The Corporate Mind
Our Supreme Court has given corporations a level of legal recognition as if they were real human beings, and thus they enjoy many of the same rights. But corporations have a dark side. Where a human being has emotion, and love, and concern, and shares the common thread of life with other living things … a corporation has none of those attributes.
Beginning with concern for life let me first point out that a corporation is completely immune to what we call death. A corporation can be dissolved (a legal term) which simply means it ceases doing business … but it has nothing to do with death (in human terms). One cannot expect a non-living entity (another legal term) to have the same concern for life as a living entity. Explaining the full meaning of death to a corporation would be a little like explaining the color red to someone who is blind. The color red is an experience based upon visual perception. To someone who has never had vision the color red is completely without meaning … just as the living-species-based concern for life is a completely meaningless term to a corporate entity that has never experienced life’s precious self-awareness.
In human psychological terms the corporation is pathological … because it drives single mindedly towards profit regardless of the broader implications of its actions. In fact, if one looks at many of the most recent manifestations of corporate behavior … corporations have become downright sociopathic. (see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociopath).
I know what you are thinking. Corporate stocks are owned by people and the corporations themselves are run by people … so how can I be saying they have no heart? People care … so we should have nothing to fear … right? WRONG … so, let’s drill deeper!
From Wikipedia we get (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation) that the corporation is a legal entity (non-living) that has legal rights and liabilities that are distinct from those of its shareholders. While there are a number of key distinctions the single most important is that the stockholders have no personal liability. It means stockholders cannot be held personally liable for any debt or misdeed of the corporation. Stock ownership is thereby theoretically reduced to a vehicle for increasing wealth (in other words … making a profit).
The stock market itself is almost completely defined by investors who are willing to place bets (by buying stock) on corporations that either make substantial profits and pay dividends, or stocks that are the most likely to increase in sale value at some future time. And by the way, the increase in stock value does not necessarily have to be based on any real increase in corporate assets (just re-saleability). With no liability for what the corporation needs to do to increase its value, the stockholder pressures the operators of said corporation to perform, or the investor will take their money elsewhere. Now you are talking about corporate employees who find themselves in the unenviable position of “increase profitability or we’ll find someone else who can”! Need I mention … corporate executives really don’t like the long lines at the soup kitchens … so they do what they must to keep their jobs!
Stockholders enjoy a low risk factor in that one can never lose more than their initial investment. There is no incumbent liability for the debts or misdeeds of the corporation(s) in which they buy stocks. And like Las Vegas they get to bet on the corporations most likely to provide the biggest return on their investment … regardless of how the operators of that corporate entity go about it. Would it help you to know that the business model for the corporation has become so incredibly popular, so favorable, that its present manifestation completely dominates our world economies … and most notably our various world governments?
OK let’s look at this from another angle. Are you aware that corporations have been known to have certain misadventures? Well the list is way too long for this commentary so I’ll just offer a reference to help you out … see https://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?list=type&type=203. Read this stuff on your own time and then ask the question, how many of these misadventures began with the demand of stockholders to cut costs and increase profits? Here is another great question. In spite of how heartless or heinous or greed based those various misdeeds might have been … have you ever heard of a corporation going to jail? The answer is no! What they do is go out of business, or go bankrupt (meaning they reorganize and continue doing business), or sell out to a competitor. In every case … the cost of their misdeed(s) is passed on to someone else. Here is an example. Let’s say the misdeed involve some sort of toxic pollution. If they go out of business, the cost of cleanup is left to the public (that’s us). If they go bankrupt (or reorganize) they only pay a fraction of the cleanup costs under court direction and the rest is paid for ny the public (defined as you and I). And if the company is bought out … the buyer never accepts responsibility for the cost of prior misadventures and the public gets to pay (still you and I).
Now here is the best part. If you or I did this they would come after us for every cent we have or might earn in the future … for as long as the costs of cleanup are outstanding. And they would do everything in their power to take away our assets, screw up our credit, and perhaps even put us in jail. If a corporation does it they go out of business. The executives who created this monster move on to other corporations and continue the same practices … stockholders perhaps lose their initial investments (oh my) … AND NO ONE GETS IN TROUBLE!
Let me just suggest this. If we eliminated the idea of a no liability corporate executives and a no liability stockholder … would the people who invest in them and the people who operate them be a little more concerned with what these companies are doing … and how they are doing it?
If people knew they could no longer hide behind the corporate veil … wouldn’t we pollute less and be more inclined to invest in things that were more purely beneficial to the earth and every living thing that exists on the planet. I guess the question is … do we really want our single motivation to be the pursuit of profit to the detriment of everything else?