Print Story The Corporation
By jump the ladder (Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:02:28 AM EST) (all tags)
Just finished reading The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Balkan. I highly recommend it if you're interested in politics, society and economics and how they interact. Review inside:

Poll: corporations' power?


His premise is that basically the corporation though useful in many circumstances, has turned into Frankenstein's monster and is too dominant in relation to the state and citizens especially in the US where their money and lobbying power means that politicians run the state on their behalf rather than the citizens. He goes back to the reason that the corporations were set up in the 19th century UKia and USia was for the public good and not to ends in themselves. And as they are legal 'persons', their presonality seems to one of psychopath; charming, ruthless, self-obsessed and inhumane.

Corporate Social Rensponsibility

He gives short shrift to the new notion of Corporate Social Responsibility where corporations are seen as forces for good. The example he gives is my old friend, Giant UKian Oil Company. Corporations embracing CSR, he argues will try and do good only until starts affecting the bottom line as ultimately they are only responsible to their shareholders. GUOC cut its greenhouse omissions by 25% for example but this actually saved it money in the longterm. Whilst it was engaged in being holier than Exxon, broke environmental laws in Alaska through cutting back its maintenence programme as the field there were coming to the end of their lives.


A powerfully argued polemic which is by no means anti-market but pro-regulation and pro-openess of these powerful entities.

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The Corporation | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
WIPO: fucking marvellous by Rogerborg (4.00 / 3) #1 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:46:31 AM EST
As long as you own one.

Metus amatores matrum compescit, non clementia.
Book by DullTrev (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:53:27 AM EST

I'm reading that at the moment. The only problem I've found with it so far (I'm not finished it) is that he's given his one idea (Corporations must act only to increase their profits) then just given lots of fairly obvious examples. But hey, it's still quite a good book.

Also by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 01:03:02 AM EST
In parts a bit similar to Naomi Klein's No Logo where he investigates the Walmart third world sweatshops. Better on the history and philosophy behind the rise of the corporation.

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history by martingale (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 01:28:57 AM EST
It'd be interesting to compare corps with old style guilds.
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
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Have you read Company Man by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #12 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 05:35:19 AM EST
by Anthony Sampson? Very interesting documentation of the rise of corporations.

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Saw the film. Haven't read the book. by Evil Cloaked User (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 01:29:11 AM EST
I presume the book didn't have photos? That was quite a scary moustache to see on a big screen.

You Yerpians just don't get it by MillMan (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 02:26:08 AM EST
us Americans aren't free unless we have the freedom to sell ourselves into corporate servitude. Luckily the rest of the world is slowly catching up to this concept.

he's not trolling - That's just the truth.

Hmm by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #8 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 02:36:53 AM EST
I'll think you'll find Britain isn't much different, a very thin veneer of social democracy and nobile obligesse seperates us from USia

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yeah by MillMan (4.00 / 2) #9 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 02:44:54 AM EST
I have put that together through my readings. IIRC England is the only wealthy country that comes close to the levels of poverty and other social problems that the US has. I think of continental Europe and Scandanavia differently, even though I usually lump everyone together.

I might check this book out, actually.

he's not trolling - That's just the truth.

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Corporate responsibility by Dr H0ffm4n (4.00 / 2) #7 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 02:31:55 AM EST
One of my friends is the corporate responsibilty officer for a largeish financial instituion. She's well aware that it's more about the appearance of responsibilty than the fact. Her company is getting better apparently and now only employs child soldiers in Kenya and India, while its slave trading operations have become somewhat of an embarrassment since a couple of the journalists who were on the take to keep quiet have died under mysterious circumstances.

Saw the documentary by LoppEar (4.00 / 2) #10 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 03:16:23 AM EST
And recommend it. Left me thinking:
  1. Suppose that corporations are not inherently evil, and the people working in them actually do not intend to do evil things.
  2. Suppose the harm caused by corps is an emergent property of their singular responsibility: improving shareholder value.
  3. Recognize that laws and charters allow corporations to exist, that we created these things, and we can change them - current corporate realities may not be an unavoidable outcome of 'believing' in free markets and capitalism.
Can we rewrite the rules of corporate responsibility so that it is based on MORE than shareholder value? (I have no idea what I even mean by this.)

As suggested in the movie (probably the book too), should we actively consider revoking the charters of businesses that disregard social needs and laws as purely monetary/business decisions? (It's the death penalty for corps!)

Can we use the idea of corps as people to guide fixes to psycopathy? Is my desire for castration, death, or punitive damages hypocritical? What form would corporate rehabilitation take, to make them better contributing members of society?

(My previous diary about the documentary.)

Hyprocrisy may not be a key issue by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 05:33:24 AM EST
because these are artificially constructed persons. We have options (like rewriting the charter, which I would suggest is analogous to rewriting the motivational chemistry of a person's brain) that we do not have with real people. Further, given that we create these monstrosities we have a responsibility to deal with them. If I built a giant robot doing as much damage to the environment of Alaska as Giant UKian oil company (for example) you'd damn well expect the US Army to take it out, by whatever means necessary...

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corporations, or companies by garlic (2.00 / 0) #13 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:48:27 AM EST
Is this corporation specific, or company specific? There are plenty of other ways to setup a company. Do these other company methods lead to the same amount of bad crap?

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corporation mostly short for large company by LoppEar (2.00 / 0) #14 Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 11:02:51 AM EST
Although the issues that arise from having a singular responsibility to shareholder value are primarily corporation-specific.

And indeed, the movie and book are exclusively about corporations - off the top of my head, I can't think another legal form of company that combines the protection from personal liability, or the 'personhood' issue. Both of which are good reasons to incorporate, and both of which also cause broader problems in my view. But not easy to just 'fix' them.

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The Corporation | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback