April 05, 2007
Is the Game Inherently Evil, or Just the Rule Makers?

Let’s get controversial again.

Mrs. Batard and I were having a discussion this morning based on a previous post on this board. I argued that corporations are simply voluntary associations designed to achieve a common goal and that they are no more inherently evil than the game of chess. It is only when people are allowed to cheat or the rule makers decide to allow cheating, and that becomes endemic to the game, that the game itself becomes evil. There was a time in this country when workers prided themselves on working for large corporate entities and not only that, if they stayed long enough, they managed to earn a quaint thing called a pension. Mrs. Batard had remarked that one of the reasons corporations were inherently evil was because the Supreme Court declared them to be perpetually eternal; “they should die at a certain age, like everyone else” she noted. My response was that may well be true, but upon the death of the corporation, who is left to pay the worker’s pensions?

Let’s get even more controversial. Let’s look at a recent article about the Apple corporation posted at corpwatch.org:

Why would a member of the board of directors of Apple oppose shareholder resolutions that ask the computer maker to become more green?

That’s what Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union, the National Environmental Trust and the Computer TakeBack Campaign want to know.

They are among about 70 groups that signed a letter to the board member asking the member to use his clout to get Apple to become responsible for its environmental impact. They charge that Apple lags behind rivals Dell and Hewlett Packard when it comes to recycling computers and eliminating toxic chemicals from its laptops, desktops and other electronic devices.

They say Apple also lags Dell and HP in reporting on environmental and social issues — and that the company is a lot less willing to talk about these issues with activist groups.

Barbara Kyle, the national coordinator of the Computer TakeBack Campaign, who has worked for years with HP and Dell, says: “Apple just won’t deal with stakeholders, period. They have a completely different attitude from even Wal-Mart at this point. They don’t want anyone to tell them anything, and they won’t agree to benchmarking of what they are doing.’

It seems to me that the argument that corporations are inherently evil is similar to what we hear constantly from the Republican right wing propaganda machines: Government is inherently evil and must be eliminated. I would argue that we just need to get rid of the cheaters and the rule makers who set up systems that allow it, from both government and corporations. If we could manage to pull that off, maybe we could all live happily ever after.

But be careful what you wish for. You might get your wish.

chessapple.jpg

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Posted by Buck Batard at April 05, 2007 09:07 AM
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OK, I'll take on both of you.

It is only when people are allowed to cheat or the rule makers decide to allow cheating, and that becomes endemic to the game, that the game itself becomes evil.

The game itself is still not evil. Its the cheaters and the cheating that border on evil. I would contend neither is actually evil, but close.

As with hand guns. They are not evil. I've owned them and they were simply implements. Had I used one to kill someone, then it would still be an innocent implement, but I would be evil. Not close, but actually would have achieved evil.

Just how is being perpetually eternal evil? Earth is perpetually eternal (so far).

There is a definite evil element involved with corporations. Allowing corporations to exist apart while protecting the people running them is wrong. Executives can be prosecuted for doing something illegal, but should they do things which are perfectly legal which cause the corporation to do harm, they are exempt.

There's a a thing I'm sure you know in law called "good faith". An employee who is responsible, loyal and dependable should be able to expect in "good faith" the employer will support and reward him. When his job is offloaded, that "good faith" has been compromised. There should be consequences for the people making such offloading decisions.

Yeah, my naïveté is showing. But corporations should watch out for the employees and not just the stockholders. IMHO.

Posted by: SPIIDERWEB™ on April 5, 2007 11:46 AM
corporations should watch out for the employees and not just the stockholders.

I would add that their greatest duty should be not to employees and to stockholders, but to the human societies they are a part of. I might argue that society could benefit if corporations and the government worked together for the common good, but then Mussolini's fascism quote comes to bite me on the ass when I try to deliver it.

Posted by: Buck on April 5, 2007 12:31 PM

Corporations, according to a Supreme Court much like the one we have these days, are persons, yet they are eternal, so in my opinion they "can't" be persons. That's part of the discussion Buck didn't mention.

As far as corporations per se being evil, I know quite a few people who have become corporations well enough to have heard their reasoning. Mostly they have tax considerations in mind, and they're also looking to avoid personal responsibility, as in not being sued and losing the roof overhead. Cutting their taxes to the minimum possible and shirking responsibility for their work are not quite evil reasons, but they're ignoble. Just like hand guns in themselves are not evil, but they don't measure up to carrots.

Posted by: Mrs. Batard on April 5, 2007 1:39 PM

We all agree. I like that.

Posted by: SPIIDERWEB™ on April 5, 2007 8:35 PM

I incline to the belief that corporations have at least some elements of inherent evil. I've been trying to formulate my thinking on this, and it comes down to the perniciousness of profit. Not that real persons are immune to that, but profit is at the heart of a corporation's existence. Since profit is pernicious - since it stealthily supplants any original raison d'etre - eventually any good the corporation might originally have been intended to do ceases to be a part of its mission. I think it's fair to say that the ultimate result of this is evil.

Posted by: Carl Manaster on April 6, 2007 2:44 AM

Fundamentally, there is no need for there to be any private corporations. People can form partnerships, insurance companies can limit principals against liabilities, and business can go on.

What private corporations do is transcend the government, they effectively become the government that controls many countries including our own.

Posted by: whig on April 6, 2007 4:39 AM

When I say private, I do not mean to exclude what are called publicly-held corporations, to the contrary. I mean to distinguish from government corporations, which may or may not be valuable depending on your perspective on how we ought to organize our public affairs.

Posted by: whig on April 6, 2007 4:43 AM

However it is important to address things in a proper manner. Current private corporations should be allowed to form a partnership without government-granted limited liability.

Posted by: whig on April 6, 2007 4:47 AM

Carl, there are lots of nonprofit corporations, so you can't tie "corporation" so directly to profit.

---Although the nonprofit corporation I worked for seemed to be set up that way to enable the creep who controlled it to grab ever more money.

Posted by: Mrs. Batard on April 6, 2007 3:44 PM
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