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Re: [greenyes] FW: Corporation as Psychopath


I agree with Helen, Alan, Nicky and Michele. Doug, the abstract "challenge"
you describe of society establishing appropriate "checks and balances" on
corporate power is, in practice, often impossible to meet. What corporate
executives can quietly accomplish in a board room, on Wall Street, or with
well-heeled lobbyists and political contributions, can take years of
activist effort to counter--if the activists are successful at all. And the
the success of citizen activist groups and their supporters is predicated
not just on having the time, money, and organizational skills to mount a
successful grassroots campaign, but on their knowledge of what needs
redressing in the first place. You yourself said that we consumers benefit
from a wide array of corporate goods "quite often without us having to think
much about it."

Therein lies the problem. I doubt if one American soda drinker in a
thousand knows the slightest thing about where the aluminum in his or her
soda can came from. When they learn that the aluminum came from
environmentally-destructive bauxite mines half a world away or was made
using hydroelectricity from a dam that inundated indigenous people's homes,
they are surprised, and perhaps feel saddened. It is an overwhelming leap
to translate these amorphous feelings into concrete actions that might, say,
lead to a new bottle bill being passed, or somehow stop Alcoa from building
a new mega hydroelectric and aluminum complex in the Icelandic wilderness.

The consumer ignorance that results from industrial globalization and the
distance of the average Joe from the production process is very frequently
compounded by misleading corporate PR campaigns, and well, just plain lies.

The assumption that it is society's responsibility to reign in corporate
power--rather than a corporation's responsibility to behave morally, is
wrong (not incorrect/wrong, but morally wrong).

Jenny

On 2/25/04 4:59 AM, Nicky Scott at NScott@no.address wrote:

> I'd like to see an example of this cosy lovable corporation - surely it's an
> oxymoron? I think democracy was a good idea in ancient greece and it
> certainly can work on a small scale and also- unfortunately we don't seem to
> have come up with anything that works better - still we end up with
> Presidents in power that not only 'lost' the election but who most people
> did not vote for (or didn't vote because - what a choice!) The point of
> this tangent is to point out that you can really only be accountable,
> transparent and fair in organisations when the pursuit of personal profit is
> removed. You can have big not for profit companies - though they are rare -
> and we need to help develop more ethical not for profit businesses - but as
> long as transnationals corporations are trying to find the cheapest labour
> in the world under regimes who have little concern for environmental issues
> supported by governments (or is that 'that support governments?') - then
> the future is bleak indeed - I'm not relishing the prospect of Siberian
> winters here whilst everyone seems to be blindly buying enormous SUV's.
> We need companies and governments that invest in people and the environment
> - or are we hoping to find another planet to move to (Mars perhaps) - not
> in paying CEO's disgustingly inflated salaries.
> If you think it is bad in the States can I recommend 'the dark heart of
> Italy' by Tobias Jones - to see how Bush is a pussycat compared with
> Berlusconi! He is the richest man in Italy owns most of the television and
> press and has been changing the law so that he himself is not liable to be
> investigated. Happy reading
>
> Nicky Scott
> Community Composting Network
> UK
>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Doug Koplow [SMTP:koplow@no.address]
>> Sent: 25 February 2004 02:58
>> To: greenyes@no.address; amyperl@no.address
>> Subject: Re: [greenyes] FW: Corporation as Psychopath
>>
>> I guess if corporations are pure evil, we can scrap them and look forward
>> to a better world? Come now. One need only look at the poverty and
>> wealth destruction that has occurred around the world in nations where
>> private property rights are not respected. Public institutions with
>> socially-upstanding names to help the poor and educate the population are
>> regularly co-opted by corrupt public officials, destroying the only
>> opportunity that millions of people have of achieving a better life.
>>
>> There are all types of corporations, and they exist in all types of
>> operating environments -- just like, well, governments. And like
>> governments, how corporations function, and whether a specific firm is
>> ultimately a force for good or a force for wanton destruction in its
>> single-minded pursuit of profit, depends directly on whether
>> appropropriate checks and balances are in place.
>>
>> Corporations can be wonderous organizations that blend the financial
>> resources of thousands of investors and the dynamism of hundreds or
>> thousands of workers with wide-ranging skills in the single-minded pursuit
>> of a new product or industry. In Western democracies, these "evil"
>> organizations provide an incredible array of goods and services, quite
>> often without us having to think much about it.
>>
>> Certainly, in an effort to increase profits, problems can and will arise,
>> but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess where and how these
>> pressures will manifest themselves. Companies will try to reduce their
>> costs, in part by shifting or ignoring external costs of production. They
>> will try to increase prices, in part by collusion and monopoly power.
>> They will try to suppress competition, sometimes through illegal means or
>> through crass manipulation of the political process that sets the rules of
>> competition for particular markets.
>>
>> It can be challenging to implement appropriate checks to these pressures,
>> but these challenges are common in most areas of resource access,
>> conversion, or distribution if the stake are high -- regardless of whether
>> this is done by corporations, governments, or well-connected individuals.
>>
>> -Doug Koplow
>>
>>
>> _______________________________
>> Doug Koplow
>> Earth Track, Inc.
>> 2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
>> Cambridge, MA 02140
>> www.earthtrack.net
>> Tel: 617/661-4700
>> Fax: 617/354-0463
>>
>>
>>>>> Amy Perlmutter <amyperl@no.address> 02/18/04 18:08 PM >>>
>>
>>
>>> Corporation as Psychopath
>>> By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
>>>
>>> People ask -- Rob, Russell, the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
>>> What can we do about it?
>>>
>>> We say -- read one book, see one movie.
>>>
>>> Unfortunately, the movie and the book are available now only in Canada.
>>>
>>> But wait -- before you head north of the border -- they will be
>>> available here in a month or so.
>>>
>>> And believe us, it is worth the wait. (Full disclosure -- our work --
>>> the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s -- is featured in the
>> movie.)
>>>
>>> The book is titled: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit
>>> and Power. It is by Joel Bakan (Free Press, 2004).
>>>
>>> The movie is called: The Corporation. It is by Mark Achbar, Jennifer
>>> Abbott, and Joel Bakan.
>>>
>>> We've seen an advance copy of the movie.
>>>
>>> We're read an advance copy of the book.
>>>
>>> And here's our review:
>>>
>>> Scrap the civics curricula in your schools, if they exist.
>>>
>>> Cancel your cable TV subscriptions.
>>>
>>> Call your friends, your enemies and your family.
>>>
>>> Get your hands on a copy of this movie and a copy of this book.
>>>
>>> Read the book. Discuss it. Dissect it. Rip it apart.
>>>
>>> Watch the movie. Show it to your children. Show it to your right-wing
>>> relatives. Show it to everyone. Organize a party around it. Then
>>> organize another.
>>>
>>> For years, we've been reporting on critics of corporate power -- Robert
>>> Monks, Richard Grossman, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Sam Epstein, Charles
>>> Kernaghan, Michael Moore, Jeremy Rifkin.
>>>
>>> For years, we've reported on the defenders of the corporate status quo
>>> like Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker and William Niskanen.
>>>
>>> But Bakan, a professor of law at British Columbia Law School, and Achbar
>>> and Abbott have pulled these leading lights together in a 145-minute
>>> documentary that grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let go.
>>>
>>> The movie is selling out major theaters across Canada. And if it
>>> detonates here -- which in our view is still a long shot -- the U.S.
>>> after all is not Canada -- it could have a profound impact on politics.
>>>
>>> The filmmakers juxtapose well-shot interviews of defenders and critics
>>> with the reality on the ground -- Charles Kernaghan in Central America
>>> showing how, for example, big apparel manufacturers pay workers pennies
>>> for products that sell for hundreds of dollars in the United States --
>>> with defenders of the regime -- Milton Friedman looking frumpy as he
>>> says with as straight a face as he can -- the only moral imperative for
>>> a corporate executive is to make as much money for the corporate owners
>>> as he or she can.
>>>
>>> Others agree with Friedman. Management guru Peter Drucker tells Bakan:
>>> "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities,
>>> fire him. Fast." And William Niskanen, chair of the libertarian Cato
>>> Institute, says that he would not invest in a company that pioneered in
>>> corporate responsibility.
>>>
>>> Of course, state corporation laws actually impose a legal duty on
>>> corporate executives to make money for shareholders. Engage in social
>>> responsibility -- pay more money to workers, stop legal pollution, lower
>>> the price to customers -- and you'll likely be sued by your
>>> shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, puts it this way:
>>> "The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a
>>> shark is a killing machine (shark seeking young woman swimming on the
>>> screen). There isn't any question of malevolence or of will. The
>>> enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those
>>> characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed."
>>>
>>> Business insiders like Monks and Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface
>>> Corporation, the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, lend
>>> needed balance to a movie that otherwise would have been dominated by
>>> outside critics like Chomsky, Moore, Grossman and Rifkin. Anderson calls
>>> the corporation a "present day instrument of destruction" because of its
>>> compulsion to "externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public
>>> will allow it externalize."
>>>
>>> "The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and
>>> waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction,"
>>> Anderson says, as pictures of biological and chemical wastes pouring
>>> into the atmosphere roll across the screen.
>>>
>>> Like Republican Kevin Phillips is doing as he criss-crosses the nation,
>>> pummeling Bush from the right, Anderson and Monks are opening a new
>>> front against corporate power from inside the belly of the beast. They
>>> are stars of this movie and book.
>>>
>>> The movie and the book drive home one fundamental point -- the
>>> corporation is a psychopath.
>>>
>>> Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare runs down a checklist of psychopathic
>>> traits and there is a close match.
>>>
>>> The corporation is irresponsible because in an attempt to satisfy the
>>> corporate goal, everybody else is put at risk.
>>>
>>> Corporations try to manipulate everything, including public opinion.
>>>
>>> Corporations are grandiose, always insisting that "we're number one,
>>> we're the best."
>>>
>>> Corporations refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions and
>>> are unable to feel remorse.
>>>
>>> And the key to reversing the control of this psychopathic institution is
>>> to understand the nature of the beast.
>>>
>>> No better place to start than right here.
>>>
>>> Read the book.
>>>
>>> Watch the movie (www.thecorporation.tv <http://www.thecorporation.tv/>
>> ).
>>>
>>> Organize for resistance.
>>>
>>>
>>> Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
>>> Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com
>>> <http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/> . Robert Weissman is
>>> editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor,
>>> http://www.multinationalmonitor.org
>> <http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/> .
>>> They are co-authors of Corporate
>>> Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe,
>>> Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org
>>> <http://www.corporatepredators.org/> ).
>>>
>>> (c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
>>>
>>> This article is posted at:
>>> <http://lists.essential.org/pipermail/corp-focus/2004/000174.html>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>>
>>> Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber
>>> and Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends
>> or
>>> repost the column on other lists. If you would like to post the column
>> on
>>> a web site or publish it in print format, we ask that you first contact
>> us
>>> (russell@no.address or rob@no.address).
>>>
>>> Focus on the Corporation is distributed to individuals on the listserve
>>> corp-focus@no.address To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your
>>> address to corp-focus, go to:
>>> <http://lists.essential.org/mailman/listinfo/corp-focus> or send an
>> e-mail
>>> message to corp-focus-admin@no.address with your request.
>>>
>>> Focus on the Corporation columns are posted at
>>> <http://www.corporatepredators.org <http://www.corporatepredators.org/>
>>> .
>>>
>>> Postings on corp-focus are limited to the columns. If you would like to
>>> comment on the columns, send a message to russell@no.address or
>>> rob@no.address
>>>
>>
>>
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--Jenny

Jennifer Gitlitz
Research Director, Container Recycling Institute

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