Editor’s Comments: Now do not get me wrong. I have always sort of thought of myself as a populist. You know, let’s hear it for the little guy, level the playing field, give everyone a chance—that sort of thing. Then along comes Trump who masquerades as a populist and tells the “little guy” what he wants to hear—that the elite suck and he is their friend. And they—or at least some of the white working class, who used to vote Democrat– buy it even though his only real “accomplishment” has been a tax cut for the rich. Then along come the Democratic aspirants for president with over 20 contenders mostly casting themselves as champions of the little guy. I applaud them for this though it is uncertain as to how these policies will be implemented. It occurred to me that one aspect of populism appears to me to be telling people what they want to hear even when it seems pretty obvious that it ain’t gonna happen. That led me to wonder what it would be like if private companies tried to act like government and adopted a populist approach to governance. Here is my Faux News story:
Walmart, the world’s largest company at over $500 billion in annual revenues, announced today the selection of its new CEO, Tyrone Shackluster, who was previously a stockroom maintenance assistant in the Walmart store in suburban Beloxi, Mississippi. Mr. Shackluster had been with the company for only eight months and won the position due to his rigorous and effective campaign as an outsider and a reformer and a person “who will lift up the common men and women who are the backbone of the company but have been ripped off and screwed by the elitist one percent who run the place.”
Before today it would have been unthinkable for someone without a high school degree to take over the reigns of the world’s largest company though the new management selection process put in place several months ago made this possible and according to former top managers in Walmart, inevitable. Inspired by the presidential primary election process now firmly in place by both major political parties in the United States, Walmart announced in January that anyone who had worked for the company for six months or longer could compete for the position of CEO of the company, which now would be determined by a truly democratic voting process in which every Walmart employee would be able to cast a vote. The role of the board of directors would be limited to assuring a fair election and to encouraging every Walmart employee to vote.
The decision to change the process which had been the responsibility of the board of directors to one based on a democratic voting process was controversial from the day it was announced. Some including many who characterize themselves as reformers applauded the announcement citing how changing the nominating and election process would have a positive impact on the company just like it is having on the country. One strategist who asked to remain anonymous due to the controversy surrounding the process, commented, “In the old days, candidates for president of the United States would be vetted and chosen by party elites and involved cloak room deals. Nowadays anyone can become a candidate for president, and it is wide open. The people decide. The same thing should apply to companies. Hey, if it works for the feds, it should work for companies.”
Others warned of catastrophe.
When Walmart first announced its decision, several hundred candidates entered the Walmart primaries. The process involved town hall type meetings and “debates” in every major city where there was a Walmart, often two or three events a week. Gradually the field was whittled down as candidates ran out of money. Mr. Shackluster was financed by donations of 25 cents each from tens of thousands Walmart employees and from major donations from Target, Macy’s, JC Penny’s, Sears, and other retail companies. His platform, “Make Walmart great again” included the immediate dismissal of all senior Walmart executives, universal equal pay for all employees, six months paid vacation, free lunch and health care, free employee ice cream socials every Thursday at 3:00 PM, and the development of a company militia. He received over 90% of the final vote count. His only competitor at the end was the former Executive Vice President of the company, who has now immigrated to China.
In his acceptance speech Shackluster proclaimed, “This is a great day for Walmart and for the country. Make Walmart great again! The company has spoken! Populism now rules the world! Long live populism!”
A spokesmen for the company praised the new executive as the perfect selection despite his lack of experience and education and raved about the egalitarian selection process, which he said now mirrored the current political selection process which has produced great leaders like Donald Trump and would certainly produce a great candidate from among the 20+ candidates who are actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination. He said allowing the people to decide who is the CEO of a company should be a model for all companies to follow regardless of size and is really the only way to run any organization or business.
How Mr. Shackluster will actually deliver the goods and how the company will fare under the new leadership is uncertain. What is certain is that the Walmart stock price fell almost 90% when the election result was announced.