Sunday, December 18, 2011

Non-profit Megabusiness as a Reform Tactic

My 12-year-old son has requested to watch documentaries with me lately. This week we watched Food, Inc. (a repeat for me) and The Corporation. I've been visiting Occupy Phoenix a bit lately, and I saw something of a synchronicity in the message of Occupy to "get the money out of politics" and the message of those documentaries that corporations are immoral because corporations are set up in a way that incentivizes one purpose alone: to make money for shareholders, who are often otherwise disinterested in the activities of the corporation.

Even moral corporate officers find themselves compelled to act primarily and heroically for the enrichment of their shareholders, and due diligence toward that end leads them to push all possible costs onto others. This is immoral, but it is the corporate imperative.

Considering that reality of the current system, I began to wonder if it might be possible to reform corporate law in a way that abolishes disinterested shareholders and enables moral autonomy in megabusiness. It didn't take me too long to conclude, though, that such reform would be highly unlikely to be achieved by simple lobbying of legislators.

So what I began to wonder instead was why could there not be just as easily non-profit megabusinesses as there are for-profit megabusinesses. When I visited Occupy Phoenix today, I happened on another fellow pushing for non-profit business, and I had the opportunity to talk with several others about the notion of direct competition with megabusiness.

From all that thinking and discussion, several questions linger in my mind:
  1. What forms of control (governence) would tend to enhance non-profit megabusiness morality? Employee ownership? Lottery board selection? Global public ownership?
  2. Does existing corporate law provide a suitable framework for non-profit megabusiness?
  3. How does the cooperative form compare with the charity form, and what aspects of each might best serve non-profit megabusiness?
  4. Aside from the explicit goal of achieving true competition with existing for-profit megabusinesses like Walmart and General Electric, are there good and environmentally sustainable reasons for a non-profit business to be a megabusiness?
  5. What existing well-known, but smaller corporations would make suitable "first targets" for direct competition. Just how big are they? How big a task would be the first success?
  6. Would successful non-profits like the Mediawiki (Wikpedia) Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation be allies?
I hope to be learning more about this potential reform tactic. Long live the Arab Spring. Long live the people. Long live humanity. Long live love.

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