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The necessity and possibility of corporate reform: Part 1. Introduction

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In my book The Devil's Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, in various articles such as those in OpEdNews.com, and on my website www.uschamberofdemocracy.com I have presented numerous proposals for reforming all three branches of our government that have been corrupted by corporate America. Except on the subject of creating a socially responsible capitalism I primarily excluded in those writings proposals that focus on reforming corrupted corporations.

Lately I have turned more of my attention to the necessity and possibility of corporate reform. It's necessary because corporate America is in the front seat, government in the back seat driving America's decline. It's possible because corporate reform may just be more feasible than government reform. We all know how futile the latter has been over the years. Furthermore, while corporate America may be too obtuse or complacent to realize it, their own reform may be good for them in the long run. As an organizational psychologist for nearly half a century I know how inefficient the corporate organizational structure is and how poorly corporations are run. Most of them would probably have a very tough going if they lost government handouts and hands-off corporate wrongdoing. A corporation that was properly organized and well run with the proper standards of performance and self accountability ought to be able to make up for its ill begotten profits.       

Reformers, therefore, should seriously consider shifting much of their attention and resources away from government reform and to corporate reform. The purpose of this introductory article is to lay the groundwork for that shift. The second article will suggest some reform strategies. Both articles concentrate on the left-most element of this fundamental equation:

             Corrupt Corporations   & Their Allies + Corrupt Government = RuiNation

But let's first start with the outcome side and briefly walk through the equation backwards.   "RuiNation" is a condition of state, the opposite of a peaceful and prosperous nation that puts the interests of the general welfare of Americans ahead of the special interests of the corpocracy, the Devil's marriage between powerful, corrupt corporations and their patron, our obsequious, corrupt government. America is not a peaceful nation. It has and continues to be the most warring nation on the globe, and America's general welfare has deteriorated to the point that among industrialized nations America has the worse socioeconomic conditions.

America has not yet reached the ultimate stage of ruination in which she simply ceases to exist as a nation, as happened to the Indian nation when obliterated by the new America's settlers over two centuries ago. But America seems headed in that direction. There is absolutely no sign that America has reversed course toward becoming a peaceful, law abiding, egalitarian, ecologically protective, and prosperous nation.   

Taken together the two elements on the left side constitute the corpocracy. It alone is directly responsible for America's current condition. Common to the two is mutual corruption, a process that leads to wrongdoing or behavior that violates legal or ethical norms and that causes psychological, financial, or physical harm ranging from minor to the irreversible like death. All wrongdoing is unethical but some of it is legal, not illegal. Our government makes much of corporate wrongdoing legal by one means or another.

It is important to point out that neither government is, nor corporations are, nor are people in them inherently corrupt. American government starts with a piece of paper, the U.S. Constitution. Corporations also start with a piece of paper, a corporate charter. Human beings start at birth being basically helpless and benign. What lead to corrupt behavior over time in any given situation are the situation itself and the vulnerable characteristics of the people in that situation. When a given situation pressures (as do, e.g., quarterly earnings reports) or tempts (with, e.g., a stratospheric bonus) a person to do wrong and the person is in a seductive position of power (e.g., a CEO), is greedy, is excessively ambitious, is morally weak, and/or is a strident, unreasonable ideologue (e.g., a fervent believer of free-market theory or of American imperialism) wrongdoing will follow as surely as night does day. Needless to say, none of us is a saint; we are all fallible people living in pressuring and tempting situations. But few of us are members of the power elite.  

Neither, obviously is corruption inherently permanent once a government, a corporation, and people in them become corrupt. If corruption were irreversible reform proposals and efforts would be useless. If corruption were irreversible America would be headed inexorably toward that final stage.

Corporate America: An overview

Big government is undeniably too big yet it is dwarfed by the number of corporations and their people and is totally overpowered by corporate America (if corporate reform were a success there would be no excuse for a bloated and massive government). Corporate America is very heterogeneous spread as it is across many different manufacturing and service industries yet has a common goal of advancing itself regardless of the means. There are about 17,000 corporations in corporate America if we arbitrarily define any of its corporate members as having over 500 employees. Since size, corruption and abusive power usually go together we ought to divide corporations or their industries into three categories of size, small, medium, and large as modified by the scale of harm done and assign reform priorities accordingly.

As big and powerful as it is overall Corporate America nevertheless accounts for only about 20% of all businesses in America. The rest is referred to as small business, but it is not small in the size of its total workforce. Small business employs far more people than do corporations. Small business, if it would unite into a coordinated counterforce could be a powerful opponent of the entire corpocracy.

Corporate America's allies: An overview

Not counting its "marriage partner," that is, government, corporate America has many allies it can depend on to further its interests either by supporting and/or accepting them: the touts and shills; the cultists; NGOs; small business; compromised professions and sciences; the bystanders; and even foreign enemies. With the possible exception of the bystanders, an ally benefits directly or indirectly from its explicit or tacit alliance with corporate America. An ally that is explicit and very active in its support of corporate America ought to be considered accomplices in contrast to tacit and passive allies. Any corporate reform strategy must include corporate America's allies or risk being blindsided by them.

Touts and Shills. They are a motley lot of accomplices and the difference between a tout and a shill isn't always clear cut. Touts (that's what Winston Churchill called lobbyists) are hired and paid to swarm inside government and lobby it for their clients. Anyone, any organization, any association can be a shill. Even politicians or judges can be shills. As a matter of fact, if you want to call government the biggest shill I won't disagree with you.

A shill's focus is usually not as laser beamed as a tout's. Shills generally offer paeans to the corpocracy and its conservative, free-market ideological underpinnings. Think of shrill shills like ideologically blinded, ranting and raving radio talk show hosts as an extreme example. Touts, on the other hand, concentrate on getting specific favors for particular corporate members of the corpocracy, be they a certain corporation or a particular industry.

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I am a retired (1995)organizational psychologist who has since concentrated on the subjects of the collusion between government and corporations and matters of war and peace. I have just finished writing my final book (final because I am staring (more...)
 

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Since the 1970s government has been under the th... by Gary Brumback on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012 at 9:32:17 AM
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