Corporates Behaving Badly: What to Do?

Is it extreme to suggest that corporates of a certain size and motivation (demonstrated by behaviour) should not be tolerated anymore?  I’m curious.  What do people think. Seriously.  No knee jerk hate.

Reflect on the feudal lords of the past, especially those of Eastern Europe that lasted until the 20th century, like the Chinese warlords pre Mao’s takeover as Warlord Supremo.

Medieval conservativesBut back to the new Lords, the mega-corporations and their feudal behaviour.  Excuses are made for their viciousness.  We are the peasants of old, in different guise.  With lots of latter-day Medieval Conservatives tugging forelocks to those they think their ‘betters’. “The market will provide, it’s a meritocracy, it’s the way it is, there is no alternative, they have blue blood.”

I’m curious because there was a time when Kings and Emperors were just accepted, along with the idea of the Great Hierarchy of Being – God, the Angels, the Kings ….. down to mere us.  It was a given of an age that those ‘superior’ and worthy entities had some god-given right to exploit and parasitise on the people and the land.


And they are either no more, or their powers have been curtailed by constitutional reforms.  Even the Kings that remain know that they must live in a moral way, or be gone.

We – the people – did this because we could not tolerate their parasitism any longer.  You can have a place – we will not necessarily cut off your head – but it is a place that we define. And we decide.

Is the growing power of impersonal and – let’s be frank – psychopathic behaviour of mega-corporations something that has a ‘right’ to be?

Or is it we who have the right – because we at least have the ethos of care to be concerned for our grandchildren, and our place, and our community.  We are the wise.  They are the sociopathic narrow who struggle with the virtue of living with any reverence at all toward anything other than their own pathetic short term gain …. whatever the expense.

If mega-corporates do not act in a defined way, then don’t we need to do what is needed to make sure they use their power in positive ways, or lose them completely?  As we did in the past with the feudal robber barons.  These corporate giants are no different. So legislate, constitutionalise, or heavily sanction “Pour encourager des autres”?  Or just break them up because any concentration of power must be stopped?

the-glorious-revolution-by-herrera-paola-1-638.jpgI think we need another Constitutional reform, another ‘soft’ Glorious Revolution, another Magna Carta to protect the commons – the forgotten Forest Charter.  That means recognising corporations as the new power, motivated by a desire for absolutes, for less and less constraints on behaviour.  Think the Stuarts and the Bourbons before one ran away in a dress and the other set up the legacy for Madame Guillotine.

We need a specific constitutionalising of mega-corporations and the boundaries within which they can act, as monarchies were once constitutionalised.  I think we need a bill of rights for both communities and nature, perhaps a set of core duties as additional bases for laws to protect us and our mokopuna from the Hyenas of Commerce.

What we have at the moment is patently not good enough.  Even some of the plutocrats know this.  They see the pitchforks on the horizon.  They see the potential for a hard revolution – a potential Terror –  if we do not work together toward a soft one that might save our world.

This is about power, and particularly the reality that power and bad scruples are about the worst combination you could wish for if you wanted to have a planet and a community in a few generations.  Power always needs to be balanced.

Meritocracy - not.jpgIt is also about economics, and shifting the policy analysis framing away from the nonsense currently holding sway – all the rational choice and mechanical reductionism that only glimpses a part of life, and not its heart.  What always amazed me about Neoliberal fundamentalist assumptions is the ‘equal powerless’ one which sits snugly alongside the ‘meritocracy’ one; Adam Smith’s tiny village taken to a global scale, as if that is in any way realistic.

With those nonsense assumptions, being big is a reflection of merit, not power; so might is right; empires are cool; colonisation is grand; Viking raids are just the berries; fish pillaging, forest destruction, the legalised theft of the commons – all powerless market transactions – and it’ll all trickle down and provide the best environmental solution.  The King is superior to the Duke.  The Mega-corporation is superior to the local artisan baking the best bread in the county.  And before you know it, you get a cult of entitlement, and a hair job.

Python Holy Grail

“Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.”  Dennis

All of which – the equal powerlessness, meritocracy, might is right, hair job entitlement cults – is complete and utter bollocks.  Bollocks so enormous`I have no doubt that fundamentalist economics is mere religion – funded to stay in policy power by the commercial power it unleashes.

Power is everywhere, and its abuse and inevitable comeuppance (by kickbacks via the environment, society or the economy) has been arguably the theme of history.  Don’t wonder whether fundamentalist economists have any sense of history or geography – it isn’t in their models.

So what do we do?

Chris Perley

Chris Perley is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability with a governance, research, management and policy background in provincial economies, rural sociology and land use strategy.

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