The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Can "Evil" Corporations Become Conscious Corporations?

I think it would be useful to look at corporations as simple life forms. Money is their food, and they interact with the environment so as to convert resources into energy or tissue. Human beings are cells within that body, and the corporation acts with only the vaguest consciousness. But it is not malevolent--doesn't go out of its way to be evil for evil's sake. Most of its damage is the kind of unconscious behavior animals or even humans engage in: throwing trash out of windows, leaving waste material in the road, eating until it is gorged, concealing its mistakes, maintaining delusion about its effects on the environment. Like societies, they are no better than the component individuals. They are merely forms of social organization, and if we want them to be more conscious, WE must be more conscious as consumers, workers, owners, legislators. The responsibility will always be with us. When we can control our hungers, balance our checkbooks and sustain healthy relationships we will be able to honestly demand that our leaders do the same.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

1 comment:

Clint Johnson said...

As a card carrying laissez faire capitalist pig (I actually don't have a card but how cool would that be?) I want the state to leave business the hell alone.

With that freedom, I also want the state to hold the individual responsible for their actions. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility." (I bet you thought I would paraphrase Uncle Ben there didn't you?)

I've always been uncomfortable with one of the more prominent purposes of corporations; to remove shareholders and decision makers from responsibility for the actions of the company... actions that they ultimately are responsible for.

I understand that, especially when they are massive entities with tens or hundreds of thousands of employees, and many of the stockholders come by way of pension funds... responsibility becomes rather dilute.

But a corporation isn't a living entity, it is a cultural fiction and responsibility should commensurate with actions. (is that an accepted usage of "commensurate"? I like the way it reads when pronounced with a hard 'a' but I think I may be colouring outside the lines with that one.)

If you're the CEO who set the company on the path, or didn't correct path when danger became apparent, the jail time or restitution is yours personally.

If you manage a pension fund and didn't do your due diligence, you personally should come under scrutiny.

If you are the janitor who overheard the conversation and didn't blow the whistle- well, depending on the nature of the crime, there should probably be a little heat but you're standing a long way from the fire.

Sure we still do see some folks sitting in the defendant's chair but not enough in my mind. I lay the blame squarely on law when one of the greater functions of corporations is to take the fall if someone screws up. Sure they say that it is to shelter people when they aren't responsible for the screw up but it has spread far beyond that and I think this distancing of personal responsibility may be the prime reason that these social groupings behave almost like the semi-conscious entity you write about.

I wonder how different it would be if the first function of incorporation was to apportion responsibility for actions of the whole?

I'm thinking that businessmen would probably be a lot more cautious. Looking over the economy, which I still think has more falling to do, would that really be such a bad thing?