006, p.29). The expansion of the corporation has resulted in its presence in almost all major US cities and in many countries abroad. In many communities, there have been the companies in which Wal-Mart pays low wages to workers and routinely abuses their rights (Lichtenstein, 2006, p. 55). Due to the economies of scale, whenever the business establishes itself in any locality, local retailers lose their market as the discussed corporation can offer very low prices with which small firms cannot compete (Lichtenstein, 2006, p. 29). Furthermore, there is also the assertion that the company contributes to consumerism which harms families by making them buy goods that they barely need (Lichtenstein, 2006, p.31). Consequently, the corporation comes out as harmful to local communities.
In conclusion, the essay sought to look at the criticisms that Wal-Mart faces with regard to globalization and relations to people outside the United States, the labor policies and practices the company pursues, and its impact on communities. It seems apparent that the corporation contributes to globalization which harms people who are outside the US. Moreover, the company also has adverse labor policies that impact on its employees negatively as it chose to define them as associates rather than employees. This fact implies anti-unionism. Finally, the company has a negative influence on local communities. First of all, its payment of low wages increases poverty, rather than reducing it. Moreover, it drives smaller retailers out of the market while Wal-Mart’s emphasis on consumerism is apparent.
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