Sunday, February 10, 2013

Meaningful Corporation Reform, Conscience, and the Profit Motive

Like cancer, a publicly traded corporation exists primarily to grow profits for its owners, who are primarily passive and disinterested stock traders.  While every employee of a corporation, from the janitor to the president, may be enlightened, moral, and compassionate, the charter of the corporation requires each of them to act in a way that maximizes the growth of corporation profits.  If they fail to maximize the growth of profits, the board of the corporation is required to replace them with more diligent employees.  So the wisdom of individual employees is overruled by the growth demand of the owners who want only one thing--profit.

The documentary The Corporation presents a few examples of corporation leaders who appear to possess personal moral wisdom and ideals that are frustrated by the requirements of their positions.  It's apparent that no amount of good intentions is able to overcome the structural bias of a publicly traded corporation toward irresponsible behavior.  As long as corporations are owned by a disinterested public, they are irresistibly compelled to fasten their moral blinders and stay the course toward higher profits.

And higher profits demand growth.  And growth means world domination.  And world domination without conscience means bullying, lies, intimidation, dangerous inventions, catastrophes, obesity, disease, deformed children, suicides, destroyed towns, poisoned forests and rivers, and death.  The end of cancer is death.  Cancer doesn't know or care anything about the health of its host.  As long as it can grow, it grows.

But growth is not bad.  World domination is not bad.  What is bad is the growth of something inherently flawed, blind, irresponsible, and dangerous.  What is bad is the fact that we have dreamed into existence these perfect legal cancer organisms that handily isolate demands from consequences to such an extent that demand can persist oblivious to the most personally appalling of consequences.

I buy $5,000 worth of a steadily growing mutual fund.  I don't see the handsome 11-year-old boy in Paraguay with skin sores caused by walking through Round-up sprayed fields to market.  I don't even know which companies my mutual fund owns.  I know nothing.  I care nothing.  Except that this mutual fund is "steadily growing".  I am the monster.  I prevent the janitor, the president, and the attorney from acting morally.  I demand an upwardly mobile stock chart.

On the back of my hatchback I paint the words "Make A Difference.  Move Your Money To A Credit Union."  But my IRA is still in stock mutual funds.  I am the monster.

I want to cry out for serious reform.  I want to remove or temper the profit motive.  If we the people cannot form a union perfect enough to excise the worst cancer growing in our body, what good is our union?  I want to ask whether we can outlaw passive stockholders.  I want to find out whether there is any hope of limiting ownership to bona fide stakeholders.  Can my stocks be placed on the auction block if I fail to demonstrate current active responsibility?  Why don't successful not-for-profits go head-to-head with these cancerous growths and gobble them up?

But first I must move my IRA to the credit union.  I am the monster. (March 2013 update:  I did it!  I moved my IRA to the credit union.)

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