Tesla Falls from Grace with Americans, Facebook Plunges to the Ignominious Level of Goldman, Wells Fargo, Sears  

But the US government got them all beat.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk had a magic touch when it came to marketing. Walking on water was just a low-level activity. Tesla was able to create enormous pent-up demand for its Model 3, long before it ever entered much delayed production, collecting $1,000-deposits from hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts without ever spending a dime on advertising the Model 3. That will go down as one of the most fabulous product launches ever.

A year ago, Musk was still seen walking on water after lunch, and his erratic behavior and pronouncements just brightened his halo. But now he’s wading knee-deep in mud, with the SEC breathing down his neck, as Tesla is laying off people in waves, closing all its stores to save cash, and shipping Model 3s to China and Europe because demand has dried up in the US.

Americans have taken note: Tesla’s reputation has plunged from a glorious 3rd place last year among the most visible US companies to a middling 42nd place, according to the Axios Harris Poll 100 that ranks the reputations of the most visible companies in the United States.

In the survey that polled a nationally representative sample of 18,228 Americans between January 2nd and 18th, Tesla plunged 39 places from the prior year – and landed just below Google, which has had its own series of issues, and right above General Electric which is trying to dismember itself in an existential struggle.

Only scandal-plagued Facebook plunged further than Tesla, down 43 places, a move that mirrored the plunge in its shares.

The poll rates a company on nine subcategories: Affinity, ethics, growth, products/service, citizenship, vision, culture, character, and trajectory. Where Tesla got dented the most was in the categories of culture (58th place), character (57th place), ethics (56th place), and citizenship (54th place). But in the category of products/service, it ranked 14th; and in trajectory, it ranked 22nd.

Tesla’s fate appears to be inextricably tied to Musk, and when Musk walks on water, Tesla soars. And when Musk sinks up to his crotch into mud, Tesla loses it.

Facebook’s reputation ranking was already a lot lower last year, below even where Tesla is now, and so it plunged a lot deeper than Tesla: It plunged to 94th place near the bottom of the list, into the ignominious territory of Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, both of which are embroiled in festering and costly scandals, and of Sears which is bankrupt.

Goldman Sachs ticked down 1 spot to 93rd place, but Wells Fargo managed to tick up 1 spot to 96th place. Sears fell 9 spots to 97th, raking dead last (#100) in four categories: growth, vision, culture, and trajectory.

There are only 3 spots left below Sears, at the bottom of the list. In 98th place is the Trump Organization whose dirty laundry keeps getting aired on a daily basis; cigarette maker Phillip Morris; and well, in last position, the US government, which ranked dead last (#100) in two categories, affinity and ethics, and next-to-dead-last (#99) in character and trajectory.

“The U.S. Government is the worst company in America, according to its customers (the citizens of America),” Axios says as the top of the five “Key Findings.”

“The Axios Harris Poll 100 is a measurement of what real people think right now about the companies in our cultural conversation,” Axios says (detailed methodology). And that sounds about right.

The FANGMAN companies that I track periodically on WOLF STREET showed mixed results:

  • Facebook was the #1 plunger this year, down 43 spots, from #51 in 2018 to #94 in 2019.
  • Amazon ticked down from #1 last year, a spot it had held for three years, to #2 this year.
  • Netflix fell 3 spots, from #21 to #24.
  • Google dropped 13 spots from #28 to #41, after employees were “walking out over Google’s Project Maven contract to partner with the Department of Defense on AI technology and the #Metoo challenges.”
  • Microsoft ticked up 2 spots to #9.
  • Apple, which had peaked at #2 in 2016 and then fell, landing on #29 in 2018, fell further in 2019, to #32
  • Nvidia, the taillight of the FANGMAN didn’t make the list.

Interestingly, and perhaps not all that surprisingly, the 10 companies with the highest-rated reputations included a family-owned supermarket chain (Wegmans) an employee-owned supermarket chain (Publix), and two family-owned retailers (Patagonia and L.L. Bean):

  1. Wegmans
  2. Amazon
  3. Patagonia, rose 6 spots
  4. L. Bean, up 11 spots
  5. Walt Disney
  6. Publix (employee-owned supermarket chain)
  7. Samsung
  8. Procter & Gamble
  9. Microsoft
  10. Sony, up 21 spots.

Tesla’s plunge from grace with Americans, while not as drastic as that of Facebook, shows that the hype isn’t working anymore, at least not to the extent it did. For Americans, Musk no longer walks on water, and Tesla suddenly has to face all the problems other automakers have to face, plus some.

This is how its own online sales, now one-third of its total sales, eat its brick & mortar. But it’s a matter of survival. Read… The Biggest Retailers Are Too Scared to Disclose this Data. But Nordstrom Just Did

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  99 comments for “Tesla Falls from Grace with Americans, Facebook Plunges to the Ignominious Level of Goldman, Wells Fargo, Sears  

  1. frisco lens says:

    what is the plunge for facebook due to? are advertisers spending less money putting thier products on a facebook page? Are they realizing nobody buys thier products even it it is on facebook?

    What is the drop? I get Apple. How many Ihpones can an avverage person have how many upgrades bring happiness to people?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      This is about reputation – how Americans see the company. The Facebook scandals have killed the brand.

      • Jessy S says:

        And it is interesting that you mentioned the US Government, Wolf. The reason is because for those that believe in the “Q” movement, there are pretty damning charges that Facebook is a CIA operation with Mark Zuckerberg as the current front man.

        • Petunia says:

          If it was invented in a garage or a dorm room, most likely it was govt sponsored. They love that narrative, sounds better than it came out of ATT or MIT.

        • kitten lopez says:

          glad you’re back— for where ELSE is there to go on this earth that you can have even a facsimile of a really interesting fxcking conversation ANYMORE?
          you and i were made for times like this, homegirl.
          things are starting to get good, real good….
          (huuuuge smile)

        • The Q movement is total BS. That stuff goes beyond irrational.

        • Ed says:

          Do people here subscribe to the “Q” theories? I would have supposed “no”.

        • Dale says:

          I only recently heard about the Q theories, and I didn’t know what any of them are, until now.

          But it does seem as though FB is made-to-order for CIA purposes. And best of all the information is given up willingly. Win-Win.

      • Edward Walsh says:

        Noone mentions the main media who are anxious to limit Facebook by whatever means they can because there are many contributors on Facebook that reveal how scandalous some of the mainstream media are acting in the interests of one political party so as to distort the real facts facing America. The real issues are hidden by both political parties and the public taxpayer is led by the hand over the cliff (with an intentional non-disclosure or deliberate fake news to alter the real agenda) and nobody is accountable for malfeasance). That is how I see it, my friends.

    • The major stock indexes are 600 to 1,000 percent overvalued. Dow to russell 2,000.

  2. Latirus says:

    When you are in Facebook you are not buying things, so ads are less profitable than Google ads. I tried both.

    • Resting says:

      That’s why Google AdWords is much more expensive. I’ve had a lot of success getting people to my website using Facebook ads. Getting them to convert however is an art and a science.

  3. Double D says:

    I read an article a while ago about Tesla’s practice of hiring overseas workers (importing them from places in Europe) where they would come over here & work on a temporary visa. It was all set up through an outside agency Tesla dealt with. The article detailed the story of how Tesla would force these workers to work long hours 6 days a week far below the standard rate of pay for a U.S. worker with no benefits. This one poor guy suffered a serious on-site accident in Tesla’s Fremont, CA plant. He was racked up with multiple fractures after a fall. So what do they do? They do nothing. He’s left to fend for himself & sent back home. Damaged goods & discarded. Now unable to work & unemployable back home with medical bills he can’t pay.

    Musk’s good fortunes can all be traced back to the U.S. government for subsidizing an unprofitable business model. Maybe he’ll finally get his just due.

    • Javert Chip says:

      This story is difficult to accept at face value, especially considering California’s very strict labor laws.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Javert Chip,

        I don’t know if Tesla hired these foreign workers, but there are scandals in California of this type, including a Chinese company that set up shop here, BYD, to make electric buses. It brought in Chinese workers and paid them something like $1.50 an hour. Buffett is a big investor in BYD. Of course, this came out in 2013 and turned into a scandal, which I covered at the the time…


        • DF says:

          Interesting on the BYD worker scandal.

          Another, more recent BYD scandal is Albuquerque returning all of the BYD battery electric buses they bought for the ART BRT project because they didn’t meet the promised specs for safety, range, etc. Instead, ABQ is now buying diesel buses for the ART.

        • polecat says:

          So did Buffet drop BYD like a hot, ‘broken rice bowl’ ?

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Nope. At least not at the time.

        • Jessy S says:

          Warren Buffet is lucky that Barack Obama was still in office at the time of that BYD scandal. Had it been the Trump Justice department or even Romney, he would have been wiped out. Yes I know the latter is a loser, but there would have been pressure from the American people to do something and Romney would have wiped out Buffet.

  4. Jack says:

    This Article actually struck a cord with me!
    ( reality is most wolfie’s articles do:) ).

    But yes, it’s heartening to know that the Average American citizen is Not satisfied with his / her government’ s performance on a wide specter of issues Not only the Economy.

    This definitely gives hope to the western democracy to peel the rotten layers of Fake pretentiousness that we’re doing “ just fine” and start actually Forcing change.

    There is a good book that I’ve been reading by Kishor Mahbubani called ( has the West lost it?). While the book writer argues that the pendulum has swung back in favor of China & India and the other E7 economies, and bases his argument around the fact that the above mentioned countries had a larger portion of Economic output throughout written human history bar the last 200 years , I find the the window of change to a more cohesive world hasn’t closed yet ( provided we get rid of Musk!! No just kidding!)

    Provided we look carefully upon our mistakes and depart from the denial and undertake to look after our people and extend the hand of friendship to all other nations ( Tariffs and wars don’t qualify as good gestures! )

    But again I truly enjoyed reading this one, thank you Mr. Wolf, don’t walk on water without your halo! :-]

    • Thor's Hammer says:

      Jack, if the average American is so dis-satisfied with his government, why don’t they just vote in one that satisfies their needs? Seems like if they lived in a Democracy they would do so!

      Not easy when the electoral circus only represents the interests of a small ruling class who use their control of the mass media and purchase of political representation to insure that their interests are the only choices available and that all the spoils of wealth and empire fall into their hands.

      “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

      “Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society” “The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves only a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom”

      Benito Mussolini:

    • Ian says:

      We tried the old forcing change angle with brexit. See how that is turning out.

  5. Iamafan says:

    Did you forget iconic name brand Kraft?
    And how about Watren Buffett?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Folks still respect their ketchup, it seems. These Americans are not necessarily investors: Kraft Heinz is in 14th place, down 1 from last year. But also, the poll was taken before the latest debacle hit the news.

      • Mean Chicken says:

        Heinz ketchup received the lowest rating amongst 5 or 6 others in a well respected taste test from a couple years ago.

        • Juanfo` says:

          I think they changed the formula, now it has a taste that is more acrid. Not what I remember from when I was a kid. Used to be you had to hold that glass bottle forever to get the ketchup out it was thick. Now it just runs out like water.

        • Enquiring Mind says:

          Heinz ketchup fits into a segment of ‘quantity has a quality all its own’.
          Brands that got big in past years have managed to hang on by buying others, buying shelf space and otherwise keeping their product in view of the public.

          When the choice appears to a consumer as Heinz, for example, versus Brand X, it is very easy to go with what is familiar. That may be due to various reasons. Accessibility, transaction costs (real; societal as in Ooh, you bought Brand X so you need to leave our clique), habit, lack of alternatives. Those add up to a type of quantity or brand equity mass that is hard, but not impossible, to diminish.

          An axiom in business is to be either the largest or second largest. The smaller ones either are me-too, capital-constrained or otherwise without enough excitement and potential upside for the juice to justify the squeeze. If you can acquire that market leader and defend it while continuing to grow then you can cash in elsewhere.

          That is difficult for some companies, witness Anheuser Busch, in industries ripe for consolidation. Some industries get an extra push courtesy of their regulatory climate, change in international competitive climate and other factors.

          Back to ketchup, I look at the label to see the ingredients. I steer away from those brands that have stuff I don’t like, such as HFCS or transfats. Trader Joe’s makes an organic ketchup that is tasty, for those infrequent occasions at home that indicate that particular condiment.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, New Coke also won all the taste tests back in the 1980s.

        • polecat says:

          Personally, I prefer the silvery sheen of Hunt’s on my fries ..
          Whenever I think of Heinz .. what always comes to mind is “Don’t Taze Me Bro !” Kerry ….

  6. RD Blakeslee says:

    Tesla is … shipping Model 3s to China … because demand has dried up in the US.

    Problems are cropping up there, too. According to Reuters, China has suspended customs clearance for Tesla Model 3 imports: Caixin.

    And it’s not surprising that four of the ten top-ranked firmas are either family or employee owned. In my little microcosm here, locally owned (mom and pop) stores offer much better service than the chain stores do.

    • Cynic says:

      True about some real family businesses, but not all.

      Running my own tiny business, I actually do work for free – I have great margins. If you are nice to me, I am very nice to you…..

      On the other hand, dealing with horrible, ghastly, unmentionable corporations, I’ve had some very good treatment by their staff who are simply decent decent people and bend the rules.

    • Jessy S says:

      There are also problems in North America. Apparently there is a drainage issue with Tesla Model 3s where dirt gets trapped in the underbody panel in the back of every Tesla Model 3. It may have contributed to bumpers falling off the backs of the cars following heavy rains.


  7. Unamused says:

    The US government ranks last largely because it is corrupted by so many others on the list, plus many others not on the list, like the MIC, who naturally prefer not to be visible. Having been founded on genocide and slavery it’s hard to rise in the rankings, despite huge successes like ending slavery, adopting programs like SS and policies like citizens rights, when it shoots itself in the foot with things like Citizens United and by consistently selecting a parade of Pinocchios for high office, like the Cheeto Benito tracked by WaPo. Edward Bernays may be rotting in his grave but he still stinks . . .

    Ew, you got me started and there’s no way to finish. I’ve wasted a lot of time on this comment and now I’ve ended up deleting the profound insights, the dark histories, and all the really juicy parts. Serves me right for having fallen for it instead of taking up competitive drinking.

  8. IdahoPotato says:

    “The four parties of any business in order of importance are customers, employees, community and stockholders.”

    – Gen. Robert E. Woods the chief executive and chairman of Sears, Roebuck from 1939-1954.

    Patagonia and L.L. Bean get it.

    • Unamused says:

      It says something that the Sears Tower is now owned by the Blackstone Group, and what it says really isn’t very nice at all, but your quote from Woods makes it quite plain why the financiers had to make a point of taking out Sears.

      I am unable to properly express my disappointment that the Eloi Electorate rated Amazon so highly, in view of what it is doing and is going to do to them, so I will leave it at that.

    • Enquiring Mind says:

      The Woods got inverted by many companies, looking at owners first. Not surprisingly, the customers and employees were the first to suffer and exit. I know of a company that stuck to the ‘owners first, dammit’ approach while shrinking, downsizing, repositioning and a few other -ings. They are barely hanging on as a mere shadow of their former incarnation.

      There are probably not any green bananas in their break room.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      This is great!

      Note that every individual is effectively a small business. Whoever is the source of your pay is your customer and your real boss. Whoever helps you meet the needs of your customer is in the “employee” group. Community is a smaller group but the same idea. And finally, you are most likely your own stockholder. You don’t boost the value of your “stock” by manipulating it, but by meeting the needs of your customers.

    • WSKJ says:

      I have bought from LL Bean since the early 90’s. It stands to reason that merchandisers who sold largely by catalog were ahead of the game (i.e., not being heavily invested in bricks and mortar; and accustomed to sale by mail) when internet retailing exploded.

      However, LL Bean has, just in the last year or so, withdrawn their “unconditional guarantee”, and rewritten their guarantee to cover only the year following purchase; anything beyond that will require negotiating with an LL Bean rep (how good is your story ?).

      This change lessens my loyalty to the LL Bean brand.

      LandsEnd is another retailer-by-catalog, who segued well into internet retailing; I just found by Google (still trusting them with most of my searches) that ESL Investments (Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund) owns a substantial majority share of LandsEnd. I buy from them as well as LL Bean, and have found them of comparable quality:

      am now torn between wanting to see Eddie Lampert suffer, and wanting LandsEnd- the people who answer my calls, and take my orders- to succeed.

      • Ethan in NoVA says:

        LL Bean was getting crushed by people buying highly used stuff at yard sales, thrift stores and online and bringing it in for replacement. Then they likely resold it online. When those policies were originally enacted people must of had higher moral standards, or less second hand items available.

        I’m sure Craftsman got harmed the same way.

        I side with LL Bean on that one. No way a retailer can handle that kind of policy in modern times.

        • WSKJ says:

          Ethan, I have to think that “getting crushed” is overstating it.

          One hears those stories, and no doubt some of them are true. But the common policy of merchandisers who offer the unconditional guarantee, has been to require a record of purchase, or receipt, to substantiate the purchase by the party asking for recompense.

          Sure, you can abuse the system, and you can abuse the unconditional guarantee; but I doubt that LL Bean was suffering such a high level of fraudulent returns that their change in policy was due to that.

          LL Bean sells quite a lot of clothing and gear that should last 10 years or more. Their guarantee used to cover such things. No longer.

          Their commitment to taking care of their good customers is diminished.

    • polecat says:

      Yes, the rest of the lot get stockholders, and Only stockholders !

  9. Widowson says:

    I’m surprised that L.L. Bean is so high, but maybe I’m just ahead of my time: were they still producing much of their goods in Maine I’d (more…grudgingly) gladly pay the exorbitant prices of their goods, even though at the outlet I frequent in NH basically EVERYTHING is marked down 40%. If you look closely at where all the clothes are made, they seem to originate in countries at the bottom of the human rights ladder, e.g. El Salvador, Myanmar, et al. How they can list women’s flannel pajamas for $64.95 (after obligatory discount: $38.97) when I know the ladies who sewed them made a few bucks an hour (if that) is a tragedy and a farce. I predict that they will plummet down the Axios Harris list in the future if man is, by nature, good. “0

    • Mean Chicken says:

      That Tim Apple fellow built a nice monument on the slave labor arbitrage people call globalism.

    • IdahoPotato says:


      That said, L.L. Bean quality is superior to 90% of the brands out there. Their customer service is superb and their famous canvas totes are still made in Maine.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      Literally the least “dirty” shirts? I agree that it’s hard to find comparable quality from other major brands. And its doubtful that the other brands have better labor practices. I’m not an expert, just an occasional shopper, but I’d love to hear about a company supplying quality everyday clothing with US/Canadian labor.

      P.S. The stuff at the outlet mall is typically discounted b/c it didn’t sell well, and I suppose because it’s easier to handle returns.

  10. Last night on PBS the interview said he didn’t understand the yellow vests, the diesel tax doesn’t amount to much. (In CA they put the gas tax on ref and the voters upheld it) “This is about something else,” he said.

    • Cynic says:

      There is always a tax which is the straw that breaks the proverbial peasant’s back, leading to an ugly disposition on the part of the said rural operative.

      But this is indeed about something else: France has perhaps the most dramatically declining real prosperity of all the significant EU,

      Next up in the donkey heading for the abbatoir stakes, I’d put the UK, where consumption is simply being throttled by commuting and housing costs and the uttermost limits of private indebtedness having been reached.

      • Forgot to add it was the man who won the nobel in econ this year.

      • Stan6565 says:

        Not to worry, move along, nothing to see here.

        Our French brethren will be worn down in a simple evolutionary process – leave them troublemakers to wear themselves out while we in Elysees Palace continue to eat cake. A year,two? Who cares, Mme Macron has money and them plebs don’t.

        As for us in the Blighty, we voted to get out of the fas***st straightjacket, but the numerous layers of parasitic middlemen, rightly worried about their future, are having none of it. Wear us voters out, as we cannot go on forever. The parasites can, as they are latched on first in line for a vig on whatever little money we make.

        I gather, if we don’t have a straight WTO exit out of this pit, but rather any other soft/Canada/Norway/dibldobl permutation so vigorously pushed down our throats by the parasite castes instead, we’ll be having a very overwhelming Englixit, in no more than 4-5 years hence.

    • Maximus Minimus says:

      Even the least informed in France would know about the gas and energy guzzling habits of NAns compared to western Europeans. I suppose, this tax was promoted as saving the planet, and was one virtue signaling non-sense too far, for the struggling population.

  11. Unamused says:

    Milton Friedman argued that a company should have no “social responsibility” to the public or society because its only concern is to increase profits. The Famous Friedman Figleaf does refer to certain ethical caveats, of course, but these are easily ignored and long since forgotten on Wall St. anyway.

    “Yes, the planet got destroyed, but for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.”

    • kitten lopez says:

      you’re here this morning, too? this is the comments section 1970s equivalent of “Bob Ted Alice and Carol” for me. all of us cuddling in the bed together at the end of times.

      now i get your handle and you must be English. or British. Or UK-ish. i read AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH and Postman references Queen Victoria’s “We are not amused” and i smiled and thought of you with an, “of COURSE!”

      if you are ever coming here, please be more American and insist on letting us all know so that maybe we can attempt to change ALL our own lives to meet you and plot things on the low.

      i’d change a WHOLE LOT to meet with you. just not my sex. i was born summer of ’67 and can easily flit through an entire range of gender energies like a flicker of fish scales in the sun.


      • Bankers says:

        Dear madame, if you would be gracious enough to allow me to interject my own opinion on the matter, and that being quite so, well one has the somewhat vague impression that the good sir may in fact be a resident of Cape Ferguson in Quensland. I find I must also apologise openly for participating in the frenzied speculation that we are subjecting a certain commentator to, for he would most certainly not be amused if he were to somehow discover our slightly indiscreet communication.

        Most faithfully yours.


      • Unamused says:

        I’m flattered Kitty, really.

    • wkevinw says:

      Most people engage in confirmation bias. This is the typical misleading use of Friedman’s words. The rest of the statement:

      “In [a free economy] there is one and only one social responsibility of business―to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.”

      “It is the responsibility of the rest of us to establish a framework of law such that an individual in pursuing his own interest is, to quote Adam Smith again, ‘led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.’”

      I have seen several attacks on the statement, e.g. that corporations might capture regulators and make clearly “bad” actions, legal, etc. Friedman wasn’t a complete dolt, so I am pretty sure there are several assumptions unstated in the quote.

      There is an old saying: “it is a lot easier to argue with Professor Friedman when he is not present to argue with”.

      • Unamused says:

        Does Friedman’s Famous Figleaf make you feel better about corporate venality, or does it just give you a Wall St.-approved talking point?

      • Setarcos says:

        There was a classic in which Friedman took down the perpetually frustrated Michael Moore when Moore was a mere buck fifty or so in size. If you haven’t seen it, check out the video.

        Those with high IQs also have a tendenacy towards hubris and many continuously engage in floating abstractions. Their big solutions in search of garden variety problems create really big problems and then the race to the bottom in really on …it is circular and self reinforcing. We are well down the hole now.

        We are in the midst of what could be called the rise of the inquistors. The inquisitor class feed on the crony capitalists who will do their bidding and vice versa. The inquisitor is much worse that the old style free market robber baron, because he or she is convinced that he or she is morally superior. Meanwhile the inquisitor is engaged in their own quests for power, etc. , readily employing whatever means necessary to achieve their “moral” ends. Meanwhile, any actual moral impulses they might have are seen as dark temptations.

        Anyone who believes he or she is actually wise disqualify themselves with the very thought. Anyone who realizes they are not wise and believes they need a protector, will soon find they have found a tyrant instead.

        • Cynic says:

          Quite right: for instance, Mao was rather keen on Big Solutions to Big Problems, as I recall.

          Ditto, Hitler, Lenin…..

          Which is why I admire admire Churchill and his ‘It’s not great, but it beats the alternatives’ line.

      • Bankers says:

        As proposition :

        “In [a free economy] there is one and only one social responsibility of business―to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.”

        – A business is private, it is to have no social responsibility placed on it in terms of positive rights over it

        “It is the responsibility of the rest of us to establish a framework of law such that an individual in pursuing his own interest is, to quote Adam Smith again, ‘led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.’”

        – The framework of law would rightly be one of negative rights, not one of misdirecting personal intent towards an invisible goal.

        The idea that a business’s sole ambition be to increase its profits is flawed. A business/individual must look to increase the profits of others with which it trades, that is a mutual result. That a business itself profits more by achieving that ambition is secondary as it cannot at all exist in a vacuum without that exchange.

        Monetarists might choose Friedman’s words because they feel to control the supply side by supplying it with structure and a market via finance. That is not Smith’s invisible hand though, that is profiteering interlopers who look to control in the pretense of the greater good.

        • wkevinw says:

          If you have a short term view only, what you say is correct. But (in traditional economics anyway), if you have one single (short term) transaction, then yes, the business will be a “profiteering interloper”. Traditionally, the business is keenly aware of the need to keep prices where both its own and its customers’ interests are served (in the long term).

          If you look carefully at what Friedman said, the invisible hand has just been partially explained. (By the way Friedman and Smith were keenly aware of the dangers of the free market , e.g. fraud, monopoly, etc., and wrote extensively about these subjects).

          Friedman knew that most people and businesses can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    • According to Stephens, the radical free-market policies prescribed to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by Milton Friedman and his infamous “Chicago Boys” are the reason Chile is a prosperous nation with “some of the world’s strictest building codes.”

      • EchoDelta says:

        and the death squads organized the disposal of human remains in a very efficient manner that did not inconvenience American capital group ITT.

        Full Kissinger.

  12. kitten lopez says:

    by the way, Wolf… after reading all these books again over the months, i finally appear to actually believe in writing again and this line of yours made me swoon and have to stop reading for ten minutes so it could melt in my WORLD like dark chocolate on the roof of my mouth:

    “Walking on water was just a low-level activity.”

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Glad to hear that you believe in writing again. Simon & Schuster published your books. You have an incredible voice. You SHOULD be writing – and making a living that way again. I said this before, and I’m sticking to my story :-]

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

        I checked, they’re books about saving animals. Which is a noble cause, but not really about economics etc. Great to get anything published these days though.

    • Cynic says:

      Kitten. there is an old Spanish folk song, a ‘malaguena’:

      ‘I want to be a sweetie, melting in your mouth, it’s my crazy dream’

      The group Viguela sing it.

      Keep writing, you have an audience!

  13. upwising says:

    Where did “Everyone’s Favourite Electric Utility,” PG&E (Pork, Graft & Extortion) fall? Was the poll taken before or after the “latest” PG&E-caused deadly inferno?

    • Enquiring Mind says:

      Arthur Hailey (of Airport and Hotel fame) wrote Overload about a utility not unlike PG&E. In his book the name was Golden State Power & Light, often referenced as God’s Power and Light. Utilities run things, and sometimes people get in the way of their plans.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It has to make the top 100 companies in terms of name recognition to be on this list. Outside of California, or outside of Northern California, PG&E is probably not a household name.

  14. JZ says:

    Wolf, NVDA does NOT make the list. Intel is on the list? Qualcomm, Broacom … the entire Semi industry where “silicon” valley got its bame from, is NOT on the list or far below right? If Trump goes to negotiation table with China and tells Xi that US will cut China off google, facebook, netflix, Telsla, apple, air BnB, Uber even microsoft, see if Xi even care. China has all the equivalents. But if Trumo says US will cut off China from Intel chips, Nvda chips,Qualcomm chips, see Xi’s response. The “old” silicon valley is still where the true power is. The “new” silicon valley with google, facebook, linked-in, netflix is as shallow as Kylie Jenner. Yes you can be Billionare before 21 years old, by what you have, everybody else can achieve and replace you. It is this “brand, reputation” or position makes you, NOT something you can do other people can NOT and something people can live without. This all means, Facebook and Netflix can rise or fall by the political manipulation of public “reputation”. Yet the old Semi, Catapillar, Dupont, Jet engines are where true productive power is that nobody can replace and live without.

    • Ed says:

      Yes, that is very true China NEEDS those chips.

      But if is changing. They are working frantically to change it. China’s most recent supercomputers do not U.S. chips.

  15. Escierto says:

    I cannot believe that Delta is at #73, American at #80 and United at #86. They should all be lower than the US government. They are completely worthless organizations that torture their customers. It has gotten so bad that I either drive or I just don’t go. I can’t even imagine flying on a US airline any more.

    The only travelling I do is foreign and I make sure it is always on a foreign carrier. Foreign carriers should be allowed to fly US domestic routes so all these US airlines can go where they deserve – bankruptcy and dissolution!

  16. raxadian says:

    *Microsoft ticked up 2 spots to #9.*

    It may go down later due to all the bugs on Windows 10 we are having, basically at least a big one every two months in average.

    However if Microsoft improves their Windows updates to tackle these problems as fast as possible it may even go up.

    But let’s be honest, it mostly went up because the other companies went down and so made it look better by contrast.

    Heck I would invest in Microsoft this year if I had the dough.

    Funny enough Windows has as much or more user tracking as Google does and their did swich to Chromium when it comes to their web browser. So now you get two companies spies for the price of one.

    At this point Microsoft is basically a spyware and services company, plus games.

    And they are INSULTING their customers who don’t want to move from goof okf “desktop offline Office” yet or leave other stuff for the cloud.

    Yeah, Microsoft rise has more to do with slighty increased profits thanks to Cloud services and how much others companies has sunk that anything they did well.

    But they are making money so…

    *Sony, up 21 spots*

    Some of that might be the fact they are going after scam “pay to win” games and how well they are doing in the hardware and videogame market.

    I love the Nintendo Switch but the PS4 has way way way more games.

    *Tesla’s plunge from grace with Americans, while not as drastic as that of Facebook, shows that the hype isn’t working anymore, *

    That’s what Musk get from not selling the bread when it was still hot. He really should have sold the company at least two years ago. Even people on Tesla blieved they were going to sell, apparently no one dared to yell to the mighty Musk “SELL NOW, NOW NOW!”

  17. Chris Garbor says:

    Poor, poor Enron Musk. He so desperately wanted to be compared to Steve Jobs, but it’s becoming more clear Musk is not a visionary like Jobs, but a snake oil salesman running a soon to be imploding ponzi. Just Youtube: Telsa Model 3 quality issues” to see the list of videos from pissed off Tesla owners. You have to give Musk credit, he fooled lots of eco conscious people peddling an EV car that uses a lot of coal and oil to recharge some highly toxic lithium polymer batteries.

    Regarding Facebook, sadly I owned the stock but sold it after it became painfully clear it’s a broken company run by two thugs: Zuckerberg and Sandberg.

    • Rowen says:

      I always thought he wanted to be Tony Stark, genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.

      I didn’t notice until last week, but Musk actually had a cameo in Iron Man 2.

    • Ethan in NoVA says:

      One friend just got his Model 3 a few days ago (a bit upset over missing the price drops.) I saw a S and a 3 with 30 day tags walking into work this morning. Another friend who is younger has done the math and wants to buy a model 3 as his next car. The Tesla owners I know all still seem enthusiastic. A friend with a X the other night was saying, “I start my car up and there is a notice they just gave me a new feature for free on the screen. He starts shouting with excitement about how no other manufacturer has ever done that, they all want $200 for a map update. I don’t think T is dead yet. Maybe less excitement but we will see what they can do in the future. They definitely left an impact.

  18. macpl says:

    Regarding Tesla, have I missed out the article with an analysis of Q4 accounts or it was not conducted and publish this time?

  19. Lion says:

    Concerning SpaceX Dragon capsules, Musk has promised that astronauts will ride to the launchpad in a Tesla. So he needs to keep the company going a little longer.


  20. kitten lopez says:

    indirect compliment about how Wolf’s eclipsed Walter Cronkite around here…

    so i’m telling James about the expected influx of millionaires from the multiple IPOs trying to cash out, and how twitter alone made 1600 millionaires and it’s expected to scrape out the last of this city’s soul. James got tense, then stopped and turned on his way to the gym and asked, “so did WOLF talk about this?”

    “no, i’m reading the Times.”

    he exhaled, relaxed and said, “then i’m not gonna worry about it. it’s all talk. stocks could crash before the lock out period so i don’t wanna hear about it. it’s just more doom porn.”

    and he was out the door with a bounce.

  21. Petunia says:

    Totally agree with Wegmans and Amazon being great companies.

    As for the FANGs, how could you not mention Electronic Arts, voted the worst company in America two years in a row, a well deserved distinction. My other pick for bad guys are the cable companies, all of them, very sleazy.

    • polecat says:

      Amazon being a great company ?? Is that sarc ? Seriously ..

      • Ed says:

        They dominate two industries. Online sales, but also cloud computing.

        The way they came to dominate cloud computing, I think, is instructive. They built their own cloud for their own use and did such a robust and clean job of it that they were able to sell the service to others. That they could do that is a sign Amazon knows what it’s doing. It’s almost unheard of . . . they were invading new turf but turf one would have expected IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. to dominate.

        One may deplore their dominance as some people deplore Walmart’s (destroyed what remained of many town’s main street), but it’s hard not to respect the skill . . . like Walmart in its day and maybe again, we will see.

        • Ed says:

          I’ve also heard Amazon gets lots of productivity out of their engineers. That’s a virtue for a tech company as the variance in productivity across technology firms is LARGE.

          (Again, they are criticized for the way they pay their warehouse employees, etc. Maybe the other side of the same coin. A little bit driven even ruthless.)

  22. Setarcos says:

    Was doing business with a local office and walking up the only entrance to the office, a ramp. The ramp was covered in ice except where the drip from the roof had melted the ice. So I could try to “skate” uphill on the ice or walk under the drip.

    Yes, our state has a captive audience with regards to getting a drivers license renewed. Their reputation is well earned and unlike my relationhip with facebook and the other even worse corporate culprits, I will be forced to do business with them again… thankfully not for a few years.

  23. Auld Kodjer says:

    I’ve picked up a typo error in the list of the Top 10 companies with the highest-rated reputations, above.

    The number 1 spot is actually spelled: W O L F S T R E E T

  24. Kleen says:

    I never understood the appeal of FB. The last thing I want to do it’s to post online everything about my life, pictures, likes, political view, for all to see it and have all of it out there forever.

    I feel like we barely have any privacy anymore, we are being monitored 24/7 by our phone, toll tags, credit cards, etc. So, when I get a chance to have some privacy at home, the last thing on my mind is to give that away as well.

    What’s even worse, parents exposing their kids privacy on FB. Before kids turns 18, their life is already out there… forever!

    Who profits from it? Not you!

    • Unamused says:

      =>I feel like we barely have any privacy anymore

      Do you prefer to be exploited, manipulated, or maligned? FB guarantees these options and more to all of their customers – the ones who pay them for your personal information and are unlikely to have your best interests at heart.

      It may interest you to know that despair.com has issued a Social Media Venn Diagram, featuring FB in the overlap between Narcissism and Stalking, sortof like Twitter without the ADHD.

  25. Jerry says:

    Horray for Wegmans. I last shopped there about two decades ago. Even then, it was pretty darn good. I remember the ones in Rochester had all sorts of funny names like: MEGAWEG, ghettoWEG, SecretWEG, usually denoting things like location or size or some other oddities.

  26. Thor's Hammer says:

    But–but—- How do you expect to have an adequate Social Credit score to be able travel by airline or qualify for a home mortgage if you don’t join Faceciabook and build up your profile?

  27. kitten lopez says:

    ….wow… i just got dogpiled with LOVE! thank you. i wasn’t expecting that. i feel like i had a surprise “Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice” party that even hours later got even waaaay better than the morning cuddle with Unamused and Petunia.

    thank you thank you thank you!

    and Cynic, with this: ‘I want to be a sweetie, melting in your mouth, it’s my crazy dream’ you have to change your handle. it cannot possibly fit! it’s a lie. but again we all already know cynics are the fluffiest of loves.

    as for me, writing anywhere but graffiti’ing here as long as Wolf will curate my rants so i’m not “cancelled” on a routine basis? nah, no dice. no more time for me wasting my time writing to the air; it’s deadly as hell out there and soooo not the right time for reflection and planning; it’s a time for DOING plotting scheming TRYING things out screwing up and trying something else because everything else is taken over.

    i’ve gotta find a religious hopeful form of punk. where fxck you is pure beauty. you know my mom didn’t know what to do whenever i told the truth about being bad because she was torn punishing me when she didn’t wanna punish me for saying the truth and facing punishment. i’m lucky, you know?

    what you wish for me so kindly, i already have HERE. it’s more fun to write to actual someone rather than promoting myself and having to come up with something on a regular basis; kills it. like why Wolf won’t do paywalls or work to promote himself and make more money. for what? to what end?


    and at this point, it’d be an ego trip to write when i see plans/ideas for acting on, and sitting writing ideas to thin air would be only for me and then leave me in despair that if i cannot get past smelling my own breath all day then how can i EVER hope that humanity will do the same? in a world where so few are actually DOING testing risking creating NEW things anymore and i still have the grrrr to DO and try and inspire OTHERS to also do.

    (but yes. i’m smart enough to take notes soon “just in caaaase…” there is ever a proper useful time to write that will help actually motivate others to try new things and not just read fantasize and watch youtube videos about ’em. /

    even Wolf is a part of the “fxck you” troglodite underground counter culture that i am going to work on helping emerge, where we may need to write ideas/experiments/lessons down to disseminate them in detail for those who realize life is not a 30-second montage and pound their fingers like Paolo did and we all must again. my folks were counter culture bad asses… i grew up around this energy… writing is too comfortable for me right now. i must get the stomach aches again. i’m going to meet the girl in the store where the landlord would even take a dime. i’m thrilled to hear of HEART, where she passes on her good fortune by not taking commissions; something between folks that finally bypasses the tech intermediaries, although they’ll try and get in on this i’m sure. but for now i’m gonna go try and see what’s what tomorrow after the gym.)

    wow. thanks. this IS writing! why does it have to be “for” anywhere other than HERE? there’s a LOT of real cool stuff percolating here. a lot of first rate thinkers philosophers entrepreneurs and loves park their best thoughts here. this is one of the only two places online that doesn’t make me feel disgusted with myself for wasting my life. why spray myself out to a diffuse atomized audience who just reads me in bits from their deadening cubicles with horrible light and plants that cannot die? i become mere entertainment. a waste of energy and what i can DO.

    nah. people here DO things. read books on paper and have attention spans and heart and skills and can use their hands and wanna use their time here and their powers to make others’ lives good and decent.

    where else is there to GO??? i mean really. even dipping in for a quick innocent hit of the porn they’ve got now will leave you shivering in a corner in the fetal position for what it’s all come down to.


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