Corporations, by their nature, are focused on profits. Unfortunately, this causes them to sub-optimize the overall results for society. This is one of the shortcomings of the current capitalist system. Corporations, in their soulless drive for profits, will take your last dollar if they can, and will influence governments and drive them away from their original purpose, to ensure the common good and the positive evolution of society in ways that reflect the principle that, as they say in business school, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” I found an interesting and pointed expression of this last year.
As I read in a user instruction page on cdbaby.com last year, “Corporations are like big sharks – they’re not evil; they’re just eating.” It was at that point that I realized that, like it or not, we all must swim with those sharks, and in the 20th century the “shark cage” of government that used to protect the common good has fallen too much under the influence of the “sharks”. Government was our shark cage, but it has become rusty and broken. The incredible amount of energy and materials we use and waste, as well as the high rates of environmentally-caused disease and sub-optimal lifespans and quality of life are largely a result of corporate power. In essence, corporations are part of the system of forces driving us toward major problems with population, energy, and the environment, and the short term ways in which we evaluate and motivate them – the stock market, for example – must be replaced with longer term patterns of incentives and regulations that focus on holistic goals that benefit everyone in the long run. While corporations will fight against regulation, they have always done just fine, with some variation, no matter what sort of regulation was imposed. It is a natural human trait (and a very successful one) to adapt to the circumstances and find a way to thrive, and business will continue to do so.
As we gain control of our population (or it booms and then falls in a more natural boom-and-bust scenario), the relationship between corporations, government, the people, and the individual must evolve to a more balanced and populist system that ensures a better average quality of life for all. What we will need most, perhaps, is what we lack now in both government and the business world – a long term view that has at least equal standing with the current drive for short term results (quarterly financial results in the case of corporations, election wins in the case of government). We can get more of that if we demand it, and, if they want our business or votes, corporations and governments at least need to understand that we won’t buy from them or vote for them if they don’t plan and act to achieve long term sustainability of all the species that comprise the global system of life that supports us.
I will add to this item and refine it in the near future, but your comments are welcome at any time. Thank you for reading – Tim