the corporation: power, consequences, and responsibility

I had a thought the other day: the invention of the corporation is responsible for the pollution of the environment and mass destruction of war today.

What drove the creation of the corporation? Wasn’t it that business owners didn’t want to bear the burden of liability when their company caused serious harm, or when someone wanted to sue them for something they allegedly did? The corporation was invented to protect the sole proprietor from lawsuits; instead of being personally sued, the corporation would be sued; and if the corporation had to declare bankruptcy, that was it; the owner of the corporation, though he may have plenty of money, could not be touched.

This seems relatively reasonable–what entrepreneur would want to build a business if the risks of being legally raped were extremely high?–but there’s a different way to think about this: it is a way of acquiring ridiculous power without having to bear the responsibility that’s supposed to come with that power. To have the ability to supply mass quantities of energy to millions of people, for example, such as would be the case with a nuclear power plant, is clearly to be in a position of extreme power. Yet it means bearing the responsibility of ensuring that your power plant doesn’t melt down and leak radiation in dangerous amounts, amounts that could cause mass sickness and death to humans and life in general. If it seems harsh that the owner of a nuclear power plant be sued for poisoning the environment, or the water system, or the meat we eat from the animals grazing the wilderness in the area of the power plant, then just think of how such consequences balance with the power acquired by actually running a nuclear power plant. With great power comes great responsibility, they say, and the invention of the corporation drives a wedge between these such that business owners can have the power without the responsibility.

This has resulted in industry, technology, and through that, war, accelerating at unprecedented rates, rates that we cannot control and cannot prepare for. Corporations just keep plowing forward without hesitation, without fear of repercussions to the actual people who run them. It’s like a heavy eater at a buffet of cake after being told he could eat as much as he wants without getting fat. Without any consequences, it’s full steam ahead.

It makes me wonder if we would have progressed with our technology a lot more slowly–slowly enough to be able to manage the effects it has on our environment, war, society, and so on–if business owners knew that they would always be personally liable for their actions and those of their business. They would be a lot more hesitant to create great big monolithic machines and vastly superior technologies knowing that the possible defects of these machines and technologies–the ways they could break down or cause unwanted side effects–could cause people to become upset enough to bring lawsuits to bear against them. I don’t think we would see no advancement, but rather advancement at a much more cautious pace–a pace that permitted business owners and technologists to gain a lot more knowledge and certainty about their innovations to be sure that the risks of things going wrong are low enough to be worth taking. And at that rate, we may easily be able to manage the effects that these advancements have on our environment and the world in general a lot more effectively.

The way I see it, before the corporation was invented, a balance was maintained between these three factors: 1) great power, 2) great consequences, and 3) great responsibility. With greater power comes greater consequences, but so long as this is balanced by greater responsibility, human beings tend to be mindful of the consequences. I think that by pulling the rug out from under responsibility, the invention of the corporation created an imbalance between these factors. There is now less concern for consequences, and the increased rate of advancements in technology and the rate at which our world is changing is the result. Can this rate of advancement continue indefinitely, or will the consequences eventually become so great that they become our undoing?

The latter…our undoing. Why in the world are corporations treated as persons with rights and protections that individuals receive? It’s bonkers.

We are currently devolving as a species, sacrifice our will for technological comforts. This can be reversed again though and it will be.

How Artimas?

Gib is 100% correct in that OP.

Even the federal reserve in the US is a private corporation

Trial and error, genetics, controlled fear to invoke curiosity.

It’s a matter of our pressing for understanding or our being wiped out by nature and going extinct.

Eventually it will get to a state again where people start dying much more and there will be much more struggle, it will force man to either die off or rise again like we always do and it will bring another surge in the evolution of which hopefully this time we understand the dangers of unnecessary fear and desire.

The world is in a disgraceful place right now… the Wizard Of Oz effect, if you will.

Bullying and invading the nations with the currently most-needed resources, under the guise of aiding the plight of a group of minority disparate souls, to gain entry and control of those resource-rich regions.

The world could indeed be a different place.

I am not sure it was better before corporations, in fact I don’t think so. I do think it has gotten worse in the last couple of decades. But the corporation is the current power broker, so better or worse it is the source of problems now.

KT, why don’t you think the world was better off before corporations took over?

You still had powerful organizations that viewed humans as at best neutral. You had slavery, quite abusive colonization, child labor, indentured servitude…just a few things off the top of my head. I can’t find a Golden Age in there.

Well, while the “noble savage” idea has been largely debunked. There are actually a few tribes that fit this category. They were on a slower sustainable trajectory.

Oh, yeah. I think there were tribes that lived well compared to us. Even some larger groups.

KT, what about 1940-1980? A golden era doesn’t have to last a hundred years. Those were 40 years of great change and growth before most everything went corporate.

In the forties we had a world war including genocide. We had the Korean and Vietnam wars and likely a bunch of other ‘conflicts’ that no one talks about. There was incredible disatisfaction with gender roles and the stiffness and restrictions around sexuality of the 50s that led to the 60s and 70s. Even if one thinks these reactions were wrong reactions, they were the human reactions to the 50s. Before the 60s there was institutionalized racism, especially in the south. The US was regularly interfering with other governments, for example in south america, often at the behest of corporations who considered it their right to determine policy, call for military interventions, take down governments, even undermine democracy.

There were good things then as opposed to now: unions had some serious power - whatever one thinks of unions, their was some balance of power - corporations tended to think long term and consider themselves part of communities with longer ties to workers and towns. IOW they restricted to a greater degree their mercenary tactics to foreigners. They paid taxes. There was less of the finance industry shenanigans, where huge portions of money is now made by the rich is made through not working.

But it’s not odd that both Eisenhower and Kennedy warned about the incredible power of the military industrial complex.

The corporations were consolidating their control of the US government and international organizations and shifting to being international bodies more and more themselves. The less they needed and need Western citizens, the more they drop decent relations with them, but yes, then their relations were better. But if we look at their way of relating to people in other countries in that period, we can see how they have been treating us and will treat us in the future, since they no longer need us.

I’m not sure whether the world is better off or worse off because of the corporation. I just had a thought about power, consequences, and responsibility having a balancing effect on each other, and that incorporation is essentially dropping responsibility, causing the other two to sky rocket. We all know that technology and other forms of innovation have been advancing at an exponential rate since the beginning of the industrial revolution, but I wonder if the rate abruptly spiked with the invention of the corporation.

Incorporation used to be viewed as priviledge, and your corporate charter was revoked if you abused that priviledge. That’s one area we could start things rolling.
But banks and financtial institutions, which I assume are corporations, though I mght be wrong about that, are the place to start.

Hey gib, I just reread this thread…

You forgot to mention planned obsolescence as a potential liability risk.

Indeed, and if a corporation gets sued for this, the CEO can pay himself a hefty dividend and then file for bankruptcy.

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