Corporatocracy and Me

The East India Company was the first modern corporation,

And it is credited with introducing the world to markets that are free,

But it brought the free market enforced by the world’s largest standing army.

It was the beginning of colonialism, imperialism, and Corporatocracy.

The EIC introduced the world to spices, tea, and global slavery.

Some in the United States rebelled with a giant tea party,

It set off a revolution but didn’t bring down corporate rule,

The robber baron bosses soon controlled trade, news, and even schools.

We may think their practices went against the principles of enlightenment.

But the EIC employed such men as John Locke, JS Mill, and Jeremy Bentham.

So the first corporation took control of public attitudes and education.

Promulgating equality for all European, land-owning men.

While denying rights to all those considered less than human.

When the US tried to recognise non-white men with an amendment

Giving them equal protection from abuse and harassment,

The railroad said, “Hey, corporations are people, too,”

And the courts went along as they always do.

 

Well, what’s past is past, and now it’s all good.

We’ve grown used to the idea of corporate personhood.

Citizens United taught us money is speech

You have a voice, but Exxon’s has more reach.

And Monsanto, now Bayer, wants to feed the entire globe,

By controlling food, seeds, farming, drugs, and microbes.

You have no other choice than to just trust them,

As manufacturers lead us on a race to the bottom.

Apple computers are built in factories with suicide nets.

Because conditions are so bad workers prefer death.

Our clothes are made in sweatshops where workers burn.

We’ve no choice to buy them is all that we’ve learned.

In 2007, the financial sector destroyed the economy,

But workers bailed them out with hard-earned money.

Now we’ve cut funding for public education.

Replacing it with the public/private partnership.

Giving business control of science, arts, and research.

IF you want unbiased info, you’re left in the lurch.

But what about corporations great philanthropy?

Don’t They give developmental aid from sense of charity?

No, They buy up or steal resources and flood markets with free food,

Destroying the economy and local businesses for good.

You can scream about Trump or any other entity,

But corporations are your true enemy.

 

When cultural competence is cruel.

It is now common practice for organizations and businesses not only to declare their acceptance of diversity but also to proclaim their celebration of diversity. Employees may be asked to demonstrate how they value diversity in all forms. When someone says or does something insensitive or even intentionally hostile to a particular group, that employee is often ordered to receive training in cultural competence. And, just in case this scenario sounds too negative, employees and people in business often seek out cultural competence training in order to work more effectively with members of unfamiliar groups. Before traveling to China, for example, business people might study up on the social practices of Chinese people. And after a brief course and some exposure, they feel confident they are competent.

Proponents of cultural competence training assume that knowledge of another culture will result in workers who are sensitive, understanding, compassionate, and fully accepting of unfamiliar groups. This seems true intuitively and even anecdotally. I grew up in the southern United States, and I have personally known racists who soften toward other races once they get to know a few people from the once loathed group. Personal interaction does, indeed, breed greater acceptance and understanding. Sometimes.

In his book Cosmopolitanism, Kwame Anthony Appiahgives a description of Victorian adventurer Richard Francis Burton who was truly a master of cultural competence, learning many languages and traveling extensively.

Richard Francis Burton

Burton understood a variety of cultures, languages, and religions enough to be accepted among natives in some instances. He was also a racist, who recorded his negative opinions about a variety of groups, including Africans, Indians, the Irish, French-Canadians, and the Pawnee Indians. Stating that Burton refutes the idea that “intimacy must breed amity,” Appiah notes, “You can be genuinely engaged with the ways of other societies without approving, let alone adopting, them.”

Exposed to cultural competence training, a hateful person will not become a nice person. CEOs of transnational corporations tend to travel extensively and meet a variety of people. They may become more open to different cultures, if they do not happen to be psychopaths (British journalist Jon Ronsen wrote a book claiming that about four percent of CEOs are psychopaths, double the rate for the population at large). Knowledge of other cultures does, however, help us to understand the motives, needs, and desires of other groups. In reality, humans have pretty much the same motives, needs, and desires across the globe even if we have found different ways to express them.

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently angered anthropologists when he said Florida did not need to be producing any more of them. He feels there won’t be enough jobs for anthropologists, so it is a waste of resources to give them degrees. Surely a few jobs will open up when the current anthropologists retire, so it would seem short-sighted to cancel entire programs, unless you really think anthropology is a waste of time regardless of job prospects.

Anthropologists and I both suspect that is what Rick Scott really meant, but I will leave it to anthropologists to explain the value of their work. I will only note that anthropologists do the groundwork that is needed to interact with other cultures in a competent manner. With that, anthropology does increase the opportunity for profit, which seems to be the only concern these days. Never mind the fact that understanding other cultures and groups enriches our lives and makes the world a slightly nicer place to live.

When should corporations be treated as people?

I recently attended a conference on business ethics, and one of the presenters asked what human rights corporations had. When some scoffed at the notions that a corporation could have any human rights at all, the presenter asked whether corporations did not have the right to buy property. Indeed, the earliest laws regarding corporations dealt with just such problems.

Lawyer Christopher Stone described some of the history of corporations in his 1976 book, Where the Law Ends: The Social Control of Corporate Behavior. The earliest corporations arose from the need of some organization, such as the church, to own property. It did not make sense to say that the abbot owned the property, could buy or sell it, and pass it on to his heirs. Rather, the property belonged to the church, and the congregants were responsible for it. When the abbot died, the church would still control the property.

And property was the primary function of the early proto-corporations. As you may know, some people, especially libertarians, assert that all human rights are property rights (see Murray Rothbard). If all human rights are, indeed, reducible to property rights, then the corporations, having the right to hold property, also are entitled to all the rights any human might reasonably demand. This is what free-market thinkers mean when they say corporations are people without the slightest pause.

The earliest commercial corporations were entities such as trade guilds. Although these guilds operated as one organization, when harm was done, individuals, not the guild, were held responsible. If you got bad meat from a butcher, you would blame the butcher, not the butcher’s guild. Stone points out that this system had its own drawbacks. It may be that a guild created a culture or corruption or failed to create a culture of safety. In this case, you may want to hold the corporation responsible rather than seeking out individuals.

You may demand that the corporation lose its charter, which was once the threat the public had against corporations. To withdraw a business charter would be the death penalty for a business. If such things still happened, perhaps we could better handle the equation of corporate rights with human rights, although it still does not sound right. But just imagine how life would be different if corporations could effectively be sentenced to death for wrongdoing. Well, they can, but it will take a great deal of political will to reinstate the death penalty for corporations.