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Are Corporations really evil?

Was Frankenstein's Monster to blame, or Dr. Frankenstein himself?
People continually bash corporations for doing what corporations do.

Nobody bashes sharks, piranha, or crocodiles for doing what they do, which is eating.

If I put a Tiger in charge of a lamb at night for safe keeping, should the tiger get blamed in the morning for the inevitable?

To me this is like blaming the IRS, FBI or the CIA for things they do. Keep in mind they didn't create themselves, Congress created them, oversees them, regulates them, and funds them.

However, I don't blame Politicians for doing what politicians do either. What should I expect from a pig but a grunt?

I blame the American public, but I see no value in scolding, shaming, or bashing Americans, this just alienates them and drives away.

In order to get people on your side you have to encourage them to do a better job. Not by whining, but by positive reinforcement.
Are Corporations Part of the Natural Word? 17.Jul.2004 22:37

nomad

Notwithstanding the status of "personhood" awarded to corporations in the 19th C. agenda of expanding capitalist empire, dutifully passed by the U$ $upreme Court, _sirius_ can clarify her/his proposition by explaining how corporations are seen to be analogs to evolutionary biodiversity.

That's Natural 17.Jul.2004 22:45

nomad

world

Creationism vs. Evolution. 17.Jul.2004 23:08

sirius

If I'm not mistaken The US isn't the only country that conducts business on the planet. Sony, BMW, British Petroleum, etc, got their start somewhere other than America.

My point was not to draw an equivalent between a corporate entity and a species other than each has certain behavior traits that we call instinct.

However, there are many similarities. Corporations eat (raw materials), shit (waste material), breathe (sell stock), hunt (compete in the marketplace), reproduce and bare offspring (mergers and spin-offs) and die (chapter 11).

Corporations are more like a "Death Star" run by people inside trying to perform their own little job they are given by someone slightly higher up who hasn't a clue what's going on either.

Corporations have the rights of people, and a lot of them behave like psychotics. So, not guilty by reason of insanity. Just lock them up so they can do no harm. No blame games.

My only point was that blaming anything for doing what comes naturally is a waste of time, and misdirected.

Blame should be reserved for what created them in the first place, and the blame should be positive and constructive because that is the only real way you get things done.

Corporations are run by human beings. Telling them they are bad people just because they are trying to make a living doesn't do anything but alienate these people.

Whining at them will make them tune out.

Persuade the creators (the American public) to make the necessary changes. Otherwise you will just get more of the same.

if i were to indulge this logic.... 18.Jul.2004 03:12

fahko

and also if i were to indulge this horrible injustice: which is to treat a collection of machines and greed as a being with rights, in short; if i were to believe in our corporate entity law, which was based on an error or greed(a judge based a ruling on a summary of a case which had nothing to do with the case that was summarized, corpoate entity law was somehow created over a ruling on the position of a sign or fence post) then i would have to say that i am being hunted daily by these entities, their bait (ads) is everywhere and its poisoning my mind and vision... self-defense is only natural in my position...

they should return to being chartered; theyve bought off the govenrment and they make people assume that working for corporations is the only way to make a living.

You might properly blame the U.S. Supreme Court 18.Jul.2004 08:01

Dance

and perhaps the "Founding Fathers" who created it.

In 1886, referencing the post-Civil War 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the basis, the Supreme Court erroneously declared that corporations are guaranteed "equal protection" of the law because, they said, corporations are "legal persons" and are thereby guaranteed the protections of the U.S. Constitution. Coincidentally, there were some elements of that declaration that were similar to the 2000 S. Ct. ruling in Bush v Gore. (Eg., in both cases the justices did not acknowledge which of them wrote the Court's ruling. Apparently in both instances, the author or authors were overcome by exceptionally uncommon modesty.)

Personally, I don't how we could ever set up a system with better oversight of the court. -- Actually, Congress can impeach justices for improprieties (such as participating in cases where they have a conflict of interest, I would think - a reason that both Thomas and Scalia should have recused themselves from Bush v Gore), if enough members of Congress are willing (which pretty much requires that a majority of Congress not have the same conflict). -- But, with the current system, the S. Ct. can, and does, overstep its authority - reaching beyond the scope of its Constitutional authority, or issuing a ruling that is clearly inconsistent with the law. And there is no way - save action by the Congress - to stop or overturn this.

In most cases, Corporations are chartered by a state. The state legislatures are responsible for the laws that are supposed to restrict them and for seeing to it that those laws are obeyed by the corporations and enforced by the state's executive branch. They have largely abdicated these responsibilities by diminishing and eliminating regulations over the last century. Of course, the more powerful corporations became, the more they were able to intimidate and buy off politicians to change laws or not enforce them. This in turn allowed corporations to become even richer and more powerful, and more controllers of the economic and political systems rather than functions of those systems. - The largest corporations have become so powerful, in fact, that today they are getting the nations of the world to ratify international trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT that supersede national sovereignty with provisions such as the establishing of trade tribunals that meet in private and have the "authority" to fine nations for violation of those trade agreements.

I agree that calling corporations "evil" is a rather useless exercise. Americans see them as an essential part of our society and seem to generally accept the "necessity" of protecting the largest of them - with bailouts such as the ones for Chrysler and the Savings and Loans. One can say that corporations are not a part of the natural world, not a part of "God's plan", that people did survive before corporations existed. But no one born or alive today in the "developed" world has lived without them. Corporations are correctly seen as a fundamental part of our economic life. Fortunately, people in general do seem to be conscious that corporations are often abusive, but, at this point, to be willing to substantially change the corporate system or abolish some (or all) corporations would require a leap of faith for most Americans.

For people to demand changes to the present and future role of corporations, they will have to be educated as to the history of the purpose, role, and regulation of corporations. And they will have to be presented with workable alternatives to the present system that will seem to offer advantages over the current system. The main problem with this is probably getting a word in edgewise when the primary media are controlled by and are glutted (often deliberately) with the mind-numbing messages of the same huge corporations needing to be subjugated to popular authority.

it's true when they say every american needs to see this film... 18.Jul.2004 09:40

this thing here

in answer to the question posed in the title, please see the film "The Corporation", and make up your own mind as to whether people are the problem or the corporate business model. if you're looking for black and white conclusions, you may have a difficult time...

Attacking Corporations Is Stupid! 18.Jul.2004 10:23

Ted

The problem is not the corporate entity, it is PRIVATE wealth, that drives greed an inequity in society. By directing so much energy into attacking "evil corporations," progressives are completely missing the boat.

Who would want to go back to the days of Mercantilism in the 16th-18th centuries, when distribution of wealth was even MORE inequitable, and nations sought PRIVATE individuals like the five banks of Rothschild to finance wars, empirical forrays, etc.?

The corporate entity basically created a mechanism by which the PUBLIC could pool capital to achieve productivity, without the risk of being financially ruined. During the era of (semi) responsible governance, the regulatory system reacted to abuse of this by prohibiting monopolies and creating oversight from the public. The corporate entity could also be found liable for lack of compliance to the law in civil court, just like an ordinary human being.

The problem is with what economists call absentee ownership. The great economists would turn in their graves at the thought of the Enron and Worldcom scandals. The problem is also a deliberate effort by many Republicans to "deregulate" business in order to allow for the selective looting of corporate (i.e. shareholder) dollars over time. People like Ken Lay end up receiving extraordinary sums of wealth, and in turn can use that to make private donations to right-wing think tanks and PACs that, in turn, reward politicians who otherwise would not be able to get elected based on their ideas and intellect. The reinforcing cycle is in place.

Unfortunately, people are too damn stupid to educate themselves and deconstruct the problem to know where to focus their energies. We need transparency laws governing soft money. We need an indepedent SEC chairman. We need to stop laws that effectively allow for monopolies, as with Clear Channel.

excellent discussion sparked here 18.Jul.2004 12:52

politics as impossible

This article poses the question "Are corporations really evil?" but the ensuing discussion raises several questions/issues to be distinguished from the original question as posed in the title. And the questions/issues/answers range from the ivory-tower detachment of unemployed philosopher-kings to the practicalities and actualities of politics USA 2004.


First, "Are corporations really evil?" This question lies in the trickiest area of philosophy, namely, ethics. The only way I know to approach such questions is to cut to the quick. Whatever your opinion of Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, as they have come down to us through the ages, have a way of cutting through the crap. He said, "By their fruit ye shall know them" -- and then something about cutting down the trees that are found to bear poisonous fruit. But the question remains whether corporations are intrinsically evil, so that the phenomenon of corporations (even if an occasional "good" corporation manages to subsist here and there) must be modified or brought to an end, or is it simply that some corporations have strayed, like sinners in the analogy with human beings, and those "bad apples" need to be tossed out so as to save the bushel? This is the old familiar question of reform versus revolution. But, in fairness, we have to observe that there is no revolution without prior reform, (and, possibly, no lasting reform without revolution), and also wherever revolution occurs, it seems to immediately require some reform just as the old pre-revolutionary society did -- although not all reform is toward the "left" as can be seen in China's turn toward the Orwellian Animal Farm.

Myself, I think that it is obvious that the post-modern corporation is without redeeming social value and is best termed as what it is, namely "evil" -- for want of a more appropriate word. But we still cannot escape the question of reformism, which presents as whether the global hegemony of capital is capable of evolving, through such reformist measures as restructuring corporate and related financial law, or whether reformist movements are bound to fail and, ultimately, there is no way around a global confrontation of humanitarian interests versus global capital resulting in the inevitable collapse and downfall of capitalism (including all corporations). As a practical matter, the reformists and the revolutionaries are thrown together, because the only way to advance things in the here-and-now is to advocate reform -- leaving it to history to decide whether the reforms can work or are doomed to fail and ultimately have value only as furthering the creation of transitional forms of what will, at some point in the future, become the new social/economic forms of a "post-revolutionary" society. Thus, whether you believe that capitalism is doomed to fail in any and all of its morphings or incarnations, you have to support the reform of corporate law that has been promoted in the U.S. primarily by Ralph Nader and (in more global context) by conversations taking place in and around the World Social Forums. (I skip the question as to whether voting for Nader, as opposed to listening to Nader, actually contributes to advancing Nader's proposed solutions to the issues that he brings into our progressive world of discourse -- small though that may be compared to the great rotten universe of major media and major party "reality".)

On this question, about whether corporations can be reformed or must be flushed (along with all other manifestations of global capital), I refer anyone to two excellent sources: (1) For the revolutionary view-point (which also includes many reformist ideas and proposals), I suggest Joel Kovel's THE ENEMY OF NATURE ("The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?") and, more generally, all the books that can be found at Amazon.com in the "eco-socialism" list put together by Walt Contreras Sheasby. (2) For the more "reformist" (although, from any neo-con standards, revolutionary enough to be found guilty under the PATRIOT Act), I suggest the Website:

 http://www.davidkorten.org/

and also Website (titled "OUR TEXTS"):

 http://www.alternativy.ru/engish/texts.htm

Second, "Are corporations living systems ("analogs to evolutionary diversity")?" The best explanation of living systems theory, so far as I know, is Fritjof Capra's THE WEB OF LIFE, in particular, "Key Criteria of a Living System" at page 161, and so forth, Anchor Books paperback edition, 1997,

Third, "Don't corporations simply perform as designed, that is, aren't corporations like machines that function as designed by their human creators?" This question has been put as a question of "blame" -- "sirius" saying, as follows:

"My only point was that blaming anything for doing what comes naturally is a waste of time, and misdirected. Blame should be reserved for what created them in the first place, and the blame should be positive and constructive because that is the only real way you get things done. Corporations are run by human beings. Telling them they are bad people just because they are trying to make a living doesn't do anything but alienate these people. Whining at them will make them tune out."

So the question appears framed as follows: "How do we go about educating the people who are running and staffing the corporate structure of global capital?" I refer to the comments of fahko, Dance, this thing here, and, Ted. I cannot disagree, or find fault with, any of what has been said in those comments. I would add, however, that Kovel (ENEMY OF NATURE) presents cogent argument that such educational reform of the corporate personnel of global capital cannot be effective or successful because of the underlying nature of capitalism. (Again, compare that view with Korten's radical reform proposals, that are not too far from what Nader advocates.)

Also relevant, article by Robert Kurz, "The New Historical Simultaneity" -- recently posted (as a link) here at PIMC (as translated into English) by "mbatko", a source of many excellent and relevant translations.

Excellent discussion sparked here.

CAPITALISM is REALLY EVIL 18.Jul.2004 13:19

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stop using your computer 18.Jul.2004 14:19

forward thinking

anti capitalists, anti corporates, anti big bizzers need to remember one thing - where did your computer come from, and how about that internet connection?
Im sure some will come back with the argument that they are using the library or something just as noble, but seriously. We wouldnt all be posting to forums such as this without these "big corps" - so I applaud you original poster.
Dont get me wrong here people, I am in total agreement that there are evil business doers in "Amurka" - but in all honesty there is also a lot to be appreciated.

Computers are not "provided" by Capitalism 18.Jul.2004 16:07

<

"We wouldnt all be posting to forums such as this without these "big corps""

bullshit.

we can make and utilize our own computers/networks (e.g. from recycled/remanufactured hardware),

and there is plenty of freely-available and shared software available.

did Corporations invent The Wheel?

the point is: Capitalism, who owns/controls large mass means of production, and who is accountable for the consequences of those mass productions / mass distributions.

alternative: create/network your own means of production and distribution. alternative media/communities/organic agriculture/locally-owned retail-production etc.

action: dismantle the charters of Corporate Personhood granted by current commerce and municipal laws. abolish "civil rights" for Corporations, and restore them for The People.

don't stop using your computer (at least not for THAT reason) 18.Jul.2004 18:33

NE Buddy

Come now, "forward thinking"! This is pretty silly ass stuff! Let's even grant you for a moment the premise that "corporations make computers," and even, "corporations are a precondition for the existence of computers," which, as others have pointed out, is a most dubious proposition. Am I going to refuse to ride my bike across the Hawthorne or Burnside Bridge because I learn that "corporations built" or played a role in building those bridges? Or even that corporations were in some way indispensable to their being built when and where they were?

You should read a little of that much maligned bogeyman (in this country, at any rate), Karl Marx. He explains at great length the concept of "contradictions." Capitalism, and capitalist institutions, produce much that is laudable and potentially important contributions to human progress. But the system of social relations under capitalism throttle this progress, and see to it that most of the practical benefits of these technical and material innovations never redound to the benefit of most ordinary people.

Take "labor saving machinery," for instance. When was the last time you heard of "labor saving machinery" actually shortening the work week for ordinary workers, as opposed to just putting them out of work altogether, which under capitalism means going hungry? Unions and social activists have done a lot to shorten the work week, but machinery alone never did, and certainly capitalists never did. Does that mean that these activists should have refused to avail themselves of the practical advantages afforded by such new technologies for their own ends? Nonsense! Of course not! It means, rather, that they had to fight to get the social elites to loosen their death grip on the social wealth and the profits produced by these new innovations, and share them with the ordinary workers who actually run the economy on a day-to-day, assembly line level.

Yes, capitalism produces some marvelous technical innovations. Marx was among the most astute observers of this prodigious capacity of the capitalist system. In that sense, you are right that capitalism is not "inherently evil." But it is inherently limited, and fraught with contradictions. It can produce goods, but it can't distribute them equitably. Corporations can efficiently produce profits, but they can't see that those profits serve socially useful goals, or that the workers by whose sweat the products were created enjoy the fruits thereof. That is why we need to profoundly transform the capitalist system of social relations, so that the machinery that has been born of capitalism can consistently serve human and ecological needs. In doing so, perhaps the rate of innovation will be decreased. It is possible, though not a given. But it is certain that, without such a profound transformation, we will continue to witness the frightening spectacle of modern life, in which, in the words of one philosopher, "the productive forces have routinely become destructive forces," and in which humans, alienated from their own work, become instruments in an economic and social engine for which they are mere disposable parts. It is in this sense that capitalism is truly evil.

No Incentives To Behave Responsibly 18.Jul.2004 19:42

North Portlander

Hanna-Barbera used to have an animated character called "Loopey de Loop", the good wolf. And Harvey had a friendly ghost called "Casper." But a majority of the wolves and ghosts appearing in literature and movies throughout history have been malignant (and yes, I think we've done wolves a disservice because real wolves don't deserve the bad press).

What I'm saying is that there are responsible corporations out there, but -- when it comes to multinationals and syndicates -- they are few and far between. It's a "fox in the henhouse" set-up where, if they are responsible, they are responsible on their own initiative. There are so many temptations and incentives NOT to be responsible and to go for the big bucks at all costs.

There are very few rewards offered for behaving responsibly although I understand plans are in the works to give tax breaks to corporations who don't outsource to foreign countries.

It's like paying a kid to go to bed or do homework, but it may be the only game in town to promote accountability.

No Committment to Requiring Responsible Behavior 19.Jul.2004 06:05

Dance

Corporations used to be chartered for a specific purpose (and for a specified period of time) and were specifically required to serve the community in which they were created. Now, we are told, they are legally derelict if they do not put the financial well-being of their share-holders first.

The social context and the power of a particular corporation or corporations in general are fundamental in determining to what extent corporations will "behave responsibly". But the effects of these forces are manifested in how the laws regarding corporations are written and enforced.

If we want corporations to prioritize a healthy work-place, recyclable products, etc., over maximizing the manipulation of child consumers, assuring the highest possible return to investors, and so on, we've got to get that written into their charters and other laws.

The people - citizens, lawmakers, businesspeople - that create corporations determine their nature. In a capitalist economy, corporations will be influenced to function in and to serve capitalism.

Economic incentives, such as tax breaks that North Portlander mentions, may be a useful reform to cajole preferred behavior. However, UNIVERSALLY SUBORDINATING CORPORATIONS TO THE WILL AND THE SERVICE OF THE PEOPLE WILL REQUIRE AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY UNDETERRABLY COMMITTED TO PRACTICING SELF-RULE.

(and following up on forward thinking's logic - Capitalism HAS done a lot of good; so did Stalin. Nothing is all bad. And before we commit ourselves to solar power, let's remember that just as capitalism gave us computers, fossil fuels and nuclear power have provided humanity with many benefits, including keeping millions from freezing to death. Are we willing to sacrifice all those whose lives have been enriched or preserved by those "polluting" technologies just to have a clean environment?)

No Commitment to Requiring Responsible Behavior 19.Jul.2004 06:24

Dance

Corporations used to be chartered for a specific purpose (and for a specified period of time) and were specifically required to serve the community in which they were created. Now, we are told, they are legally derelict if they do not put the financial well-being of their share-holders first.

The social context and the power of a particular corporation or corporations in general are fundamental in determining to what extent corporations will "behave responsibly". But the effects of these forces are manifested in how the laws regarding corporations are written and enforced.

If we want corporations to prioritize a healthy work-place, recyclable products, etc., over maximizing the manipulation of child consumers, assuring the highest possible return to investors, and so on, we've got to get that written into their charters and other laws.

The people - citizens, lawmakers, businesspersons - that create corporations determine their nature. In a capitalist economy, corporations will be shaped to function in and to serve capitalism.

Economic incentives, such as tax breaks that North Portlander mentions, may be a useful reform to cajole preferred behavior. However, UNIVERSALLY SUBORDINATING CORPORATIONS TO THE WILL AND THE SERVICE OF THE PEOPLE WILL REQUIRE AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY UNDETERRABLY COMMITTED TO PRACTICING SELF-RULE.

(and following up on forward thinking's logic - Capitalism HAS done a lot of good; so did Stalin. Nothing is all bad. And before we commit ourselves to solar power, let's remember that just as capitalism gave us computers, fossil fuels and nuclear power have provided humanity with many benefits, including keeping millions from freezing to death. Are we willing to sacrifice all those whose lives have been enriched or preserved by those "polluting" technologies just to have a clean environment?)

corporate evil and corporate benevolence 19.Jul.2004 11:46

greg snyder

corporations are evil when:

they do not provide basic care of the people who work for them (a decent, living-wage for the work that the workers are doing, heath care, dental, retirement plans, etc.)

when they are top heavy with managers and executives that do not work yet takes huge percentages of the companies' earnings and asset to enrich themselves even more (these individuals are often wealthy to begin with)

when executives are allowed to gamble with pension plan monies or just plain steal them, leaving people who have worked for many years destitute, with no financial stability for their future

when they put the interest and well-being of shareholders and investors ahead of the people who actually do the work

when they do all that they can to pollute the environment, endanger animals, circumvent safety regulations and get out of paying for upgrades which help to protect the workers, the environment, and the public

when they do all they can to manipulate politics to serve their needs and advance their agendas

when they do not pay their fair share of taxes

corporations are benevolent and members in good standing of the community when:

they take care of their workers, don't try to rip them off, treat them as human beings and not as slaves

when they provide child care and flex scheduling to working mothers and others who need it

when they pay their fair share of taxes

when they have reasonable numbers of managers and executives who observe a hands off policy when it comes to employee retirement and benefit packages and who, when they receives bonuses, should not receive bonuses that are excessive, especially when to do so would deprive others of a fair bonus. in other words, everyone who has worked hard should get a bonus, and one that is fair for what he/she has done