Notes from The Corporation

Notes from The Corporation, part of my movie binge week a while back:

  • Corporate charters were originally a “gift from the people” to serve the people, for instances like building a bridge for a city, which could not be done by a smaller company
  • The 14th Amendment (which gave all men equal rights) was also invoked in the name of corporations, who argued that they too were “individuals” under the law, and thus had the same rights and protections afforded to them.
  • Noam Chomsky: Corporations are a special type of person, designed by law to be concerned only with their shareholders
  • Externalities: the “can’t somebody else do it?” philosophy
  • Intergenerational Tyranny: “Taxation without representation” of future people
  • Every one of us, depending on circumstances, could be a gas chamber operator or a saint.Noam Chomsky

  • Protesters at WTO, etc., tend to be frustrated because they feel they have no effect on the corporations through normal methods (no democratic voting, only through buying shares).
  • Disney’s Celebration town, mentioned as an example of corporations extending their grasp into everyday life, reminds me of the Walmart’s All-You-Can-Live township spoof
  • States still have the right to revoke corporate charters; this was done often in the 19th century (at the beginning of the corporate era), but today it is rarely invoked and even more rarely successful, due to corporate lawyers fighting hard.
  • Corporations’ goal of optimizing profit demands that they also “optimize” consumers’ buying practices; marketing tactics manipulate buyers to act they way corporations want them to.
  • Alternatives? The public could control corporations more, though state-enforced democratic methods–this seems to be the argument of the filmmakers, especially with the “Commie Red” backgrounds to all the titles…Kurt K. mentioned that no top-down policy will ever make up for bad people filling the ranks; the only way to ensure quality is with quality people.
  • Other metaphors we could use for corporations that don’t have to do with success (“a few bad apples” mentioned; means they reduce success of the crop)? Family Unit; sports team; phone system; eagle all mentioned. Reminds me of linguist George Lakoff and his book Metaphors We Live By
  • 1712 began the Industrial Age, with the steam engine providing increased “productivity”, which was to become the mantra for all of life today. How did people before 1700 view “productivity”?
  • Chomsky: Originally there were limits on the length and money allowed for a corporate charter.