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

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Gary Brumback     Permalink
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Here is a suggested plan they could follow for vetting corporate America and its allies:

1. Set a threshold of wrongdoing. There are so many ethical values and so many harmful ways to breech them that the severity of the harm done needs to be graded, starting with determining whether there is any reasonable evidence that harm has occurred in the first place. For each of the three dimensions of harm, psychological, physical, and economical there needs to be a consensus on a threshold of harm that excludes immaterial consequences. Determining the thresholds would be very easy to do but necessary. There is plenty enough reform work to do without getting bogged down in trivia.  

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2. Name the obvious first. Some industries, their corporations, and their allies do not need to be vetted. They are the most rotten apples in the barrel. Offhand, I can think of six. Merchants of death, such as corporations in the "defense" industry would be first. Second would be the nuclear industry and its corporations. Third would be the agribusiness industry because of its poisoning of our food and drinking water. The fourth would be the financial "disservices" industry and its gangsters. The fifth would be the pharmaceutical industry where health often takes a backseat to wealth. The sixth would be certain allies like the trade lobbies (e.g., for the defense and pharmaceutical industries) and the USCC.

3. Vet the rest. Doing this will take some time so this is a good place to mention Jamie Court's "corporateer quotient" that he wrote about in his book, Corporateering and who is president of Consumer Watchdog. The quotient is derived from answers to 18 questions (e.g., "what percentage of total expenditures is spent on political contributions and trade lobbying"). His questionnaire or some adaptation of it could be used in the vetting process while keeping in mind the complication, as Court does, that not many of the answers are publicly available even though "none of the questions are trade secrets."

4. Don't overlook any saints. There surely must be a few honorable exceptions among corpocracy America and its allies who could conceivably serve as inspiring exemplars. The search might turn out embarrassing though. I remember for example the pundits who were featured in a business magazine after having extolled Enron very shortly before that corporation imploded from its own misdeeds. An exemplary corporation therefore ought to be one that has passed rigorous screening.

Once the vetting is done, the next step is to plan a strategic approach to reforming the scoundrels. This matter is the subject of the second article.

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Retired organizational psychologist.

Author of The Devil's Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; America's Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying; and Corporate Reckoning Ahead.

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