I was struggling to find something to talk about today as I’ve not been overly inspired – then I saw this article.

The gist of it is that Harris and Hoole are owned by Tesco, well, 49% owned. They’re a coffee shop that seems to be independent but really isn’t.

I’m sure many of you will dismiss this as hipster bullshit that doesn’t really matter but in doing so you’d be missing an important point. Independent businesses and startups really struggle to get financing from banks these days. Who has the cash then? Multinationals.

They want to buy up little brands to be able to sell goods to people who do not like corporate supergiants. Innocent are owned by Coca Cola, for example.

I remember my old flatmate, Chris, loved Innocent. Personally I found the idea idiotic (because I’m mean like that) – they’re a company and to them you’re just a number. I can remember my customers by name because I’m a small entity but once we’re talking about anything large it just becomes unfeasible.

When I think about it I don’t know precisely how one would justify legislation to tear apart the ever-expanding behemoths that are the big chains but it does feel like there needs to be some legislated upper limit on how big a corporation can become. We seem to be sleepwalking towards a future in which something like the Umbrella Corporation could exist. I don’t mean the bioweapons research aspects I just mean the ubiquity of the company – fingers in every pie.

Eventually they’re going to essentially control our economies to the point where they control voters through their jobs and need for affordable necessities. One could argue we’re nearly there already, frankly. I find it horrifying.

Smaller companies can die due to changes in the market environment but once a multinational has enough clout it can just buy its way into new market segments, dispensing with its old, dying components. Its buying power makes it impossible to compete with and that reality prevents independents from being viable in the eyes of bankers.

I wish I could propose a solution right now but at the moment it does seem to be a case of asking the right questions – how big is too big?

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