Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are There Any Good Corporations?

Chris Hedges, in his article in TruthDig at and in his new book, “Death of the Liberal Class” describes the increasing corporate control of American society and our spiral into fascism.

His writing is lucid and well reasoned. I agree with him almost completely. He speaks the truth.

But it is pretty dreary. Hedges ends the article with "I do not know if we can win this battle" but he urges us to keep on "resisting".

Hedges details how corporate America keeps us divided between meaningless dichotomies and cites Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland who he says was blacklisted by the corporate media and locked out of the debate on health care reform by the Democratic Party and liberal organizations such as MoveOn:

    “The Democrats and the Republicans give the illusion that there are differences between them,” said Dr. Flowers. “This keeps the public divided. It weakens opposition. We fight over whether a Democrat will get elected or a Republican will get elected. We vote for the lesser evil, but meanwhile the policies the two parties enact are not significantly different.

That got me to wondering if we can't also play divide and conquer. Is Corporate America so monolithic? Are there no good corporations? Seem to me that lots of (mostly small) corporations are ethical, operate within the law and support American democracy. How about Apple and Southwest Airlines and Google? Most of the companies I know in the masonry industry are family-owned. For many the image of John Gault seems to be a goal.

Or is it the corporate hierarchical structure that makes corporate America inherently and necessarily at odds with and in contradiction with American ideas about democracy and freedom? As I quoted the New Yorker, writing about Wikileaks back in June: Considering that many corporations are as big and powerful as whole countries, it's instructive to note that in a corporation there is no right to vote, all power emanates from a central committee, there is no balance of power, no fourth estate, no judicial review and no freedom of speech. The economy is centrally planned, there is pervasive surveillance, no right of association and no opposition.

Google seems like a nice corporation. But as they get larger, richer and more powerful and have all this information about everyone, are they destined to become tyrannical?

I wonder if, like Democrats and Republicans, corporations can be categorized or divided and identified by their internal structure, motives or the good intentions of their owners and officers. Or is it all about and only about money?

Even if it is only about money, democracy and the creation of a forum where dissenting ideas can be discussed was thought by 18th century political theorists and by the American Founding Fathers to be a rational way to make decisions for governments. Why not for corporations? If you wanted to make a lot of money and make good decisions in a more of less sustainable way wouldn't democracy and freedom work within a corporation as well as for a government?

Some corporations have and even encourage unions or are collectively owned by their employees. Some may have board meetings and internal policies that reward innovation or even dissent. On the other hand the corporations that seem to be mostly in the news these days appear to be greedy, arrogant and willing to pollute, screw their employees and the public alike and break laws if can't outright make laws favorable to themselves and nobody else. Can we begin to list these corporate features and distinguish between the "good" corporations with democratic and rationalizing structures and "bad" corporations which operate more like North Korea or the Mafia?

Maybe corporate America isn't as monolithic as Hedges supposes and the way to "resist" is to understand these corporate differences and work the contradictions.

No comments: