By Roland Watson
To continue the review, it seems reasonable to proceed to the effects of a corporation on its own employees, and in doing this we will start at the top, with its executives.
The top executives of major corporations are among the most intelligent, and also the most brainwashed, people on earth, and this is a very dangerous combination. Intelligence alone is not a panacea for form. To get to the top of a large corporation you must first live within the corporate world for at least two decades. During this long period you will gradually be divorced from the real, diverse world of life. As in an army, with which corporations share many similarities, you will slowly be conditioned to accept an existence that is constrained within very narrow boundaries, albeit opulent ones (you never buy cheap, only quality), and to conform to such an existence's underlying values. And the primary value in this environment, as we have seen, is competition. Your corporation, your team, must compete, and win, and every employee is a foot soldier in this battle.
Secondly, this period is also a winnowing process, but merit - or personal performance - while important, is by no means the only or even the most crucial part of it. As was mentioned, the pool of candidates from which top executives are drawn, the "fast track," is now essentially established at birth. The class system, and nepotism, are the determinants. If you have the right parents, and go to the right schools, starting with "pre-school," you will be positioned to have a chance to make it to the top. And this is, with very few exceptions, the only way you will ever get this chance.
Thirdly, in the corporate world you are judged suitable for the top not only by how good you are, and by how much of a team player you are, how much you are part of the program, but also by how ruthless you are. They want to see if you are willing to stab a potential competitor in the back, and if you can get away with it. Corporations prize such ruthlessness, and arguably all top executives have it, since it is considered an essential trait in the battle with other companies. (This also has an evolutionary aspect. Given the focus on profits, such people have to be the ones who make it to the top. It is another case of survival of the fittest.)
Another significant point about corporate executives is the means by which, as individuals, they escape blame for their actions, for the behavior of their companies and its consequences. Corporations in general are large and faceless; it is very difficult to find anyone specific to blame. The underlying reason for this is as follows. When a company engages in an unethical action, such as polluting the environment, the actual employees who do it, who open a valve to allow the discharge of waste into a river, or into the atmosphere, do not feel as if they, personally, are responsible. To them, they are simply following orders from above. (The anonymity of such an employee is like that of a soldier shooting into an unarmed crowd, or of a lab scientist torturing an animal, splitting a gene, or working on a weapon of mass destruction.) And this failure to accept responsibility continues: their bosses feel the same. And this goes on all the way up to the executives, who themselves believe that they are not to blame, since they are merely following the leadership of the CEO. But the CEO also is not to blame, as he is subject to the Board of Directors, which in turn must report to the shareholders, the owners of the company, which is the world of financial institutions, meaning "Wall Street." But Wall Street responds: "Hey! It's not us. We just apportion investment capital to the most successful companies. We have no impact at all on their day-to-day operations."
In this way, no one in or associated with a company feels a sense of responsibility. They have all been compelled to act the way they have. They have not had a choice. (It is a form of determinism.) And this is the identical logic that is used to justify military atrocities. More generally, it is the process by which groups of people degenerate into mobs and do horrible things which, as individuals, they would never consider. It is a logic, but it is not driven by reason, and when corporations use it, they de-evolve into institutional mobs.
(Any limited liability, even for the funders of corporations, for the suppliers of investment capital, including for the markets through which such supply takes place, is a shirking of responsibility, and an exception to actions have consequences. It is also a socially granted permission not to pay your costs, but to earn any and all of the rewards that are associated with them. Limited liability is an unethical means to a supposedly ethical end, a better functioning society based on large institutions. But, this raises the question: is our society functioning better?)
The only other point I want to make about corporations and their executives is that from a social point of view it represents a tremendous misallocation of labor. The individuals who become executives are among the most gifted in our population: in intellectual capability and in education. It is a disgrace that the efforts of these individuals are directed solely to the earning of profit, to the accomplishment of wholly selfish ends, rather than to occupations that directly support the community or which enhance it in some other way. Our best and brightest are channeled to become businesspeople, bankers and lawyers, not teachers, artists and philosophers. Indeed, this misallocation is a travesty akin to the channeling of the best and brightest in the inner city ghetto into the business of drug dealing.
© Roland Watson 2016