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The Scorpion, The Frog, and the Corporation

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Message Ernest Partridge
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"The public be damned, I work for my stockholders."

William H. Vanderbilt

A scorpion, eager to get to the other side of a stream and unable to swim, pleads with a frog to allow him to ride on the frog's back, across the stream.

"Certainly not," said the frog. "You would kill me."

"Preposterous!," replied the scorpion. "If I stung you, it would kill the both of us."

Thus assured, the frog invited the scorpion to climb aboard, and halfway across, sure enough, the scorpion delivered the fatal sting.

"Now why did you do that," said the frog, "you've killed us both."

"I am a scorpion," he replied, "this is what I do."

What corporations do is strive to maximize the returns on the investments of their stockholders. As Milton Friedman put it, "The social responsibility of business is to increase profits." Unfortunately, if corporations are unconstrained by law or regulation, they can, by simply "doing what they do," suck the life out of the economy that sustains them. Like cancer cells, lethal parasites, and the scorpion, unconstrained corporations can destroy their "hosts," without which they cannot survive, much less flourish.

By saying as much, I might appear to be favoring the abolition of corporations, like some far-out Commie nut case.

On the contrary, I approve of corporations. I have seen, in the former Soviet Union, the results of an alternative system, the "command economy." It isn't a pretty sight.

How can I disapprove of corporations when I am surrounded by devices and conveniences that were developed and marketed by corporations? The computer with which I write this essay and the internet that publishes it would be impossible without the corporate structuring of our economy. (However, let us not forget, they would likewise be impossible without government sponsored research and development).

So here's Two Cheers for Capitalism. Thank God for Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Bill Gates, and the millions of others who have, by exercising free enterprise, immeasurably improved our lives.

But I withhold that third cheer as I view with foreboding, the dangers of capitalism and corporatism unconstrained and running wild.

My message is a simple one, if familiar: corporations are invaluable servants that can become ruthless masters, to prevent which: "Governments are instituted among men [and women], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." This means that laws and regulations, which implement limitations and constraints, are enacted and enforced in behalf of "the public good."

Remove these constraints, and the servant soon becomes the master, as well as the parasite which consumes its host, thus destroying both the parasite and the host on which it feeds.

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Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. Partridge has taught philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The (more...)

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