Democratic Underground

In Logo Parentis
April 3, 2001
by Susan Sigandres

Can somebody tell me what is so bad about getting corporate executives to pay millions of dollars to have pubic property named after their companies? This is possibly the only instance in which the public gets something for nothing from the private sector. Why should we, the public, allow our buildings, stadiums, and subways to be named after such non-revenue producers as war heroes, scientists, Nobel prize winners, and ex-presidents when we can get paid for having these places logoed?

Listen, the D.C. junta will do its best to sell this country out to corporations anyway. The public might as well try to get its fair share. As the Bush regime shrinks our government down to nothing, our air becomes ever more polluted by CO2, our water remains suffused with arsenic, our public lands fall prey to miners, loggers, well-diggers, ditch diggers, and gold diggers, we will have scant little to leave to our children.

It is our duty as concerned parents and citizens to at least try to preserve public areas by selling them out to corporations before it occurs to the junta to do so. Therefore, we should absolutely insist that our federal, state, and local legislators take a lesson from the corporate arena itself: They should immediately establish a formal nationalized market in which companies can bid on having almost anything that belongs to the public named after them.

The Feds can list such things as monuments, interstate highways, national parks, and buildings on the exchange and corporations can compete for the right to have their names plastered all over them. States and counties can list buildings, bridges, stadiums, arenas, roads, parks, beaches, bike paths, reservoirs, stretches of sidewalk, etc. There can even be a "small cap" market for municipalities, villages, and towns to list their public offerings. And this market must do more than just initial public offerings, it must also facilitate the efficient trading of name-stakes between corporations -- for a commission payable to the public coffers, of course.

Also, it would be short-sighted to only sell permanent name stakes. Maximizing revenue means offering different ways companies can purchase a name-stake in property belonging to the public. So, there must be an options market. Buying a call option on, let's say a picnic area, gives a corporation the right, but not the obligation, to post its name on all the trees for a specific amount of time at a specified price. At the end of the period, the company can let the option expire or exercise the call. If the call is left to expire, the picnic area gets re-listed on the national naming exchange. If the call is exercised, the company's name remains on the trees for another specified period at a specified price.

Then there are put options. Let's say a company buys a put option on a picnic area. This gives the company the right, but not the obligation, to prevent any corporate names from being posted on the trees. (Buying a put option is a defensive strategy that companies can use to prevent competitors from getting naming access to areas or buildings that would be advantageous to their businesses. Given the right-wing extremist disposition of corporate executives, I think the potential for this put option market is HUGE.)

I would strongly advise against allowing short selling on the naming exchange as corporations already sell the public short as a matter of business practice. Big companies spend billions trying to figure out how to get an edge over each other for the sole purpose of reaching into our pockets. They bombard us with brainless, tasteless, classless advertising all the time. So let's beat them at their own game -- let's make them pay us to look at them.

And, if it turns out that we don't like the jumble of logos and insignias and tag lines that will assault us at every turn, we can tell our federal, state, and local legislators to pass laws disallowing the sale of corporate name-stakes in our public property. And then the government can disband the naming exchange. But not before it makes the corporations buy their names and logos back off the public areas, charging them commissions on these buy-back transactions, of course.


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