Pondering the Role of Corporations

As the world becomes smaller because of communication technology, transportation technology, international awareness of other nations, cultures, and geography, this smallness has changed corporate behavior. Because a corporation’s sole goal is profit, every act – however slight or invasive or rewarding – is an effort not intended to benefit any element of fairness, kindness, cultural improvement, employee rights, or to balance the economy. Every act is dedicated to that corporation’s wellbeing and ever to increase its own corporate profit. Today, as national boundaries soften in this smaller world, corporations have escaped national and local governance.

The conflict between government authorities and businesses is not new. The struggle for business independence likely goes back to the earliest civilized cultures. It is a natural conflict; a government ostensibly exists for the wellbeing of its citizens while a corporation exists only for its own wellbeing and profit.

To provide a quick history lesson, the following paragraphs are quoted from

http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate-accountability-history-corporations-us/ not for its advocacy but for its concise exegesis:

 

“When American colonists declared independence from England in 1776, they also freed themselves from control by English corporations that extracted their wealth and dominated trade. After fighting a revolution to end this exploitation, our country’s founders retained a healthy fear of corporate power and wisely limited corporations exclusively to a business role. Corporations were forbidden from attempting to influence elections, public policy, and other realms of civic society.

Initially, the privilege of incorporation was granted selectively to enable activities that benefited the public, such as construction of roads or canals. Enabling shareholders to profit was seen as a means to that end….

…. For 100 years after the American Revolution, legislators maintained tight control of the corporate chartering process. Because of widespread public opposition, early legislators granted very few corporate charters, and only after debate. Citizens governed corporations by detailing operating conditions not just in charters but also in state constitutions and state laws. Incorporated businesses were prohibited from taking any action that legislators did not specifically allow.

States also limited corporate charters to a set number of years. Unless a legislature renewed an expiring charter, the corporation was dissolved and its assets were divided among shareholders. Citizen authority clauses limited capitalization, debts, land holdings, and sometimes, even profits. They required a company’s accounting books to be turned over to a legislature upon request. The power of large shareholders was limited by scaled voting, so that large and small investors had equal voting rights. Interlocking directorates were outlawed. Shareholders had the right to remove directors at will.” (end quote)

One quickly notices the difference in the relationship between governments and corporations today. In the early days referenced by the quote, the US was still a pure democracy. Society was an all inclusive concept that included freedom of religion, the power of the vote, and any organized activity that may affect the citizens. Today, with the Supreme Court’s blessing of Citizens United, the untold wealth used to buy every aspect of government authority, and the resultant unbridled power of corporations, the only restraint on corporations is money. Control by government has been weakened to the point of uselessness. Capitalism trumps democracy. Capitalism is a religion, not an economic theory. It is more important and culturally acceptable for a corporation to ignore the wellbeing of human beings as it pursues more profit.

The mariner is reminded of when the Holy Roman Church was more powerful than the governments of its time. Unbridled power enabled the HRC to engage in brutal inquisitions, suppress scientific advances, and approve heads of state. First Baron Acton was right about power.

Today, the fossil fuel corporations suppress the growth of renewable fuel industries, attack the Clean Air Act, and, until the public had enough abuse from pipelines destroying property and claiming right of way, ran pipelines across the continent with no constraint or liability.

Today, corporations – not governments – negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) encompassing nine nations; TPP permits corporations to ignore constitutional law, civil rights and avoid taxation.

Today, communications corporations grow wealthy by usurping personal information, personal associations, family links, friend circles, medical history, credit history, and retail history. Did corporations ask permission? Did they even tell you they were collecting information without your knowledge? Did corporations tell the reader they were selling your history and preferences about everything to other corporations who want to know things and do things the reader may not want disclosed? On the other side of the issue, an old battle about the rights and accountability of content providers versus service providers continues. The difference has been smudged by mergers between the two and the evolving Internet broadcasting market. It is impossible to manage what is broadcast on social media and across the Internet. The National Security Agency is not the one to fear; Google knows a lot more about you. Even China cannot block Google. All these abuses are without accountability.

Sounds like the old days when HRC was omnipotent instead of corporatism.

Stick a pin in a communication CEO and they leap into arguments about freedom of speech. Similar to the gun issue, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are showing their age. Some might say the same about the Supreme Court (That’s another post). The founding fathers sought to constrain oppression of speech, not to encourage access to one’s privacy. However, there was a lot of space between one town and the next and reproducing pictures and words was somewhat difficult. In the eighteenth century, privacy was an environmentally protected phenomenon. Consequently, privacy as a concept drew short shrift in legislation as communication advanced through the centuries to the omnipresent state it is today.

Three examples have been examined to demonstrate the issue of corporatism. There are many more examples: banks that can destroy the US economy; lack of citizen-wide participation in the military; conflict of interest between elected officials and private enterprise – whether bought by lobbyists or sitting on legislative committees that govern personal interests.

The mariner chose the enclosed quote because it demonstrates clearly the transition from democracy to corporatism.

REFERENCE SECTION

In case the reader does not follow replies to the mariner’s posts, a reader (Robert) provided us with an inexpensive source for less recent publications: A great source of cheap books is Edward R. Hamilton that sells remaindered books in Connecticut. Check out their huge catalog at:

http://www.hamiltonbook.com/

Ancient Mariner

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