Tuesday, July 19, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Early this morning, we came across an article indicating that Rupert Murdoch’s aides “long tried to blunt [the] scandal over hacking.” How long? At least 4 years. They tried to save their financial derriere.
More than a year ago, at the time of the Gulf oil spill, we generated, Why Dumping on BP is a Bunch of BS. We argued that a corporate entity does not have a mind or a conscience like that of a human. They are legal fictions.
“Whereas a human will occasionally make a judgment call against his or her personal interests in pursuit of other goals (like unprotected sex with a stranger), rarely will a corporate entity do so because it is not really its money. It’s not even the money of the folks managing the company, at least in the case of a publicly traded corporation…. It is the money and interests of others, the shareholders, which are at risk, not that of the decision makers…. It makes for a unique dynamic.”
One of our regular readers, the Independent Cuss, argues that many U.S. corporations should be tried for treason, for having compromised our national security by taking jobs off shore. But he appears to be in a minority of one.
The reality is that our federal elected officials are beholden to, and feeding at, the corporate trough. That’s not going to change anytime soon. (On the other hand, a socialist country like Great Britain will do something in the criminal realm, and we wouldn’t want that.)
Consequently, an expectation on the part of anyone here in the U.S. that a corporation should do anything other than pursue its own selfish goal of improving its bottom line is a pipe dream. In fact, wouldn’t it be a conflict of interest for a corporate officer to do something adverse to the corporation’s financial interest?
We in Western, industrialized, representative democracies are confused right now. We can’t decide what we want out of corporations, somewhat akin to how we treat our spouses and kids.
There’s a whole bucket full of people who feel that corporations should be allowed to do whatever in the name of free market enterprise, and free of government interference.
There’s another bucket whose tenants claim that corporations should be allowed to do whatever to generate a profit and stay in business, no matter the amount of the profit.
And then there is the bucket whose occupants believe that profits should be “reasonable,” whatever that is.
Rebekah Brooks, formerly of News International, was arrested in Britain earlier this week, and may lose her liberty for quite some time. However, if money and the maximization of profit are the driving forces within a corporation, why should society’s sanctions spill over into the criminal realm? Aren’t civil lawsuits adequate to keep corporations, which step out of bounds, in check?
But, how is the pursuit of money or property, incapable of being attributable to what society deems a fair, responsible effort, any different than the acts of a common thief, or a con man, or a prostitute, or a host of other individuals whose financial pursuits we label criminal in nature?
Did this corporation actually engage in conduct which hurt people? If so, some argue they can file lawsuits. If there is merit to their claims, some attorney will take the case, won’t he or she? Or did the conduct shock our conscience? Does shock equal criminal? Is that how we distinguish between legitimate corporate conduct from the criminal exploits of non-corporate criminals?
If we slap corporations with fines, monetary judgments, and punitive damages, don’t they derivatively adversely affect innocent shareholders, who had nothing to do with, or say about, the offending conduct?
In addition to Ms. Brooks, Britain’s highest ranking police official resigned yesterday. This morning, we received an e-mail alert, “Tabloid Scandal a Fresh Threat to Cameron’s Survival,” Cameron being the British Prime Minister.
Stuff’s about to get real complicated over there; but not here. No corporate official’s liberty is at stake here in the U.S. Maybe this will prove to be a positive thing for America in that corporations will run to our shores to perform their financial magic without fear of criminal sanction. Hell, that’s better than a tax break. We’re more likely to throw our elected officials in jail.
After all, it’s only money. And to interfere with the generation of wealth will discourage entrepreneurs from pursuing vital commercial projects, which produce jobs. The folks arguably hurt are just collateral damage, like that experienced in the war on terror - just another risk management calculation in the corporate world.
The less enlightened and communist Chinese executed construction company officials whose buildings collapsed on school kids during their massive earthquake a couple of years ago, and essentially forced parents of the deceased kids to accept pensions as compensation and to stop complaining.
You see, it’s only money. Or, is it?
We don’t know where we are on this subject. Like many others, we’re confused.
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