Why do you hate corporations? What did they do to you?

In several threads, our lefty friends have made scathing attacks on the “evils of corporate America.”

In the many convention and WTO protests, the participants have railed against 'Evil Corporations."

So what specifically are corporations doing to destroy the country and your happiness? I asked lissener this but he/she never botherd to defend the position.

I honestly don’t know what the beef is. Calling something evil does not shed any light on why they are evil. Anyone care to enlighten me?

I don’t hate corporations, because they’re impersonal, and so I can’t hate them. I am very concerned though, with the huge influence they have over the legislative process, where industry groups do, in my opinion, buy the laws they want, often at the expense of freedom. One example is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, illustrated in the notorious DeCSS case. This editorial nails it on the head.

that’s a difficult question, since there’s many different answers. the following are over simplifications at best, and not necessarily my stance:

Some folks regard Corps such as Nike as “evil” for business practices in other countries that exploit humans.

Other folks regard Corps such as Tobacco Co’s as “evil” for producing a deadly substance that addicts and then kills it’s consumers, lying about it, increasing the addictive nature of it, lying about THAT and then pleading “you’ll destroy our company if we’re held financially liable for everything we’ve done”

Still others regard corps such as McDonalds’ as “evil” for doing things like allowing a condition to continue that caused physical harm to individuals.

Still others regard corps such as Dayton Hudson as “evil” for astronomical mark ups on substandard merchandise.

And then there’s folks who regard Corps such as furriers as “evil” for the intentional destruction of animals.

Some others regard corps such as Insurance co’s as “evil” because it can be percieved that they prey upon folks fear of death and destruction, while hedging all of their bets. (by the way, the scum suckers who sold my grandma a flood policy despite the fact that she lived about 400 miles away from ANY water way has a special place in hell)

It’s easier, I think, to view a corp as “evil” since while legally they may be a single entity, they don’t have a single human “face” to focus on. The vision of a bunch of greedy (mostly white and older and male) folks smokin’ stogies in some back room saying 'hey hey hey, we’ve got 'em now!" is familiar and an easy one to hate (you don’t smoke cigars, right? it’s chew as I recall).

So, you see, your question has as many answers as there are issues.

They shot my dog a couple years back. Before that I was an investment banker on the fast track. Now, I’ve gathered all my energies in my fight to bring them down. I will avenge you SPOT!!!

sorry. I couldn’t resist.

Well I don’t think that corporations are “evil”. I think they are regressive at this point in history and hold society back. At one point they were progressive and a usefull development, but then again so was slavery.
That doesn’t mean that individual corporation exhibit many of the characteristics that if we saw in our neighbor we would call “bad” or even in extreme cases “evil”.

Just remember, “corporation” and “large company” are NOT synonymous.

A single individual can file Articles of Incorporation with his/her state’s secretary of state, and become the sole stockholder, sole director, president, secretary, treasurer, and sole employee of a corporation.

Likewise, some of the biggest law firms and accounting firms in the country are not corporations but partnerships. Some partnerships are so big, in fact, that their limited partnership interests are traded on the exchanges just like corporate stock. (They’re called “publically traded partnerships,” or PTPs).

In the early part of this century, most major-league baseball teams were neither corporations nor partnerships. They were sole proprietorships, with the “owner” of the team simply being the individual who owned the stadium and the League franchise rights outright.

And don’t even get me started on Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and business trusts (a.k.a. “Massachusetts” trusts).

I too would like to disclaim the notion that corporations are somehow inherently or actually “evil” (and I don’t believe I’ve ever used that word to describe one). Paradoxically, my primary concern about corporations is that they’re not evil, or good for that matter: rather, they are entirely amoral (not immoral) and extremely powerful influences in the sphere of public life, which requires some kind of moral standards in order to function well.

Michael Moore tells an amusing anecdote in his book Downsize This! about being lectured by various corporate executives he happens to sit next to on airplanes, who were disturbed by Roger and Me. He says that they all try to explain to him very carefully that in the corporate world “Profit is supreme”, and “a CEO’s only responsibility is to make as much money as possible for the stockholders.” Moore, of course, was already aware of this. Corporate executives may be personally wonderful and admirable people, and I have known (and worked for) many who are. But that doesn’t change the fact that a corporation’s only recognized duty in the whole of its existence is to make money (and, if possible, to refrain from actually breaking the law, although it is often viewed fairly tolerantly if it does).

Now there are definitely some advantages, economic and other, to having this exclusive focus on profitability. But there are definitely some disadvantages too, and the biggest one is that in its pursuit of profit a corporation, though not evil in itself, often does things that have evil consequences for many of the people it affects, and causes significant damage and suffering.

Well, damage and suffering are a part of life, and we have to be prepared for them; the problem is that we find ourselves using a real double standard for corporations and for almost everybody else. Corporations in many respects have the legal status of persons, and many of them are tremendously powerful and influential persons. Yet they don’t have to abide by moral constraints the way human persons do. If our families or friends or neighbors or employees or elected officials decided that they had no responsibilities or obligations whatever except to make as much money as possible without actually breaking the law, we wouldn’t tolerate that, and we’d make our displeasure felt. But our fellow legal persons, the corporations, are not expected to recognize any other responsibilities or obligations than the legal pursuit of profit. This gives them a HUGE advantage in competing with other persons to get what they want.

So to level the playing field, we either have to deprive corporations of some of their rights as persons or else legislate some moral constraints for them (as in Moore’s suggestion that executives should not be allowed to downsize a profitable corporation, for example, just in the hope of goosing its stock price). Some people recommend just relying on extra-legal forms of moral pressure like the consumer boycott, but I think we’ll find that the power disparity between corporations and other persons is so great that that won’t be effective in the long run. I think it’s the frustration many people feel at this power disparity that causes them to call corporations “evil”, but I agree with you that it’s a sloppy mischaracterization.

certainly, the size of a company does not matter, it’s what they do with it.

kidding aside…you’re right that nothing is wrong with a large company, but the track record of large companies in general has been tainted with many bad incidents (with respect to things involving the environment, politics, competition, human rights in some cases, etc.)

BTW, I’m no lefty (or righty)


You are right to some extent, in that a Corporation cannot ‘feel’ moral obligation. However, in their persuit of profit, corporations have many obligations:

  1. To Employees, to pay salaries and benefits as agreed, provide appropriate working conditions, etc.
  2. To Suppliers, to honor contracts and make timely payments
  3. To Customers, to deliver products/services

Failure to meet any of these obligations repeatedly would seriously hurt and eventually break a corporation, not out of any moral reasons, but for simple economic ones.

I generally operate from the assumption that large corporations are probably evil. “Evil” meaning that the corporation, and the people who run it, have sacrificed their humanity in pursuit of profit, and their value systems suck.

Why in heaven’s name would one person sitting at the top deserve 100 million dollars for that job…especially when so often that job involves laying people off, moving operations to soem third world nation to exploit the unprotected workers there, polluting, etc.? I fail to understand why paying the workers a decent wage and some benefits is distasteful, but paying CEO’s an OBSCENE wage is not. I think that is evil.

I have nothign against profits, I consider myself a capitalist. But it seems obvious to me that there is something wrong with making the stockholders ridiculously wealthy by exploiting, in one way or another, the hardworking human beings who do the real work of the company involved. And that does tend to be the modus operandi of most large companies.


sili: *However, in their persuit of profit, corporations have many obligations:

  1. To Employees, to pay salaries and benefits as agreed, provide appropriate working conditions, etc.
  2. To Suppliers, to honor contracts and make timely payments
  3. To Customers, to deliver products/services *

All of these are legally mandated in our society (except maybe #3, and we see in the case of many dot-coms that not delivering any actual products and services doesn’t automatically prevent one from making money).

*Failure to meet any of these obligations repeatedly would seriously hurt and eventually break a corporation, not out of any moral reasons, but for simple economic ones. *

Not necessarily. All the sweatshop scandals have shown us that in cases where the workers have no other options for making a living, it can be very profitable for employers to violate #1. And where there isn’t a strong consumer-protection institution, it can be very profitable for businesses to violate #3. You’re right that in the long run these are not economically wise practices, but remember that those who are making corporate decisions are frequently not concerned with the long run. It can be very smart in the short term for a corporation to do things that would be very foolish in the long term, and the corporation’s long-term health is often far down the list of important factors in the decision-making.

When Profit becomes the be-all and end-all, there can be a loss of perspective. This is further pushed by a very short-term focus: this quarter’s profits are more important (for most companies) than common sense.

Simple example from recent history: cutting headcount tended to make stock prices go up. Thus, companies were firing (oh, sorry, downsizing) lots of employees, so that the stock price would go up. Over the long term, some of these downsizings were good – forcing the company to be more efficient. But many of these downsizings were not in the company’s best long-term interests, and the companies have had to hire back up to prior levels.

It may be cheaper to fire an older, experienced employee and to hire a younger, inexperienced employee… but it is not always sensible to do so.

As another example, for many years the cheapest waste disposal method was (and still is) just dump the sludge in the river. It’s taken enormous effort to slow down the air and water pollution (London’s famous pea-soup fogs were air pollution.) Damn the environment, we’re making more profit!

Companies are not per se more evil than individuals. But where there are laws to restrict individuals from taking actions that are contrary to society’s best interests, there are few such laws about companies, and then they are often unenforcable. And, the largest companies tend to be very rich, able to buy their way out of many problems that an individual could not afford. Able to buy their own pet congresspersons, too, that an individual could not afford.

Scratch says

you could be talking about anything in the world here scratch, and it would fit fine. But you don’t say why or how. I would say the same thing about income tax.

humans are constrained (sometimes) by morals but mostly by laws. Theft is pretty common, but no where near as common as infidelity, because infidelity is not illegal. Being moral also means that one can be immoral. I don’t see how individuals are inherently superior

. Humans are not rational and need to be legislated. Corporations are generally forced to be very rational and analytical, and are heavily regulated. If humans or corporations are behaving in a manner that is harmfull to society, the way to control it is with laws. YOu can’t make a human or a corporation “moral”.

I haven’t really heard anything other than

They are only looking to be profitable [which is worse thatn making nothing?]
They are immoral [which is unsupported]
they are amoral [which might be a good thing]
they harm society [unsupported]

And other such vagueries. To borrow from P.J. O’Rourke, if you insetrted the word “blacks” in place of “corporations” no one would tolerate such statements on this board.

Anyone care to be a little more speecific? I know thta I can list a whole bunch of whopping big benefits.

Zambezi, I think the answer to your question is jealousy, & the fact that there are a lot of socialists around here.

Thank you, Mr.Zambezi, for illustrating why I so rarely waste my time debating conservatives.

No matter what anyone says, no matter how carefully considered and thoughtful someone is in responding to you, you disrespectfully reduce everything they say to a horribly oversimplified bit of nonsense before you can deal with it. This of course is because you think in bumper stickers (“If you can read this then you’re too smart for me!”) and are apparently entirely incapable of meeting your opponents on equal ground.

The reason I did not respond to you initially is because your mischaracterization of what I said was so extreme that it was immediately apparent to me that you are seeing windmills, and the demons you are battling are obviously a very private matter and have nothing whatsoever to do with me or my beliefs.

If you can’t afford the generous participants in your thread the same respect their efforts indicate they’ve given you, then I for one am not interested in playing in your sandbox.

It’s apparent that your OP was the very essence of a troll. You might just as well have written:

“I got up on the wrong side of the aisle this morning and I feel like taking some cheap shots at anyone thoughtful enough to engage in a political discussion. Please line up and grab your ankles.”

Mr. Z.: *If humans or corporations are behaving in a manner that is harmfull to society, the way to control it is with laws. YOu can’t make a human or a corporation “moral”. *

I completely agree! I think that if we had more intelligent corporate regulation to control the harmful and shortsighted behavior to which corporations are frequently prompted by the pursuit of short-term profit, we would hear a lot fewer emotional characterizations of corporations as “evil”. (Not pointing the finger at Stoidela, who made a number of good points: it’s just that such words always sound to me more like a visceral reaction than like a practical assessment.)

I asked you politey, one time to tell me why you dislike corporations so much. You responded by stating that I was simple minded, or at least that I could not see the complexity of the world.

I asked a second time and was ignored. I asked a third and you again called me simpleminded, added that I lack debating and comprehension skills, called me, of all things, a TROLL and then refused to support your position again!.

OK, lissener, I see what you are all about. It goes like this “[insert enemy here] are bad and should be stopped! It is so obvious that if you disagree you are a moron! I don’t even have to defend my assertions!”

Good for you lissener. I would respond in kind, but this is not the pit, and I am not going to use your rhetorical tactics of unsupported assertion/insulting response.

Let me show you how it is done here. I think corporations are good for the economy and should be given broad rights because:

They provide jobs (which support people, children and the economy)
they provide essential goods and services
they provide healthcare coverage
they support charity
they support things like sporting events and television and radio
they provide unemployment insurance
they provide workers’ compensation insurance
they give people paid time off
they fuel the economy
The salaries they pay fund a large part of the tax base
They increase our quality of life with great products
they support social security.

Notice I did not say “Corporations are saving this country. If you don’t get that you are a simpleton. I am not going to bother explaining it cause you wouldn’t get it anyway.” I asked, nicely, for specifics from you and have provided them for myself. If it is disrespectful to ask for clarification or to rebut a point, well, I guess we can’t have a respectful debate.

How would we stop corporations from going for short term profits? I don’t see how we could make any regulations that stopped them from downsizing.


Two points Kim> I did not really even adress Stoidela’s post. WHich I will do in a minute.

Secondly, it is tricky business to tell a company how to do business. I don’t want to imagine a governmental body that decides whether a company can make staffing cuts. Of all the fat corporations, I think the US gov’t takes the cake.

I have heard a lot of complaining about the short sightedness of corporations. There are undoubtedly cases where this has happened.

But I also recall that at the start of our current economic boom, everyone was upset about corporate layoff. And here, a few years later, there is a lack of employees. I can’t prove the tie between the two, but it just may be that the people running the companyies know better how to run them than you, I or Congress does.

As for stoidela’s complaint about ineguity which she refers to as “the stockholders ridiculously wealthy by exploiting, in one way or another, the hardworking human beings who do the real work of the company involved.”

Besides being a bit inflammatory, I think it ignores the concept of scarcity and value. Water is far, far more important than diamonds. So why doesn’t it cost $100 per carat? Many times those CEO’s are the only reason that “the exploited” have a place to go to work every day.

I would add that workers do not have to go to work for a corporation. If they don’t like it, they can go farm, or dig ditches, or become a doctor, or whatever they want. If corporations are so exploitive, why do people work for them?

False dichotomy. Corps might be interested in making money in so far as it improved the lives of its employees, or minimized harm to the environment, or furthered some exterior goal (like exploration or trade, the original reasons for corps).

Taking most of the usual standards of morality, and treating a legal fiction as if it were a person, many corps are certainly immoral. It takes some word-twisting to make corps come out ok.

Go ahead, explain this one.

Of course corps harm society. They also help it. Really, they’re mostly indifferent.

Some other reasons people dislike (large) corps:[ul]
[li]they’re effectively immune to punishment[/li][li]they’re immortal (a heck of an advantage)[/li][li]the violence they do to language[/li][li]the “corporate mindset”[/li][li]their sheer, unaccountable power[/li][/ul]

*Originally posted by Tominator2

**True, there can be more than one possibility. I hold that a corporation can, and many do make profit while making people’s lives better through better drugs, more affordable food, safer cars, time saving devices, etc. But they wont, and can’t do it if it is not profitable. They look at teh set of what is profitable, and then choose the subset from it. If they did not do this, they would be a charity, not a business.

Look, I can fail to take actions that demonstrate my moral character and still not be “immoral.” If I do no harm, but still act in the best interest of myself and family (shareholdres) am I immoral? But I don’t think that a coporation can be immoral. Only individuals in it can have this quality.

Corporations are amoral which can be good. By analogy, imagine a very moral Judge. You are arrested for having a legal abortion. THe jury finds you innocent, but the judge gives a direct verdict to convict you of murder because it is the moral thing to do. Amoralityis not necessarily bad.

Some other reasons people dislike (large) corps:[list]
[li]they’re effectively immune to punishment[/li][/quote]
except being disbanded by the justice department, fined, refused business licenses, sued into oblivion…

[li]they’re immortal (a heck of an advantage)[/li][/quote]
really? no corp has ever gone out of business, been crushed by the competition, bankrupted by a lawsuit? I did not know that.

Unaccountable? You mean to people they harm (though civil actions), to OSHA,to the SEC, To the Division of Labor, to the Health Department to the EPA? Didn’t some smokers just get $145 Billion from a corporation? OSHA has unilaterally shut down some of our locations before. No appeals process, and $7,000 per day in fines until we complied. I would say we are pretty accountable.