The Corporation: the pathological pursuit of profit and power
Given the recent conversation on government and business on this blog I thought this documentary would be an excellent topic of discussion.
"Since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring began to expose the abuses of the modern industrial system, there has been a growing awareness that profit at the expense of Earth--of individuals, society, and the environment--is unsustainable. Joel Bakan has performed a valuable service to corporations everywhere by holding up a mirror for them to see their destructive selves as others see them. The clarion call for change is here for all who would listen." -Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, a multi-billion dollar company.
DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for psychopathy that the Corporation fits:
What this book and documentary does basically comes from the premise that governments have granted corporations “personhood”. From that, what kind of “person” is a coporation? After examination by psychologists Bakan concludes that the entity is fundamentally psychopathic. How is a corporation’s personality psychopathic? Consider the following:
The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social “personality”:It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism.
The first assertion should be obvious, self-interest is what corporations are all about. As a matter of fact, its custodians are legally mandated to maximize profit to the company or face legal action. That is their job, As Sam Gibara, Chairman of Goodyear Tire, explains, “If you really had a free hand, if you really did what you wanted to do that suited your personal thoughts and your personal priorities, you’d act differently.“ the CEO and the Board Of Directors have a single-minded goal to make money for the shareholders, at any expense.
Which brings us to the second assertion, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful. There are too many examples of harm to the workers and society at large to mention here. One prime example of the absolutely disgusting practice of “dead peasant’s insurance”. I could not believe that companies do this. Large corporations will put out life insurance policies on Average Joe Worker, usually without consent, claim it as a tax write off then collect when you die. Think Walmart, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble are good companies? Good corporate “citizens”? They will profit off your death. Your poor family can’t afford a funeral for you because you made slave-wage earnings at Walmart, sorry, the beneficiary is “Walmart”. Wether or not this practice is legal, I can not think of anything more “inherently amoral, callous and deceitful”. I think that ties nicely to the next assertion that the corporate person breaches social and legal standards to get its way. Its way is to externalize any possible cost, to anyone else, regardless of its effect on anything (except profit, of course). You don’t have to look much farther than the EPA to see this coming. The worst offenders are huge corporations that externalize costs onto the environment and the relative fines are miniscule. To them it is just the “cost of doing business” makes perfect sense financially, very poor sense for everyone that has to live within the constraints of our limited environment.
Guilt? Non existent within corporate culture. As I stated before, the top officials are mandated by law to make decisions for the corporation on behalf of the stockholders: profit. To do otherwise is to shirk your corporate responsibility to the company. Yet these same individuals are mostly shielded from prosecution. Enron, anyone?
What is really scary is the public face that corporations put on in order to keep the goodwill of the populace. They spend billions on advertising and PR in order to put you at ease, McDonalds commercials with athletic people working out in them, promoting a healthy lifestyle. Giving money to various charities that give them further tax breaks, etc. These are “good deeds” by corporations to win your trust, if anything actually cost them on the bottom line they would be yanked in a minute.
So what am I saying? Dismantle the corporate form and lets all be communists and work on the collective farms and such? Hardly. I believe in free-enterprise. Reform and regulation is needed. You have been hearing (probably since childhood, if you live in the US) that government regulation is “bad for business”. Anyone who speaks out is a “godless communist”. Corporations have spent billions feeding this to all of us. Do you know by now why that is?
This form of business has risen in the last 150 years to become the dominant form on this planet. There power now rivals that of government, without regulation this power will increase to overshadow the entities that created them, governments. Want to see what will happen to the average person’s quality of life when this happens and as environmental protections disappear and workers die? Just do nothing, and see what happens.