Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Corporation

The definition of a corporation according to the documentary, The Corporation, is a group of people who work together to secure a variety of objectives, principle of which being the earning of money. It is the blind mantra of many businesses to earn as much money as possible and let others worry about the consequences; consequences that include environmental devastation and the violation of human rights. I hope you find yourself asking “Why are they allowed to get away with it?” The answer is simple: corporations are “people.”

The main thread running through the documentary is the notion that corporations are legally classed as “people.” This decision was made in the 1886 Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. The court ruled that under the 14th amendment corporations are entitled to the same protections that ordinary American citizens receive. The 14th amendment was originally intended to give rights to the newly freed slaves after the civil war; businesses were able to pervert the intentions of the amendment for their gain. The documentary goes on to decipher the personality of corporations since they are legally considered “people.” Interestingly The Corporation, tongue in cheek, uses a simple checklist that is actually used by psychiatrists in order to discern that corporations have a personality type that displays psychopathic tendencies. Some of the tendencies include extreme self interest, inability to feel guilt, and the ability to mimic empathy, among other undesirable characteristics.

In one disturbing interview a man that was a participant in the New York Stock Exchange during the tragedy of 9/11, admits when the planes hit, many of the traders first thoughts were “Gold must be going through the roof.” Another troubling example of participants in the world of business disregarding human life comes with Nazis and IBM. During the Second World War, IBM was responsible for the production of punch cards that allowed the Nazis to keep track of the Jews. It’s not just that they produced the cards, they knowingly did so. IBM was well aware of what the Nazis were doing; this is proven by the fact that once a month an IBM technician had to be sent to the places that used the punch cards, i.e. Auschwitz, and tune up the machines that took them.

The documentary gives many other examples of the indifference corporations can feel for the suffering they cause to externalities, or third parties. Usually the third parties that suffer the penalties of the decisions made by these international businesses are middle to lower-class people and the environment. Knowing that most of the penalties don’t affect the affluent explains why it is allowed to continue unchecked. The worst thing about the idea of corporations having a devastating effect on externalities is they are just innocent, real people.

The Corporation is available in its entirety, at; it is free of charge but you can choose to donate at the same address.

Here is a direct link to the video in 23 parts on YouTube.

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