The European Tribune is a forum for thoughtful dialogue of European and international issues. You are invited to post comments and your own articles.
Please REGISTER to post.
We might better think of corporations as still in their childhood and capable of great positive changes as they mature. But it will take the rest of us, the voting public, to force that maturation into the law of corporate governance and form. That's where the real problem lies: in most political systems 'the people' are feeble and corporations and those who benefit from their socially detrimental behavior are very powerful.
We might better think of corporations as still in their childhood and capable of great positive changes as they mature.
that's a very mature re-framing. it de-polarises the debate.
'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
It is, possible however, to displace profit as the ONLY legal motivator, possibly by hobbling pure-profit corporations.
As for corporate lobbies, bring back bribery laws.
Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
Any corporation can fit this profile without having any individual sociopaths within the organization, although almost everyone in a leadership role will have to engage in sociopathic behavior.
you are the media you consume.
There are good organisational reasons why corporations act sociopathically, and also good psychological ones. Effectively corporate culture breeds sociopathy - it's a direct and predictable outcome of the corporation as a political structure.
I'll explain why in a future diary.
Corporations are a feudal throw-back. They were originally created by kings as special rewards for supporters, and have always been inherently artistocratic and anti-democratic.
It makes no sense to allow corporations in a nominal democracy, because their existence completely subverts any pretence at democratic accountability.
This doesn't - obviously - mean that groups of people shouldn't cooperate for mutual social and economic benefit. But there are certainly far better models for that then the corporate one.
I think boards of directors of corporations above a certain size should be a mix of elected employees plus representatives of shareholders, creditors, management, and local, regional, and national governments. In any case the design and re-design of boards of directors would be placed in the hands of the national democracy. If, of course, democracy is terminally corrupted by corporate influence, and it is, forget it.
Now, that's not to say that electing half the board from the employees wouldn't help. It almost certainly would help, particularly because it would serve to break the tendency for upper management to insulate itself in a bubble world of yes-men that see no evil, hear no evil and speak of no evil. (Although one would have to be wary of the kind of outsourcing shell games that always seem to crop up when a prerogative is made conditional on employee status.)
But it's not a magic bullet.
Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
Boards of directors have potentially all power, they just need to exercise it.
The board does not have the information that it needs to exercise effective control of a large company. Hell, upper management does not normally have adequate information to exercise effective control of the large company.
The fact that it possesses the formal prerogative to exercise control is about as relevant as the Queen of England's prerogative to appoint the Prime Minister.
No wonder there are problems.
Although in fact many of the more aggressive and pernicious corporations are run as personal kingdoms. You don't need to know what the foot soldiers had for dinner to run an empire - you only need them to charge when you order them to. So the required information density can be quite low.
The core issue is really one of values. The battle is between democratic, pluralistic communitarianism, and oligarchical narcissistic quasi-monarchic self-aggrandisement.
There's no reason why you can't have a democratic, pluralistic and communitarian business collective. It's not a difficult thing to organise.
But the problem at the moment is the moral lockdown on the idea that this is a good thing to aim for. Narrative space is so poisoned with narcissistic individualism that it's like dealing with a culture of solipsistic sleep walkers, all of whom believe that reality doesn't apply to them - and that success is defined by the ability to impose reality on other people, rather than by allowing a rational consensus balanced by adventure to emerge.
If society wants to make corporations "better," it first has to figure out what it wants to use corporations for. At the moment, society has decided to deploy corporations in the service of ever greater material consumption, and the personal aggrandisement (and enrichment) of top corporate executives.
If we want corporations to remain in the service of "more," but cut back on the enrichment and personal aggrandisement of top executives, then management reform on the lines proposed above would probably do the trick. But if we also want the corporation to serve (or at least not obstruct) broader political and social objectives than the ever-faster conversion of raw materials and labour into consumer goods, we will have to engage with the levels below the top executives as well. Because the creed of "more" is quite well established in these lower levels (and it serves the organisational interests there very well, so it's not going to go away on its own).
I agree with Jake S below, though, that it is difficult to get workers not to prioritize their own incomes and benefits over wider community and/or national/global interests, even if there is a minority community/regional/national representation on corporate boards. But that's why you will still 'always' need a government independent of workers' and capitalists' (and creditors') narrow interests.
Anyway, boards can get the information they need (that currently they don't want), and can be expert enough to know when things are going horribly wrong. And, even if they cannot become experts (no one should expect democratic representatives to be experts on everything they make decisions on), boards can incentivize upper management in a socially beneficial direction and/or hire outside experts who can regulate upper management in that direction.
I'm just pointing out that it is not sufficient, not arguing that it is not a good idea.
I'm not as confident as you about what would result from various corporate board reforms/revolutions, and think it's best to say "we don't know" the effects would be of reforming corporate boards in various ways.
My thinking, any of this sort of thinking really, assumes an environment where corporations and the wealthy would not be allowed to corrupt democracy with money and similar things. In that non-corrupted dream context, the people we elect to handle overall community interests are ideal people to have as insiders voting those interests on corporate boards. We might even want to give them the majority of 'votes'. But everything decided preliminarily has to be tentative, and communities and nations should be expected to learn from experience and keep modifying until they get things still imperfect but as good as probably possible and way the hell better than the current anti-social madness.
by Oui - Sep 24 4 comments
by gmoke - Sep 24
by Cat - Sep 19 28 comments
by IdiotSavant - Sep 15 13 comments
by Oui - Sep 20 30 comments
by IdiotSavant - Sep 16 10 comments
by gmoke - Sep 12
by gmoke - Sep 5 14 comments
by Oui - Sep 244 comments
by gmoke - Sep 24
by Oui - Sep 238 comments
by Oui - Sep 22
by Oui - Sep 2030 comments
by Cat - Sep 1928 comments
by gmoke - Sep 19
by Oui - Sep 183 comments
by Oui - Sep 1615 comments
by IdiotSavant - Sep 1610 comments
by Oui - Sep 1524 comments
by Oui - Sep 159 comments
by IdiotSavant - Sep 1513 comments
by Oui - Sep 1420 comments
by Oui - Sep 149 comments
by Oui - Sep 1319 comments
by gmoke - Sep 12
by Oui - Sep 916 comments
by gmoke - Sep 514 comments
by Frank Schnittger - Sep 211 comments