Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day: Workers of the world unite!

In most of the world today May Day will be honored as a celebration of the rights of working people. This is a day to champion their cause, to celebrate their labor, and to think of ways to improve working and living conditions for working people everywhere.

In honor of May Day, I offer the following book review:

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan

It is no secret that nearly all human societies - including our present societies - favor the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

The dominant institution for implementing this type of exploitation today is the corporation. Corporations get politicians elected, take over our minds with advertising, dump pollution into our environment, and routinely commit crime upon crime.

The basic Premise of this book is fairly simple: Corporations are not run by evil people, but are systematically designed in such a way that harming and exploiting people is a necessary component of their operation. Corporations are created to maximize profit and minimize cost. Corporations are legally bound to put profit above all other concerns. These claims are backed up by an enormous amount of legal data.

The second point is that currently Businesses are insufficiently regulated and not remotely penalized severely enough for their crimes. This means that, given that their structure is to maximize profit, they will lie, cheat, fraud, and harm consumers and employees - as this is in the long run the most profitable course.

What is the solution to this? A rethinking of and legal rewrite of the purpose and function of a corporation. Instead of merely a profit making machine, a corporation, the author argues, should be highly regulated, and subject to severe penalties when it violates the law. Furthermore, social responsibility must be legally written into the charter of a corporation and the common good, not merely profit, must be part of their tasks as a social institution.

Only by so re-creating the corporation and its structures can we remove the horrible harms corporations do and make them a force for good, rather than a force for harm and destruction.

As we celebrate the workers of the world this May Day, let us not only honor their labor and speak out for their rights; let us also come to understand the systemic problem of the corporate structure which keeps them exploited.

If we are to have true rights for working people, then we must restructure the corporate machine into something very different.

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1 comment:

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