|My book on Natural Enterprises proposes a partnership model for new enterprise formation and sustainability. Joel Bakan’s book The Corporation argues that, in their single-minded pursuit of short-term profit at any cost, corporations now behave pathologically (see graphic above), and against the public interest. Is the corporation, as a model, a hopeless case, or can it be reformed or reinvented?There are many who believe corporate charters can and should be rewritten to require the pursuit and balancing of a so-called “triple bottom line” — social and environmental as well as financial performance. Many others think this is naive (there are no established or easy measures or benchmarks of social or environmental performance) and unreasonable when the three bottom lines are in irreconcilable conflict — the company that chooses to emphasize profit over the other two will, in our ‘free’ market, outgrow and hence dominate and even eliminate its more balanced competitors.
Even those who argue that the three bottom lines should, in the long run, coincide, have to concede that in the short term — the horizon of most corporate shareholders and managers — profits always trump social and environmental responsibility.
Corporations were originally invented to allow people to raise money for large ventures. Without the opportunity for substantial return, and limited liability, investors would not advance funds where there was considerable risk. But soon, ownership of ‘shares’ was confused with ownership of the business. Then, thanks to an incompetent legal error, corporations were granted the rights of ‘persons’ — the right to sue, to lobby, and to otherwise use the collective wealth of the company to influence legal, political, economic and social affairs far beyond protecting the security of the original investment. At this point, the sole objective of the corporation became to satisfy the shareholders insatiable demand for higher returns and lower risk on their investment, at any cost to the real ‘owners’ of the enterprise — the employees and the community who granted the corporation the privilege of existence.
The end result — pathological behaviour, a Frankenstein monster out of control of its master. So what can be done? Is the corporation salvageable? If not, how can we revoke corporate charters without precipitating economic chaos?
Bakan proposes stronger regulation and enforcement, greater legal liability for officer and directors, public education, and regulated use of the precautionary principle to govern corporate behaviour. Other corporate reform advocates have proposed, in addition to the above, the elimination of ‘personhood’ rights, moving public well-being activities back from the private to the public sphere, standard global corporate codes of conduct (with severe penalties for breaching them), putting “triple bottom line” objectives into corporate charters, prohibiting dishonest corporate advertising, ending subsidies for large corporations, scrapping or redrafting ‘free’ trade and other corporatist and anti-democratic regulations, and taxing pollution, speculation and other ‘bads’. I’ve personally advocated not allowing corporations to own other corporations, restricting the number of corporations any one person can beneficially control to one, and putting a size cap on corporations.
David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World, is one of the speakers at next month’s Future of the Corporation conference in Boston. The conference is proposing the redesign of corporations according to six principles:
Korten has advocated many of the proposals for corporate reform listed above, and has also stressed the importance of ‘relocalizing’ corporations to focus on the needs of the communities in which they are located.
I’d like to believe this can work, and I’m prepared to listen to him with an open mind. But as I’ve explained before I think the evolution of dysfunctional and psychopathic corporations is a complex phenomenon that arose with the full complicity of the public — it suited our collective purpose to let this happen. I’ve become a skeptic about the possibility of bringing about change by political, legal, educational or economic means or any other ‘imposed’ method. Such impositions and movements have (almost) never brought about significant change. All we can do is adapt to the current state, and work around what doesn’t work (and perhaps never really did).
The dysfunctional model of the corporation will suffer the same fate as every other institution and entity that has ceased to evolve, innovate and serve our collective interests. It will collapse.
We just have to wait it out. And in the meantime, we need to design something new to take its place, something far different from the ‘redesigned’ corporation proposed using the six principles above. I think that model is Natural Enterprise, which achieves the end results of these six principles, and much more, but not because it is told or regulated to do so, but simply because it is, and always has been, the way we weremeant to make a living.
Category: Creating Natural Enterprises
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
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Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
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Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
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