Corporate harm and Corporate good spring from the same source. If we're talking about Corporate good, we refer to this source as "limited liability." If, instead, we're talking about Corporate harm, we say that "limited liability" is just a euphemism for "irresponsibility".
At the close of 2004, in the United States, a Corporation is a group of people engaged in a particular activity, with the peculiar characteristic that no member of that group bears any personal responsibility for the actions of the group. Put simply, a Corporation today is a mob.
But it's a special kind of mob. It's not a disorganized, disorderly crowd. Corporations are highly organized and orderly.
But despite these differences, Corporations are similar to these two other kinds of mobs in that the members of these mobs bear no personal responsibility for the actions of the mob. Basically, a Corporation is a mob that pursues money in legally permissible ways.
But even if so, where's the harm in that?
The harm comes when Corporations inevitably and legally lie to us People, and we foolish People fall for the lies. The harm comes when desperate Corporations inevitably and legally take away our rights, and we sleeping People let them. The harm comes when Corporations inevitably and legally cheat on their taxes, and we incompetent People let it slide. The harm comes when Corporations grow so powerful that they write and execute the very laws that define what they can and cannot do, while we irresponsible People watch Survivor. The harm comes when Corporations inevitably and legally poison us daily, and in response we fat and sick People say "thanks".
The harm comes when all that the Corporations want from us People is our money, yet we foolish People entrust the Corporations with our survival.
I entitled this section "Corporate Harm". I could have called it "We Stupid People". Or, more accurately, "We Fat, Sick, and Irresponsible People".
The old proverb reads: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Corporations have been "fooling" us People not for a day, nor for a year, nor even for a decade. It has been decades, and in some respects, it has been 404 years. Shame on us People.
But what of the People that make up the Corporations -- the employees, management, board. and shareholders. Are they all desperate liars, cheaters, and/or killers? No. They themselves are not necessarily bad People. They're just doing their small job for an organization that happens to lie, cheat, and/or kill. Similarly, People who consume the products and services of these organizations are not necessarily liars, cheaters, or killers.
Bottom line, a Corporation is a way of organizing People such that the organization, by its very nature, lies, cheats, and/or kills to make money, but the People in the organization don't think about all that, and in any case, they're certainly not responsible for any of it.
I realize this may sound like science fiction to you. It makes it sound like we People are a bunch of Stepford Wives. Hey, all I gotta say is that if they made a remake of that movie, it must have struck some kind of human chord.
But although this may sound strange to you, saying it this way hints at a way out for the People. The problem with Corporations is not the Other People that make up these Corporations. The problem is the way that the Other People are organized. The problem is with the Corporate form itself, and the harms to which that form of organizing People inevitably and legally leads.
Before we get to those harms, it will be useful to understand the second half of the source of these harms. The fist half is irresponsibility, as this posting has discussed. The next posting discusses the second half. This second half is a dynamic that, coupled with irreponsibility, make Corporations the most dangerous threat today to the survival of the human species.[posted: 11/28/04]