The Null Device

Non-human lifeforms

Rant of the day: The USA has been taken over by non-human life forms.
An individual human being has dozens of often-conflicting drives: fear, charity, hunger, hatred, boredom, fatigue, disgust, inspiration, and so forth. Corporations generally only display one drive: a desire to make as much money as they possibly can. A human being who acted like that would be considered an utter psychopath--but when a board of directors acts in such a way, they're rewarded with bonuses.
When a corporation goes public, though, it often displays behavior similar to that of an animal whose nervous system has been taken over by a parasite. Its motivation changes from long-term sustainability to maximizing shareholder value on the short-term, ignoring such irrelevant side-conditions as ecological or social damage, plunging worker morale, or political instability.

And more. (Btw, are corporations legally considered persons in Australia/Europe/the UK/elsewhere, or is it just a US thing?)

There are 8 comments on "Non-human lifeforms":

Posted by: r007 http:// Mon Mar 10 18:26:15 2003

I can't leve this entry uncommented...

I've never seen an animal whose motivation it was to maximize shreholder values, let alone one with a parasital infection of its cerebral cortex. Could you please be so kind to point me out a species that does this? :-)

And, yes, Corporations are legally persons outside the US, too.

Posted by: Ed Mon Mar 10 19:34:51 2003

As far as I know, corporations (and smaller businesses) are considered 'collective persons' here in Portugal, sharing some of the same rights as individuals.

However, since political donations are illegal here, that doesn't really matter (despite the fact a few businessmen finance parties illegally).

Posted by: Stranger Mon Mar 10 19:51:33 2003

Corporations not only display the characteristics described above. They are legally obliged to act in the ways that the text above cites as psychopathic. Shareholders have been known to sue companies that do not attempt to maximize profits at all costs.

I always like to sum it up by saying that corporations are created in order to deflect blame for the amoral behavior that they allow and encourage.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Tue Mar 11 06:24:51 2003

Three things:

Firstly, back when corporations were privately owned, they could still do a lot of damage, but public opinion was usually effective in reining in the worst excesses of the owner (think Andrew Carnegie).

Secondly, successive governments have turned us into a nation of speculators (from share-based superannuation funds, to the ALP - the ALP for crissake! - encouraging 'mums and dads' to get into shares.

But even so, the majority of shares in a given company is still concentrated in the hands of a few people, who can now get away with almost anything because they can hide behind that old saw 'protecting the interests of shareholders'.

Posted by: acb Tue Mar 11 11:32:26 2003

I thought the majority of shares were held by retirement/investment funds and the like, whose only concern is getting decent returns for investors.

Posted by: sebiroth http:// Tue Mar 11 12:36:34 2003

corporations are legally considered persons here in germany, and i think this is true also in the other EU nations.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Tue Mar 11 14:14:46 2003

That is a good point, but a 'decent return' is interpreted fairly narrowly, don't you think? I don't see any benefit in retiring on $40K per year if the cosmic indifference of the company that provided for my nest egg has destroyed any sense of the common good or of social responsibility in the wider community.

Posted by: Graham Tue Mar 11 15:02:04 2003

I knew I should have sold those AMP shares in '99...

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