Friday, August 15, 2014

Another one

So, here I am again, writing.  This time it's about our delusional ideals about corporate morality.

Corporate morality doesn't really exist insofar as what it means to have morals as an individual.  Corporations, at their core, are supposed to produce profits for their shareholders.  Sure, there are companies out there who are doing the right thing, and producing profits at the same time (we will delve into those later in this talk).  But, for the most part, corporations are built to be money producing machines.  So, they will do whatever they think they can get away with to produce bigger and bigger profits.  That's what they're designed for, and that is what they should be doing.  Why?  Why shouldn't we ask for, nay, demand corporate morality from the corporations themselves?  I will tell you.

For most things, I want the government to provide minimal service, and then get out of the way - especially on the issue of individual morality.  Schools and libraries I am OK with, telling me how to live is another thing.  However, on the issue of corporate morality, that responsibility should rest on the government.  Here's why:  the capitalist system our country's economic system is based on is one that rewards money-makers.  That's it in it's simplest form.  To try to tell corporations that they need to come up with their morals to stick to that may hinder profits is like trying to tell a gasoline engine that solar is better for the environment and it should just run on that.  It doesn't work.  It was not designed to work.  It shouldn't work.  Capitalism is supposed to cut costs, reduce overheads, run out inefficiencies, and, in the end, make money.  The weak need to die, and the strong should survive and thrive - within limits.  Those limits are exactly what we have government for.

Government, elected by the people, and acting for the people, should put measures in place to keep this capitalist machine from running off the tracks.  They should define the limits and set the boundaries by which these corporations operate.  Corporations are free to choose their own path within that system, to innovate, and come up with new ways to challenge these boundaries.  When boundaries are challenged, or when the capitalist system has developed an entirely new way to make money, then government should redefine the boundaries in order to reign in the monster.

The reason government should be the ones making the rules is because they are the ones elected by the people.  Shareholders, on the other hand, are not.  Let me phrase it this way:  Do you have a 401(k)?  TSP?  IRA, education fund, mutual fund, ETF, stocks?  What do want from those things?  Why do you put your money there?  Because you want it to grow, right?  Guess what?  You are a shareholder and you are trying to make money.  If your investment didn't, you would take it out and put it somewhere that does.  Most people don't REALLY know what their 401(k) or IRA or mutual fund is invested in.  You don't care.  If you cared, you would know.  So, who should be looking out for the morals of our capitalist economy?  The government, as a proxy for the people.

But, you say, there are corporations that are good and operate based on not just profits.  First of all, I say good for them.  It's wonderful to see that in an environment that is organized to reward profits.  Second of all, I would say that usually those corporations are led by an idealistic founder that founded the company to do more than just make profits.  When that person is no longer in the picture, then what happens.  There are some that have been able to pull it off over multiple generations, but only a handful.  Once a company goes public and has a board, the push to make profits usually overtakes other goals the company may have once had.  It's possible to have a multi-generational profitable moral corporation, but it is rare and very, very difficult.

What about the government?  I wouldn't consider this government moral, doesn't that invalidate your argument?  Well, yes... and no.  The government as it exists today is a result of allowing too much corporate influence in the government, instead of vice-versa.  Right now, the government regulates the corporations and the corporations buy governmental elections.  Then they have powerful influence in the workings of the government.  That is a problem, because again, we did not elect these corporations or their shareholders.  What we need to do is keep those corporations from buying elections.  Sounds simple, but it is very complex, and would take a lot of work on the part of a lot of people to fundamentally change the structure of financing a campaign.  I think it should be a part of our taxes (corporate ones included), and each candidate gets an even slice of the pot to spend on campaigns.  And that's all they get.  They have vast financial resources with which to run a campaign?  Too bad.  In fact, all "vacations" or "business trips" are to be stopped after you throw your hat into the ring.  If campaigning takes place before the hat is thrown in, then you will not be allowed to run and the slice of pie assigned to you is reabsorbed into the government to be held until next elections.  Take a dime from anywhere but that slice and use it for campaign and then are elected, go straight to jail.  Do not pass Go.  Believe in a candidate?  Want to support their bid?  Go out and volunteer.  Tell all of your buddies about them.  Help spread the word in your off-time.  There are many ways to help out that aren't just financial.  That's just my two cents, but I am happy to discuss details or alternatives with anyone.

Bottom line, corporations aren't "evil" because they do what it takes (within the law) to make profits.  They are merely following within the boundaries set by their regulating body - the government.  And that is the way it should work.  Unfortunately, the government is not operating properly, and therefore everything else is struggling.  Our political leaders should also be our moral leaders which is why it's hard to back the ones that have scandals (drugs, affairs, etc).  They should be held to a higher standard.  We also need to realize that they are human, and allow them to slip up now and then (if the crime isn't too serious and they immediately own up to it and work to correct it).  It is a hard balance to define, but I believe that someone will eventually find that definition.  In the end, though, if we want to fix "corporate morality", then we need to fix "government morality".