It is impossible to have healthy, equitable, and democratic societies when political and economic power is concentrated in a few gigantic corporations. We have created a system that is now beyond the control even of those who created it and whom it richly rewards for serving its ends. – David C. Korten; When Corporations Rule The World
I’ve been waiting for somebody else to write about this but nobody seems willing to put their neck out so I guess I have to.
You see; it’s not rich and greedy people who are ruining our society, it’s rich and greedy corporations that have run amok and are beyond the control even of the people running them. We’ve created a monster that is eventually going to kill us all.
Corporations are supposed to be chartered in the public interest. The first corporations were given charters for a limited time, say 10 years, in order to establish a beach head in a local economy and allow individuals to come in and establish themselves. The intention then was for small owner operated firms to come in and serve the public on a more personal level. Somewhere along the line however
I’d say it started way back in the 1600’s during the colonial era when corporations set up to help develop the new world took on a life of their own and some like the East India Company in Asia and the Hudson’s Bay Corporation here in North America became as powerful, if not more so, that the governments and people they were meant to serve. The East India Company in particular raped and pillaged South Asia for nearly two centuries making its investors back home in England fabulously rich while leaving behind a devastated and impoverished sub-continent that is still struggling to emerge as a viable economy more than 50 years after the divestiture of its holdings.
During the 1980s, under the libertarian policies of Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher governments further abdicated their responsibility by eroding labour laws and deregulating entire industries. Today the chickens have come home to roost. The real power to direct our economy and our society no longer lies in the halls of government, no; now the real power lies in corporate board rooms thousands of miles away from the people they most deeply effect.
If the recent monetary crisis around the world has shown us anything it has been that governments are not really incompetent at fixing the problem so much as they are impotent.
The problem is that corporations, especially the big multinationals, have no interest in governing a people and developing society as a whole. Their only interest is in making money. Or to further quote author David Korten, “In an economy that measures performance in terms of the creation of money, people become a major source of inefficiency – and the economy is shedding them with a vengeance. When the institutions of money rule the world, it is perhaps inevitable that the interests of money will take precedence over the interests of people.” [When Corporations Rule the World]
Even corporate masters who see the problem and try to do something about it are impotent. The corporation itself is more powerful than its directors. In what is called “breach of fiduciary responsibility” if a director of a corporation knowingly makes decision that adversely affects the potential for making money they can not only be summarily dismissed, but also charged with fraud and do hard time!
Think about it. If the director of a multi-national corporation has to decide where to locate a new manufacturing facility what do think they will do? Locate in an area with a high minimum wage and strict environmental regulations or one with no minimum wage and no environmental policy worth mentioning? Regardless of what their own moral compass may say they have a responsibility to generate profits for the corporation and will locate where the potential for financial gain is greatest regardless of human or environmental consequences.
And that my friends, is the true evil of our time. Nameless, faceless corporations act very much like greedy humans but in reality they are not human at all. They are legal shells with one purpose, and one purpose only; to make money and pity the mere mortal who tries to rein them in.