Monday, February 06, 2006

Morality Monday

Last week I linked to a Dawkins article he wrote about a show he produced for the BBC called, "The Root of All Evil?" The point of the show and the article was to determine whether religion was the cause of all of society's ills. The answer Dawkins came to was no, religion is not the sole cause of war, strife, hatred, and racism, but it sure isn't helping things. The take-home point is that there is no single cause for "badness" in the world. There are as many causes as there are ideas of right and wrong.

But it got me thinking, what are the really big contributors to "evil" in the world? Immediately we encounter a huge porblem: who defines what is good and what is evil? As is clear from some of my previous posts, I skew to the left of center, especially on social issues, but more and more recently on economic issues. So obviously I think the income disparity in the United States is an evil, although in many ways it is a cause of evil as opposed to an end in itself. Not everyone agrees with me, but I think my position has some merit. A lot of social ills (however you may deifne "ills") seem inextricably tied with poverty. Now its pretty clear that the main causes of poverty in this country are video games and rap music. I don't think anyone will argue with that statement, nor do I think it needs any empirical support (res ipsa loquitor). But are there some other causes out there? Perhaps evils that are heralded by mainstream America as absolute goods?

Well, here's one: the Corporation. The corporate form has been around for centuries, but until very recently (the 20th century), society viewed it with great scepticism. Senator Wagner, for instance, who I love to quote, had this to say:

"Facism begins in industry, not in government."

And how about the (dare I say) great Supreme Court Justice Brandeis, dissenting in Ligget v. Lee in 1933:

"Through size, corporations, once merely an efficient tool employed by individuals in the conduct of private businesses have become an institution--an institution which has brought such concentration of economic power that so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state.... Ownership has been separated from control; and this separation has removed many of the checks which formerly operated to curb the misuse of wealth and power."

Time for class. More later. Comments welcome.


Blogger warm fuzzy said...

you might enjoy the documentary, The Corporation.

From the documentary's website,

To more precisely assess the "personality" of the corporate "person," a checklist is employed, using actual diagnostic criteria ... of psychiatrists and psychologists. The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social "personality": It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. ... Concluding this point-by-point analysis, a disturbing diagnosis is delivered: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a "psychopath."

The documentary is based on a book by Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

1:21 PM  
Blogger Xeno said...

Corperation, N, 'An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.'

Ambrose Bierce

2:09 PM  

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