Corporations are NOT people, my friend!
When governments created the corporation, the intent was to provide a vehicle by which people could be motivated to invest their capital in various entrepreneurial enterprises while at the same time limiting their risk to the extent of their monetary investment.
There was an initial concern that men in charge of the companies might take advantage of the fact that the money they were risking was not their own so they could act foolhardy.
The law quickly developed ensuring that the corporation had an absolute duty to its shareholders. Profit for the shareholders was the paramount goal for the company executives.
Corporations were then endowed with the legal rights equivalent to being a living, breathing person. So, at least in that respect, Mitt Romney was correct. Corporations ARE people for most business purposes including, as the US Supreme Court then went on to rule, the right of freedom of speech, which, the court determined included the right to influence politics with its money. And “free” was further determined to mean “unlimited”. In my humble opinion, that definition of free devalued the real definition of the word. But I digress.
A corporation,then, is just like a real person except for one thing. The law neglected to establish the need for a conscience, social or otherwise.
With one overriding demand, producing profit, the incentive was there for corporations to achieve that profit, and the ends always justified the means.
A being without a conscience is typically diagnosed as a psychopath or, more specifically, a sociopath. It is usually the result of a malformation of the brain, a failure to develop the part of the brain which controls judgment in combination with empathy. A documentary movie has been made on the subject of how a corporation fits the definition of psychopath.
When we consider the simple fact that only 1% of companies are publicly traded, and everyone’s attention is riveted on Wall Street where that 1% is actively traded, most of the world’s money is sown up in private hands.
Since personal finances are typically held close to the chest, it is difficult to get an accurate assessment of how much anybody owns these days, however Forbes magazine estimated recently that 62 individuals probably own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the global population, or as much as 3.75 billion of the poorest people.
The following diagrams present the stark contrast between the haves and the have nots better than I could ever describe in words …
Just for stress, I point out that 84.5 % of the world’s wealth is owned by a mere 8.1% of the population. The vast majority of people, some 71% of the global population get to share a total of 3% of the world’s wealth. Something is horribly, horribly wrong.
I believe the people who originally established the foundation for the operation of companies expected the government to fulfill the role of conscience by establishing the regulations to limit the activities of companies, but those individuals had not anticipated the influence companies and wealthy individuals would have on government. The mental attitude that regulations are bad have saturated the public psyche, yet it is only those regulations that force companies to observe even the most minimal of rules protecting humanity and the planet. And they are being eroded by every right wing legislator elected to office. And when right wing politicians are elected en masse, like in 2010 when liberals and progressives showed their disdain for their government by failing to show up in the poll booth, the right wing devotees descended like the proverbial horde of locusts and took over so many levels of government in the US. The effects will be felt until 2020 when the political boundaries will be rewritten again, hopefully with a more balanced thumb.
Take, for example, the regulations concerning concentration of media ownership in Western nations. They have been relaxed to enable a great aggregation of ownership, but the result, though this may be fiercely disputed by the individual worker in a single press room, is that a media narrative can be managed and disseminated exposing a large percentage of the population to a philosophy that supports austerity measures, or, more horrifically, suppresses information on the cumulative effects of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.
The planet has passed a tipping point and the months of successively higher global temperatures are showing a clear trend that cannot be ignored, and yet, it is ignored. It is only when a home is lost to floods or fires, that reality really begins to set in for the average individual. I am waiting for the day when insurance companies no longer offer to cover properties for fire or water damage or any environmental risks. Then, people may begin to understand that climate change has economic effects which, for some reason, people take more seriously than a mass extinction event.
Companies, and wealthy individuals hiding behind those corporate veils, are pulling the strings controlling political fortunes. Most people are fearful of losing what little they have and so they listen to the single narrative propaganda that tells them billionaires know more about running the planet than anyone else. The little average person cannot understand that those billionaires are only concerned about how they themselves are affected.
The one thing companies have never had to take into account is what the true cost to the environment their actions may have. Minerals taken from the ground are not “free for the taking”. The damage done to the environment from the mere process of extraction is never taken into account by the company causing the damage because, as with so many things done by corporate ‘persons’, costs are socialized while profits are privatized, taxpayers pick up the tab for cleaning an area rendered useless because of toxins exposed during the extraction phase. And the companies take advantage of tax loopholes and tax breaks offered by government so that they no longer contribute meaningfully to the costs of living in any specific region.
When a tree is cut down for forestry purposes, an entire ecosystem is destroyed. Insects, animals, other forms of vegetation which relied upon the presence of that tree are now destroyed and no one compensates nature for what is lost. And as technology improves, even the humans who benefit from forestry jobs are reduced in number, but the mental image of the brave logger supporting a family remains and forestry jobs form the basis for arguments against preserving what little forest remains, even old growth forests that are vital reserves for biodiversity.
I don’t know how else to say this, but those who profit from the reckless exploitation of our planet are a relative handful compared to the hundreds of millions if not billions who will suffer when the consequences of that exploitation are more clearly felt. As we change our atmosphere from the oxygen rich cooler environment in which we evolved to a green house gas atmosphere which holds in the heat which normally would dissipate into space, the few individuals who benefit from this transformation will be digging themselves air conditioned security holes in order to flee the wrath of the billions left on the surface suffering from hostile temperatures and extreme weather events caused by a more permanent and increasingly violent climate change.
As we rapidly approach 2020, will our collective vision finally reach a 20–20 acuity in real terms? Will we begin to see the reality of the threat which has been proclaimed by climate scientists for the last several decades? I pity you if you own property along the coast. The dynamics of melting ice suggest that a rapid rise in sea level may take everyone by surprise — except those who have been warning about it. We are as a group are typically “doubting Thomases”, and we only begin to believe something when it is hitting us directly in the face.
Well, tighten your seat belts, because we are entering a phase when the changes will be much more abrupt, and if you feel inclined to say “but you didn’t warn us it would be this bad”, remember that there were many who were saying exactly how bad it was going to get. No one was ready to hear that message, however.
Can you hear me now?