Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

I was asked last night why the "left" finds the word "corporation" to be evil. I asked the person to clarify what he meant by the "left" and whether he used the word "evil in ecclesiastical context. So began that part of our conversation.

A corporation is not a living, breathing thing. It is created by statutes and consists of a piece of paper. A corporation has no national loyalties. Its loyalties are to its shareholders. A for-profit corporation’s morality is shaped by its reason for existence—profit. The reason individuals form corporations are to sell stock (profit) and to shield themselves, with the corporate veil, from liability (protect profit); think of Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak.

In this country, anyone with the money can purchase shares of stock. Stockbrokers do not check customers’ passports, only their credit ratings, and are glad to buy for American, Brit, Canadian, Chinese, Saudi, or Yemeni. By the same principle, a corporation may be chartered under the laws of Delaware or Indiana, but has no national loyalty. The corporation follows the dictates of its board of directors. The board is elected by shareholders based upon numbers of shares owned.

Because a corporation consists of a piece of paper and its minions are protected by the corporate veil, the most heinous of acts can go unpunished. The deaths of anywhere from 3,500 to 25,000 people were blamed on Union Carbide’s operations in Bhopal, India, in 1984, when a disaster caused by management decisions ended in clouds of poison gas released by a plant. In 2010, eight Indian managers and directors were sentenced to two years each. One of the eight already had died. Other corporate entities similarly have been responsible for disasters and their directors—the people who make the decisions and rake in the profits—have, for the most part, escaped punishment. Enron, the 2007 bank melt-down, etc., are other examples.

An entity that enjoys autonomy without concomitant responsibility for its actions should not be allowed to exist. Otherwise the one or two top percent of holders of wealth benefit at the expense of the rest of us.–Mark Small, 3/11/11


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